The late Ralph Barger was both mayor of Red Bank and a Hamilton County commissioner. I especially loved him when I was county executive and he was a commissioner, because he was not very partisan and I had a Republican majority on the commission at the time. If they had all been rabidly partisan like today's members of Congress, I probably would have headed to the house a lot sooner than I did in 1994.
I know we all tend to romanticize our life stories, but I can recall no more than two times that our different political party affiliations created any friction between the commissioners and me. There never was a single time it created the slightest friction with Ralph Barger.
I remember that he once said to me, "Ain't it a shame that we have to run for local offices as a Democrat or Republican? Take Bill Knowles, our county clerk: What could possibly be partisan about selling car tags and marriage licenses?"
I told Ralph I agreed, and I regret that Bill had to switch parties to improve his chances at re-election. I think Bill has been so innovative and creative in improving the services of his office that he would have been re-elected if he had joined the Mugwumps. But I do understand such brutal realities that are unfortunately a part of the system.
While I ran four times as a Democrat, I think it was a mistake for the party to recently endorse Andy Berke for mayor in the upcoming elections in March. City elections are now the only place we get any relief from the insane partisanship that is ripping this nation apart. I think Andy was a good state senator, and I like him personally. I just disagree with afflicting the mayor's race with anything partisan.
Since my initial purpose in this column was to express appreciation for the pleasure of working with Ralph Barger, I am reminded that he was a great storyteller.
I'll close with one that I often use in my shows.
It's about a man named Buford and his wife named Effie Mae. (Yeah, I wondered about that name, too, but the story was so funny, it didn't matter.)
Buford was a drinking man but he never missed a day of work. As soon as he got off from work, he went straight to a beer joint and usually stayed until closing time. But at 7 a.m. the next morning he was on the job. It remained this way throughout his years of marriage to Effie Mae.
Effie Mae went to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, as well as every night of every revival. She always requested prayer for Buford.
One night Buford got himself severely over-served and, on the way home, he got so sick he honestly thought he might die. Effie Mae had already gone to bed so Buford fell down on the floor next to the bed and begged, "Darling! Please pray for me. I think I am dying."
Effie Mae immediately got out of bed and knelt by Buford on the side of the bed. She prayed, "Lord, you know how long I have prayed for Buford. Finally, tonight he has come home requesting prayer. Lord, Buford is drunk and sick and I ask you now ..."
Buford elbowed her as she prayed and said, "Don't tell him I'm drunk. Just tell him I'm sick."