COLUMBUS _ ``To Mom, the great hunter,'' I said, and raised a glass of red wine.
``To Mom,'' said Buddy, lofting his cider.
``Good job, gorgeous,'' Uncle Chet joined in. ``May you bag another one tomorrow and fill that freezer.''
``It was a lucky shot,'' said Hon. ``He was chasing a doe downhill and I was standing where I usually do, between the pines. I saw the horns and waited until he crossed a lane through the trees. I knew I'd have line of sight in the next one, so I ...''
``We've already said congratulations.'' I winked at her.
``Shh! I want to hear,'' Alice protested. ``I've never been deer hunting.''
``This deer's already died five times,'' I said.
``Now don't be a sore loser,'' Uncle Chet said to me. ``Just because you didn't fill your tag and your wife shoots straighter than you.''
``You didn't get anything, either,'' the little miscreant reminded him.
``So, I fired and got him in the spine,'' said Hon. ``I think shooting the .22 this fall must have helped, because I didn't flinch at all.''
``Do you think you could teach me to shoot?'' asked Alice.
``Sure, some weekend,'' said Hon, then everyone clinked glasses and sipped in her honor.
``Speaking of sore losers, have you been following the post-election?'' asked Uncle Chet.
``Not much,'' I said. ``When Ohio tipped for Obama, I unplugged after a year of watching every micro-trend.''
``Well, some people are sore,'' he said. ``Palin, for one, went on a bad-will tour, but she bombed at the GOP governors' conference.''
``I think Palin's history,'' I said. ``They're even hinting at that on `We distort: You decide.'''
``I know, and it's too bad,'' he said. ``Maybe we should start a Palin support blog, keep her in the running for next time.''
``She's a lost cause,'' said Hon.
``She might not even get re-elected governor,'' I said.
``And it looks like she won't get into the Senate, either, because Begich has pulled ahead of Stevens, the felon,'' said Uncle Chet.
``That would make 58 Democrats,'' said Hon.
``How about Franken?'' I asked.
``He's got a shot,'' said Uncle Chet.
``Fifty-nine,'' said Hon.
``Only if you count Benedict Lieberman,'' I said.
``Count him,'' said Uncle Chet. ``Boot him out of his chairmanship and let him caucus where he wants to.''
``What are you talking about?'' asked our 10th-grader, as she passed the sandwich tray.
``The Senate,'' said her mother. ``Right now, it has 55 Democrats, two independents who vote with them most of the time, and 40 Republicans. But three races, in Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia, are so close we don't know who won yet.''
``No matter what, we're still ahead, aren't we?''
``Yes, but if the Democrats reach 60, they can't be stopped by a filibuster. You know what a filibuster is, don't you?''
``Yak-yak-yak,'' said the girl.
``Right, so if we reach 60, we might actually get universal health care and an end to the war,'' said Hon.
``And grants for college in exchange for public service,'' I added.
``And a chance to save Ford and General Motors, so our grandkids can drive American cars,'' said Alice.
``And maybe a middle-class tax cut,'' said Hon.
``All it takes is money,'' said Uncle Chet, ``and there are only two ways to get it.''
``Tap the rich,'' I said.
``Tap the rich, get their money into circulation, then print a ton of dollars and spread 'em around,'' he said. ``After eight years of Bush, we need triage economics. We've got to invest in roads, rail, retooling industry, solar energy, education. And we've got to fix the health care system by opening Medicare to everyone who wants in. Then, maybe four years from now, we might be on the upswing.''
``Well, here's to the upswing, may it come in our lifetimes,'' I raised my glass again.
``To the upswing,'' came a chorus this Sunday noon, for there was a buck hanging from the elm tree, and for the first time in years, a national leader waiting in the wings.
Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace's column appears every other week.