One of the difficulties
every politician faces during election year is raising money.
As anyone close
to politics knows, you become almost afraid to answer the phone
or open the mail. As the first Tuesday of November approaches, politicians
seem to turn into a wild pack of animals ready to pounce upon your
But here in
East Texas, I've always felt that some of our folks devised an ingenious
way to deprive politicians of money right when they need it the
the pie supper. And it works this way.
A church, volunteer
fire department or PTA decides to raise money for a piano, fire
truck or library books. The group's wives get busy and bake enough
pies, cakes, cookies and cobblers to feed Dallas.
here is not quality, but quantity. Few of the cooks are trying to
win the Pillsbury cookoff.
within earshot is invited to the supper, the confections are spread
out on tables under an oak tree or in the church parlor, the assembled
candidates are given a minute or two to say a few words, and then
they're expected to bid on the baked goods.
At some suppers,
they often add a Draconian twist. The candidate who bids the highest
on a pie or cake gets to make a longer speech -- which nobody pays
any attention to.
in the county can afford to be absent for fear of incurring the
wrath of the entire membership of the church, volunteer fire department
or PTA. At the same time few of those who show up can afford not
to bid on every pie or cake for fear of offending the cook, her
family, and two zip codes full of relatives.
So in a spirited
bidding process pushed along by an auctioneer who has been chosen
for his ability to make politicians squirm, the prices reach levels
unheard of in a French pastry shop.
The system works
wonderfully well, especially when there are lots of contested races
and plenty of candidates -- all of them deathly afraid to pass up
a cake that might have been baked by a grandmother of 22 grandchildren
-- every single one of them a registered voter.
When it's all
over, the church has raised a bushel basket full of money for the
new piano and the cooks are happy because their products have not
gone unnoticed. The politicians, however, usually have a lot less
money than they started with.
has anything to do with a pie supper. Few politicians have ever
been heard to say, "Boy, that was a great cake I paid $50 for."
Some have been known to be so sick after leaving a pie supper that
they threw away their purchase.
A friend of mine who ventured into the world of county politics
a few years ago had the misfortune of running into a pie supper
near Bald Hill in Angelina County. The result was disastrous. He
ran out of money after buying two pies and a cake for $105.50 and
for the rest of the night, the cooks gave him looks reserved only
for egg-sucking dogs.
"I lost a hundred
votes right there, and it cost me the whole blamed election," he
But for someone
who isn't running for election, attending a pie supper in East Texas
can be a pleasant way to spend a preelection evening. You leave
almost euphoric, knowing that somebody has finally found a way to
take money out of a politician's pocket.
All Things Historical
October 29, 2000
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers Published by
(Bob Bowman, a former president of the East Texas Historical Association,
is the author of 24 books on East Texas history and folklore. He
lives in Lufkin.)