burying the hatchet
By Laura Dye
7 Nov 2008
Here's the thing: If you grew up in a tiny state called Delaware, like I did, you were very accustomed to people asking what state you were from. And still they ask: everyone thinks it's somewhere near Vermont, when (in case you didn't know) it's southeast of DC. As in, my dad's farm is located on the Mason-Dixon line. (I used to love to tell people I was a Yankee by 10 feet and the grace of God.) So anyway, one develops either an inferiority complex, or else a huge amount of state pride due to the fact that you live in a tiny (600,000 people!) state where they throw pumpkins for fun and eat something called scrapple. For me it's the latter. And my favorite tradition of all is Return Day.
See, Georgetown, Delaware, is the county seat. And in the 1700s, when Delaware was settled, since no one possessed radio or newspapers, people came to the county seat two days after the election to hear the returns. Well, Georgetown has kept the tradition going and turned it into a big production with a ceremonial burying of the hatchet and free ox sandwiches. The highlight is the parade to which all the candidates are invited and they then ride in antique horse carriages together in a show of unity. The whole county pretty much closes down for the day, kids are off school, and it's a giant party showing pride in our state.
Return Day 2008 was a big deal for us, because it marked the return of Delaware's native son, Joe Biden, as the vice-president-elect. He's been at every Return Day since he's been in office and he wasn't about to miss this one. There was security, and there's never security. There were snipers on the roofs, and I wasn't able to sit in my favorite parade-watching spot on the roof. But no one cared, because our boy is in office! What were the odds that one of us would make it into the second-highest office in the land?
Some people hypothesize that this is one thing that keeps the races clean in Delaware; knowing that, win or lose, you're riding in a carriage with your opponent at the end of the election, you're not going to throw any accusations that you can't prove. Maybe so, maybe not. All I know is that when you're standing alongside that parade route with the rain pouring on your head, watching an endless line of pageant winners and marching bands and floats, seeing those candidates ride by and hearing those on either side of you cheering for everyone, you can't help but be proud. I had a Mexican family in front of me, African-American kids beside me, and Caucasian farmers behind me. And all together, we were cheering, glad that the election is over, glad to be alive, proud that we live in this tiny state and that our candidates can sit quietly, nicely together and then move on.