Last Sunday, the temperature hit triple digits, kicking off what is now the hottest week of the year. (As I write this, on Tuesday, the city of Memphis officially has the highest heat index in the United States, at 119 degrees.) But Sunday was the weekend, damn it, triple digits or not and spurred on by my pal John Ryan, I went fishing.
A friend had gotten us onto a private lake in Southeast Memphis, and we were to meet him there. After driving through suburban sprawl that looked anything but fishy, we turned into a shaded gravel drive and found a beautiful, secluded lake. Who knew? There was an aluminum jonboat, but it was so hot to the touch that we could barely hold on to it long enough to push it into the water. But we persevered, launched, and proceeded to catch several nice bass.
An hour later, our friend arrived, bearing refreshments, so we repaired to the shady bank for beer and conversation. Our friend is involved in a Republican candidate's campaign for county office. I asked him how his man was faring in the early voting. He whipped out a notepad and said he estimated his candidate had a 1,700-vote lead going into Election Day.
"How do you figure?" I asked. A lot, it turned out.
He went through a complicated formula, based on the number of white voters, black voters, "other" voters, Democrats, and Republicans. He had a result based on "other" voters being 60 percent black; another total based on "other" voters being 50 percent black. He had voting patterns factored in from past elections and the impact of a higher-than-normal number of GOP voters. His ciphering filled several pages. Bottom line: He was making an educated guess.
On Monday, Willie Herenton called a press conference and scolded the local media for incorrectly analyzing the early- voting numbers. Voting trends in Shelby County, the former mayor said, did not parallel the voting patterns in the 9th District, where African-American turnout is very high. This, he proclaimed, meant good news for his candidacy. He may be correct. Or he may be grasping at straws.
Come Thursday night, maybe even before you read this, we'll know the real math from the only poll that matters: Election Day. That's where the rubber meets the road, where the guesswork finally ends.
The biggest bass we caught on Sunday weighed four and a half pounds, by the way. That's an educated guess.
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...