A Texan’s Bio

 

Qualifications:

 

I was close enough to Kinky Friedman to smell his cigar

 

Born on the Island, lived two years plus summers on my grandmother’s farm on the Texas side of the Red River. Speaker Sam Rayburn used to help himself from her stove and sit to eat at her kitchen table, just like me.

 

Grew up in Austin, lived briefly in San Saba, lived the next 50-some odd years in Irving, watching history happen, and making some.

 

The waters that mark my life are the Gulf, the Red River, the Colorado, the San Saba, and the Trinity.

 

Raised at Scholz’s. From an open window have watched the pinboys, before a.c., set up pins in the bowling alley there.  Seen a melodrama at Saengerrunde Hall.  Ran up 79 free games on the pinball machine at Scholz’s.  Don’t know how many beers my folks consumed while I made my mark.  Later played hooky from UT life drawing class, and drew my left hand with my right, holding a beer.

 

Historic plaques are sprouting up wherever I touched base—Scholz’s Garten, Mrs. Penn’s house on West Avenue where I learned to dance, and now the house she designed on West 31st where I grew up is awaiting its plaque.

 

Took history from Walter Prescott Webb and Shakespeare from Harry Ransom, now turned to bronze and stone.

 

Did Junior Historian work for H. Bailey Carroll. Read all the entries from Iraan. Learned for a certainty that it was named for a couple named Ira and Ann.

 

Had my picture taken with Horton Foote

 

Had a conversation with Molly Ivins

 

Familiar with the old Capitol Bldg. And its arc of oaks, now gone, and the Confederate Memorial. Remember the taste of the mineral-laden water from the artesian fountain on the grounds, remember the big room where the Legislature meets, where my mother once was secretary to one of the representatives, and had to clean up his language in letters. Have hung onto my father’s coattail trudging up the spiral stairs into the very top of the dome.  Now closed.  Took art from Edna Collins, whose mural of the oil industry on the second floor was obliterated by some mindless house painter.  I can recall when the Capitol dome and the University Tower marked the skyline of Austin.

 

Attorneys-General and Governors—My father taught them at the law school and my mother worked for them.  (See below)

 

Lyndon’s press secretary-to-be once unhooked the seat of my sarong from the branch of a lavender bush

 

Had a house guest, my mother’s boss’s wife, who dropped names like anvils.  “Lucy’s a good little mother,” she said.  She was a friend of Lyndon’s sister and went to the Ranch with her to pick up the mail.  She also hemmed my mother’s dresses.

 

My prayer book was given me by Georgia Lucas, my father’s cousin, who donated a mountain to Austin in her will.

 

Was baptized and confirmed in the oldest Episcopal church building west of the Mississippi. (Or something like that.)

 

Lived in San Saba before Tommy Lee Jones was born, back when San Saba had a population of around 5000.  Oh.  San Saba still has a population of about 5,000? Less two.  Tommy Lee and me.  Or maybe Tommy Lee didn’t move away after all.  Hard to tell, he’s so private.

 

My great-grandmother was a school chum of Sam Houston’s children.

 

Graduated from The University when that was all you had to say.  (That just makes me an OLD Texan.)

 

Graduated from Austin High when that was all you had to say.  (An OLD Austinite)

 

Rode a horse to Mt. Bonnell when that marked the edge of town.

 

Rubbed noses with a coyote.

 

Have been published almost exclusively in Texas journals.  The New Yorker just doesn’t understand.

 

Worry when I don’t eat black-eyed peas and cornbread on New Year’s Day

 

Have tasted armadillo

 

The Lonesome Cowboy made me a 45 of “Red River Valley.”

 

Really like bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush and mockingbirds and pecans.

 

Have picked and eaten poke salat—cooked.  Being a real Texan, I know not to eat it raw.

 

Have given birth to four living Texans, and only one got away.  Counting the grandkids and the greats, I have more than replaced my footprint on Texas soil.

 

I was most fiercely Texan during my third grade in Cambridge, Mass.  When faced with the task of reading together from the blackboard the spelling of certain words, I said “OR” for “ARE” rather than that Yankee “AIR”.  Went home for lunch and didn’t return when the teacher said I had pronounced “route” wrong.  It does not rhyme with boot.  I wore boots.  When my folks sent me into a grocery store to ask for “grits,” the manager came out to show me his only southern delicacy—rattlesnake meat.

 

 

 

 

My Mother Meets the Governor

 

My mother was a crack typist and legal secretary when she worked for the Attorney General’s Department in the capitol building in Austin.  Because of arthritis in her fingers, she pounded away on an old Underwood, refusing to try the new electric typewriters everyone else was using.

 

I have some elegant portraits of her taken when she was a student at Baylor in Belton, but she was never a fashion plate in her middle years.  She did have white gloves.  Ladies were supposed to wear them on occasion. Like the time her department was invited to a cocktail party for the governor.

 

My mother dressed as appropriately for the occasion as she could manage, grabbed a pair of gloves, and got in the car. On the way to the affair, she discovered that she had one wrist-length glove and one longer, and both were dirty.  What does one do when even one’s white gloves won’t pass inspection?  She put the cleaner of the two on and clutched the other in that hand, tucked her purse under her arm and approached the door to the party.

 

It opened.  A smiling friend placed a drink in my mother’s free hand.  She entered the room full of laughing chattering people.  Another friend said, “Winnie, you’ve got to try this hot shrimp!” and popped one into my mother’s protesting mouth.

 

Whereupon, another co-worker tapped her on the shoulder and said,  “Winnie, have you met the Governor?”

 

She never finished the story.