How I met Molly Ivins? I don’t believe I ever did. Although we had been huggin’ and howdyin’ for what seems like half of my 61 years, I do not recollect ever having been actually introduced to the Lady. My first encounter with the Magnificent Ms. Ivins could very well have been at the old Raw Deal down on Sabine Street way back in the day, when heathens ran the streets of Austin and some of the eateries and drinkeries as well. We knew lots of the same people and were thrown together socially, musically, and politically on many an evening. We met by osmosis. We have since shared some great adventures.
I have been known to lead folks on New Years trips to Veracruz, Mexico, where we took them white-water rafting down the Rio Antigua in the mountains around the capital city, Xalapa. We would raft by day, and in the evening we would make camp along the river or go to a hotel. The evening was for singing, playing, eating, drinking, and telling stories. Molly joined me on this trip twice. The first time, in the early. ’90s, we began by spending the night in the little town of Antigua at the mouth of Rio Antigua. The hotel was called La Ceiba, for the massive ceiba trees growing in and around the courtyard. The first morning, after a great breakfast in a very funky little cafe, we gathered around the shuttle vehicles to begin our ride to the put-in at Puente Pescado, three hours up river. (We would run the river in two sections, each being a world of white water, the first from Puente Pescado, 12 miles to Ciudad Jalcomulco.) Molly was nowhere to be seen as roll was informally called. We checked her room, called her name in unison, and finally, from above and beyond, came this voice, “I’m up here. Don’t leave without me.” After breakfast, Molly had gone for a walk in a tree. She climbed up on the wall surrounding the hotel and from the wall into the welcoming branches of the huge tree. Molly couldn’t disappear in a red oak tree or a white pine, but she could in the branches of a ceiba.
We had a fantastic day on the river, running class 3 and 4 rapids, and camping on the local Jalcomulco soccer field that night. The next night was New Years Eve. After a day’s run down river, we would soak in the sulphur hot springs of the Baños Carrizal.
We left the beach about 10 a.m. for the five- or six-hour float down the Antigua, with Molly in my boat. She told me stories while I ran rapids with names like Bruja Blanca. We had another great day on a fantastic river.
The last major rapids, above Baños Carrizal, is called Paso Limón, and it is a class 4, a squeeze between a large rock and a vertical wall on the right. We aced it and were about an hour above Baños. We had an upstream wind, and I saw Molly sniffing; the wind carrying the strong smell of sulphur up the river. The closer we got to Baños, the stronger the smell became.
When we arrived at the take-out, Baños was a hubbub of New Years Eve activity. Baños Carrizal is an old hot springs resort, and that afternoon la gente were resorting all over the place. After we unloaded the gear from the boats, everyone found their swimwear, and we all changed and headed for the hot springs for a warming soak. Molly and I stopped at the little kiosk selling cold beer poured from its container into a sandwich bag with a straw in it and bound closed with a rubber band. No glass containers allowed in the pool. I bought us each a sack of beer, and we headed to the source of the sulphurous odors. We got in the water, and it felt heavenly after a day of splashing through the cold waters of the mountain snowmelt that fed Rio Antigua. We were up against one side of the pool with just our noses and mouths out of the water, sucking Mexican beer through a straw on New Years Eve. It was perfect.
Molly looked at me and said, “Fromholz, those Baptist preachers lied to me.” “How’s that?” I asked. Molly rolled her eyes and replied, “They told me hell would smell like this.”
Although we never participated in any civil disobedience in Mexico, Austin was a different story.
Our greatest adventure was our mooning of the Ku Klux Klan rally on the state Capitol grounds with about 200 dedicated mooners one beautiful, January Saturday morning late in the last century. When Molly got to mooning she was really into it. And believe me dear heart, ain’t nothing’ like a full moon.
Our other great adventure was our protest campout at Eighth and Congress in front of the State Theatre. We were protesting the city’s passing an ordinance making it a crime to be homeless and asleep on the streets of Austin. That ordinance pissed me off, so I called Molly and asked her if she would like to go camping with me downtown. She allowed as how she would love to go camping with me. We called John Kelso to give him a heads-up, and the night of the camp out we were hoping to get arrested. To help that along, Molly brought a fire pan and a bundle of fatwood for a fire. It was a chilly evening. The only cop we saw was the female officer who showed up with a fire extinguisher when Molly lit the fire. We spent the night there with 75 other hardy souls. No arrests were made, and the ordinance was done away with.
God knows how much I love Molly Ivins, but we never have been introduced.
Steven Fromholz is a Texas troubador.