to respond. My spluttering denial did precious little good. For the next hour Burnett asked some very pointed personal questions: “Were you drunk last night? .. . Do you get drunk often ? . . . Well, how often is not too often? . . . Do you make it a habit to write inflammatory stories for your newspaper? . . . How do you hold your job? . . . Are you true to your wife? . . . Do you seriously claim not to have been convicted of morals charges in the state of New Jersey? . . . How about California ?” Twice Burnett asked the court to hold me guilty of contempt, once getting $100 fine imposed for some vague breach of conduct. \(Later suspended, midst much hilarity in private charnbers, subject as I recallat the suggestion of Youngto conditions of complete celibacy for six months’ duration, such sentence to exclude the periodic Came the night and hasty messenger bearing a bottle of choice Scotch to which was taped lawyer Young’s card \(he, of bearing this scrawled quote from Isaiah: “Woe until them that rise up .early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them.” RECORD books will not attest to the fact, but yours truly and American sports scribe Ben Peeler once broke up a touchdown pass in a state playoff game. The legions of Ranger had moved into the wastelands fora to tilt with McCamey, a quaint village of tin roofs and hulking football types. Yours truly, momentarily on the filth list of his editor, was served up punishment by being assigned to photograph said match of skill and wills. Ben fell in with my scheme to pour a fifth of vodka into a cider jug and stalk the sidelines possessed of artificial aids, passing off same as ice water if called to heel by local constabulary. All went smashingly well. Until, that is, shortly before half-time when mighty Ranger \(in arrears by one the sacred McCamey goal line. Standing behind the crossbars, your experienced sportsman divided as the Rangers broke formation that a pass was in the offing. And lo! There came into the end zone under full head of steam a lanky end unencumbered by McCamey defenders. Intent on freezing for posterity a certified sweatand-nose-hairs close-up of the Big Play, your knight plunged into the end zone, Peeler hot at heel. \(He later claimed he Perhaps it was all that ersatz ice water. Anyway, lacking in timing and balance, there was somehow a miscalculation of distance. As I brought my trusty SpeedGraphic up for the potential prize-winning snapshot, there was a ping and a gasp and a thud. The ping came when the ball hit the camera, the gasp when the would-be receiver and Peeler jointly banged into my personage from conflicting directions, and the thud when our trio fell in entwined 8 The Texas Observer rapture to the turf beside the bounding ball. While the Rangers howled and danced in honest rage, and McCamey partisans rocked wooden bleachers in savage mirth and gratitude, time ran out before the visitors could do prime violence to the locals’ goal. Had not the Rangers pulled the game out in the second half \(perhaps because Peeler kept getting sucked out of lettered by McCamey High School and proudly have worn our Badger emblems through the wilderness of life. Of such nearmisses are potential heroes abandoned as eternal goats. THE MANAGING EDITOR of the American was Jim Scott, the city editor Brad Carlisle \(both of whom long ago fled to other risks on the Nashville. having the common touch. In 1952 when young Dick Nixon came to Our Town he was hot copy, having just introduced Checkers to political society via that tearful soap opera. Those of us massed to record Dr. Nixon’s shouted epithets partook of liquid refreshment at plane-side. At the conclusion of his act, the touring Republican showman invited assembled newsmen to climb aboard and fly to El Paso, as long as space held out. Scott and Carlisle held a hurried high policy meeting, appointed themselves delegates, and zoomed off toward the stars. The next morning in El Paso they pooled pennies enough to rouse Central and collect-called for money to return. It was worth the price of admission to see their looks of painful dignity as they stalked back into the newsroom, carrying it off as if they had planned to go to El Paso with Dick and Pat Nixon, \(As recently as six months ago, the two wandering journalists were still getting bills for their airlift from the Republican National Committee.. Be sure your sins Another touring Republican brightened my days during the Great Drought of the early 1950’s. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra T. Benson landed at Odessa-Midland Air Terminal under orders from Saint-Ike-TheClean to Do Something. Somebody told Ezra T. how independent were the good West Texans and how they hated handouts worse than Sin itself and didn’t want them nasty old Feds meddling in their business and had druther wither up and blow away with tumbleweeds than submit to galloping socialism. You can’t blame the Secretary for believing it. So Ez, he stands up before the assembly and flays all those Evils. Grim silence. Ez, he shifts his feet and says how he sure hopes it rains. Soon. Scattered clappings. Then he says how Ike hopes it rains, and wants the good folks of Texas to know he hopes it rains, and will do everything a mortal man can do to see that it does. A patter of hands to show good breeding. Then Ez calls for questions and/or suggestions. The little coterie of ranchers said how their cows were starving, and why couldn’t the Government fly them to feed lots in Kansas City right quick? about that very thingthat very morning, and Ike had been impressed to the nosewhales, or words to that effect. Deafening cheers and whistles. After Ez got in his Great Bird and cut, I watched the aidseeking ranchers get in their vehicles. The lead to my story did not get into the news paper : “Eighten ranchers in Cadillacs begged of Federal Aid to Sec. of Ag. Ezra Taft Benson here today, and the Secretary promptly admitted that President Eisenhower does not trace his family roots to Deity . . .” ONE MORE, and then class is dismissed. In Midland the natives have an ancient if puzzling custom : gathering annually for Five Big Nights Five to watch waddies roll and tumble amidst cow chips and common dirt. This strange ritual, for which fools are actually parted from good money, is called a “rodeo.” Now there is a rule written somewhere to the effect that all wrestling matches and rodeos must be billed as World Championship. This edict somehow impressed the editor of the Reporter-Telegram, who each year assigns more staffers to cover the event than maybe reported D-Day at Normandy. One of those bleak years, I drew the assignment of carving out a feature on cowboy superstitions, though I cannot imagine how anyone could care less. The idea being, apparently, to interview rodeo contestants about their favorite taboos and voo-doo beliefs and other convictions based strictly on ignorance. A pacifist born, putting down cowhand-types as being brawlers without peer, I wanted no part of the action. Procrastination became my way of life. Until, at the eleventh hour, the editor called me to desk-side for tender communion and dispatched the intelligence that I had but two hours to submit my story or suffer the sour harvest of unemployment. Without severance pay. \(No Faced with the great and solemn moment I mumbled promises to come to the front by pious acts, departing the conference site for that apparant good purpose. Shame on the authorities, for they grossly underestimated my talents for perfidy. Instead, I hiked to handy beer parlor with fellowstaffer Dick Venatora man of great talent and agitation but like myself assayed by managerial personnel as worthless rock and copiously quaffed Lone Star delights to within a half-hour of the deadline established by editor’s edict. Three minutes before cut-off time, grinning like a goose, I submitted a hard-hitting piece full of cowboy jargon : a-hankerin’ and a-ridin’ and that-a-way, all this Gary Cooper talk employed in as spookey a recitation of cowboy taboos as one might find at a Dodge City seance. All sham, of course. Oh, pure bunko. The names of wranglers allegedly quoted were filched from the official program, the quotes sprang full-blown from stimulated, well-oiled mind. Six months later, some poobah on the paper entered that feature in a state-wide A.P. contest. It won some kinda damn prize.
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