Working on the railroad Amarillo to Temple FIRST NIGHT OUT Six private airplanes ferried reporters from Austin to Amarillo, where we will climb aboard the “Ben Barnes Victory Special” tomorrow morning. A campaign train hasn’t crossed Texas since John Connally took his “Victory Special” from Texarkana to El Paso ten years ago this May. Our zippy little airplane was one of the first to reach the High Plains. The Amarillo airport was deserted, except for the omnipresent West Texas wind and a welcoming committee from the Chamber of Commerce. The minute the red, white and blue turbo prop came rolling to a stop, these little men in baby blue slacks and yellow blazers came trotting out to greet us. \(Our party included such notables as a pilot, Richard West of Ben Barnes’ staff and a reporter each from the Houston Post, the Houston Chronicle, The Daily Texan and the One of the little men was carrying something bulky under his arm. He dropped it, scattering dust, next to the plane. “Oh, my god, it’s a red carpet,” somebody groaned. We sat inside the airplane for a while, trying to slouch down below the windows as the C of C men pressed. beaming faces against the panes. Finally, I summoned a smile of sorts and climbed off into the wind. The men, who had positioned themselves in rows on each side of the short strip of carpet, motioned me down the lumpy strip \(they hadn’t quite got it of my flesh and bidding me hearty welcomes to Amarillo. Rusty Todd of the Texan tried to circumvent the red carpet treatment, but he was herded back between the welcoming rows of baby blue and yellow. FIRST DAY ON THE TRAIN This could be a presidential campaign, everything is so slick. And the train is obviously the way to travel. I’ve seen more of Texas today than I have on any number of airport-to-airport campaign junkets. In addition to the engine and a generator car, there’s a lounge car set up for the working press, a dome chaircar for everybody, a pullman compartment for Barnes’ staff and a caboose for the dignitaries. Barnes is making his speeches from back there. Many Texas reporters judge a junket on the availability of the booze, and on that count, this junket is only slightly behind a distillers’ convention. The liquor flows from everywhere. There were drinks available on the airplanes yesterday afternoon. There was a cocktail party in Amarillo last night. On board, there are bars in the press room and the observation car. Lest Barnes be accused of sanctioning drink, the campaign brochure commands “That no refreshments be taken out of the working press car.” Food is almost as plentiful as liquor. Someone is providing an unending supply of doughnuts and coffee and box lunches. Some nice ladies got on the train at Plainview and passed around biscuits and Jimmie Dean sausage \(made, afternoon we even had a selection of hors d’oeuvres. The 60-page Victory Special press book lists more than 30 “staff and support personnel” aboard. Ted Connell, a former LBJ advance man, is making sure everything is running smoothly. Barnes has snapped up so many of the good Texas p.r. people that there is speculation he hired them simply to keep them away from the other candidates. Catering to our media needs are George Christian, one of LBJ’s press secretaries; Julian Read, who had much to do with the making of John Connally’s image; Jerry Hall, the amiable West Texan who until recently was Preston Smith’s press secretary, and Terry Young, a former Capitol reporter who now works for Read. Two doctors on the train are available to treat Barnes’ and members of the staff who are Hong Kong flued. The it. gov. looked pretty peaked this morning. Last night he could hardly talk, but antibiotics seem to have put a little life into him this afternoon. No doubt his sanguine spirits are partially due to the large crowds that have been waiting at every stop. A fter seeing the organizational talent and the money that have been put into this train trip, and the numbers that have turned out along the route, I’m forced to conclude that Barnes is far, far ahead of the other gubernatorial candidates. It’s a good thing Barnes has already made it clear he’s against bussing, elsewise folks might begin to wonder about the number of Barnes’ fans from other towns being bUssed in to augment crowds along the rail route. Children let out of school for the day and football fans also swell the crowds. Renting the train for three days cost $16,000. Barnes speculates that the whole trip will cost around $25,000. I don’t know whether that includes such shiny toys as the six private planes he commandeered yesterday or the spiffy red and white helicopter that is pacing us along the railroad tracks today. Bob Bullock has ruled that candidates will have to include such extras in their campaign expenditure reports. I think the trip may cost more than $30,000. If an anticipated 15,000 Texans see Barnes during these three days, that’s $2 a head for exposure. Not terribly expensive for a campaign in this state. THE ROUTINE The campaign formula is pretty well set for the trip. There are 25 stops scheduled along the 758 railroad miles between Amarillo and Houston. The game plan goes like this: When the train pulls into a station, one of the football players \(Walt Garrison, Dan Reeves, Bob Lilly, Bob McKay or Bubba the back of the caboose and identifies himself. The athlete says winningly that he is a winner and that Barnes is a winner too and that’s why all the football players are supporting him. One of the guys this morning altered the script a little. He said that all of the football players on the train are Texans and that Barnes is a Texan too and that’s why they want to elect him governor. No one bothered to point out that people who run for governor of Texas usually are Texian. In fact, it’s mandatory. There’s usually a good deal of squealing when the football player identifies himself. Sometimes the young people who have come to see Walt Garrison continue squealing while Barnes speaks. The campaign people tried sending the players out into the crowds to sign autographs while Barnes is talking and that has led to pandemonium once or twice. The routine that seems to be settling in is for Barnes to say that the football players will sign autographs and that he, the candidate, will shake as March 17, 1972 9 .’.
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