Page 18


driving to Nacogdoches, then to Fort Worth, then to San Angelo, and on to Harlingen, and back to Austin via Houston and points north, your typewriter in the back seat; stopping at a roadside park to type your copy; staying with friends or friends of friends along the way because you couldn’t afford a motel room; getting copy to Futura Press minutes before the deadline \(or hours afterwards or, more likely, writing it while there, over the clacking of the linotype your mind, worrying about the Observer’s financing, its subscribers, its critics, friendly and unfriendly, the former usually more trouble than the latter. The Observer would probably never have gotten off the ground, and certainly would not have stayed in flight, without Ronnie and his wife Jean, and Sarah Payne ; the business manager, and the McAfees and their gang of printers at Futura Press. I remember Ronnie one evening in the old YMCA building on the Drag in Austin, where student demonstrators used to meet when the movie theater stand-ins were going on in 1961. He was there to read some passages from Thoreau. \(Everybody who knew Ronnie knew that sooner or later you were going to have He read a passage on civil disobedience in a carefully modulated voice, almost primly, as though he were reading Scripture. I thought: Ronnie could have been a preacher if he had wanted to. Then I thought: Hell, he is a preacher. Most of the Texas liberals I know have been preachers, deep down, old-timey purveyors of the social gospel, full of brimstone, spilling over with quotations from Thoreau or Veblen, Sam Houston or the Bible itself. And that is another quality of its founding editor without which the Observer would not have made a go of it, the quintessential preacher in him: a believer, a man who could squint off toward the horizon and see heavenly visions. That was Dugger, not yet turned 30. Then there was Bob Sherrill, equally feisty, but as different from Dugger in some ways as night from day. I can epitomize the difference by saying that Sherrill would not have been caught dead reading Thoreau to the crowd, even though he had once taught English at Texas A&M. I had heard a lot of stories about Sherrill before I met him, but I was not fully prepared for the guy I found myself shaking hands with one day in the old Observer offices on 24th Street, just off the Drag. He was tall, raw-boned, handsome, with prematurely white hair. He had a marvelous shiner on one eye. I asked him how he got it. “Aw, it was this goddamn stupid high school principal I was interviewing up in Dallas,” Sherrill said, rather sheepishly. It turned_ out that he had had some heated words with the principal in the course of an interview on school desegregation, one thing led to another, and they ended up in a brawl. It is not enough to say that Sherrill did not suffer fools gladly. He did not suffer them at all. Covering the Legislature was almost more than Sherrill could bear. He and his wife Mary sometimes invited me over to their place on weekends for brunch and conversation. They were both delightful people. And although I had the feeling that Bob was basically good-natured and had to work at being a curmudgeon, there was no doubt that his