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LIKE BELLOW’S Herzog, I compose more letters than I write, write more than I post, and post more than I should. For better or for worse, much of my relationship with reality is epistolary. Here then are the circumstances of one composed but never mailed; but like a pebble in a shoe, something about it annoys me just enough to want to be done with it: Governor Bill Daniel the title is recognized only in Guam and Liberty County is an unlikely hero for the pages of what The Atlantic recently called Texas’ “arch-liberal” magazine. Here is a fellow who once carried in the statehouse a bill that would have made membership in the Communist party a felony in Texas \(Governor is always ready with a story on the union-bully politics of Senator Ralph Yarborough, and whose brother, Price, Sr., as governor and U.S. senator rarely embraced the causes of Texas progressives. But in 1982, when an Ohio-based waste handler, backed by a $2.7 million conglomerate, announced plans to locate a Class I toxic waste disposal facility in southeast Liberty County, Daniel, who during the Kennedy administration served as governor of Guam, drew a line in the dirt and, invoking none less than the Martyrs of the Alamo, heroes of San Jacinto, and the participants in the Battle of Anahuac, urged locals to make public their intentions to keep the Yankee miscreant’s poison out of the acid soil of this place so sacred to the Texas Revolution. Here ‘is precisely one of those usagainst-New York issues, as described by Nicholas Lemann in November’s Atlantic, that can make Texas liberals, Texicrats, and Republicans act downright collegial. All four of Liberty County’s liberals, its seven environmentalists, and about half the adult popula Louis Dubose, a contributing writer to the Observer, lives in Austin. tion closed ranks with Daniel, raised a half-million dollars, and to this day have kept Envirosafe, Inc., bogged down in the permitting process. When the initial Air Control Board meeting was convened in Austin, exactly two years ago, to decide on a minor point of procedure, opponents packed the auditorium of the state agency building on Hwy. 183. Young corporate-type attorneys discussed the most arcane provisions of the citing statute, and the morning dragged on. Before the meeting adjourned, legal counsel for each of the principals were allowed time for closing statements. Daniel, a trial lawyer who had done some pro bono work for the Liberty group, waited until the hired lawyers concluded. Then, while pilgrims from Liberty County exchanged commiserating glances, Governor Bill leaned into a speech that William Jennings Bryan would have considered excessive. He talked of fighting the Indians, of winning the good land from the Mexicans \(he did have a small speaking part in the John Wayne-filmed-at-Brackettswamps and surviving malaria, of the long fight to turn the south end of the Big Thicket into productive farmland. He spoke on behalf of the people, livestock, deer, armadillos, snakes, possums, and trees. Once, he let slip members of the Air Control Board as “the jury,” and how-dared those yankees to even propose to pour their poison into the soil of Liberty County when not a quart of it was produced there. Twice, while he spoke, he placed his hand on his chest and looked toward the acoustical ceiling suspended some thirty feet above. Before he concluded, he introduced his wife Mrs. Vera \(one of the kindest and most genteel ladies in the years as a trial lawyer, she had never missed a day in court. Finally, he reminded the members of the Air Control Board of their sacred trust, thanked them and the Almighty for the and sat down. I was assigned to cover the meeting by the managing editor of the Liberty paper. When I walked across the room to speak to Daniel, he was still winded. “How did I do,” he asked? “Do you think I moved them? Was it effective?” I had thought the speech was an anachronism, full of bombast and histrionics certainly inappropriate for the occasion. “It was great, sir,” I proclaimed. I wrote down a few quotes and left. A month later I took a stab or two at the truth in a letter that still marks a place in a volume of Will and Ariel Durant’s history. The truth, I told myself, is sometimes as unfortunate as the lie. That very winter I read Quijote and realized that I hadn’t lied after all; in responding as I did I had only anticipated a truth that at the time I didn’t understand. It is this, in part, that I will include in my next letter to the governor of Guam and Liberty County. For though Quijote is many things, it is essentially a study of prudence and passion. When passsion is gone, well, so is Quijote; the fight isn’t necessarily lost, but it’s over. And when passion in public affairs goes the way of ceiling fans and mahogany in this state’s district courtrooms, a good part of the good fight will be over. 0 AFTERWORD A Letter to Liberty County By Louis Dubose THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23