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being a homo was only the opening act? “…and, as a writer.” I began writing. Spring, 1968. Most nights when he was in Washington, Yarborough would work late. He would sit alone in his office, behind his standard-issue, billiard table-sized desk, and work the dictating machine. Papers on the desk were piled slightly more than a foot high at its geographic center, sloping gracefully to the edges in conformity to the laws of gravity and geology. It was a stratigraphic record of his tenure. At night he’d sit behind this weathered mountain and talk into the microphone. Every word, he insisted, every single word as uttered, regardless of apparent imperfection in grammar and syntax, was to be transcribed. He didn’t want his secretary to interpose herself between his word and the recipient. Often, he rambled. And often he was right, but just funny getting there. He’d gotten a letter from a veteran’s organization asking his position on a bill. My draft response contained typical boilerplate praise of the organization, describing them as artful advocates of their members’ interests. This is the memo I got back, the voice of the Senator, speaking into the night: Artful in the minds of most people means slick and kind of half-way deceit ful. Change the word artful in the third line of the first paragraph… have long been proponents and able advocates… instead of artful. Where is S. Res. 13 ? What is S. Res. 13 ? I think I’m a co-author. Dig it out. Say I was a co author of this resolution. Look it up and see if I’m not, but I’m pledged to vote for it. Just tell him that instead of consider ation, I’ll take your observation and rec ommendations and shall vote for it. I think I’ve pledged and think I’m a co-au thor. Let me see the full story before we write Huber. Thanks. RWY/sj Where did this little squinchy typewriter come from? Can’t we find a better typewriter than that? I hate to send out a letter with such fine print. It looks like we’re trying to hide what I’m saying. And please don’t start all the paragraphs with “I.” That’s poor English. Thanks. RWY/sj Never mind that he’d been briefed on S. Res. 13, and had forgotten that it would eliminate the Veterans Affairs Committee on which he sat as ranking memberI should have attached a copy of it to the correspondence file. Nonetheless, he had a phenomenal, if quirky, memory, including, Gene Godley recalls, things he intended to do but hadn’t gotten around to doing. In his office, off to the side of the fireplace, was his signing table. Like his desk, it too was piled as high as the laws of physics would allow, largely with routine letters, mementos, and requests for autographsthings that couldn’t be handled by the automatic signing machines, the cast-iron monsters that labored in the Dickensian atmosphere of the basement of the Old Senate Office Building. Godley was the Senator’s administrative assistant at the time. Yarborough called him in. “Gene, I need to send out those autographs to the astronauts!” The Senator often spoke with exclamation points. And he was a space nut. A liftoff scheduled within -a few days had jogged Ralph’s memory. Somewhere there was a file folder containing photographs of himself to be autographed, the incoming letter of request from NASA, and an outgoing cover letter for his signature. Godley’s memory, at first, was not as good as Yarborough’s. Then, he, too, remembered. A year before, perhaps two, when he was still Ralph’s press assistant, he hadmore than oncepresented the folder to Ralph, then, getting no response, had consigned it to the signing table. Godley had forgotten all about it. Ralph had too, until the lift-off triggered the autograph synapse. Gene walked over to the signing table, buried his hand and wrist in the pile in precisely the right era, and withdrew the proper folder. It was amazing, but the more amazing thingthe utterly Ralph-like thingwas that Ralph was not amazed at all. When one is a Senator, one expects staff to keep track of things, be able to find them when the time for action comes. He autographed the photographs and matter of factly thanked his administative assistantwho had the cover letter retyped, so that the month and year were correct, as well as the day, and then sent it down to the basement and on its way. San Antonio, late 1967. He and I have been on the road for a week, holding field hearings on what would become his Bilingual Education Act. Los Angeles, El Paso, San Antonio. We’re running way behind and the only thing that might mean more to Yarborough than passing this bill is what he’s trying to catch up to: a lift-off. After the hearings are over in San Antonio, we’ll get in the rental car and streak to Austin where he can change and race to Bergstrom for a military flight to the Cape, in time for a lift-off at dawn. Indefatigable. Meanwhile, Albert Pefia is demonstrating his own indefatigability. He is the last witness and he is going on and on and on. My job is to keep Yarborough on time. I’m doing a bad job. He will not cut Pefia off. Perla must not be insulted. The car, a big maroon Chevy, is packed and waiting. I’m ready to roll as soon as he makes the last handshake. We get to the car. “I’ll drive, I know the road,” he says, speaking of Interstate 35, not known for its trickiness. I cannot let this happen. My driving is quick and sure, even if tinged with the occasional adrenaline rush. His driving will not get us to Austin in time. He talks when he drives and forgets that he’s driving. Somehow I win the debate. But he extracts something from the loss. He will look out for troopers. Halfway to Austin he spots one lurking under a bridge and yells at me to slow down. I start coasting, and then when the red light comes on, pull over. Yarborough says he’ll take care of it. I think, no, I insisted on driving, it’s my responsibility. This was before officers required drivers to remain in their cars, and the two of us erupted from the Chevy, arguing with each other and basically ignoring the trooper. The trooper wanted to talk to me. He could see what side of the car I got out of. But Ralph was not to be denied. As I opened my wallet, he took out his, and a dingle-dangle of plastic unfolded like a child’s toy, close to two feet of dangling identification, larger even than LBJ’s. He didn’t so much identify himself to the trooper as protest his identity. The issue was no longer my speeding but, it seemed, whether he was really Ralph Yarborough. “I’m Ralph Yarborough, U.S. Senator. Here, my Senate identification. Pass to the Senate Gym. Have to get to Austin. Lift-off tomorrow morning. Have to get to the Cape. Military flight. Have to make it.” I asked how fast we were going. \(Cut this babbling off, get the ticket written, and trooper said. The Senator took this in stride. Well, he wanted to know, what’s the speed limit. It was after dark and it was low. Sixty, I think the trooper said. “All right,” said Ralph, “We’ll keep it under eighty.” I put my wallet back in my pocket. The trooper seemed glad to be rid of us. It wouldn’t be until after we got to Austin in time, and under eightythat I would realize what had just happened. Ralph Yarborough had just negotiated a compromise with a person who had not entered the negotiation. Ten years later, after Ralph was out of office and Godley was. Jimmy Carter’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Legislation, Gene took Ralph to lunch at the Old Ebbitt Grill. It was nice, to be sitting at table with the old man as something of an equal. Nice, after all those years, to be able to speak man to man to him instead of as staffer to boss. But there was little conversation. Ralph was in a rush, devouring his sandwich. Gene was impressed with the Senator’s implicit solicitude, his sensitivity for the importance of the position his exaide now held, his urgency in eating to allow this now high-level government official to get back to work. “Senator,” he explained, “There’s no rush. I cleared my calendar for a couple of hours, so we can take our time. You don’t have to hurry on my account.” Ralph’s response was not what Gene expected. “You don’t have to hurry! THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5