Page 21


other applicants over a period of several months. Those who made the short list were sent home with “Dear Tex Schramm” letters to “answer.” One of the letters was from a feminist professor from Stanford. She wanted to know why the organization persisted in exploiting young womenin the form of Tex’s beloved Cowboys Cheerleaders, those buxom, empty-headed, lap-dancing babes of American popular culture. Beat the hell out of me, too, but I wanted the job. My three-page, single-spaced answer of I HAVE SPENT M grand obfuscation pro nounced the Cheerlead ers a kind of gyrating Pride of Texas, college-bound young women \(possibly future following, in the best spirit of gender pioneers. Not surprisingly, this complete betrayal of my own feminist sensibilities was a resounding success and was, I was told, what finally clinched the job for me. I churned out lots of stuff for Tex. There were speeches to all kinds of clubs; there were roasts for celebrities, like Howard Cosell \(e.g.: Q. what do Howard and the also answered tricky questions fans would mail in, for Tex was very, very fond of Cowboy fans \(an extraordinary number of when people learn I worked for the Cowboys, they’ll ask me if I can still do the splits. Forever bound am I by the icon of giggling Texas Cheerleaderdom. Dear Tex Schramm: Thanks, thanks a lot. During those post-college years, I worked a series of jobs that only glancingly had to do with “writ ing”and all to do with Texas-style business. I spent time as a copywriter with Dallas ad agencies, working on accounts like Old El Paso hot sauce and Lone Star beer. Writing ad copy is one of those professions where you can be working for one agency in the morning and another by afternoon. This happened to me when I took a job at a small agency in Richardson, outside Dallas. As I was arranging my desk on my first day on the job, the creative director swept in and gave me my first assignmenta print ad for a cattlemen’s journal. “Ben,” he said \(Ben was the librarian/researcher/ literature so you can study up on it.” “What’s the product, anyway?” I asked him as he was walking out of my office. “Bull semen,” he said evenly, over his shoulder. There wasn’t a trace of a smile, but it turned out this was no subject for levity. Bull semen is a serious business in Texas, as was made abundantly clear to me when Ben arrived, pushing a creaking trolley laden with a couple of dozen tomes on cattle breeding, beef production, courting practices, and so on. The headline for one of the award-winning ads readno kidding: “MY BULL’S BIGGER THAN YOUR BULL.” What in the world was I going to follow that up with? YA’LL COME? Thank heavens, I received a call from another agency, and by 3 p.m. that day had cleaned off my deskcutting short a promising career in the semantics of semen. Still later I left Dallas to take a job as marketing manager for the Houston Gamblers, a team in that twenty-minute enterprise known as the United States Football League, or USFL. There, among other exercises in patience and futility, I was assigned to organize the tryouts for the cheerleading, or dance, squadto be called the “Highrollers.” \(This resulted in an early mid-life crisis and a permanent aversion to the song referred to me as “that Highroller broad in Houston.” On the side, I worked on reviews, articles, short stories, poetry. I was introduced to Dan Jenkins at a sportswriters’ party, told him a bit about my background and that I’d like to write a funny novel a la Semi-Tough but from the perspective of a woman involved in pro football. I still remember him looking up from his drink and eyeing me top to bottom. “It takes a lot of hanging out,” he said. “Honey.” Instead of hanging out, though, or even hanging on, this Houston honey set out for about the last Texas city I hadn’t lived in, for hillier climes and Austin’s big state university. i n grad school I made fast friends with another student who had ridden the business range her own self. It was she who was responsible for the next turn in my life. Stuck together in a post-structuralist criticism course with a take-no-prisoners visiting professor who wrote like he was being translated from ULATORY TEXAS. the German \(and badly gether to the Tower to secure another class. We cajoled, sweettalked, begged, lobbied, beguiled, besieged, and finally persuaded a nice, harried secretary in the Tower to add our two names above the flashing electronic list that read CLOSEDand we were in. “In what?” I asked my friend. “Life and Literature of the Southwest,” she said, beaming. “It’s J. Frank Dobie’s old course.” “J. Frank Dobie, huh?” I’m thinking as we walk back across campus.. “Who the hell’s he?” That same semester I wound up enrolled in a creative writing confer ence course taught by ::74 e Rolando Hinojosa. Entirely un expectedly, then \(for I was spe found myself knee deep in the heart of a kind of yin and yang of Lone Star Lit. In Hinojosa’ s class I was reading his own novels about the Valley, and in Dobie’s were reading Southwestern fiction: Larry McMurtry’ s Horseman, Pass By, the story of a young boy’s coming of age amidst a charming milieu of hoof and mouth dis ease; Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony, the story of a young Native American who throws up a lot; Grant of Kingdom, Harvey Fergusson’s frontier epic of land and cattle; and Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather’s epic of land and Catholics. Then there was John Graves’ Goodbye to a River, which might well have crystallized the whole of my Texas literary education. I gamely started reading what had the smell OST OF MY LIFE TRYING TO OUTRUN EJAC BUT INEVITABLY, IT HAS FERTILIZED ME. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 26, 1996