indeed a Southern white lady in a white man’s world that she alone could not change, a world where even a locally rich young woman who drove her own black Buick, as Bird was and did, avoided spinsterhood and loneliness by marrying the right husband and serving and obeying him. In a televised interview that Russell reports, Bird said to her daughter Lynda that she regarded Lyndon as “my lover, my friend, my identity,” adding, “The need for women to have their individual identity belongs to your generation, not mine.” Russell quotes her further: “His life became my life. I respected it. I wanted to learn from it, excel in it.” At the University of Texas in Austin, Bird showed some of the spunk and deviltry that was to fit so well into her admiration of Lyndon. She dated some with the student body president, a law student, and a pre-med student, and decided to be a newspaper reporter. “I saw journalism as an outlet, a safe outlet, to be a little bit more aggressive,” she told Russell. Bird and two of her girlfriends at U.T. used to have dinner out with a married vice-president of an oil company, and the three of them were delighted when a former captain of the Texas Rangers, an old guy without his teeth, let them see his erotic books and recited risque nursery rhymes to them. On some nights, Russell reports, Bird and her friends and their dates drove out to a pasture students frequented eight miles north of Austin, and the dates paired off and scattered and spread their blankets in the pasture for some heavy petting. At home in Karnack, she and her friends drank homemade whiskey out of Mason jars, and they favored gin with either grapefruit or cherry juice. Politically Bird was for Governor Ma Ferguson, which means by Texas lights that she was liberal before she met Lyndon. The first book she gave Lyndon was Voltaire’s Candide, which she believes he never read. One senses from a recollection Bird shared with Russell that she would have been a good reporter. “I literally saw oil and gas flare into importance in Texas,” Bird said. “Flaring is the correct word, because when I drove across Texas, all I could see were the tall stacks where gas was being burned off. It burned red and blue from those stacks and looked just like hell when you drove through. The land itself looked like it was on fire.” I ” remember once,” Bird told Russell, “when I was a little girl, that a group of white men cornered a black man in the middle of the night and accused him of some crime. The poor man was so terrified that he just took off running. The white men shot him in the back.” This happened in the woods near Karnack she had not seen it, but she heard about it the next morning at her father’s store. She remembered thinking, “This isn’t right. Somebody ought to change this.” The man she married did more to change it than any American President since Abraham Lincoln, and Johnson did what he did in an egalitarian spirit that Lincoln did not have toward blacks. That story from Bird’s girlhood memory is an example of the resonance of what we can learn, about Lady Bird and the Johnsons, in this book. Here are some further examples. Speaking of Lyndon and her honeymoon trip to Mexico, Bird said: “I was a born sightseer, but Lyndon was a born people-seer. He indulged me on that trip, but the truth is he wasn’t much intrigued.” Lady Bird’s fourth miscarriage jeopardized her life. “When they were putting me in the ambulance,” she said, “I remember that I was glad that Lyndon and I were well off, that we had enough money, and wondered what it would be like to be that sick without any money at all.” When asked about Lyndon’ s lovers, Bird replied: “When people A Lady Bird in Austin, 1941 Austin American ask me these sorts of things, I just say, ‘Look to your own lives. Look to yourselves, everybody. Fix yourselves, and keep your problems to yourself.'” “She knew him inside out and accepted him for what he was,” George Reedy told Russell. Horace Busby, Johnson’s man-Friday, told her, “The key to understanding Lady Bird is to understand that in her mind her father was the role model for how all men are and should be. It explains why she put up with LBJ’ s womanizing, and why she idealized him for being a public servant. She grew up with her father and assumed all men had a wife but also had girlfriends. She didn’t attach much importance to it.” Busby related that one weekend, when Johnson was vice-president, he invited Helen Gahagan Douglas, who had been and perhaps still was a lover, to spend the weekend at the Johnsons’ home. Bird left to shop in New York for the weekend. This leads to the speculation that Bird knew about his affairs and, as Russell writes, S.”ErrEfotreE4E-3′ , 1999 ot:koleac-r THE TEXAS OBSERVER 25
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.