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bottle of the water-of-life passing from hand to hand, Molly would lecture us on the constitutional underpinnings \(or lack us with the absurdity of overpaid officials too obtuse to realize they were bad jokes. “If his IQ gets any lower,” she said of a congressman from Dallas, “we’ll have to water him twice a day.” In the morning, she would conduct flora and fauna tours for the childrenand those of us who acted like childrenpointing out marvels of nature that until then we had dismissed as annoying burrs and nasty things that fly up your shorts and sting. One Fourth of July, as we drank beer around a picnic table, Molly interrupted our serenity by producing a copy of the Declaration of Independence, which she read aloud, from top to bottom. “The United States of America,” she reminded us at the conclusion of her reading, “is still run by its citizens. The government works for us.” It was a straight-on lecture to a group of college-educated writers, politicos, and professional people, and to my amazement, all of us listened to every word, as though the session would conclude with a pop quiz. We needed Molly to remind us how easy it is to take basic freedoms for grantedand she knew we needed it. The possibilities of America fascinated her. Molly understood that our nation was not a finished product, but an evolving experiment in democracy, that the previously unimaginable might overtake us in a flash. Politics, therefore, required agility. Sometimes it was necessary to back up, and sometimes it was necessary to start over. Admitting mistakes was rule No. 1. Also numbers two through 10. Most important of all, however, we had to look at politics not as merely a duty, but as an entertainment, something to laugh at and have fun with. Laughing came easy for Molly, as it did for those of us who knew her or who paid even scant attention to what she wrote or said. Molly wasn’t for everyone, thank God. Though she worked for The New York Times for three years, they never got her. Molly’s down-home irreverence and barbed stylereferences to the “awl bidness,” for examplepuzzled and confused her superiors. I think the title of her first book, Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She? was inspired by her ordeal at the Times. One particularly officious editor changed her description of a guy with “a beer gut that belongs in the Smithsonian” to “a man with a protuberant abdomen.” Exiled from Manhattan to the Times’ Rocky Mountain bureau, Molly kept her sense of humor. “Montana is a meat-and-potatoes state,” she told me after her return to Austin. “I was starved for anything green. When my steak arrived with a tiny sprig of parsley on top, I wolfed the parsley down and left the meat. A waitress looked at me with what I think was pity and said, ‘Goddamn, honey, if I’d known you was going to eat it, I’d of washed it.'” Without quite realizing it had happened, Molly and some of the rest of us became village elders. We had been around 14 THE TEXAS OBSERVER FEBRUARY 9, 2007