Texas, where our leader, Russ Tidwell, managed somehow to get Molly and me, as well as Doug Zabel, down the river without serious mishap. But Molly and I had always planned to do the Grand Canyon someday. Life’s demands kept getting in the way. In the meantime, I found myself in California, removed from the Austin scene. It was in California that I first came face to face with the reach of Molly’s influence as a writer. I had always loved her writing, her politics, her humor, but as a provincial, I simply didn’t realize that she had captivated such a huge national audience. Her speeches in Marin County would attract standing-room-only crowds. My wife Sandy and I managed to greatly enhance our community reputation by entertaining Molly on her periodic forays to the West Coast for speeches and book tours. We stayed closely in touch with Molly since the early onset of her illness, always astounded by her refusals to surrender to the seemingly incessant medical challenges. I later learned from a good friend, Harold Cook, that he had been in Molly’s hospital room when we held our chat about the Grand Canyon. He felt that the prospects of running the Grand had literally given Molly a new lease on life, and she was visibly buoyed by the prospect. Any doubts about the wisdom of the venture were set aside. As September approached and Molly’s health remained compromised, misgivings did emerge, but a deal is a deal. Sandy had the good sense to recruit Brady Coleman, Austin’s most charming man about town, to join us on the venture, and September found us in Flagstaff, ready to embark on a 10-day raft trip in the Canyon. Molly had just completed yet another chemo treatment shortly before leaving Austin. The trip was splendid. We were joined by some acquaintances of Molly’s from Alaska who made perfect traveling companions, and we were blessed by lovely weather. Molly was weak as a kitten and unsteady on her pins. Every time she boarded or exited the raft, it was a new adventure as we all scrambled to ensure she didn’t end up in the drink. Through it all, she was indomitable. She never complained and never wavered and actually seemed to gain strength as the trip progressed. Brady and Sandy sang to us in the evenings, and Molly joined in. She even managed to organize a talent night for the voyageurs on one occasion. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to be part of this final venture. She was, as the old Texas saying goes, “a good person to run the river with.” Sadly, the run is over. David Richards is an attorney and author. An Excellent Day by RICHARD AREGOOD 0 n the last weekend of her life, Molly Ivins spent an afternoon creatively trashing the traitorous rats who had abandoned party and principle to vote to re-elect the speaker of the Texas House, then met in the evening with the ladies of her Austin book club, many of whom had smuggled tasty contraband into her hospital room. All things considered, it was an excellent day. From the moment I met her at a backyard barbecue in Anchorage, Alaska, 20-odd years ago, Molly taught me to savor and cherish the many wonders of life, even the oftenhilarious frustrations of being a left-wing Texan. Wherever Molly went, she met people who would love her unto death. Hell, I still love her and will always carry the glow of that incredible smile with me. Those who compare her with the sad lot of current political columnists miss the point altogether. It is insulting to mention her in the same breath with a house man like George Will or timid “centrist” David Broder, who once was a great reporter, let alone to the execrable Ann Coulter. She was firmly in the great tradition of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken and Will Rogers, American originals who saw things clearly and spoke the truth even more clearly. Could there be a better description of Pat Buchanan’s notorious Republican convention speech than Molly’s laconic, “It must have sounded better in the original German”? It was Molly’s unique ability to combine reporting, commitment, and wit that made her a special writer. Even an eight-year battle with an especially nasty form of breast cancer evoked telling humor. A legendary overworker, she told me that her sickness had had the benefit of making it possible for her to say no to speaking and writing gigs: “If I say, ‘I can’t. I have cancer,'” she said, “they tend to go away.” But for everybody who knew Molly, the memories are not of her professional excellence, although her hilariously pointed work in The Texas Observer 30 years ago knocked my socks off even before we met. I can see her strolling briskly across the campus of the University of Colorado, trailed by earnest acolytes waiting for another good or boy story or a chicken-fried epigram. Molly and Roger Ebert have been the superstars of Colorado’s Conference on World Affairs for decades. In Boulder, she was approachable royalty. FEBRUARY 9, 2007 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 29
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