Page 29


POLITICAL TELLIGENCIE Sell Outs WAR ON CHRISTMAS Remote and rugged, the state-owned Christmas Mountains near Terlingua in Big Bend country are for sale. The eager seller is General Land Office Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who believes the 9,269acre ranch would be better off in private handsas long those hands can clutch a gun. The Richard King Mellon Foundation donated the Christmas Mountains Ranch to the land office in 1991 for “conservation and protection in perpetuity,” according to the deed. A foundation officer wrote in an e-mail, reported first in the Austin American-Statesman, that if the sale goes through, “the state Mellon Foundation for any future help.” Land office spokesman Jim Suydam said that despite its name, the agency is not in the business of conservation. “We own property on behalf of the Public School Fund,” he said, “and our job is to make money on behalf of Texas schoolchildren.” In an op-ed piece in the Statesman, Patterson cited personal hero Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to the problemin many cases it is the problem. The Christmas Mountains are no exception.” The property was offered to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the National Park Service, Suydam said. Both agencies initially turned it down. However, a spokesman for Big Bend National Park told the Observer that the park was looking at ways to acquire the ranch. Suydam said the land office welcomed any proposal. But Patterson has said that he won’t sell the ranch to any entity that bans hunting or firearms. If Texas is looking to the land office to solve its dire shortage of public parklands, it’s gazing in the wrong direction. “Private stewardship can be as good or better than public stewardship,” Patterson wrote in his op-ed. “If this is not true, then Texas is in trouble since 95 percent of Texas is privately owned.” An auction for the property in September produced six bids. The top offera whopping $652,000came from the retired chairman of trash company Browning-Ferris Industries Inc., who proposed permanently closing the mountains to the public. The secondhighest bidder was John Poindexter, a Houston businessman who in 2005 tried to buy a 46,000-acre parcel of the Big Bend Ranch State Park from the cash-strapped Texas parks department. \(The September auction was scrapped because of a technicality; a new round of bidding is under way. The land office Poindexter told The Big Bend Gazette that he wants the Christmas Mountains for “Texas bragging rights.” This is Patterson’s Texas, where mountains are not natural wonders for public enjoyment, but set pieces in rich men’s pissing contests. KINKY ON SPECIAL There’s a slight Willy Loman feel to Kinky Friedman these days. Every few months, he blows through town hawking a fresh batch of wares, but the same tattered charm is starting to feel a bit desperate. Kinky’s gig now, when he’s not writing, is buzzgeneration and product placement. He’s shtick on legs with a goatee. The musician-turned-author-turnedcandidate was back at BookPeople in downtown Austin on October 9 to sign copies of his latest book, a reflection on his run for governor in 2006 entitled, You Can Lead a Politician to Water, but You Can’t Make Him Think. Nearly a year after election day, it sounded as if Kinky’s campaign had never ended. “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the next governor of the state of TexasKinky Friedman!” bellowed Kinky’s ever-present sidekick, Jeff “Little Jewford” Shelby. Here was the same tired routine with which they had opened every campaign eventthey drudged through it with the liveliness of people ordering wallpaper samples. “Thank you very much,” Kinky said. “That’s Little Jewford. He’s a Jew, and he drives a Ford.” There was a smattering of laughs. The audience, which packed the bookstore’s second floor, had heard this bit many times before. The presentation that followedthe recycled one-liners, the slapped-together stream-of-conscious musingswas almost a rehash of Kinky’s stump speeches. “Somebody blogged … that I have endorsed Ron Paul for president, which is not true,” began Kinky. “This is a singularly uninspired group of candidates that the two-party system has brought us. I think it’s George Washington’s worst nightmare: a country run by these two parties, lacking common sense and common honesty…. The politicians have so badly dropped the ball on immigration, education, and health care that all they can seem to do is to keep Kinky Friedman 20 feet away from the door of Katz’s deli with my cigar.” He then encouraged the audience to visit his Web site \(his converted brand cigars. “The sales are going great. Little Jewford is the CEO of the company, by the way. … Go to your favorite cigar store and tell them to order Kinky Friedman Cigars. K-F-C.” Later, during the question-and-answer segment, Kinky became reflective, musing about whether he should have run as a Democrat. “The reason to run as a Democrat is pretty simple in 2010, if that were to happen. I think the Democrats historically listen to the voice of the people better,” he said. It was hard to square that with Kinky’s assertion a few minutes earlier that the two parties were the “crips and the bloods…. There ain’t a bit of difference between the two of them; they just use code words.” No matter, Jerry Falwell has a better chance of winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2010. 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER OCTOBER 19, 2007