Serving the Austin community since 1975 SAVE AND SUSTAIN BOOK-WOMAN Help save an endangered species: The independent women’s bookstore For details go to www.savebookwoman.com big bead coffee roasters ,www.bigbendcoffee.com /731-1811 wholesale inquiries welcome $5 shipping on all orders 0, www.bigbendcoffee.com artisan-roasted in Marfa, Texas 10 0 % ORGANIC & FAIR TRADE mg: be flying, and in those periods, life was one long party of allnight drinking and carousing and reckless behavior. One night, during a bourbonized domestic quarrel, his wife ordered him out of the house, and he drove to the apartment of his friend and adviser, Carlton Carl, to spend the night. Carl was away, and Bullock couldn’t get into the apartment, so he crawled into the back seat of what he thought was his friend’s 1966 Chevrolet Bellaire. The next morning, he woke up as the car was motoring up Interstate 35, the driver unaware that he had a passenger. Bullock sat up and startled the stranger by announcing, “Hi there, I’m Bob Bullock, your secretary of state:’ A Bullock in a China Closet In 1974, Bullock was elected state comptroller. Inheriting an antiquated, inefficient office, he proceeded to overhaul it and to pursue companies that had not paid their business taxes. By that time, his reputation for extreme behaviorspersonal and professionalwas becoming well established. In the reorganization frenzy of those first two years, Bullock’s demeanor took twists that went beyond eccentricity. He would fire a staff member at night and rehire him the next morning. He herded his top deputies to long afternoon work sessions in nearby taverns. In the office, he alternated between roaring like a hungry lion and secluding himself poking pins into a voodoo doll representing one of his enemies. Occasionally, he took a chair beside a secretary’s desk and sat for long periods, saying nothing, just chain-smoking and staring into the distance. Always a voracious reader of history and biography, he added the bureaucratic printing output to his reading list. Most days he took home armloads of reports published by various agencies, pored over them until the wee hours, and frequently woke his top aides to give them an impulsive assignment or solicit their thoughts on how to deal with something in the Department of Parks and Wildlife or improve Child Protective Services or some other agency beyond his jurisdiction. He insisted that his department heads be available anytime he wanted themfew would dare go to the restroom without leaving word with their secretariesand each received pagers to make sure they were never beyond his reach. Most days, he was at his desk at seven o’clock in the morning, tapping out memos of instruction or criticism to his aides. Few were spared the “blue zingers”so called because of the color of the paper they were typed onand few did not live in dread of them. His gluttony for knowledge became the stuff of Capitol legend. He created a research department unlike anything that had ever existed in Texas government, one that ranged far beyond revenue estimating and the state’s economic trends. Knowledge was coin of the realm, and Bullock was holding all the change. Legislators had previously relied on fragments of information from the various agencies, on the self-serving presentations of lobbyists, or on the business-funded Texas Research League. Now they could turn to the comptroller for independent dataostensibly untainted by private greedon almost any subject. For most of the young liberals who had gone to work for him, it was, in the words of one, “the most exciting time of my life:’ It also may have been one of the strangest. During the campaign, he had insisted that everyone who worked for him read and reread The Little Red Hen and absorb its message of individual initiative and self-reliance. After taking office, he copied and distributed to each staffer an 1899 essay by Elbert Hubbard called A Message to Garcia, a sermon on duty, obedience, and resourcefulness built on a tale from the Spanish American War. Garcia, it was told, was an insurgent leader working from a hidden base somewhere in the mountains of Cuba, and President William McKinley needed to get an urgent message to him. From the story: Someone said to the President, “There’s a fellow by the name of Rowan who will find Garcia for you if anybody can.” Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How the “fellow by the name of Rowan” took the letter, sealed it up in an oilskin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot and delivered his letter to Garcia are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail. The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask “Where is he at?” By the 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 11, 2008
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