Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bird -- and Goose


(Photo Credit: Austin American-Statesman)

Today's post is in memory of Lady Bird Johnson, who died yesterday at her home in Austin, Texas at the ripe old age of 94. Following the deaths within the past year of Ann Richards and Molly Ivins, there is some concern that the world's supply of feisty old Texas women may be approaching dangerously low levels, but the moms can attest from their recent trip to the Lone Star state that this glorious species faces no threat of extinction. Their proof? Goose's very own mother, who is 87 and suffers, as Lady Bird did, from macular degeneration, brought her best pal Miriam with her to my Uncle Bobby's gig at the Broken Spoke, and they rocked out until 12:30 in the morning. Dog bless Texas women, I say. Paws up for the good old girls!

(For Roxie's World's tributes to Ann Richards and Molly Ivins, click on their names.)
  • Wa Po coverage of Mrs. Johnson's life and death focuses chiefly on her time as First Lady but also on her stalwart environmentalism and her courageous work for civil rights. "Style" has a special appreciation of her efforts to beautify the nation's capital. Forty years after she left town, Washingtonians are grateful to Lady Bird every time the flowers bloom in the spring.
  • The Austin American-Statesman offers Texas-size coverage of the story, as is appropriate. Access it here. Roxie's World officially endorses the idea of naming Town Lake in Austin, which Mrs. Johnson helped to reclaim in the late 60s, after her. The moms have walked off many an enchilada while strolling on the ten miles of trails that wind around Town Lake, and I think "Lady Bird Lake" sounds really pretty, don't you?
Roxie's World offers a personal tribute to Mrs. Johnson by passing along one of our very favorite stories from Goose's Texas girlhood. Some of you have heard it, but I know you won't mind hearing it again. It is, I promise, a true story and not a Texas tall tale, though you might be tempted to suppose it contains a stretcher or two. Moose used to think that about a lot of Goose's Texas stories, but after twenty-three years she has come to recognize that, in Texas, "larger than life" is often just the scale of life itself.

Goose says this incident must have happened in about 1965. She was 11 or 12, and LBJ had won his own term in the White House in a landslide in 1964. Her parents were yellow-dog Democrats in the west Texas town of San Angelo, where her father was a prominent attorney, so when Lady Bird came to town for a luncheon of women Democrats, Goose's mother was invited to attend. Goose desperately wanted to go along, but her mother resisted the idea. Years earlier, she had already gotten into a nasty battle with the gender fascists on Romper Room over whether her youngest child should be allowed to appear on the show wearing her PF Flyers rather than the Mary Janes all the other girls were wearing. She had fought -- and won -- the battle for her daughter's right to comfortable footwear (see photo below; Goose is on the far right), but she wasn't sure her irrepressible red-headed tomboy could be counted on to behave at a proper ladies' luncheon. Goose's father entered the fray in support of her cause, arguing they couldn't deny the child the opportunity to meet the First Lady of the United States, especially a First Lady from Texas! (The Texas card wins every time in Goose's family.) Her mother reluctantly agreed that Goose could come, but only on two conditions: 1) that she would be quiet and 2) that she would eat everything -- everything -- on her plate. Goose instantly agreed to both conditions. She has never been a picky eater, and she figured she could keep quiet for an hour or so, somehow.

The day of the luncheon arrived. Goose was dressed in her Sunday best, including her Mary Janes, and was determined to be on her best behavior. She was seated across the table from her mother. Lady Bird was on the same side of the table as her mother and a couple of places down. At first everything went beautifully. Goose stayed quiet by eating bread and butter and closely observing the women at the table, trying to catch the drift of their conversations about family, politics, men, the war. She was starting to feel like quite the little lady, when suddenly a salad plate appeared on the table before her. Goose, as I said, is not a picky eater, and she has always been good about eating her vegetables. Her mother's family survived the Depression by selling produce, so children were never allowed to turn up their noses at vegetables. When Goose looked down at this salad, however, she saw to her horror that it was covered with one of the all-time ickiest, most disgusting, foul-smelling, and as far as she was concerned inedible things on earth: ANCHOVIES! Goose shot a panic-stricken look in her mother's direction. "Mom!" she whispered, trying to sound both polite and urgent. "Mom," she repeated. "There are anchovies on this salad!" Her mother, engrossed in conversation, ignored her entreaties. Goose, growing increasingly concerned that she would not be able to satisfy condition #2 without becoming physically ill, started kicking her mother under the table and continued to call attention to the small stinky fish on top of her salad. She now admits it is possible her voice rose above the level of a whisper, but her mother continued to ignore her.

Suddenly, just as she thought she would explode from the pressure of trying to be good, Goose felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up, and there stood Lady Bird, gazing down at her like some great Texas goddess of wisdom. "Darlin'," she said in a voice that was equal parts sugar and steel, "don't you like anchovies?" "No, ma'am, I don't," said Goose. "I promised Mama I'd eat everything on my plate, but I can't stand anchovies. They stink." "Well, don't you worry, darlin'," she cooed. "I love anchovies," and with that she reached down, plucked the offending fish off Goose's plate, popped it into her mouth, and walked away with a smile. Goose's mother glared at her from across the table, but her eyes softened as Goose picked up her fork and ate her salad like the good little girl she was determined to be. The rest of the luncheon went off without a hitch, and Lady Bird Johnson had earned a fan for life.

Peace be with you, Lady Bird. Wherever you go, may there always be bluebonnets and long stretches of billboard-free highways. And anchovies if you really, really want them.

8 comments:

  1. Dearest Rox -- You are just the smartest, funniest, most eloquent dog in town. That Bird--she would have LOVED you. And ole Lyndon would've have a soft spot for you as well, though he probably would've tried to pick you up by your ears!

    This year has certainly taken a magnificent trio of strong Texas women from us, but as you let everyone know: those wonder women still thrive and can still honky-tonk with the best of 'em. I wish you would have been with us at the Driskill Hotel in Austin (built the year Emily Dickinson died)--there you would've had not only your own bowl and bed, courtesy of the concierge, but you could've chatted up LBJ's ghosts and walked the halls that Bird knew well.

    Hey Rox, did you know this: that picture of Lady Bird reminds me of one of my own Grandmamma sitting out in front of her house in her OWN field of bluebonnets! People from all over West Texas used to drive to my Grandmamma's house to see them, and they'd stop, knock on the door, and ask if they could take their pics amidst her gorgeous blooms. Speaking of strong Texas women. . .she was the same Grandmamma who helped manage the J.A. Owens & Son produce business after my Granddaddy died. She'd drive all over San Angelo in her HOT, snazzy Ford Falcon, complete with gorgeous red & white interior, playing songs from KGKL loudly as she cruised from grocery store to grocery store, taking their orders of fruits and vegetables. Her name was Ruby Leona--cool, huh?

    Here's to Lady Bird Johnson, a gracious citizen to her dying day.
    She loved nature and she loved to nurture. Long may her beautiful spirit and the beautiful blossoms she tended and bequeathed to us bless our lives, bless our relationships. The importance of stopping to smell the roses, of noticing the beauty on hand, cannot be overestimated.

    I LOVE YOU, Rox.
    --Goose

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  2. RutgersAlumni8:04 PM EDT

    Roxie, thank you so much for this deep, beautiful post with its tributes by Moose and Goose to Lady Bird Johnson, and also remembering Molly Ivins and Ann Richards! It brings tears to my eyes. It is breathtaking!

    Would also like to take the opportunity in this comment to point to another story in the news today, containing some marvelous cross-connections to Roxie's World, and complete with its own famous gardens and very famous women, see at the NY Times:

    AT HOME IN A BLOOMSBURY FANTASY
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/garden/12sissinghurst.html

    A fascinating article in the Home and Garden section of the NYTimes by Jennifer Conlin regarding Juliet Nicolson, the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West (well known as the lover of Virginia Woolf and the inspiration for Woolf's ORlANDO). Nicolson is writing her first book! and is still living and working in the Sissinghurst Castle!

    RA

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  3. Dudley the beagle8:53 PM EDT

    Also, of course, not to forget the family choice in dogs: she had beagles!

    A woman of talent and taste!

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  4. And LBJ insisted on calling the dog "Little Beagle Johnson." And he DID pick them up by the ears, but maybe beagles don't mind that??? Terriers would not put up w/ that, I'm sure.

    RA, I am humbled to see Roxie's World and Bloomsbury mentioned in the same breath. You are too kind. Thanks for the link -- We'll have to check it out.

    xo,
    Roxie

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  5. Hey sis!

    I LOVE how they placed Goose at the table with the boys. As if the PF Flyers were so butch that they counteracted the femininity of her cute, polka-dot dress!

    I'm heading back this afternoon, so I should be back tonight!

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  6. Dark socks, too -- That's how you know she's a l'il dyke.

    Safe travels, bro -- Call us this weekend.

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  7. RutgersAlumna1:21 PM EDT

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  8. RutgersAlumna1:26 PM EDT

    Sorry my first try on this dropped the editing done in the Preview --

    2 notes on the cohabitation in one breath of Bloomsbury and Roxie's World . . .and another news link regarding Virginia Woolf:

    (1) Roxie's World, is a modern, literary masterpiece and everyone who participates in it will one day be honored just as with the Bloomsbury Group!

    (2) A Room of One's Own will never be surpassed - I read it long ago, but it still empowers me even to get up the nerve to comment on Roxie's blog -- and look in the news today -- there is Gloria Steinem with a knockout-piece on Huffington Post titled A MODEST PROPOSAL, which is nothing less than A Room of One's Own all Over Again (a la Casey Stengel).

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gloria-steinem/a-modest-proposal_b_55772.html

    RutgersAlumna

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