What a Bummer! It was supposed to be a great year for Texas. It started out as a birthday celebration, the 150 th anniversary of the republic, but ended up more like a funeral. How bad was 1986? UT had its first losing football season in thirty years, and Fred Akers got fired. Texas had its first losing season 150 years—for the first time, more people moved out than moved in—and Mark White got fired.
This was the year of the red tide and the black plague—black gold, that is. The price of a barrel of oil dropped below $10 in April, and the rig count fell to an all-time low of 663 in July. The collapse of oil left an empty feeling in Houston, where 72 high-rise office buildings were totally vacant, and in Dallas, where a $7 million spec house went begging. Times were so tough that in San Antonio, mayor Henry Cisneros came home from another day of promoting economic growth to find that Fox Photo had laid off his wife.
To make matters worse, 1986 was an election year. Mark White’s primary opponent called him “nerd” and a “scumball,” White called Comptroller Bob Bullock “Chicken Little,” Bullock called White “Foxy Woxy,” and we elected the meanest of them all, Bill Clements. Teachers blew a fuse because they were forced to take competency tests, which 97 per cent of them passed and the rest were able to take again. It wasn’t our year in sports either. The Rockets and the Astros came close, but in the end everybody in Boston and New York got to remind us about those “Let the Bastards Freeze in the Dark” bumper stickers.
With so much to choose from, it wasn’t easy to single out a Bum Steer of the Year worthy of succeeding such past winners as James Michener, George Bush, Carolyn Farb, Jackie Sherrill, J. R. Ewing, and Farrah Fawcett. Our winner captured exactly what the year was like. At the moment of truth, Texas USA, the official sesquicentennial bull, performed like a Bum Steer and, like 1986 itself, ended up belly-up.
THE WRONG STUFF
Texas USA, named the official bull of the Texas sesquicentennial because the markings on his forehead resembled a map of Texas, died after suffering a broken back as the result of what was described as a “mating mishap.” His head has been stuffed so that it can be displayed at the state capitol.
SHEIK AHMED ZAKI YAMANI
Oil Minister of Saudi Arabia
All our troubles are his fault. He got the bright idea to increase his country’s oil production and cut the price of oil. He got lower prices, all right. He also got fired.
Houston Oilers’ Coach
Named interim coach with two games to go in 1985, he was told that his job depended on how the team played in those last two games. The Oilers lost both. Glanville kept the job. The Oilers kept losing.
The Pet Javelina
After wildlife officials took Bubba from his owners and released him into the wild, Corpus Christi erupted with “Bring Bubba Back” bumper stickers, a nightclub benefit, a ballad of Bubba, a $150 reward, and a search. He’s still missing.
MARK WHITE AND BILL CLEMENTS
Their low-brow, negative campaigns carried just one message: the other guy was worse. By election day they had voters wanting to pick “None of the above.”
HOW TO BEAT A BUST, LESSON I
At a Beaumont city auction, Ricky Thomas paid $5 for a machine that turned out to be a laser-equipped water-bill processor that the city had purchased for $98,900.
THEN SHE DROVE HIM TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM AT GENERAL HOSPITAL
Pamela Douglas of Fort Worth stabbed her boyfriend, Frank Green III, after he laughed at a scene that showed a man beating his ex-girlfriend on the soap opera Santa Barbara.
DON’T FORGET TO TEST THE SWEET ’N LOW
Lamar County sheriff’s officers tested a brown powder leaking from a package addressed to Paris Junior College student Elizabeth Horn and identified it as hashish. Horn was not charged when her lawyer proved that the substance was really Constant Comment tea.
DOUBLE DARE IF YOU SHAVE YOUR HEAD FIRST
Harris County jail deputies built two fake electric chairs and dared inmates to sit in them.
Great Moments in Statesmanship
AND THERE ARE OTHER SIMILARITIES AS WELL
Addressing the State Democratic Executive Committee four days after the space shuttle exploded, Governor Mark White compared the Challenger astronauts to the Democratic party. “They took risks, they passed tests,” he said. “That’s what the Democratic party has always stood for.”
ONE ON HIROSHIMA. ONE ON NAGASAKI. TWO ON BEAUMONT
During and appearance in Port Arthur, Congressman Jack Brooks of Beaumont was asked why the federal government allows Japan to dump products on the U.S. market. “God bless Harry Truman,” Brooks answered. “He dropped two of ’em. He should’ve dropped four.”
TRY GIVING A SPEECH IN MOSCOW
On a trip to Pakistan, Congressman Charles Wilson of Lufkin told a Houston Post reporter, “I want to do everything possible to kill Russians—as painfully as possible.”
TO THE PEOPLE OF TEXAS AND ALL AMERICANS IN THE WORLD: I AM BESIEGED BY A THOUSAND OR MORE OF THE ENEMY UNDER SANTA ANTA. THE ENEMY HAS DEMANDED A SURRENDER, AND I HAVE ANSWERED WITH AMDRO
Demonstrating fire-ant control methods, Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower said, “Fire ants have us Texans outnumbered far worse than Colonel Travis’ men were outnumbered at the Alamo.”
THEY’RE CHANGING THEIR NAME TO FOUR-LETTER WORD, INC.
Word, Inc., of Waco, one of the nation’s largest publishers of Christian books, distributed a paperback reprint of the Final Report of the Attorney General’s Commission on Pornography. The report contains details from pornographic magazines, describes sex acts, and lists titles of pornographic books and articles, such as Teen Nymphos, and Bound, Whipped, and Raped Schoolgirls.
BUT BEFORE THE EXPLOSION, HE’LL DO A VERSE OF “ NEARER, MY GOD