I Had a Ball

The night before George W. Bush’s inauguration, dutiful Texans whooped it up all over Washington.

That things were going to get a little out of hand when I saw George W. Bush make his formal good-bye to Texas at a celebration in Midland, where he had lived for a while as a boy and then later when he worked in the oil business. Bush came out onstage wearing cowboy boots and a white-felt cowboy hat.”Wait a second,” I said to Charlie Younger, his longtime Midland buddy. “Did you ever see Bush wear a cowboy hat when he lived in Midland?”

Well, um, no.”

And as I recall, you once told me that Bush never wore cowboy boots. You said his shoe of choice during his Midland days was a pair of flimsy black slippers that he got in China.”

That’s not quite true,” said Younger. “He also wore a pair of loafers that his uncle gave him that were a size and a half too big. He wore them because he was too cheap back then to buy himself a pair of nice shoes or boots.”

But here was Bush, waving his cowboy hat in the air as if he’d been living on his Crawford ranch his whole life, doing that pinch-assed walk that you have to do when you’re wearing boots that aren’t completely broken in and telling us that Washington needs a good dose of Texas spirit. Apparently, thousands of us were so moved by Bush’s example that we decided that we too needed to show the Beltway insiders what Texas was all about. So off we headed to D.C. for inauguration weekend.

Almost from the day Bush had been certified as the president-elect, Washington pundits had been in a snit about what might happen inside their beloved Beltway with the upcoming Lone Star occupation. They could not complain enough about our big hair and our love of barbecue and our need to call everyone “y’all.” “Those ignorant rat bastards,” I said to whomever would listen. “They don’t have a clue how much we’ve changed.”

But on my Southwest Airlines flight to the Washington area, I began to hear the sound of chanting coming from the back. A group of fellow Texas passengers were doing a political wave—one row standing up and shouting “Bush,” then another row, then another. “Oh, no,” I murmured. I found myself repeating those words just a few hours later as I walked by Cafe Milano, one of Georgetown’s trendiest restaurants. Sitting at a table by the window were Rob Allyn, the fortysomething Dallas political consultant, his wife, Monica, and a group of other politicos. Rob and Monica are the kind of chic, couture-draped couple who symbolize the


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