There is something special about places at the end of the line. People who come to such places have two choices. One is to turn around and go back; the other is to stay and take what comes along. In time, such a place accumulates a disproportionate number of loners, drifters, seekers, romantics, and fugitives from normal, boring, regulated life. Their philosophy generally includes a desire to be left alone and a willingness to leave others alone. Therefore, the community tends to be more tolerant and relaxed than most.
ON MOST DAYS I WAS YELLOW 698. When I opened the door for you to climb into the back seat of my cab, that’s all you knew about me. Okay, you knew my name—assuming that you glanced at my license—but you didn’t know if I was driving Houston’s streets on two hours’ sleep, if I had a handgun tucked under my seat, if I was a paroled felon, or if I planned to cheat you.
JESUS CHAVEZ’S RING NAME IS EL MATADOR, but he came out of his corner like a terrier trying to dismember a stork. Bone-gaunt at 128 pounds, his crew-cut opponent, Wilfredo Negron of Puerto Rico, was six inches taller and had a nine-inch reach advantage. Jesus missed often and sometimes badly.
IT SEEMED INCONCEIVABLE THAT SOME some damned fool would steal Parnell McNamara’s daughter’s horse, in broad daylight no less. Though there were about fifteen horses in the McNamara family stable in Bosqueville, west of Waco, the thieves targeted the two horses penned behind the family rodeo arena, just across FM 1637.
IN THE END, the would-be bombers of Wise County went out not in a blast of Oklahoma City infamy, not in a surreal Republic of Texas—style standoff, but quietly, in a series of plea bargains. On the morning of October 8, just five and a half months after their arrest, two Klansmen and a Klanswoman stood in a Fort Worth courtroom before federal judge John McBryde and cratered, just as a fourth Klan member had done earlier.
AUSTIN POLICE OFFICER DAVID JUSTICE sits in rush-hour traffic, straining to get a view of the bottleneck ahead. On this drizzly August evening, rain drums on the hood of his patrol car while dispatchers spew forth an increasing stream of 911 demands from his squawking police radio, but traffic isn’t budging.
NOTHING ENDURES, BUT FOR THE PAST 22 YEARS in Austin you could count on a night like this: Blue Monday at Antone’s. Every other club in town is asleep or dead. But open the glass door of the preeminent blues joint in America, and you’re greeted by a swarm of angry guitar riffs.
WEST OF THE PECOS THERE IS NO LAW; west of El Paso there is no God.” So went the saying in unsettled West Texas—until the day in 1882 when Roy Bean became a justice of the peace in dusty little Langtry, where the sign over the Jersey Lilly, his combination courthouse and barroom, promised “Ice Cold Beer and Law West of the Pecos.
ON NOVEMBER 27, 1996, WILLIAM Guess sat in a rented maroon Nissan Maxima surrounded by Harris County sheriff’s deputies, holding a blue steel semiautomatic to his head. Guess was 46 years old, and he was a big man—more than six feet tall, around 240 pounds. He had graying blond hair and a square face.
THE RAPE CASE IN BRENHAM ATTRACTED NATIONAL attention for all the wrong reasons. It appeared to be a predictable melodrama, shocking and familiar at the same time. There was the setting of the sweetest town in Texas, the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream.