Mary Eula Sears spent her final afternoon painting pictures in the scrubby West Texas plains she had known her whole life. It was November 22, 1981, a crisp fall Sunday, and Sears had driven from Abilene to meet her friend Billie Joe Carmichael in the town of Merkel, seventeen miles away. The two women had a ritual: they would drive the rural back roads until they found something worth rendering, like an old ranch house or a barn built ages ago, when Sears was just a little girl growing up down the road.
“Which one is he?” I ask a couple of sportswriters who are standing on the sideline at Amon G. Carter Stadium. It’s mid-March, and more than eighty TCU football players are swarming all over the field for spring practice, racing through various drills at full speed. In one corner, linemen throw themselves to the ground, jump up, and run in place before throwing themselves to the ground again.
One thing was certain at the Battle of Port Jefferson this spring: The North was destined to lose. Exactly how that outcome would be achieved was discussed in detail at a gathering of officers on Friday, May 6, in the basement of an antebellum plantation home, where Victorian and Greek Revival furniture decorated the rooms and a painting of Robert E. Lee hung in the parlor. Ricky Hunt, a 53-year-old baggage control operator at DFW Airport, stood in a circle of eight men.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include three corrections: (1) George and Philip Stacy did not sue Dick and Tweety Eastland in January 2007, as previously reported. (2) Stacy Eastland and Nancy Leaton did not get any additional interest in other Eastland properties to compensate for Dick’s getting more of Camp Mystic, as originally stated. (3) Stacy alerted the IRS to the family’s potential problems with the Bass deal in October 2009, not November 2006.
The first church to go up in flames was Little Hope Baptist Church, outside the East Texas town of Canton, on New Year’s Day 2010. The small, red-brick church overlooked a quiet stretch of farmland, accessible only by way of meandering back roads. At around nine o’clock that morning, a parishioner who lived nearby spotted fire venting from the roof of the fellowship hall. Thick, black smoke drifted over Little Hope, across the neighboring pastures, and into the cold winter air.
I am a Texas Rangers fan …
Looking back, I don’t think my initial reaction to Victor Emanuel was out of line. I first encountered his name years ago, when George Plimpton, who was giving a reading at the Texas Book Festival, spotted a trim, friendly-looking man entering the room. Plimpton beamed as if the president of the United States had just sauntered in. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he bellowed, “Victor Emanuel!” If memory serves, Plimpton tried to get the audience to applaud. Not recognizing the name, I leaned over to a colleague sitting nearby.
One morning this past September, Mrs. Mary Scott walked out of her tiny brick house, one hand clutching a plastic tub of birdseed, the other holding on to the front door in case she lost her balance. Taking her time, she stepped off the front stoop and onto a pebbled sidewalk that her husband, Walter, dead now for a decade, had laid down one weekend in the mid-sixties. From out of nowhere, half a dozen doves arrived, soon followed by half a dozen more. “Look at the one that’s all white,” Mrs. Scott said.