The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce’s brochure touts 21 points of interest in Center (population: 5,827), ranging from the courthouse bandstand and the 1928 icehouse to the old Methodist church cemetery and Bealls department store. It is somehow surprising that Mattie’s Party Line isn’t on the list. But then, it doesn’t need to be.
Dan Rather eases his father-in-law’s GMC Pickup along the roads of Buescher State Park, just outside of Smithville. He seems to know every bend, and every acre seems to prompt a small memory. Some forty years ago, the young newsman from Houston spent his weekends strolling these pathways, holding hands with a local girl he was courting, Jean Goebel from Winchester.
Bill Moyers stood in the wings at the University of Texas’ cavernous performing arts center last spring while the faithful poured in, their hopes caged like anxious doves, waiting for release. Though he had felt this fervor many times before—at times had even cultivated it—Moyers’ ambivalence showed in the tiniest widening of his eyes behind the trademark aviator glasses and the slight but impatient pursing of his thin lips.
When his father died, Robert Decherd was 21. It was November 1972. He was a senior at Harvard, and his life was full of possibilities. He was young and smart, and he was rich, a fourth-generation member of the family that owned what had been Texas’ most important newspaper, the Dallas Morning News.