Fragrant rosemary bushes flanked the forties-era Oak Cliff home, and a handwritten note on the door said, “Knock loud!” I did, and a sixty-year-old woman with a squat frame and a spiky haircut opened the door and welcomed me in. “This is our little family,” Debra Starkey said, gesturing to two women at the dining room table drinking coffee. “This is Valerie and Regina.” Valerie was in pajama bottoms and a baggy top, and Regina wore a black sparkly sweater and square glasses. “They look like nice girls, don’t they?
The arguments about Newtown had been raging for barely a month when Texas’s attorney general, Greg Abbott, ran a series of web ads inviting New York gun owners to move here. “Is Governor Cuomo looking to take your guns?” the ads asked. “We’ll fight like hell to protect your rights. You’ll also get to keep more of what you earn and use some of that extra money to buy more ammo.”
JAKE SILVERSTEIN: Your new album is called The Low Highway. Where does that phrase come from?
Rick Stoneburner remembers the 2008 Texas-Oklahoma football game as a thriller, highlighted by the Longhorns’ dramatic second-half comeback. But for Stoneburner, the day’s biggest excitement came before he took his seat at the Cotton Bowl, when he learned that Petrohawk Energy’s wildcat well in La Salle County had hit natural gas—and lots of it.
1. Bills,Bills, Bills
The calendar says that the Eighty-third Legislature began on January 8, but insiders know the real action doesn’t begin until 59 days later. Oh, there are plenty of speeches and resolutions during the first two months, recognizing groups like the Texas Association of Health Underwriters. But the tone changes on March 8, the filing deadline for most bills and joint resolutions.
When the movie-geek parlor game commences, the populists are usually prone to cite The Godfather or The Lord of the Rings as the greatest cinematic trilogy of all time—even though, let’s be honest here, the third Godfather looks puny and pulpy in comparison with the first two, and that middle Lord of the Rings picture is a lumbering, occasionally ludicrous bore.
The Reverend Gean West looked out at the packed house and wondered what he had gotten himself into. It was October 2009, and he and his gospel group, the Relatives, which hadn’t played a show in almost thirty years, were about to take the stage at the Continental Club in Austin. The crowd inside the dark, cramped venue was young, fashionably scruffy, and mostly white. The reverend and his bandmates—including a minister, a deacon, and a church elder—were African American, and most of them were well into middle age and beyond.
The wave of nostalgia began with The Passage of Power, the latest installment of Robert Caro’s LBJ biography; picked up speed with Bill Clinton’s show-stealing speech at the Democratic convention; and crescendoed with the release of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar juggernaut Lincoln.
I had two paralyzing fears growing up. One was that Roger Staubach would retire, and the other was that I might lose a limb to the sixpenny jaws of a gator gar. I had to face that first one in 1980, but I was able to put off the other until just last week, when I met up with Walt in a muddy river bottom north of Caddo Lake. Turns out the fear was mutual.
JAKE SILVERSTEIN: You recently released the revenue estimate for 2014–2015, and it shows the state to be pretty flush: $101 billion available. Are good times here again?