You know you’re nearing Cotulla these days when you see the first tongues of fire on the horizon off Interstate 35. Long orange-and-red wisps rise up out of cylindrical natural gas flares, which stand like doleful sentries around the town in what many say are the ebbing days of the Eagle Ford Shale fracking boom. It’s a scene that deepens the sense of Cotulla as a remote place where matters of import slowly, quietly take shape.

The sunbaked town sits an hour south of San Antonio in the heart of La Salle County. Accustomed to more than a century of alternating spells of gob-smacking luck and near ruin, Cotulla’s recent oil and gas serendipity has seen the population more than double since 2000, from 3,600 to roughly 8,000, per a local government estimate based on the spike in utility connections. But people around town are already grousing about the effect of plummeting oil prices. The two dozen hotels built alongside the highway in the past few years are ringed by now-empty, shimmering parking lots. Restaurants along Main Street are sparsely populated at dinnertime.

I’ve arrived to help my cousin Richard Garcia secure things on his ranch; nearby Mustang Creek is rising from the monsoon-like season visited upon us by El Niño since April. The land is part of an old family spread that Richard reacquired before the boom, then leased out to an oil-exploration firm. As we finish loading mattresses, lamps, chairs, and other likely flotsam into industrial containers, Gilbert Ayala, one of the town’s five alderpersons, stops by for a visit. For a while, as creek waters inch closer, our talk in the stifling humid heat turns to Cotulla’s latest political vicissitudes.

Ayala is a genial, burly, and eloquent man of 47, a city government veteran in his fourth term who is also a farmer, a rancher, and a lieutenant in the state prison nearby. His family has been here for generations, and like other Cotuleños, he knows the town’s history well: founded by a Polish settler, Joseph Cotulla, as a railroad community in 1881, Cotulla’s livelihood was for years tied to onion farming and cattle, with a short-lived oil boom in the twenties. The town struggled on mostly in poverty, nearly dying when it was bypassed by the interstate in the seventies, before finally cashing in on its shale-bound reserves these past few years. Ayala tells us that though his town’s people—Anglos of mixed fortunes and largely poor Hispanics—were historically divided by the Missouri Pacific train tracks and ruled by La Salle County’s wealthiest ranchers, they shed white political domination, along with a deep-rooted exclusion of mexicanos, long ago. Cotulla’s resident populace is now 85 percent Hispanic, and those in city government—the mayor, the alderpersons, the professional staff—are almost all Hispanic too.

Still, I tell Ayala, it’s impossible not to notice that despite the shiny hotels, there are many streets, especially on the old Mexican side east of the tracks, that are torn up or unpaved, showing little evidence of the boom’s effect on town coffers. Have things changed all that much? “We’re making progress, poco a poco,” he replies. It’s true that history has a long reach, he says—“The old folks are still suspicious of the political process because of how things were, and the young people are hardly involved at all”—but he invites me to attend a city council meeting to see this progress for myself. In any case, Cotulla, he is sure, will tough out the current slump. It has seen booms and busts before; somehow this rough-hewn town of the longue durée abides, impervious to such surface perturbations of history as fluctuating oil prices.

I have witnessed this regard for Cotulla’s durable, surviving ways before. My mother, a loyal Cotuleña despite moving to San Antonio nearly seventy years ago, has always ignored its crumbling roads, political intrigues, and three-digit heat spells in favor of her childhood memories. Growing up, my siblings and I were dragooned into making trips back to her hometown, leaving San Antonio at dawn, stopping in Dilley for cabrito tacos, then visiting family graves in Cotulla. By her account, this long-forsaken settlement in the red-dirt and mesquite country was secretly the agora and Parthenon of South Texas. She remembers J. Frank Dobie passing the evening hours with her father and an ever-changing host of distinguished señores, trading stories on the porch of the family home. And Cotulla, of course, is where a future president, Lyndon B. Johnson, of Stonewall, spent a fated year as a teacher—where its much-disparaged infernal environs would nonetheless help forge grand American ideas about dignity and democracy. That our family now led successful lives in the city up the road, she argued, was connected in some part to her origins in Cotulla.

How could she not be proud?

The author’s mother and uncle at the Lopez Grocery, c. 1932. (Photography courtesy of John Phillip Santos)

My grandfather Leonides Lopez had a grocery store in Cotulla. He was a widely esteemed, if anomalous, mexicano merchant in a town altogether controlled, claro, by Anglo property owners and ranchers. After likely being born in Camargo, Tamaulipas—or perhaps Roma, Texas—he had been orphaned, then raised by his brother José, the head vaquero on the storied La Mota Ranch, twenty miles southeast of Cotulla. The Lopez Grocery, which Leonides opened around 1905, sat at the corner of Thornton and Boutwell streets, just on the Anglo side of the tracks. Back then, even the cemeteries were segregated. Like other up-and-coming mexicano merchants, Leonides served as an interlocutor between his town’s two communities.

A few years before opening his store, he had married Leandra Vela, whose family came from Revilla, also known as Guerrero Viejo, a Mexican town inundated by the Rio Grande. Education soon became part of the Vela-Lopez family heritage: by 1909 Leandra was a teacher, proudly captured with her students in a class portrait in front of the all-ages, one-room Cotulla School for Mexicans. The students’ faces show fortitude, but many are barefoot.

Mother, who would later become a teacher herself in San Antonio, and then an assistant superintendent, recalls when my grandparents had the first phone among the Mexicans. They shared it with the pueblo, along with a produce truck they’d loan out at no charge for funerals. In a photograph from the early thirties, my mom stands in the Lopez Grocery in a now fashionably asymmetric sack dress—she still hates to see it—while her brother Lauro looks on, smiling, the high shelves behind them stacked with ample jars and cans, the confections cabinet to their side arranged opulently with candies. There’s little evidence of this history now—the site of the old store is an overgrown lot—but Mother remembers boisterous fiestas of the Lopez clan from that time: afternoon outings to nearby ranchitos and farms of family and friends, fleeting dips in the Nueces, the closeness of an old familia Tejana in the toasty twilights of those lean Depression years, when river-cooled watermelon slices and hot corn tortillas fresh off the comal and dipped in molasses made a transcendent dessert.

And, of course, she remembers when a twenty-year-old with long ears and a lanky gait arrived in 1928, putting his studies at Southwest Texas State Teachers College on hold to teach—and serve as principal—for a year of much-needed wage-earning at the Welhausen School, which had opened two years earlier. Mother briefly attended the school, as did three of her siblings. LBJ taught her sister Lydia, who recalled how irked she was when he required the class to memorize “O Captain! My Captain!,” Walt Whitman’s elegiac poem written on the occasion of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. The elliptical stanzas commemorate a fallen leader and express uncertainty about the future—themes that, uncannily, would come to reverberate for Johnson—but Aunt Lydia found them incomprehensible. Yet on the occasional days when the future president walked her home after school, he would ask her to recite the poem on the way.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and

hear the bells;

Rise up—for you the flag is flung—

for you the bugle trills,

For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—

for you the shores a-crowding,

For you they call, the swaying mass,

their eager faces turning.

The young teacher left an impression. In the Victoria Advocate years later, the owner of a cleaning shop would remember, “I used to patch his clothes. He wore blue serge trousers, sharply creased. They shined like a silver dollar. And he walked so fast it was like seeing a blur.” Another of Johnson’s students, Daniel Garcia, recalled how “a lot of us felt he was too good for us. It was like a blessing from the clear sky.” This time in Cotulla would likely have remained a footnote in LBJ’s life, however, had he not returned to it in perhaps the most exalted speech of his political career, his cri de coeur for the Voting Rights Act, delivered before Congress in March 1965. He opened with the vaulting, even Whitmanesque, declaration: “I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.” Then, after revisiting the legacy of slavery and emancipation, he asserted: “A century has passed since the day of promise. And the promise is unkept.”

This “promise” was the right to vote, which in parts of the U.S. was being denied to minorities through gerrymandering, poll taxes, at-large voting, literacy tests, and other clever machinations. “This bill,” said Johnson, “will establish a simple, uniform standard which cannot be used, however ingenious the effort, to flout our Constitution.” Later, he reflected, “All Americans must have the privileges of citizenship regardless of race,” following up with an authoritative Texan flourish that moved from principle to practice: “And they are going to have those privileges of citizenship regardless of race.”

After dwelling on black-white relations—these were the days just after the tragic events in Selma, Alabama—the president continued his speech with what would become the stuff of eternal myth in Cotulla. LBJ spoke of his time in a forgotten corner of South Texas, turning the nation’s eye to a school where few of his students “could speak English, and I couldn’t speak much Spanish. My students were poor and they often came to class without breakfast, hungry.” Hunger, inadequate education, political disenfranchisement—these things were interconnected in his mind. “They knew even in their youth the pain of prejudice. They never seemed to know why people disliked them. But they knew it was so, because I saw it in their eyes.” As a young, relatively impoverished teacher, he could only offer his students knowledge. “All I knew was to teach them the little that I knew, hoping that it might help them against the hardships that lay ahead.” But it was they who offered him the most profound lesson: the urgency of extending rights and protections to all Americans.

By Johnson’s telling, his year in Cotulla amounted to a “road to Damascus” moment, an early conversion to the idea that the federal government might and ought to guarantee the opportunities due not only to blacks but to mexicanos and other marginalized peoples; these were universal privileges that, in his analysis, had long been denied by conniving state and local satraps. It was part of LBJ’s unique charisma that he could elegantly merge an autobiographical reverie of this sort with a blunt call to battle. “I never thought then, in 1928, that I would be standing here in 1965,” he said in his speech. “It never even occurred to me in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students and to help people like them all over this country. But now I do have that chance, and I’ll let you in on a secret: I mean to use it.”

You have to wonder: was the president truly moved by his Cotulla experience? Or was it a masterful set piece crafted by his ingenious speechwriter, Richard Goodwin? When I asked Henry Flores, a professor, political scientist, and former La Raza Unida organizer in San Antonio, as well as the author of Latinos and the Voting Rights Act (2015), he observed, “That experience in Cotulla, coupled with his humble upbringing, created this epiphany for him, and he couldn’t do anything with it. All he knew was to pursue a political career, and then, with the confluence of the civil rights movement and the assassination of Kennedy, came the Voting Rights Act. But it came out of Cotulla, Texas.”

My mother takes LBJ at his word too. For her, dusty Cotulla helped set the ship of democracy right—and our Lopez clan played a role in making it happen. After all, it was Leonides who supplied the rangy, loquacious, and poor Hill Country educator with potatoes, flour, and beans and even lent him the Lopez car, with its plein-air rumble seat—ideal, perhaps, for nighttime brush-country dating. (Never mind that LBJ’s eventual wife didn’t share his appreciation for the town. When I read a passage from Robert Caro’s biography of the president to my mother, in which Lady Bird referred to Cotulla as “one of the crummiest little towns in Texas,” she just wrinkled her nose. “That lady always thought she was better than everyone else,” she replied.)

Leonides would die suddenly in 1938, in his store, of a cerebral hemorrhage, and his survivors later moved to San Antonio. But LBJ remained ever grateful to the Lopez family, keeping in touch with my grandmother, mother, and uncles to his death, every now and then sending a fond note or a signed portrait, sometimes with a serious, presidential mien and sometimes with his two beagles, Him and Her, under each arm.

After his speech, the Voting Rights Act was quickly dispatched to Congress, then passed and signed by the president in August 1965, becoming part of the bulwark of his Great Society legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Education Act of 1965. The following year, in November, LBJ returned to Cotulla, greeting old students in his former Welhausen classroom, even reenacting a lesson, and delivering a speech to an overflowing crowd in the auditorium. Outside, another generation of Cotulla kids climbed the walls to peek through the windows for a gander at the president.

The trip came on the heels of a presidential tour in Asia, including a seven-nation summit in Manila, which had undoubtedly deepened LBJ’s sense of the mounting debacle in Vietnam. No wonder, then, that he looks so jubilant in the archival footage of this stop in South Texas. Cotulla might have been remote, but the visit was a victory lap in a place where he could feel lauded and embraced by simple Texas folk, a million miles away from the quagmire that would ultimately scupper his presidency.

Unofficial town historian Nora Mae Tyler, at the Brush Country Museum. (Photograph by Josh Huskin)

At 78 years old, Nora Mae Tyler, an energetic white-haired former La Salle County clerk, wasn’t yet alive during LBJ’s year in Cotulla, but she was present on that day in November 1966 when the president and first lady came calling at the Welhausen School. She remembers how she barely saw LBJ, so spellbound was she by the sight of Lady Bird getting out of their car. “I was very impressed with Lady Bird. She was just so beautiful, I missed him,” she recalls with still-evident delight.

Tyler is Cotulla’s unofficial historian. We’re sitting at small vintage desks in the Brush Country Museum, in a transplanted schoolroom that now serves as a shrine to Cotulla education and LBJ’s year as a teacher. (LBJ’s actual classroom now serves as a map room for the county’s tax assessor.) The museum, a charming compound of historic buildings that opened in 1984, sits half a block away from the county courthouse and its majestic, if deserted, plaza. The schoolroom, which Tyler herself occupied as a fourth grader, is decorated with class photographs and has a corner devoted to LBJ, with pictures of him, his students, and his colleagues framed alongside personal notes from him as president. “By the time I was up any size to remember, he was in politics already, as a senator,” says Tyler. “When he became president, people came from everywhere trying to find any information about him.”

LBJ clearly found his way into the lives of many residents, across ethnic and class lines. Tyler points to a photograph of one high school letterman, George Cook, who became the county clerk and whom Tyler worked for before becoming clerk herself. Cook used to tell stories about LBJ participating in the poker games of local lads. Tyler also remembers when a woman with a Hispanic name came into the county clerk’s office looking for birth records, claiming to be LBJ’s illegitimate daughter with a former Welhausen student. But Tyler calculated the years since LBJ’s stay in Cotulla against the woman’s age, “and the math didn’t match up. To me, it was something she had dreamed up.”

Tyler became an inadvertent historian during her 37 years in La Salle County government. “When things weren’t busy,” she sheepishly explains, “I’d go into the records and search around.” A rustic gem of South Texas history, the small institution captures some of the cultural complexity of early Cotulla. One room is devoted to “pioneer families,” with framed portraits of Cotullas, Wildenthals, and Maltsbergers hung next to those of Garzas, Osorias, and Garcias; other rooms are devoted to ranching, industry, or the war dead. One original town plat map shows Anglo-owned properties of the late nineteenth century clustered around an older Spanish land grant from the eighteenth century. The town’s modern chapter began when Joseph Cotulla donated 120 acres for its creation. Though the outpost of La Salle already existed, it merged with the new settlement, and Cotulla became the county seat in an election held in 1883.

Elsewhere, the museum harbors whispers of Cotulla’s darker passages. In 1886 the sheriff, Charles B. McKinney, was assassinated while investigating a false rape report, which led to a series of score-settling gunfights in the streets. Meanwhile, the courthouse, built out of locally made brick in a Polish architectural style and decked with a towering steeple, was burned to the ground in an act of suspected arson in 1895. Its replacement, a more economical wooden structure built with the insurance payout from the first, burned down in 1904. The third courthouse, built in 1905, returned to grand brick style, with a new steeple built by San Antonio architect Henry T. Phelps, only to have the walls buckle and collapse under the weight of its slate roof. It was torn down in 1931, replaced by the structure that exists today, a giant wedding cake of a building recently restored with gilded ornaments afforded by boom dollars. “The two that burned, from what I can gather, were burned for political reasons,” Tyler offers, “but nobody was ever charged.” She believes the shenanigans were power grabs by cattle and sheep ranchers. “It was wild and woolly in those days!” she laughs.

Though there is no record in the Brush Country Museum, historians also report incidents of lynching of Mexicans in South Texas starting in the late nineteenth century, reflecting the tension between the Anglo and Mexican American communities. Wondering how this climate might have influenced LBJ’s later reality, after my visit with Tyler I pick up Arnoldo De León’s They Called Them Greasers (1983), a scholar’s look at Anglo-Mexican relations before 1900. De León reports how, in the aftermath of the Civil War, both ex-Confederate and pro-Union candidates actively courted mexicano voters throughout Texas. One conservative, urging his listeners to ignore the entreaties of Unionist radicals, challenged them to choose between “confiscation, negro equality and their ultimate extinction, and on the other hand liberty, rights of interest and social distinction.” The Brownsville Ranchero, seemingly in agreement, decried radicals’ overtures as solicitations “so grandiloquent as to cause every Mexican green-horn to drop his tortilla, go back on his tamales, sell out his chile con carne, kick his frijoles to the devil and gapingly stand ready to receive the newly found bread and manna, and milk and honey to be dished up in pursuance to this radical Mexican bill of fare.”

The San Antonio Herald, on the other hand, bluntly called for Mexicans to find common cause with citizens of German, Irish, and French origins to form a white man’s party. “White, not black, must rule,” the paper editorialized. And no less a Bejareño grandee than José Antonio Navarro, a lauded Tejano signatory to the Texas Declaration of Independence and among the drafters of the Texas Constitution, became a member of the Conservative party’s executive committee, giving a speech in 1868 that extolled the “supremacy of the white race and the peace and happiness of ourselves, our wives and children.”

It’s one of the most dramatic aspects of the Voting Rights Act that LBJ saw a common cause between black and brown citizens in advancing American democracy. As Texas becomes a so-called majority-minority state, this is an insight yet to be reckoned with; we still talk of a “Latino vote” to be courted as a block by predominantly Anglo candidates. A broader, multicolored coalition may yet prove to be the tipping point for transformative change in this deep-red state—except that, in ways LBJ perhaps could not have foreseen, we remain beholden to our complicated history. An account from an 1890 election in the El Paso Herald offers a sense of voting machinations even back then: “Last night the democrats following out their old time custom, gathered as many Mexicans as they could in various parts of the city. They had music and beer galore, and as the swarthy degenerate sons of ancient Spain poured the beer down their throats, the Democratic Healers poured unadulterated democracy in their ears. . . . Early this morning when the polls were opened the inmates of the corral were held back by Ed Fink who stood in the door pushing them back and sorting them out to others who in turn drove them to the polls.”

Such an approach, notes De León—which involved importing Mexican nationals, having them declared citizens by a well-compensated county clerk, and encouraging them to vote for specific candidates—led to practices that continue to haunt the American political imagination, like alleged wide-scale fraud. It’s an unfortunate legacy of fledgling borderlands democracy that such scenarios were used to justify a poll tax, requiring proof of American citizenship and proficiency in English. My grandmother Leandra kept poll-tax receipts among the papers in her old rolltop desk in San Antonio, as if they were prized badges of honor.

These requirements, of course, were outlawed by LBJ, and according to Tyler, Cotulla felt an immediate impact. La Raza Unida party, energized by the Voting Rights Act’s guarantees, set out to overturn La Salle County’s status quo by aggressively registering Hispanic voters. Tyler recalls how ballots had to be printed for the first time in Spanish, though, she says, “I don’t know whether the Voting Rights Act did it or La Raza movement did it, because . . . if you were a live body, La Raza had you registered.” As for the considerable voter turnout that resulted in the late sixties and seventies, Tyler has mixed feelings. “A lot of people voted, but to me it seemed there was some hanky-panky—that somebody voted for them, for example, or they didn’t vote the way they wanted to vote.” She remembers how fraught elections could be. One time, she was called at night to lock newly cast ballots in a vault in the county clerk’s office; as she was securing them, someone outside threw a rock at the window, shattering the glass.

On a return visit to the museum some days later, I find the old picture of my grandmother and her class at the Cotulla School for Mexicans, as well as the barbershop furnishings belonging to one of my ancestral cousins, complete with a big mirror that features a fancily painted “No Credit” sign in one corner. As I peruse, I overhear a visitor inquiring about a photograph of José Lopez, noted vaquero of La Mota Ranch and my great-uncle, only to discover that the visitor is another distant cousin, one Estanislao Lopez. When we speak, he tells me that he just ran for alderperson, and lost, in the May election. He lost, he says, by about 60 votes—in a total voter turnout of 378, a mere 5 percent of Cotulla’s electorate.

Alfredo Zamora Jr., Cotulla’s first Hispanic mayor. (Photograph by Josh Huskin)

For all the supposed hijinks first unleashed by the Voting Rights Act, by 1970 a newly energized voter base in Cotulla had elected its first Hispanic mayor: Alfredo Zamora Jr., a 28-year-old Cotulla native and member of La Raza Unida who managed to defeat even W. P. Cotulla, a descendant of the town’s founder. Upon taking office, however, Zamora found that the city coffers had been emptied by the outgoing mayor and city council, and he was then slapped with several lawsuits that alleged improprieties in voter registration. (These were later dropped.) Now 74, with a mane of wavy gray hair, Zamora recalls those turbulent days as an amalgam of challenges and opportunity. “We went on the premise that, okay, we could vote, but we needed to become active. There was a youth movement that said, ‘Hey, we are the majority. We should have some kind of representation.’ ”

Zamora is today the CEO of South Texas Rural Health Services, a nonprofit that provides medical, dental, and family planning services. His office, decorated with vestiges of his activist days—a painting of Cesar Chavez, a cap with the United Farm Workers insignia—is just a few blocks from where the Lopez Grocery once stood. As afternoon light streams through the windows, Zamora explains how, against all odds, La Raza Unida helped get mayors and alderpersons elected in Texas throughout the seventies. “Our attitude was, ‘Listen, we’ve been deprived long enough.’ A lot of people frowned on that because they thought our motivations were racist, but there was a logic to what we did. If we’re the majority and we’re not being represented, well, then we ought to change that—because we can vote.”

Political power had been out of reach for as long as he could remember. “It was usually the Anglos that ran for office, and those elections were not competitive,” he recalls. “They passed the offices among themselves.” Meanwhile, organizers paid Hispanics’ poll taxes in exchange for their votes. “We’re talking about the sixties. We weren’t active in the political process, so naturally that was one of the reasons we got shortchanged.” The only Hispanic alderperson at the time, in fact, was Daniel Garcia, LBJ’s former student, who had once been featured on the game show I’ve Got a Secret and revealed on national TV that the president had spanked him. But that changed with the Voting Rights Act, which galvanized La Raza’s efforts. “And all of a sudden,” Zamora remembers, “we took over the city council and got representation on the school board. It was a revolution; after that, we started getting Hispanic state representatives, senators, even a mayor in San Antonio.”

Then he pauses. He is aware of the wretchedly low turnout in Cotulla’s most recent elections. “But did it make a difference? It’s a learning cycle that’s still going on.” His tone grows nostalgic, almost plaintive. “One thing that helped back then was the concept of community. Whereas today it’s more about individual desire. ‘What can you do for me?’ more than ‘What can I do for the community?’ ” He is convinced that the state’s voter ID laws also hinder involvement. Many Cotuleños do not have driver’s licenses, either because they’re too poor to own a car or because they’re afraid of how the state might leverage its power against them. When, in a recent outreach effort, volunteers went around Cotulla in a van to facilitate the obtaining of photo IDs and register new voters, only a handful of residents responded.

And then there’s just plain apathy. La Salle County as a whole reports only 4,333 registered voters. Though a Latino majority in local government is now often the norm, Zamora suggests that the forces resisting change remain strong. “We can say we’re represented,” he says. “But our officials continue the status quo. We need a system that automatically makes everybody eligible to vote, without obstacles of any kind.”

This disillusionment with electoral politics is borne out by Zamora’s own career path, though he insists that he is moved first and foremost by how best to benefit his community. Since leaving office, he has devoted himself to what he describes as a more effective pursuit: using federal funds to ensure the well-being of the poor in South Texas. But his past in the crucible of post-VRA political organizing is indelible, and I’m reminded of LBJ’s favorite Whitman riff, with its sentiment of unresolved destiny:

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip

is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack,

the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people

all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel,

the vessel grim and daring.

It occurs to me, as I leave Zamora’s office, that Cotulla is one of the many places in Texas where the country’s deeply competing currents—our legacy of conflict and mestizaje, our great story of migration and opportunity—meet and swirl and crash over each other, again and again. What that means for our democratic process, for how our voices shape the future, is a struggle. But the port is ever nearer.

Before leaving town, I stop in at the storefront chamber of the Cotulla City Council, on Main Street, to catch the first meeting of the council elected in May. Mayor Joe Lozano, a Welhausen alum, calls the session to order. Much of the day’s business deals with ambitious infrastructure initiatives, street repairs, and a new artesian well that will secure the town’s water needs for a generation to come. Funds remain plentiful: more than $2 million in sales tax, another $1 million–plus in hotel and restaurant taxes. Delays and complications also abound, but the city administrator insists that the work will get done.

Later, the council votes to approve a large mural that will soon commemorate Cotulla’s history on a wall near the town’s central plaza. The panoramic design is meant to be broad in scope, avoiding the representation of too many specific personalities in the town’s emerging saga, but in the end, three figures make the cut: founder Joseph Cotulla, sheriff Charles McKinney, and, of course, LBJ, pictured with his class of students from 1928.

If anyone has a quarrel with any of this, he or she will have to wait until the next election in Cotulla, get to the polls, and vote for change.