I want to tell you how disappointed I was with R. G. Ratcliffe’s so-called “In Memoriam” to Clayton Willliams [“King of Crude,” April 2020]. I saw Ann Richards on South Padre Island before her election and told her to “give ’em hell,” to which she spryly replied, “I will.” But I don’t think even she would have appreciated the “dance on his grave” treatment of Ratcliffe’s story. Ratcliffe was there to hear the crude joke. Now he is part of the story. Write a book, not a memoriam.
Chris Boswell, Harlingen
Yes, [Williams] was a buffoon. Ann Richards was the obvious choice [for governor] back then. But where you got the story wrong is where you stated that after [Richards’s] only term, “evangelical religious conservatives and tea party politics pushed Texas further right.” I voted Democrat for all of the elections I’d ever voted in up to that point. I voted for Ann. The problems began when the Democrats left people like me behind as the party began to veer sharply to the left. There was nowhere else to go but with what we had always considered to be the “working man’s conservativism.” I suffered no religious zeal, and the tea party wasn’t in existence. It was us, the same ignorant masses that had had enough of the left’s betrayals, that turned this state from blue to red, and the Democrats should take a hard look at where they are and where they’re heading if they ever hope to win back old yellow dogs turned red.
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Jimmy Smith, Bacliff
Williams is one of those figures who has been boiled down to a single salient incident in his life by the fog of time and by journalists who forever try to reduce complicated people and events to a singularity. He was a successful bidnessman and a failed politician, one who is remembered almost solely for a verbal gaffe during the memorable 1990 gubernatorial race. He was a consummate salesman and rancher with an abiding need to be liked. Williams was, we’re told, a man who hated dead air and loved tasteless jokes, the kind that grate on the collective sensibility all the more in this era of heightened social sensitivity. This seems to be the thesis of R. G. Ratcliffe’s piece. This is, however, a stolid and ultimately vacuous remembrance of a man whose loss to Ann Richards marked the passing of a bygone era in Texas politics. He was the last self-made Texas cowboy turned oilman to run for major office in our state, one authentic in a way that George W. Bush could only attempt to mimic.
Williams was certainly no saint, but then again, neither was Richards. But she was a more electable candidate than Williams ever was. And, I would argue, she was a better governor than Williams would have been, given her greater commitment to public service and Williams’s somewhat petty view of same. None of that, though, diminishes what Williams represents in our state’s history. He was the last of his kind, a type of Texan many kids and newcomers to the state doubt ever really existed.
Michael E. Strasser, via email
I just got my copy of Texas Monthly and noticed the story about John Christian and the shooting of Rod Grayson [“The Aftermath,” April 2020]. Thank you for remembering this teacher in this way. I was a music teacher at Pecan Springs Elementary School, in Austin, at the time, and [after] I came home from school that day, May 18, 1978, my neighbor came over to ask if I heard about the teacher who had been shot at Murchison [Junior High]. I replied that he was wrong. It was an Austin police officer who had been shot early that morning. He said that had happened as well, but that later in the morning is when the Murchison shooting had occurred. We had two very traumatic tragedies that day: [teacher] Rod Grayson and Officer Ralph Ablanedo.
I was saddened to see the reference in the article to [Grayson’s wife], Laura, attempting to place a bench memorial on a trail [near Lady Bird Lake]. Perhaps the Trail Foundation can see about having that rectified. The story was also a commentary on white and elite privilege viewed through the lens of now versus then. Thanks to those who wrote and contributed to this article.
Mary Arnett, Austin
This was an interesting article [“A Delicate History of the Puffy Taco,” April 2020], as I am from San Antonio. My father used tell our family that he helped create the puffy taco with his aunt, in Rio Grande City, in the early thirties. She was a widow and began making tacos to sell in her home for her living. Eventually, she started Caro’s Restaurant with her family in Rio Grande City. I do not know the year, but her family opened another restaurant, in Fort Worth.
My dad taught my mother to make puffy tacos for our family in the fifties, and I have never had any restaurant make them as good as my mother did. I have tried many of the Mexican restaurants in San Antonio but have found no equal yet.
Ralph Martin, New Braunfels
[The Texanist], whom I turn to first when I receive my prized Texas Monthly, has disappointed me [The Texanist, April 2020]. When [he was] asked for his normally valuable advice on responding to foreigners—that is, those from outside the extensive borders of your grand state and who were educated via the movies and Zane Grey, who thought that cattle still roamed the 80 miles-per-hour freeways of Dallas—he spent too much time trying to educate the uninformed. The real answer is short and sweet. “No, cattle don’t roam freely in Dallas. It’s in Fort Worth where there is a drive of Longhorns twice a day.”
Archie Fripp, Williamsburg, Virginia
[The Texanist] gave good advice to the guy who was asking about how to handle foreigners and their Texan stereotypes. I was at a shop in Baccarat, France, last spring when I handed the lady my credit card and passport. She looked at it and said, “Ooh, ooh, you from Texas? You have many horses?” I laid it on big time. “Aw, hell, darlin’, ah don’t know, maybe a couple dozen. They usually grazing out back with the cows around the oil wells.” Total BS, of course, but I think she believed me.
B. C. Robison, Katy