Friday, February 02, 2007

Molly Ivins, R.I.P.

Like many of us, I had a soft spot for Molly Ivins. She grew up in Crockett, Texas, a displaced liberal in the conservative piney woods where I cut my own journalistic teeth. I have met her and interviewed her a couple of times over the years. She even interviewed me once, when she was looking for tips on Texas women to write about.

Her first book was dedicated to another East Texan, who was a friend of mine. He occasionally sent her my columns, and in response to one of them she sent me what is still one of my prized possessions: a postcard of Ralph the Diving Pig with the note, “This is fan mail.”

None of that is to say that I knew her well, but I appreciated her courage and wit, and I will miss her. Now that she has died, maybe it’s time I went public with my favorite Molly Ivins story.

She started it in Texas, where she addressed a full house – perhaps 300 people -- in College Station (turn on George Bush Drive, past the Clayton Williams Alumni Center). She was talking about Kent Caperton, a popular Bryan senator who had announced that he would not run for re-election to the Texas Legislature. Caperton was a Democrat who managed to remain electable in his conservative district by his rational approach to difficult issues and his impressive negotiating skills. His most likely successor was a prominent Bryan official who was a rock-ribbed Republican.

After swearing the entire audience to secrecy, Molly Ivins told this story: She said that Carl Parker, another Texas Democratic senator who shared Caperton’s passion for politics but lacked his tact, was trying desperately to persuade Caperton to run again. Caperton was adamant; Parker began pleading. Finally, Parker said, “Look, if you’ll run again, I swear that I will go into every bar in north Bryan and tell everybody there that I, personally, have sucked [the prominent Bryan official’s] dick, and it’s small.”

Despite promises of secrecy, the story quickly made its way all over town and into nearby Bryan. Eventually, it reached the ex-wife of the city official’s brother, who was himself a prominent attorney in Brazos County. Her reaction: “Hmm. Must run in the family.”

When I saw Ivins a couple of months later in Austin, where we both had gone to shake hands with the queen of England, I told her that part of the story. Her response was a full-throated cackle – no other word could describe it – that I expect to carry with me to my own grave. May she rest in peace, if not perfect quiet.


jcurmudge said...

How great it is. To know somebody who knew Molly Ivins. What a wonderful, thoughtful writer she was.

What's his name said...

Two people of discerning sensitivity, David Crisp and Jim Taylor, talking about a third person who may have lacked a bit of sensitivity, but only when it related to those with none. Great story. Great comment. Great Molly Ivins. Great, great, great.

Anonymous said...

When Molly was a reporter for the "Newspaper of Record" (more commonly known as The New York Times), she referred to a community chicken-killing festival as "a gang-pluck." Since most of the editors of the Gray Lady had never been west of the Hudson, much less the Mississippi, this turn of phrase got her fired. She went home to Texas, and the rest is hysteria.

Kirk Dooley, Mesa AZ