Chapter 4 "Connolly or Connally?"
I had placed my pink cowboy boots in good sight for all to see next to Duke and all my other worldly possessions in the back seat of my beautiful Pink Cadillac. I was in Texas so I was not sure why I thought anyone would be unusually interested in my pink boots considering 90 % of the population had boots of one color or another. I guess my Wisconsin mind had not totally transferred area codes yet. Therefore my pink pride carried on.
As we traveled the highway about an hour outside Houston I had forgotten how much I wanted to stop in Huntsville. Huntsville, Texas was 69 miles North of Houston on county roads but I didn't care. I had that Huntsville stop as a dream in my pocket since I decided to head South off Route 66 after the Roger ruckus. Somehow my dream got sidetracked by a handsome cowboy named Billy Connolly. It was at that moment in my conscious mind I realized I had hardly thought of Harper. The man I was going to marry didn't hold so much as a spec of thought. Harper was a mere piece of sand in the hourglass of my lifetime. But then Roger and his daddy dollars had pretty much preoccupied my entire being for the total first portion of my journey through Illinois, Missouri, a corner of Kansas, and Oklahoma. Not to mention the bridges of water, the storms, the ghost of the Outer Edge who was REAL, and my time in the pokey! I decided not to push my luck with a turning back toward Huntsville.
Billy asked me why I was suddenly so quiet. I told him about Huntsville and my wanting to go back there.
He said, "Do you mean now? Go back there from here?"
I said, "No, go back there because I have been there before back in 1958 with my parents and my little brother."
Billy asked me why I would want to go back to such a small town nothingsville anyway. Unless I had family, there wasn't much to see. Populations around 9,300. No main Interstates going in or out. A few schools, a big bad Federal Prison, and a bus stop.
It was then that I told Billy Connolly my Huntsville story. Not that it was anything newsworthy at all. Just some memories. My family had taken a road trip from the Upper Boundary Waters in Wisconsin to Austin, Texas to visit my Grandparents. The same trip where my father almost drove us off the edge of the draw bridge over the Mississippi River.
Billy said, "WHAT?"
At which time I explained to Billy the muddy Mississippi River "plunge to our deaths" story I had told Roger back in St. Louis. After that I continued back to the Huntsville story and the family road trip.
Billy said, "Okay, okay, so why did your family go to Huntsville if you have no family there?"
I told him I was getting to that. Because there was a Prison Rodeo there and my Dad wanted to see it.
Dad said the men from the prison didn't care if they lived or died which made it more dangerous to watch. Sort of a sick way of thinking I thought. Like they weren't human or didn't matter. It also reminded me of the Roman Gladiators from my High School History books. They would fight to the death with a huge audience cheering the death on. I told Billy there were good parts of the rodeo that I recalled. On the opposite side from where we sat in the stands were the prisoners all dressed in white. Must have been hundreds of them getting to feel free for the first time all year or for many years. No wonder they were willing to put themselves in danger from a crazed bull or a bucking bronc. The only savior they had out there were the clowns. I was always overly sensitive to other peoples feelings. Oh, I almost forgot. Dale Robertson came galloping out into the arena carrying the American or maybe it was the Texas flag I didn't recall. He put on an excellent show with his band in the center arena. And Billy, guess who sat right in front of us in the grandstand?
Billy said, "Who?"
I said, "Marty Robbins for real!"
Billy said, "No way, shut your face!"
I said, "Ya way!"
Billy then told me he hoped it made me feel better knowing there wouldn't have been anything to see if we had driven back to Huntsville. Nothing but a small dusty East Texas town and an empty Rodeo Arena. I agreed and we drove on but only after reminding him of Sam Houston, who served as Governor of the State of Texas, U.S. Senator, and he led the Texas Army in the Battle of San Jacinto. And located in Huntsville are two of Houston's homes, his grave, and the Sam Houston Memorial Museum.
Billy just stared at me with a how did you know all that expression. I told him I remembered it from Texas State History, Junior High. And then it was quiet for a long time.
Sometimes silence is golden. Even Duke seemed to notice the peace that had entered the Cadi. There was no rhyme or reason for this queer sensation I felt. It just was there. The rays of the sun were warming our world. Silly, but I suddenly felt like I could stop the car and dance. I recalled a quote I learned in English Literature from Helen Keller, "Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” It was almost erie how perfect a moment in time had just happened. And then I started giggling after peering out my window at the huge white puffed up clouds that reminded me of a new commercial on television where the little white fat fluffy cloudlike Pillsbury Dough Boy comes out and giggles, while saying his name was Poppin Fresh. That is what I was feeling. Not fat, but like something really wonderful was just up ahead. I was born with a sixth sense....sometimes I sensed things that were to come. This time I had no idea what it was, I just knew it was something good. The Universe was giving me a sneak peak as to what lived just around the corner. Almost literally.
We made good tracks into Austin hanging lose to "I'm a Believer," by the Monkee's, booming on the Cadi radio. Duke was sitting up and then back down and then up and back down. I told Billy Duke had to relieve himself. Billy told me we were almost to his Grandparents home. Just a few more minutes. To Exit Congress Avenue just up ahead. And so I did.
"Now what." I said. Because he wasn't forthcoming with any further directions.
He said, "I guess I should have clued you in before this, but now its too late."
"Tell me what?" I said.
"Take the next left. My Grandparents live at 1010 Colorado Street. Wait, Julianna, slow down, right there." He said.
And that is when I almost had another fainting spell but not from a jailhouse concussion, rather from absolute shock. My mouth was hanging open with no words coming out. Billy opened the car door, called Duke out and allowed him to relieve himself on the lawn at the Governor of Texas mansion. I was counting the humongous six white pillars holding up the front of the most prestigious home in Austin, when I finally closed my mouth and reopened it to say.
"Connally? You are Governor John Connally's Grandson?"
Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”
― Helen Keller
Wikipedia: Sam Huston