The limo ride was quiet. Formal. Governor Connally asked me a few polite questions but I knew he had security do one hell of a background check on me and my family before ever allowing me to step one foot into that limo much less be escorted to the function. I answered each of his questions as politely as he had asked them. Then in an off the cuff tone, Governor Connally made a statement that nearly caused me to faint. I had been to the"fainting in a limo rodeo" before and darned if I was going to ride that one out again. His near death experience off the cuff comment was directed toward his wife and Grandson. But there was no doubt it was specifically spoken for me. He said, "Nellie, Bill, I'm not sure you are aware of the fact our good friends Joseph and Auggie Justice are attending the gala this evening."
Here I was all decked out and about to have a cow in the back of the Governor of Texas's limo. All I wanted to do was flee the scene. But considering that was not an option, I decided not to lose my cool. Was that comment meant for me personally or was this an out of the ballpark coincidence? Hang lose Julianna. You been through worse. And so I did. I did not utter even an inkling of a noise nor was there any show of emotion about my being. I got that gift from my Grandad thank God.
We arrived a short time after the announcement telling me I might run into Daddy J Bar J rich britches. God help me if they had dragged Roger along. I might have had another cow or two. I mean for real? What are the odds! I had to get hold of myself and fast. We were about to be announced. Oh great, if the Justice's were already there they would get a front row viewing of lets sock it to Julianna! How could this have happened? I knew it was because I had accidentally run into the rich Grandson of the Governor of Texas. Now I had to deal with this, and I would, dang it. I recall so wishing my Granddaddy were there to tell me what to do. He was so good at this sort of thing.
And then I heard the words. "The Grand State of Texas announces the arrival of our esteemed Governor John Connally, his wife Nellie, and their honored guests, Julianna Rowe escorted by William J. Connally.
I was radiant in my perfect pink satin gown. It's tight bodice gave reference to my body's perfect curves. 34-24-34. Sleeveless and tight to the waistline with a matching satin wide belt with one large pink fabric rose toward the side. The skirt was long, lean, and straight to the floor. Sleek. Elegant. Not to forget the size seven and a half matching pink satin pumps. My hair was pulled up in an elegant French twist with a large blond wave swaying to the side. My gloves were formal arms length with tiny covered buttons on the underside, over the wrists. I was breathtaking and I knew it. All eyes were on me, including Mr. Joseph Justice's. I commanded the room. God I wished my Granddaddy could have seen me. I wished I could have seen me.
We were led to our large round table adorned with the most stunning centerpieces I had ever seen. I recall pinching myself to see if I were dreaming. Sterling silver pedestals held bouquets of roses while above the tables chandeliers were covered with hundreds of flowers. Among the hundreds of flowers ten crystal teardrops dangled as they enhanced each of six glowing lights, making that a grand total of sixty glimmering pieces of glass that sparkled almost as much as my dream of the big city lights. Or almost as much as the fairy dust I dreamed was real as a young child.
My secret visions came to a screeching halt as Billy nudged me with a nudge that said earth to Julianna, come in please. I giggled a girly giggle as he pulled the chair out for me to be seated. I had been gone so long on my little private mental journey I hadn't noticed the others surrounding me at our table. There they were, sitting directly across from Billy and I. Mr. and Mrs. J B J rich cattle and oil ranchers. My rat fink hitchhiker Roger's parents. Thank God and all his angels Roger was not there. Or was he? I found myself looking all around the room to the obvious notice of Billy who said.
"What are you looking for, may I help you?"
I told him no I was just taking in all the elaborate decorations and stunning gowns. That is when he told me I was the most beautiful in the room. That no one or nothing could compare.
Jesus Crisis! Yes this was a crisis and I was being sucked under. But was it clean water or canal water? These rich folk from the south scared me. These southern men liked secret control of their women. I was a free spirit. A hippie sort of. I wasn't sure I was ready for this sort of life. I might end up like Nellie, the Gov's wife. Or like Auggie, the cattle and oilman's wife. Wait a minute, what was so bad about that? I was decked out to the max and loving it if I could just shut the noise in my head off. And just as I was trying to shut that noise off, I wondered what was happening back at the ranch. The ranch near Tulsa. Who cares, I said to myself. Let it go. Why are you drudging up the past? Yeah right, the past of only eight days or so. That was the mental conversation I had going on while sitting at the round table. I deducted that I was still angry at Roger's father for putting me through so much. He could have stopped all the horrible things I went through with the drop of a pen, or one phone call. But he didn't. And there I was, and there they were once again sitting at a table across from each other, but this time a formal dinner party at the opening of the biggest covered convention center in all the south. Why they can have rodeos inside this place. And baseball games and so on. This is a big deal.
The limo dropped me off at my Grandparents home on Bradwood Road. The Governor and Nellie expressed their appreciation of my attendance and of course offered compliments on my attire and dignified manners during the event. Before leaving the limo I extended my elegant long white gloved arm toward Nellie, squeezing her hand, smiling graciously as I thanked her for the lovely evening. Then extending the same gracious hand to Governor Connally, gently squeezing while thanking him also. Billy moved outside the limousine and turned to extend to me his hand. I stepped out and we walked to the front door of my Grandparents home. It was then we heard Duke barking. Oh lord, it is late and he is going to wake the dead. Billy and I threw the formal aside and ran to the door for Duke, like normal kids in jeans. We were too late. Grandad was standing there in his robe with a slight frown going on. I apologized as we removed Duke to the yard for his relieving himself session. As we waited for Duke to finish, the Governor got out of the limo and came over to Duke. He got down on one knee and by gollie he and that dog bonded like for real. No way! I thought. Come on! You people are digging me a rich ditch I am not sure I can get out of. Stop already..... But they didn't.
I was inside the house. The limo was pulling away. I stood there with no thoughts other than....
the fact I was so cool and proud of my ass. I had overcome the unimaginable.
(Grandad found a photo in the Society section of the Austin Herald Newspaper showing one of the tables from the gala. I cut it out and decided this was a good time to start a scrapbook of my trip.) (Photo from www.mywedding.com)