Wednesday, March 02, 2011


175 years ago today, 59 delegates from the various colonies in the Mexican province of Texas, meeting at Washington-on-the-Brazos, signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, declaring Texas to be a free and sovereign Republic. The Republic of Texas would be a sovereign nation for almost a decade, before its admission in 1845 as the twenty-eight of these United States.

One-hundred-thirty years after its admission, in the summer of 1975, I was supposed to end my sophomore year at the University of Cincinnati, with entry into their internship program. I would alternate academic quarters of study, with work in a related field, until I graduated. The process was to begin that summer. But a slick talking "career counselor" who promised the moon wasn't enough during a recession, and I was basically left to twist in the wind, without so much as a "sorry about that" letter from Mister Smooth.

My father was an executive at Procter and Gamble, in the headquarters building at Sixth and Sycamore Streets downtown. He knew the guy who was in charge of the "sample distribution program," where free samples of new products would be hung door-to-door by traveling crews. It also served as the training program for Field Advertising Representatives, who would take these crews from one town to another, hiring at unemployment offices as needed. I worked towns in southern Ohio, western West Virginia, and for most of that summer, eastern Texas.

It was a little like being in the Army. If the "sergeant" was a jerk, there wasn't much you could do about it. You didn't have much choice over who you bunked with either. And while moving through towns like Kilgore, Palestine, and Tyler, and staying in motels that charged five or ten dollars a night (which came out of our meager living allowance), I worked with quite an assortment of characters. We had the weekends off, though. I took a bus to Dallas by myself (something I had never done before) to visit a friend from the old neighborhood, and enjoyed my first handling of a sailboat. I went to where President Kennedy was shot, saw both the Book Depository Building and the "grassy knoll." And in a "wet" town called Longview, in the middle of a dry county, I bought my first hard liquor at the age of twenty.

Among the important life lessons I learned were, that high school football was the highest form of culture in that part of the world, that there really was such a thing as "the other side of the tracks," and that one part of that other side was still referred to as a "n****rtown" in polite company. I also learned that you could get shot for stepping on someone's property. "Beware of the dog" took on new meaning.

Through it all, I had three things going for me. I was a bonded "driver's assistant," so I could drive company vehicles, nearly all the Texans I ever met were the salt of the earth, and all the jerks I worked for thought my dad was a bigger big shot with the company than he really was.

And when I got back, I had something else going for me, that came with the determination never to get stuck in a situation like that again. So when I got a hot tip about a shot at one of the finest studios in town, the George Tassian Organization, I jumped at it, and interviewed with an up-and-coming art director named Dan Bittman.

I got the job.

But then I was called into the Career Counseling office on campus. Mister Smooth was replaced by Mister Bearded Guy. He said that I would have to turn down the job, and give the Department a chance to let them interview some of the "other" students. By that, he meant the star pupils, the teacher's pets, the public-relations whiz kids. That's when, for the next ten minutes, I tore Mister Bearded Guy a new one.

I kept the job.

As I remember standing up to that poseur, I honestly believe that I had brought back just a little piece of the Lone Star State with me. And so, finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank her, and her proud, don't-take-no-$#!t-from-nobody kind of people.

“All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. The faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government, and, subject to this limitation only, they have at all times the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their government in such manner as they may think expedient.” (Constitution of the State of Texas, Article 1, Section 2)

God bless Texas!

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