Kari Collins and Lady Bird Johnson:
First off this week, I would be remiss if I didn’t publicly thank my shortest of siblings, Kari, for her unselfish and honorable attempts last week to heal my near-lethal spider bites from the shores of Cozumel.
That girl chomped on the bit to shop, eat, drink and snorkel with abandon, looking for ways to heal my body from the arachnid poisons wracking my poor body 1,100 miles away. I’m sure she even broke a sweat now and then.
Everyone needs a sister like Kari. I’ve got three more sisters that provided soothing, kind words with never a snicker during my dilemma. But Kari topped it all off, mostly by staying the hell away.
Oh, we covered for her at the Leader through the production of an issue, and not without some hiccups. Mostly, though, we got ‘er done. We missed her at times, even. I remember thinking one time “Hmm, I’m not hearing that sound Kari makes when she clears her throat, a sound not unlike that of a Sandhill Whooping Crane.”
It’s funny what you miss sometimes when a coworker is on vacation.
Anyways, thanks Kari. A week’s vacation for a weekly newspaper woman is much like a 10-year-old spotting a wadded-up Andrew Jackson floating down a street gutter. Totally unexpected and Candy Store, here I come!
Next year, I pledge to take two weeks off in June/July, and if Kari should need my assistance during that reprieve, I pledge to be there for her, Visa card in one hand, a nine-iron in the other.
ODE TO LADY BIRD
Making a complete switch in topics, I turn to the passing of a true Texas Yellow Rose, Lady Bird Johnson, last Wednesday at the age of 94.
Not just a yellow rose, but a bluebonnet, Spanish dagger, black-eyed Susan, Indian blanket, with a hint of Wisteria.
Lady Bird was the champion for wildflowers in the Lone Star State, and her efforts while at the White House with LBJ in the early 60s on highway beautification became an infectuous pasttime for others across America in the years to follow.
She leaves us with a true legacy, filled with a positive purpose to not always dread the negatives of an evolving world, but instead to cherish and enjoy the vibrant palette of nature’s colors.
Lady Bird was born Claudia Alta Taylor in the East Texas town of Karnack. She had her mother for only five years before she died after falling down a flight of stairs. Named after her uncle Claude, it was her nursemaid, Alice Tittle, who changed things forever when she commented the little girl was as “purty as a ladybird.”
From that moment on, her father and siblings called her “Lady.”
LBJ called her “Bird.”
After moving into the White House after JFK’s assasination in 1963, Lady Bird lobbied her husband and Congress for dozens of environmental laws, capped by the landmark Highway Beautification Act and Clean Air Act.
When the couple returned to Texas, Lady Bird turned her attention to Austin’s riverfront, and in particular the Townlake Beautification Project. She also founded the National Wildflower Research Center.
After lying in state over the weekend at the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin, Lady Bird was taken by a hearse adorned with little orange wildflowers for a 70-mile trip to the banks of the Pedernales River near their family ranch in Stonewall.
Thousands of people lined the Hill Country route to pay their respects, many holding bouquets of wildflowers.
At home, under a canopy of oak trees, Lady Bird was laid to rest beside LBJ.
Two Texas legends, in the sky painting sunsets beyond the Davis Mountains.