Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson

At least once, I saw Lady Bird Johnson in person.

I was having lunch at the Night Hawk restaurant on "the drag" in Austin, an institution long since replaced by a string of lesser cafes, and not just lesser, but considering the stature of the Night Hawk in the '50s, '60s and 70s, the more recent incarnations seem demeaning. The Night Hawk was the ultimate Austin diner, 24/7.

I was a green teenager, maybe 13 or 14. I was sitting with my mother at a window booth in the very late '60s, I believe it was. Lady Bird was, as I recall, no longer First Lady, but she was still First Wife. She was the Queen of Texas.

I looked over at a booth about four booths away, and I thought I recognized that woman. I said to my mom I thought it was Lady Bird, seated with one of her daughters, and the classic Night Hawk waitress, in her starched Shirley Booth outfit overheard my exclamation and went over to Lady Bird and bent toward her and said something to her and pointed to me, and Lady Bird tipped her head and smiled and gave me a little wave to assure me that I was right. It was like a blessing from the queen.

And so our Queen Mum has passed and with her, a huge dose of Southern charm and graciousness and grit. Strangely now, Lady Bird, in a 1990 photograph sitting in a field of flowers, looks like a cross between me own mum and the queen, Queen Elizabeth.

It should be said, and Lady Bird herself would want me to say this, it should be said that, as much as anything, she loved the views beside the roads of the Hill Country (where I now live just fortysomething miles from her grave). And she loved wildflowers.

And so she shall be among them.


At 8/19/2007 4:46 AM, Anonymous RQ said...

Her legacy is great, and she would love your tribute. She used her power for good, and Texas is the beneficiary. Long live the Queen! RQ


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