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PART III State Politics v v CHAPTER 13 A New Road to Travel I flew to Austin to meet Speaker Clayton at the state capitol. A tall man in his early thirties introduced himself as Rusty Kelly, Clayton ’s chief of staff. Rusty introduced another man, Jack Gullahorn, attorney for the Speaker’s office. The two of them had similar lively personalities ; both were smart, and both cared deeply about their service. Rusty explained that they wanted to hire a district director for the seven counties Bill Clayton represented. They described the responsibilities: travel to all seven counties that Clayton represented, maintain constituent contact, provide information regarding any problems or issues, and keep Clayton informed about important issues. Speaker Clayton joined us, and we went to lunch in an adjoining dining room, and the Speaker asked me if I would accept the position as his district director. It paid less than what I was making as a teacher at Boys Ranch, but I was very interested. This was an opportunity for me to help people and get feet-­ on-­ the-­ ground experience of politics and government. I knew that Donna would be concerned; it involved less money and a relocation. Boys Ranch did provide stability, especially for David. But I knew I would not be content teaching school for the rest of my life. Donna and I went through a difficult time. “Remember when I had the opportunity to run for state representative but dropped out of the race?” I asked. “That was because you didn’t like the idea, and because I love you, I gave it up. But I can’t give up a second chance to improve our future.” She agreed to move to Hereford, Texas. Donna got a secretarial position at the Deaf Smith Electric Cooperatives. With our combined 128 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch salaries, we could afford to buy a house. We found a nice two-­ bedroom redbrick house. Now we were first-­ time homeowners. Speaker Clayton told me to find a preowned van to use as a mobile office as I traveled the seven counties that he represented. He did not like spending his money, so my budget for the van was a maximum of one thousand dollars. I searched for a van for weeks and finally found a high-­ top van that an old man had stored in his barn. I paid him a visit. The van was bright orange with a white top high enough that I could stand up inside. It was perfect for a mobile office except for three small problems: it had no air conditioner, the heater was broken, and the engine was missing. The old man pointed at the engine on top of a bale of hay. “I’ll have that van runnin’ fer ya in two days,” he promised. I thought to myself, There’s no way. But a few days later, I showed up again, and to my surprise, the man had the old engine back in the van, and we took it for a test-­ drive. It ran just fine. I called Speaker Clayton, and he told me to buy it. Bill Clayton’s home in Springlake, Texas, had a private landing strip with a metal hangar beside it for his airplane. That day he was flying back from Austin, so I drove to Springlake to wait for him so I could show him his new mobile office. I hoped someday I could ride in his plane. He taxied to a stop, cut the engine, climbed down, and met me with a big smile and a firm handshake. “Your new mobile office is parked in the driveway,” I told him, eager for his approval. We walked around the airplane hangar, and when he saw the van, he said, “My God. It’s orange and white!” He turned to me. “Those are the school colors for the University of Texas.” I quickly learned that Speaker Clayton was a diehard Aggie from Texas A&M. The University of Texas and Texas A&M have always been huge rivals. “I can’t have you driving all over my district with those colors.” He was momentarily annoyed. He looked at me and saw the disappointment on my face. I told him I hadn’t known when I purchased the vehicle. Then after a few minutes of looking at that one thousand dollars bright-­ orange van, he grinned. “Well, maybe if we paint a big sign on it, no one will notice...


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