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v v CHAPTER 23 What Does He Have Planned for Me? L arry Milner and I had two televised debates. One would be taped and aired the night before the election in Wichita Falls and the other would be televised live from Amarillo the night before the election. On the day of the taping, I was scheduled to speak at a luncheon in Amarillo, so my plan was to fly myself to Wichita Falls in a rented plane; I had earned an airline pilot’s license several years earlier. I got in the plane after the luncheon and took off to Wichita Falls. The wind picked up as I flew over US Route 287. I was flying straight into the wind; when I looked out the window, I saw cars moving faster than I was—­ something was wrong. The winds in the Texas Panhandle are very strong. When I landed, I called the TV manager and told him I was running late. He said it was not a problem; they would film the debate when I got there. I arrived an hour later. When I entered the studio, Larry Milner, wearing a three-­ piece suit, was standing behind his podium. He looked at me. “I have been waiting for over an hour.” I apologized. A newspaper reporter nearby was taking notes. Larry was very short and had a complex about it. In planning the debate, both campaigns work together to agree on how the stage is set up, who enters the room first, and who gets the first question. I had requested that our podiums be placed right next to each other. At over six feet tall, I knew I would tower over Larry. What Does He Have Planned for Me? • 237 I looked at Larry. He was standing on a wooden Coca-­ Cola crate box behind his podium. The station director asked if there was anything else we needed before we got started. “Yes, sir,” I said. “I would like to have a Coca-­ Cola box just like the one Larry is standing on.” Everyone looked confused, but they brought me a crate and I stood on it. Larry glared at me. “You are going to look very tall and stupid.” “Oh, no, Larry,” I responded. “You will look very short.” The station manager advised that this did not look good. “I’ve got an idea,” I said. “Why don’t we both stand on the floor like normal people so the voters can see us for who we really are?” The station employees removed the boxes, and the debate started. Larry was angry. He had red hair, and when he lost his temper, his face turned the same color. His face stayed red throughout the debate. The debate went well for me, but even better, the next day the local newspaper ran a story about the Coke boxes. On Sunday, the same paper endorsed me. It was Election Day. The first name on the ballot was George H. W. Bush, the Republican candidate for president of the United States, who was from Texas, and underneath his name was the choice for the US Congress. I knew almost everyone in the Thirteenth District would vote for Bush, so I was hoping that voters would cross over to the Democratic side of the ballot to vote for me. My son, brothers, friends, supporters, and staff were all with me at a local hotel on Election Day, just as they had been when I began my political career more than eight years earlier. Once again, Bobby worked the election board and posted the results on the chalkboard. The results were reported: Larry Milner—­ 88,981 votes; Bill Sarpalius—­ 98,401. I had won! I called my grandmother. She told me she was proud of me, adding, “Let’s see what God has planned for you next!” A few weeks after the election, the Texas Rangers caught the man who had broken my jaw. As we suspected, he was a professional hit man, and he had been hired by the Caravan’s owners, who were suspected drug dealers. I had worked on a bill to increase the penalties for dealing 238 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch drugs to minors and to raise the drinking age, and they wanted to get even with me. When I entered their club, they called their hit man. When the hit man was caught, they put a wire on him, and the police got enough evidence...


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