Friday, April 2, 2010
Compared To What?
Friday, April 2, 2010
Checked out Brownwood today, a city of over 20,000. I think most of them live in the parts I didn't go through, because the downtown was pretty deserted. The action is up here on Highway 84. There's one movie theater in town and it and Walmart are the social centers.
The Brown County Courthouse was closed for Good Friday. I guess I should have seen that coming. Not a big deal--it's a red brick "classical revival" building built in the second decade of the 20th century. Brownwood's story isn't all that interesting--cattle, railroads. The father of Brownwood was a New York-born guy named Greenleaf Fisk (1807-1888). According to the plaque in front of the courthouse, "As a boy he was so studious that he voluntarily gave up recess periods to read." This came as a surprise to me, because I didn't realize they had recess in the early 19th century. (I suspect the statement is one of those adult plots aimed at school children on field trips to the courthouse.) Well, evidently he wasn't too studious, because he abandoned his study for the Presbyterian ministry to take a boat down the Ohio River and eventually to Texas, where he settled in Mina (now Bastrop).
Greenleaf Fisk supposedly fought in the decisive Battle of San Jacinto and was greatly revered for that. I say "supposedly" because the Battle of San Jacinto lasted about eighteen minutes on the afternoon of April 21, 1836. Houston's army of 900 attacked while the Mexicans were taking their siesta (no joke), killed 630 Mexicans and lost nine of their own soldiers. So whether Fisk even had time to load his rifle is anyone's guess. Later he settled in this area and donated a tract of land for the establishment of Brownwood.
After visiting downtown I drove around the outskirts a bit and came upon a strange place called the Douglas MacArthur Academy of Freedom, which is housed in a limestone neo-Romanesque building with a wildly incongruous 1960's addition in the front. Imagine that someone took your ugly one-story suburban junior high school and jammed it into the front of a 19th century Methodist church. This "academy," according to the internet, houses a museum which recreates famous rooms in American History, like Independence Hall, and also has a 32-foot mural depicting Biblical history. Of course it was closed, because Jesus Christ was busy dying a slow and painful death on the cross this afternoon, and if there's one thing Texans take seriously, it's executions.
The MacArthur Academy of Freedom features a large bronze statue of General MacArthur in front of a mirrored glass window. This is important, because it shows off the rear of the statue. And what's interesting about that is that according to this sculptor's rendition, Douglas MacArthur had a pretty nice ass. That came as a bit of a shock to me, because from everything I'd seen previously (newsreels of the "I have returned" landing, and all that), I was under the impression that old Doug was a little wide in the hips and had sort of a flat, old white man's ass, not the slim waist and perky buttocks he has in the statue. Well, live and learn.
The Academy of Freedom is owned by Howard Payne University, a small Baptist outfit in Brownwood that boasts, among its past students, Paul and Paula, the duo who sang that early 60s hit, "Hey Paula."
Brownwood claims several more semi-famous sons and daughters, but I'll just mention two of them: the stripper Candy Barr, and a porn actress named Alexis Texas.
Afterwards I drove around some more, trying to find something decent to listen to on the radio, without much success. Most of it was country, or preaching, or worse yet that cloying and insidious "contemporary Christian music," where you think at first you're hearing some grunge song, then they start moaning about their lord and savior. Finally I got a rock station from Abilene, where they started in with "Crazy Train." I'm not the world's biggest Ozzie Osbourne fan, but I cranked it up, because there's no better antidote to Jesus rock than the Ozz man. And no better place than Texas to play a song by a guy who claims he was once arrested in San Antonio for urinating against the side of the Alamo.
I've listened to preachers,
I've listened to fools. . . .
I've been denied so far in my quest for goat meat, by the way. I looked in vain for a restaurant serving goat, and went into Walmart later to see if maybe they had some goat meat there. I asked the butcher, and he said they don't carry it. I said, "I just came through a county that says it's the meat goat capital of America, and you don't have any goat?" He said he has trouble selling lamb, let alone goat meat. "Trouble"--that's what he said. You could tell the guy wished it weren't so. "So where does all that goat meat go?" I asked. "I don't know. Probably overseas." I thought, overseas? That's odd. Goat is supposed to be the number one meat worldwide. Then I thought about the "meat goat capital of America" claim Mills county makes and realized it was, after all, a pretty small county. That might not be much of boast. Like saying "the socialism capital of America." Yeah. Compared to what?