An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Eighteen

Begin with Chapter One ~ Return to Chapter Seventeen

Andrew Stevens, February 1912

The Colonel holds up his folded newspaper. “It appears the so-called green fairy will cease to cast her intoxicating spell over Americans. That hellfire-and-brimstone Secretary of Agriculture is determined to ban the importation of absinthe. Men will no longer be able to seduce young women unaware that absinthe makes the heart grow fonder. The potent French frappé will no longer summon strange, swirling monsters to the bottom of a glass.”

Mr. K emits a snort. “While I have never taken a whiff of that stuff, banning it is wrong. Pros are like rats. A tiny chink in our wall, and in they will swarm, nibbling away at our rights. President Taft should have prevented his secretary from launching this clandestine attack. We send Adolphus Busch princely sums to hire people in Washington so things like this do not slip through the cracks.

“And where is this Governor of yours, Colonel? While he should be backing up our efforts with big guns, he is armed with a little trowel, wandering around the grounds of the Alamo poking at the dirt as though he expected to find Travis’ line in the sand.” 

The Colonel shrugs, holding up both hands. “The Governor must have a death wish. Telling the Daughters of the Republic of Texas how to restore the Alamo. They might be fine with tearing down the Hugo-Schmeltzer building, but the Governor’s insistence on taking the grounds back to the old mission days is not well received in some circles.”

“Colonel, next thing you know, the Governor will want to tear down the brand new Gibbs Building and the Post Office to restore the original walls of the Alamo compound. I’m surprised he hasn’t suggested ripping up the street pavers and replacing them with dirt. Maybe we can ban automobiles and carriages from downtown and turn the whole area—the Menger Hotel, Joske Brothers, Saint Joseph’s Church, even our recently purchased Scholz’s Palm Garden—back into one big grove of cottonwood trees.”

The Colonel raises his hands up again, this time to the height of surrender. “The Governor sent a request to President Madero to dispatch someone to dig through monks’ ancient records at the mother house in Queretaro for the original drawings and plans of the Alamo convent. With all the fires Madero has to put out, does the Governor really think the President of Mexico has time to worry about restoring the Alamo? The Alamo once belonged to Mexico. The mere mention of it to a Mexican rubs salt in the unhealed wound.”

“That and the fact that the Governor’s Colonel Chapa has been in bed with General Reyes,” grumbles Mr. K. “There was no subtlety involved in the plots to overthrow Madero. Francisco met Reyes when he arrived at the depot in San Antonio. He escorted him to the bank. He even endorsed bank drafts for him. David Straus of Frank Saddlery has the sales slips from the blankets and saddles shipped to Laredo. And what of the mysterious twenty-one horses of which no one still is willing to claim ownership. Hardly plausible the group was heading into Mexico for a recreational bear hunt. Colonel Chapa must feel fortunate about only having to pay a $1,500 fine before hightailing it back here a free man.”

Mr. K picks up the newspaper the Colonel had placed on his desk. “What blundering dummkopf was in charge of the advertisement attacking Ramsey?” Andy trembles a bit even though he had nothing to do with the advertisement in his boss’ hand. “We had this great idea for the Anti League. Make the final advertisement emphasizing the importance of paying your poll tax appear to be an actual news story arousing fright about Ramsey’s dry stance. Vote for Colquitt and liberty. But the headline?”

Mr. K tosses the paper back over to the Colonel. “A complete waste of money.” 

The Colonel examines the offending advertisement. “It does look as though the absinthe green fairy herself set the type.”

“Not a very persuasive argument for our cause. No wonder we experienced a slump in the numbers of men paying their poll taxes by the deadline. We lost 3,000 men, which probably translates to nigh on 3,000 votes. That lethargy means voters in Harris and Tarrant County now exercise more clout than Bexar County. Yet San Antonio alone has 100,000 inhabitants. Colonel, we better make damn sure no one gets in power to force prohibition back on the ballot. This time we might not have enough eligible voters to defeat it.

“Colonel, you have got to stand for reelection. While I need you here, we need you more in Austin. I find myself without confidence that Chester Terrell will have enough clout to thwart their power. We must keep you in the Legislature. You on the floor, meeting the eye of every representative as he casts his vote, that is the only way we can ensure our men dare not waiver.”

“I had no intention of running again, Otto. I fear I’ve not been very politic of late. I’ve stepped on more San Antonio toes than I should have.”

Mr. K waves his hand dismissively. “Nothing a little money won’t fix. The Governor already has you trotting up to Austin so often that serving in the Legislature doesn’t even increase your time away from home.”

“But will Chester take offense?” asks the Colonel. 

“No, not if he is the first one to hear the news. We need to tell him before you speak to even Sophie. Bexar County is large enough to have four representatives. We still support him to be one of them; so much so we plan to send you back there to reinforce him. Plus, take an ample campaign contribution with you when you call on him.”

Footnotes

And the battles over the treatment of the Alamo continue more than a century later….

The typo-riddled anti-Ramsey advertisement actually ran in the paper.

Otto Wahrmund first was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 1908.

Continue to Chapter Nineteen

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