An Ostrich-Plumed Hat: Chapter Ninety-Five

Andrew Stevens, March 1918

“The anti-German sentiment is so strong,” grumbles the Colonel, “the Loyalty Laws have taken away the older generation’s right to talk on the street. In Fredericksburg, Boerne, New Braunfels, most of the Texas Hill Country, if men are prohibited from expressing themselves in German, they have no vocabulary at their command. As you know, Andy, many of the inhabitants never have learned a word of English.”

“The last time I walked down Main Street in Boerne, Colonel, German was all I heard.”

“And the Anti-Saloon League, constantly pumping out propaganda that the breweries are all part of an enormous German conspiracy to take over the United States. I felt I had no choice but to make this commitment on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives yesterday: ‘The breweries of Texas stand ready to close as a patriotic measure, when, in the opinion of the President of the nation, such a course is desired for winning the war.’ It generated much applause, but I certainly am glad Otto was not alive to hear it.”

“You had no choice, sir.”

“Otto and I were so mistaken. We were convinced that, unless women were given the right to vote, prohibitionists would never win the battle in Texas. I certainly never expected Texas to fall so rapidly. Senator Carlos Bee tried to slow things down by inserting language to force the decision back to the voters, where it should rightfully be determined.

“But that was mowed down with the efficacy of a machine gun, Andy. I’m still in a state of shock that the votes this week made by the legislature have made Texas the eighth state to ratify the Dry Amendment. The rushed vote in the Texas House wasn’t even close. I feel steam-rolled. I’m done. This is the last term I’ll ever serve in Austin.”

“Maybe all is not lost, Colonel. It takes thirty-six states to accept the amendment for it to become the law of the land. Do you believe that many states want to go dry?”

“I have no idea anymore. I failed to foresee Texans as willing to take away beer from the working man. And, in advance of the amendment becoming the law of the land, we immediately will feel the impact of the ten-mile law, one of Governor Hobby’s emergency war measures.

“No sales of intoxicating beverages within ten miles of military training grounds. Andy, how many saloons will that shut down? We’re willing to send our best young men to the battlefield, but cannot offer them a drink. It’s a felony to sell liquor to soldiers, purchase liquor for them or even give it to them. How will that be for troop morale?  

“Unless you have anything else for me to sign, Andy, I’m heading home for the rest of the afternoon. At home I can cling to the belief that the requisite number of states will not follow suit.

“Here, I will be forced to endure one more discussion with Missus Koehler about turning this fine brewery into an ice-cream parlor. A place where ladies curl their pinkie fingers above cup handles at high tea.

“Following the vote, I wouldn’t be surprised to have her walk in here and inform me she seized the initiative to purchase a herd of dairy cows from one of the farmers out at Buttermilk Hill. If I remain in this office any longer, I’ll be sentenced to taste more of Mister Etter’s experimental batches of impotent beer and flavored soda waters.”

The Colonel shakes his head as he reaches for his hat on the stand by the door. “Andy, my days here might be as numbered as those in the legislature.”

Footnotes

The United States entry into World War I and the accompanying efforts to support the war on the home-front propelled prohibition forward. Even after all the advance research, the Author was surprised how rapidly Texas ratified the national amendment.

Might the Author exaggerate Otto Wahrmund’s disgust with the direction the brewery was heading? That is doubtful. He resigned his position near the end of 1918.

Continue to Chapter Ninety-Six

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