Ashley Richardson and Constance Gabel–Our second full day in Austin tackled three large subjects: LBJ, Arts, and Austin which are somewhat connected. Joining us for this trifecta was Will Phillips, an SHSU alum from Austin, who had been to some of these stops previously.
Our first stop included the LBJ boyhood home and the LBJ Ranch, giving us insight into the more private life of the former President. At the boyhood home, a modest-sized structure (but large for the time), we heard how LBJ would sneak out his window, crawl under the house, and sit beneath the room that his father and other local politicos would gather in to discuss politics. LBJ’s political ways—and his subterfuge—began at an early age.
The LBJ Ranch, or the “Texas White House,” was a snapshot of a different era. The home, clearly ruled by Lady Bird, was just as she left it, from the yellow Formica counter tops to LBJ’s three televisions (one for each network), to Lady Bird’s closet, which was filled with pantsuits of green and other unlikely colors. We toured the home, amazed by the preservation.
We also saw the Johnson family grave site which includes the graves of LBJ and Lady Bird and the “Air Force One Half,” the smaller version of Air Force One, which LBJ used to travel between the ranch and the DC White House.
One of the things we learned at the LBJ venues was his support for the arts, particularly inhis creation of the National Endowment for the Arts. In that spirit, we piled into the van and navigated the Hill Country to the Benini Sculpture Ranch. Unbeknownst to us, Professor Yawn set up a chance to meet the artist, who gave us access to his inner sanctum—a private tour of his studio—as well as an earful of his beliefs on politics, religion, and sex, all offered without much prompting.
The conversation, as well as the man’s art, was thought provoking and eye opening.
We each had favorite pieces from the tour. For Constance, it was Andante….
For Ashley, there were two: the Heartcatcher and the Stars Giver.
And lots of other works:
On a larger scale, both LBJ and the arts are part of the Austin scene. The LBJ Presidential Library is located in Austin and the arts are everywhere, in the form of architecture, public art, music, and private galleries. We had the chance to explore some of those on a night-time Segway Tour that lasted some 2.5 hours.
We capped off the night at Kerby Lane Café, where we met with Blake Roach, an SHSU alum who now works for Attorney General Greg Abbott. The food was good, the conversation was nice, and we were able to warm up before resting up for tomorrow, our last day in Austin.