Readers of High Plains Blogger might recall a statement made on it that I am writing a memoir for members of my family.
The memoir is about two-thirds finished. It contains personal reminiscences of people I met during my career as a print journalist and recalls the more fascinating sights I saw and experiences that came my way.
I want to reveal one of the people I cite in this memoir. I won’t spill all the beans, but I do want to share one element of this individual’s character that I found most appealing.
The late Teel Bivins served as a Republican state senator from the Texas Panhandle from 1989 until 2004. I arrived at the Amarillo Globe-News in January 1995 to stand post as editorial page editor of the daily newspapers we published in Amarillo.
I knew a little bit about Bivins when I arrived, given that I had spent nearly 11 years at the Beaumont Enterprise. I had been watching the Legislature during my decade on the Gulf Coast.
My phone rang a few days after I arrived in Amarillo. It was Bivins’ office in downtown Amarillo. He wanted to meet with me. Good deal, I said. I’ll be right over.
I walked into Bivins’ office. Then he welcomed me to his desk. We shook hands, I sat down, exchanged a bit of small talk about this and that politician we both knew. He asked me about my family. I told him of my marital bliss and the pride we share in our sons who at the time were just completing their college studies.
Then it came.
Bivins at that point proceeded to tell me a tale of woe and a bit of horror at the condition of his wife. She suffered from alcohol and drug abuse, he said. He didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know whether he could stay married to her. Bivins said he was at the end of his tolerance with her. “I don’t think I can keep this up,” he said.
I mention this because in that moment, a politician I had known for, oh, about 30 minutes took the time to expose a part of his life that obviously caused him great pain.
I shall admit that in that moment, I didn’t realize what became clear to me a few days later. A legislative aide to Bivins informed that the reason Bivins wanted to tell that story about his wife was that he wanted to get ahead of a story I likely would hear … from someone else.
Do you get it? The man wanted to tell me his version of events before I heard someone else’s version.
It truly was an astonishing thing to reveal to a total stranger, let alone to someone — such as me — who was in a position to offer commentary on politicians’ personal lives.
I have retained a vivid memory of that first meeting with a prominent Texas politician. I do so on purpose, as it reminds me that politicians — of all people — indeed, can achieve a form of nobility.