It’s about 225 miles from Alvarado, south of Fort Worth, to Stonewall, west of Austin. Driving south, you cross the Brazos, ascend the Edwards Plateau, and keep going until you reach the Pedernales. The notorious writer, Terry Southern, was born in Alvarado in 1924. Lyndon Johnson landed in the world in Stonewall in 1908.
Alvarado’s in a county called Johnson, but it’s named for Middleton T. Johnson, who marched in Mexico under Zachary Taylor and was not of the former president’s clan. No, the writer and the president didn’t have a coincidence like that in common. And, at first glance, little else, though they shared the archetypal death of legendary Texans: they died of bang-the-drum-slowly broken hearts, Johnson in 1973, Southern in 1995. Maybe that’s why I can have great admiration for two men who seem so different. Maybe it’s something else.
Southern’s first hit book, Candy, was published in America in 1964. It was a satire of the sexually explicit kind, what a fire-eyed Southern Baptist would call, “por-un-awg-ra-phee.” It was a breakthrough year for Johnson, too. He beat Barry Goldwater in a landslide.