Sunday, April 14, 2024

Birding in LBJ's footsteps

Lyndon B. Johnson once describes his favorite and luckiest number, "four." "That's what I want you to remember. If you don't get your idea across in the first four minutes, you won't do it. Four sentences to a paragraph. Four letters to a word. The most important words in the English language all have four letters. Home. Love. Food. Land. Peace. . .I know peace has five letters, but any damn fool knows it should have four."

Olaf, also likes the number four, it is better than three and twice as good as two, but his favorite words would be bird, wife, cats, unlike three letter words like dip....

We headed in the direction of Johnson City Texas.  Johnson City is the boyhood home of our 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson and his home, the LBJ Ranch is just 15 miles west of town.

In many ways, LBJ's ranch is the coolest presidential home ever.  Besides having a 6,000 foot runway and being the home of prized Hereford cattle then and now, you can walk in the footsteps of a leader that many reviled at the end of his reign, however, like quite a few presidents, LBJ should be remembered better. 

LBJ was our first Western bred and born President.  Unlike recent Presidents who attended IVY League schools, LBJ went to SW Texas State Teachers College, dropped out went to California, and returned as graduated and then briefly taught as a teacher.  LBJ did attend Georgetown Law School for a time after he was elected to Congress, however the only thing he got from that was a date with Lady Bird, who he asked to marry him, she put him off for a few more dates, but finally agreed. In Congress, he was probably the most savvy Majority leader in the US Senate until McConnell recently.

He has great quotes, possibly the best of the 20th Century, many almost beat Yogi quotes:

I may not know much, but I know chicken shit from chicken salad.

On the media:  If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read "President Can't Swim"

On Liberal Democrats (his own party):  Don't spit in the soup, we all have to eat.

On being President: Being president is like being a jackass in a hailstorm. There's nothing to do but to stand there and take it.

On the CIA: The CIA is made up of boys whose families sent them to Princeton but wouldn't let them into the family brokerage business.

Visiting Seaworld: Why does Sea World have a seafood restaurant I'm halfway through my fish burger and I realize Oh man....I could be eating a slow learner.

 Unlike other President's graves, LBJ's looks just like a normal one.

Compare this to the worst President of the 20th Century, Warren G. Harding.  The ego of the bad man still lives on.

LBJ was somewhat larger than life, but anything from perfect.  He was a lady's man and when he went to Congress, he was dirt poor.  How the couple made their fortune was all (well if you ask LBJ, he said so) Lady Bird's doing.  In 1943, she spent $17,500 of her inheritance to purchase KTBC, an Austin radio station. In 1952, she added a television station, always getting favorable FCC rulings.  She invested $42,000 total, which by 1990 became $150 million.  

Famously in 1968, he pulled out of reelection after a poor showing in New Hampshire.  Hubert Humphry got a late start and then was passed by Robert Kennedy, before he was assassinated and after a convention riot, HUMPHREY WON.  The Democrats went on to lose to Nixon, and the rest is history.  In 1972, LBJ donated the Ranch to the US Park Service and then a few months later, at only 64 years of age died three days after Nixon's second inauguration in January 1973.   

The LBJ Ranch house, however cool it is....has been CLOSED since 2018 due to structural issues. Maybe, maybe they say it will reopen in 2025, but in typical government fashion, everyone it appears to be working from home, including the construction workers. The new normal, everyone in the government works from home, and nothing gets done and the world is always the same.  The man giving info at the park?  A person from Ireland on a student visa to learn "tourism."  The cool old Air Force 1/2, Gulfstream, also closed.  You can see it but they have surrounded in with fences and orange tape, what harm can you cause by walking around a decommissioned old airplane?  You drive 30 feet from it?

There were a lot of lark sparrows around.  Birding, near LBJ's grave was a little slow.

Scissortail flycatchers were around as well.

The countryside was in bloom, too.

We went to Perdernales State Park to see a bird.  It turns out we were turned away.  It was also closed, due to it being full, "Come back tomorrow."  The ranger told us.  You can tell that Texas has too many people and not enough parks....when they are full to day visitors.

I wanted to see Golden Cheeked warblers, but at this park, they would have to wait a day.  We went to lunch.

I tracked down the Blanco County Courthouse in Johnson City.
It turns out they also had one a few years older (below), since after building a courthouse in Blanco, they voted to move the county seat to Johnson City.

We ate lunch and Silja wanted to take a motorcycle for a test ride, but again that would not be possible

After looking around for another place for the warbler, I dipped and went back to the RV.

The campground we were at is unique.  It not only has one helipad, it has two.  Who brings their helicopter with their RV, or who goes to a RV resort with their helicopter.  I guess this one does rent cabins.  Our RV is just behind the pad

We were back to the park this morning and on my fourth trip to get a photo of the Golden Cheeked warbler in my life, I hit paydirt. Having seen that birders I know were here recently, it would be bad if somehow, I had dipped on both LBJs ranch AND the warbler so at least I got the bird.  I am not missing photos of many breeding birds in the US, last year I FINALLY photographed the Colima warbler, and now this......

It was a pretty good haul of them, some pretty good pictures, despite being dark and overcast.

There was this "starcircle" at the park with purpose unknown.  

Driving around the Hill Country, many of the ranches and ranchers seem to have a lot of hat but no cattle, to steal words from LBJ.  Big prices for 20-50 acres of dry land--all because residents from Austin want to have some place to go.  We prefer west Texas.  I am glad we came, and if LBJs White House opens up, I would advise you all to come here and see it, but do not hold your breath.  Getting anyone to work seems unlikely. The Golden cheeked warblers are neat little birds with an isolated range.  Other than that, the Hill County seems to be a lot of hype, a lot of people, and well, probably not our scene.
I looks a lot like Lawton Oklahoma without the crowds.

working our way north


No comments:

Post a Comment

Butterfly Week 2024

  BUTTERFLY WEEK came late to the prairies of NE South Dakota this summer, it has been raining since, well, since spring.  It has rained and...