Seriously, Another Texas Cultural Moment
A few weeks ago, on one of our afternoon explorations, we happened on the Monument Diner in Georgetown, Texas. This is a small, historic town, filled with great old houses and a college. The diner's parking lot was jammed, and more cars were coming in all the time. Using Ms T's time-tested theory of diners, this was clearly the place to stop. And it was. We will go back.
On the way out, I noticed a poster advertising a play to be performed locally several weeks hence, "You Can't Do That, Dan Moody!" to be performed at the Georgetown city hall. The poster said that this was the story of the trial of several Klansmen back in the Twenties, being performed on the anniversary of the event. Sounded interesting. We took down the number and called for tickets. And we went to the last performance of this year.
The story is a little deeper than we gathered from the poster. Back in the Twenties, the KKK was really on an upsurge, signing up five million (!) members nationwide, including lots and lots in Texas. Beatings and even murders were common. Well, the local prosecutor, Dan Moody, stood against the tide. He tried and convicted four Klan members in the case of a beating in 1923. This was the first successful prosecution of any Klan violence in the United States, and apparently marked a real turning point of public opinion against the Klan. Mr. Moody continued his distinguished career as the youngest D.A., the youngest Attorney General, and the youngest Governor of Texas.
Oh, and the play is enacted in the same courtroom where the trial took place, and on the anniversary of the trial. I am always a sucker for historic places. The battle re-enactments in Lexington and Concord give me chills. So did this. The story is a matter of considerable local pride, as you can imagine (except maybe among remaining members of the local Klan, if there are any still). The current D.A. wrote a book about it. Then he and the director of the local theater group wrote a play from the book, and started performing it on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the trial, in 1998. From what we saw, the audience pours in in Caddies, Jags, Mercedes, one Pontiac (us), and SUVs and pickups, and the shows are SRO. And deserve to be.
Lest we leave anyone with the impression that this is a somber spectacle, remember that even Shakespeare inserted comic relief into his tragedies. In one scene, the reporter from New York complains to his editor that "These people down here don't speak English" (all this said in a thick Brooklyn accent, of course; or rather the local Texans' impression of what a NY accent would sound like if they could pronounce it). The bailiff offers to teach him how to pronounce the local lingo so he'll fit in better. The name of the town, he insists, is four syllables. Joe. Urge. Tie. On. You know, like your friend Joe has an urge to tie one on. Joe Urge Tie On. Joe-Urge-Tie-On. JoeUrgeTieOn. And if you pronounce that at just the right speed, well, you'll sound like you belong here.
Copyright (C) 2000, 2001, 2002, Richard Landau. All rights reserved.