LBJ’s Ranch: A Pleasant Surprise

During our recent trip to Texas, we visited the LBJ ranch, where I learned about the man who became our 36th president after the assassination of President Kennedy.

I was just eight at the time, so my interest in him was minimal. I was much more concerned with my favorite television shows—The Beverly Hillbillies, The Andy Griffith Show, and My Favorite Martian, to name just a few—and staying under the radar from my scary third-grade teacher, Mrs. Darbin.

My memories of President Johnson were mostly of the sad old man who stood beside Jackie Kennedy to take the oath of office on Air Force One during the afternoon after JFK was shot, and the father of two teenage girls who got married during his time in office. I knew a lot of important legislation was passed during his administration, but as a kid, I paid more attention to his family and tragic beginning of his presidency than his job performance.

His ranch had a visitor’s center where his accomplishments were displayed on a big board so that I was able to see all that he had done in one fell swoop.

My initial reaction was surprise in seeing that he was only fifty-five during that first inauguration, and then just sixty-four at his death. I guess any kid that looks at me probably thinks, “Oh boy, is she old!”

Among his accomplishments were Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and several environmental acts such as the Clean Air Act of 1963 and the Water Quality Act of 1965. Sadly, his legacy is being torn apart bit by bit.

As Dad and I watched the movie about Johnson and read his positive achievements (not mentioning his inability to get out of Viet Nam at this time), we thought it was so interesting that this man was from the red state of Texas. It turns out that Texas elected primarily Democrats until 1980, when all subsequent Texas presidential elections went Republican.

Now there are two Texas Democrats running for president. While it is increasingly doubtful that either will be on the final ticket in November, I will be watching the results of the Lone Star State.

On a side note to anyone visiting the LBJ ranch: Watch where you walk. Aunt Linda almost stepped on a very big, very scary looking possibly poisonous snake on the sidewalk leading up to the Visitor’s Center. Beware!

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