I suppose I have to begin with the usual respect-for-the-departed, Scalia-towering-intellect, beloved-by-all-despite-his-views stuff, because That’s What You Do when a prominent person dies.
That’s about as far as I’m willing to go, since Scalia wielded his influence as a weapon against many causes I hold dear. For me, praising his “towering intellect” is kind of like honoring the entrepreneurial spirit of Al Capone.
Besides, the exigencies of politesse didn’t prevent Republicans from pivoting immediately to the political; clearly, Ted Cruz and others got their research teams to work right away, preparing arguments for Saturday night’s Republican debate. So if they couldn’t be bothered to go beyond the formalities, neither will I.
On to business. Found something just so chock-full of unintentional irony that I couldn’t resist writing about it, even though it has nothing to do with Vermont politics. Apologies for straying; feel free to move on to the next post if you wish.
Scalia was found dead on Saturday morning at Cibolo Creek Ranch in rural Texas.
And then on Sunday morning, the Austin American-Statesman runs a puff piece in its Travel section about that very ranch!
For those unfamiliar with the ways of the press, it’s common for newspapers to pre-publish and pre-distribute their non-news Sunday sections. But still: awkward!
But when I read the puff piece, I realized what a colossal slice of unintended irony it really was. And what an unintentionally appropriate place Cibolo Creek Ranch was for Justice Scalia to end his days.
As is the case with Travel Section “journalism”, this article was an uncritical look at a 30,000-acre hideaway for the rich and famous. (Previous guests include Mick Jagger, Tommy Lee Jones and Julia Roberts!!!) The ranch is owned by “John Poindexter, a Houston businessman and multimillionaire.” It’s a place of untamed beauty that offers “terrain, climate, scenery and highway proximity.”
Yeah, maybe not so remote.
The property features three adobe-walled forts built in the frontier days of the 19th Century, now restored as guest accommodations. And here’s where the irony gets thick enough to cut with a knife.
West Texas cattle baron Milton Faver built the forts to fend off attacks by Apaches, Comanches and bandits, channeled spring water into canals to irrigate fields and grew enough peaches to make his own peach brandy.
… “It makes me very respectful of the kind of life they’ve lived, that they subsisted under such adverse circumstances,” Poindexter says.
Uh-huh. Those cattle barons sure did have it rough.
Not nearly as rough as the Native Americans they were eradicating, but after all, hardship is measured on a sliding scale: Sipping peach brandy is tougher on a rich white guy than dodging bullets is for a savage Redskin.
Just think of it: a bastion of frontier entitlement restored for the modern-day Caucasian elite. Ironically apropos for a man like Justice Scalia, who spent his career trying to turn back the clock as far as he possibly could.
Cibolo Creek’s luxurious accommodations reflect the heritage of the Southwest. Minus the Injuns, of course.
“I want them to have an appreciation for Hispanic culture and for the challenges of early life in our environment,” [Poindexter] says. “(I want them) to learn something about Texas and Mexican history and to experience the kind of hospitality and innate generosity that characterizes the Mexican and gringo elements of the population in the Big Bend.”
“Mexican and gringo,” but not Native American. Them Injuns ain’t good for nothin’ but target practice.
As for “the challenges of early life,” well, I doubt the frontiersmen enjoyed a swimming pool, hot tub, gourmet dining, and “fine sheets, down pillows and fluffy comforters.” But hey, we can’t take this wilderness-deprivation thing too far. Not when our guests are plunking down big money for a five-star getaway.
Speaking of which, Justice Scalia died peacefully in the Presidential Suite, which checks in at $800 per night. But lest you begin to fret about his public-employee bank balance, rest assured that Mr. Poindexter picked up the tab.