The Bush Family Fantasy

For this West Texan, Rockwell renderings of a presidential childhood are all bull

| July-August 2008

Growing up in West Texas marks you forever.

Mountain ranges give me the creeps. Rain was such a stranger that I still can barely manage to open and close an umbrella without having a nervous breakdown. Even after all these years, my idea of pure freedom remains driving fast along a flat, straight road, drinking beer, and playing country music so loud my eardrums almost burst.

Around Midland, where I went to high school, the land is hard, unforgiving, and flat. My father worked in the oil business, so we moved from town to town in the Permian Basin, always buying a new house on the edge of town, always planting a spindly tree in the front yard. We had to stake the new trees so they wouldn’t bend in the fierce winds that blew almost every day.

When we moved to Midland in 1965, the city had a gritty energy and a drive I hadn’t seen in the other towns. Dust was in the air, but so was money. I heard stories about dentists quitting their jobs and making fortunes from oil strikes; surveyors who claimed narrow plots of overlooked land that yielded millions in mineral rights; Midlanders who had bowling alleys in their basements and flew to Dallas to shop.

When your father works as an accountant for an oil company, as mine did, you don’t have any dramatic stories of sudden wealth to tell. You learn to watch and listen.

In a city of doers, hustlers, gamblers, optimists, and oil visionaries, introspection is for sissies with too much time on their hands. Which means Midland is a great place to watch and listen as long as you don’t mind feeling lonely now and then.