Here’s one of my prize possessions, that’s always been in my school office but I moved it home today:
While I was working on the Nancarrow book, one of his cousins ran for judge in Dallas, my home town. I guess he won. (Nancarrow and I grew up only 180 miles apart, but 180 of the dreariest, flattest, least picturesque miles you can imagine – a true minimalist stretch of highway.) My dad, bless his heart, saw this sign in a vacant lot, stopped his car, and stole it for me. I asked Conlon about it, and I believe he referred to his cousin as a crook; whether he meant more by that than “Republican,” I couldn’t say. All of Conlon’s family were true Arkansas conservatives except for him. I had a lovely dinner-interview with Conlon’s brother Charles, a wealthy dry goods merchant (their father was mayor of Texarkana), and Charles enjoyed saying, “Conlon’s to the left of Che Guevara, and I’m to the right of Attila the Hun.” But they had an affectionate relationship nonetheless.
It’s been weird keeping this in my office, because people who don’t know about my Nancarrow (which includes almost everyone) get the idea that I’m a croo-, er, Republican. One of my favorite stories Conlon told me was that when he returned home after the Spanish Civil War, Texarkana welcomed him as a hero under the mistaken idea that he’d been battling Catholicism.