An Ostrich Plume Hat

The following represents a continuation of the preview of the draft of Gayle Brennan Spencer's first novel about Hedda Burgemeister and Otto Koehler.

Chapter Three

Andrew Stevens, January 1911

“Unbelievable! The nerve of Governor Campbell to try to ram that despicable legislation down our throats by derailing the inauguration of Governor Colquitt.

“Closing every saloon at six o’clock! Why three-quarters of the laborers in Texas do not finish work before six.

“Ich habe die nase vole davon.

“But the worst, the very worst, was that bill to close every saloon within ten miles of a public school. That is tantamount to prohibition itself!” Otto Koehler, president of the San Antonio Brewing Association, rants about a brewer’s worst nightmares.







“An ihm ist hopfen und malz wirklich verloren,” proclaims Otto Wahrmund, the vice president.

Andy Stevens waits in the open doorway to the office for a pause in the conversation. Mr. Koehler motions for him to enter.

“In case you are befuddled by the German, Andy, Mr. Wahrmund - soon-to-be, pardon me, Colonel Wahrmund - was not referring literally to the ingredients of beer with that phrase. The saying means that Governor Campbell is too stupid to understand even the simplest of matters. Hops and malt would be wasted on him.

“Not that the zealot would ever raise a stein.

“Fine! Let them pass a law forbidding the sale of beer in anything smaller than a quart. Good Irish and German working men would be quite pleased to be forced to polish off a quart and report to their wives they had only one beer on the way home.

“Any word from the others, Andy?”

“My brother telephoned. He and the Goeths are checking their distinguished guests into the Menger Hotel. They should arrive shortly, sir.”

“Thank you, Andy. Take notes when they arrive. The details of the prohibitionists’ underhanded political maneuvers might inspire us some day when the tables are turned.”

“Did you close on the MacKay Building, Otto?,” asks the Colonel.

“Yes, the Terrells drew up the papers for me. I was amused the newspaper reported the value of my downtown holdings as more than half-a-million dollars. It is really none of anyone’s business. You own most of that property with me. Are we as wealthy as they claim?”

“You might be, but, alas, my fortune pales by comparison. I own no part of the handsome, four-storefront building on Navarro Street rumored to be worth more than $150,000.”

“My dear friend, Otto, I mean, Colonel. It might take me a while to adjust to the new title Governor Colquitt is bestowing upon you. Of course, I plan to transfer interest in my new acquisition to you. You were too caught up in the politics at hand to pay any attention to such a minor business transaction. I merely wanted to grab it for $140,000 before old Duncan MacKay got a whiff of the same rumor as you.”

Andy’s older brother John Stevens, secretary of the brewery, arrives in an exuberant state. Rushing into Mr. Koehler’s office and interrupting the conversation, he slaps the pair of Ottos on the back. “We sure john-l-sullivaned them this time. Knocked them out, we did!”

Mr. Conrad, or C.A., Goeth and Mr. Fred Goeth are right on his heels. Mr. C.A. Goeth is in back-slapping good humor as well. “Otto, permitting me to take the credit for your absolutely brilliant idea was the most fun I have ever had without a drink in my hand. The press has been all over me wanting to know how I pulled it off.”

“I am sure the pros in Austin will make the obvious connection between Fred’s role as our attorney and your interest in the pending legislation,” says Mr. Koehler. “By the way, I think your advertisement, the ‘Address to the Citizens of Bexar County’ from the Anti Prohibition Committee, was timed perfectly. Having old Dr. Herff’s son Ferdinand serve as chairman underscores its credibility. We have got to get every working man in Bexar County to pay his poll tax before the end of this month in case the pros force a statewide vote in June. On Sunday, that bootmaker, Lucchese, gathered more than 300 Italians for a rally to encourage them to pay their poll taxes. What is not working in our favor lately, however, is the very public crackdown on Mayor Callaghan’s Mexican voting machine.”

“The mayor has been helping Mexicans pay their poll taxes faster than the water from the Rio Grande drains out of their huaraches,” adds John. “And, say what you might about Mexicans, they demonstrate a great affection for our beer.”

“We will tackle poll tax issues after the inauguration,” says Mr. Koehler. “First, catch us up on everything that happened in Austin.”

John launches into the story. “Well, the pot started to boil when word slipped out that the pros wanted to hand a bonus victory or two to Governor Campbell before he left office. The pros of both houses held late night caucuses Monday to devise ways to outwit the new governor.”

“Not only were they going to try to push through the ‘daylight’ bill for saloons,” continues Mr. Fred Goeth, “but Governor Campbell also was advocating major increases in funding for the attorney general’s office, half of which would be used for the enforcement of anti-trust laws targeting the brewing industry. Of course, the Governor-Elect let it be known that he would veto any such legislation.”

“For a while, it appeared like we would be squashed flat as a pancake by the prohibition steam-roller,” says John, smacking his hands together. “Aye, and there was a wee bit of vote-padding going on somewhere in the House; although it might have taken place on both the wet and the dry sides of the aisle. On the first count, the number of votes cast for the speaker’s race totaled three more than the number of representatives present. After much furious pounding of the gavel and another roll call, Sam Rayburn finally emerged as the winner of that race.”

“Which is a victory of sorts,” points out Mr. Koehler. “He is far more sympathetic to our needs than Gilmore.”

“Then there were more late night caucuses,” interjects Mr. C.A. Goeth.

“In my opinion, this is when Governor Campbell’s men started to trample upon the law,” says Mr. Fred Goeth. “The law reads that the new governor ‘shall be inaugurated on the second Tuesday in January, or as soon after as practical.’ Well, through the years, it has always been practical do so on the second Tuesday. But they deemed it not so this year. They schemed up ways to keep Governor Campbell in office until they could plop the bills they wanted on his desk for signature. And the first one on their agenda was the one Representative Brownlee dreamed up – the ‘ten-mile bill’ that would shut down every saloon in every big city in the state.”

Fascinated by the political intrigue, Andy struggles to concentrate on taking notes.

“The art of the filibuster has never been finer than that exhibited by our distinguished senators this past week,” opines John.

“The highest compliment possible coming from an Irishman with a tongue like yours,” the Colonel quips.

John accepts the ribbing without protest, in all likelihood regarding it as a compliment, and continues, “Senator Meachum requested the reading of a voluminous prison bill and blatantly stated that there was a large stock of bills of similar length at hand, including the penitentiary reform bill that makes the Bible look like a short story.”

Mr. Fred Goeth takes over the tale. “On Tuesday, the day we expected to be exchanging toasts at the inaugural ball, Governor Campbell should have delivered his parting words to the legislature. Instead, he read a treatise more than 70 typewritten pages in length that sounded more like the agenda for a newly-elected governor. His wish list included more than just his defeated liquor legislation. It included the two-cent fare law, a law that would require newspapers to reveal the identity of their stockholders and a new stab aimed directly at you – a law prohibiting breweries from contributing to campaign funds. This law defined breweries in the broadest possible terms. No corporation or any person connected to the sale of liquor in any way could contribute to candidates running for public office.” He pauses to take an appreciative gulp of the beer the Colonel set before him.

“That sanctimonious East Texas puritan absolutely cannot arbitrarily single out our industry,” fumes Mr. Koehler.

“On Friday, after an absurdly spirited contest for the office of Chaplain, the House finally was declared ‘organized’ and ready for business,” explains John. “Then Chester Terrell stepped up to the plate to interfere with the Campbellistic tyranny reigning over Austin. He demanded that the first bill introduced be read in its entirety.”

“The bad news is,” interjects Mr. C.A. Goeth, “is that Speaker Rayburn put 20 pros and only one anti on the committee on constitutional amendments. This means we definitely will end up with a bill mandating a statewide election on prohibition.”

“You would be proud of the antis in the Senate, though,” says Mr. Fred Goeth. “They carried on their filibustering until almost 2 o’clock Friday morning. The Old Militia Bill proved to be a particularly heavy one someone dug up to eat away the night. The pros finally began to concede that they would have to permit the inauguration to go forward.”

“The homespun crowd sank to a new low in the House on Friday the 13th,” says John.  “That fool molasses-maker from Upshur County, W.O. Stamps, stood up and introduced a resolution designed to, quite literally, take all the spirit out of the inaugural ball. Claimed the home of the Texas Legislature was too sacred a place for dancing or drinking. He then began railing against the evils of dancing. Dancing? Why he says dancing encourages men to don the devil’s swallow-tailed coats and ladies to appear in public in low-neck and, heaven forbid, short-sleeved dresses. You will be pleased to know that the devil ruled the day.”

The Colonel responds with an exaggerated sigh of relief. “With all the recent ballgown discussions I have had to endure between my wife and daughters, I would hate to have to send them back to their dressmakers. I do not even understand the language they speak. They throw out phrases like ‘trimmed in passamenterie’ and ask my opinion. My opinion is, if it sounds French, it is too expensive. But John, wait until the dressmaker’s bills arrive at your door. My little Ottie is green with envy. She says her ‘pink marquisette over satin,’ whatever that is, pales next to your Eleanor’s gown, cut from cloth of gold and adorned with silver and gold embroidery.”

“Colonel, I am just plumb happy we have a ball to attend. And that, fortunately, several of our daughters are still too young to go with us,” adds John. “Our new Governor will have no such bill for gowns to foot. Alex Sanger of Dallas delivered a $500 gown for Mrs. Colquitt to wear, and George Littlefield of Austin presented him with a splendid team of horses for their Cinderella carriage. Now the pros are whining about the gifts the new Governor is receiving and quoting the Bible like it was the law of the land: ‘And thou shalt take no gift, for the gift blindeth the wise and perverteth’ something or other. They actually tried to include that verse from Exodus as part of a resolution. Although, I have heard rumors that both Mr. Sanger and Mr. Littlefield lust to serve on the University of Texas Board of Regents. Who gave Governor Colquitt an automobile? I do hope it is someone in this room.”

“What?,” asks Mr. Koehler. “Is it not enough that we bought him the election? Our contributions are being acknowledged at least by the fact that our new Governor is making Otto the Lieutenant Colonel of his staff.”

“Andy, do not include those remarks in your notes, please,” cautions Mr. Fred Goeth, mindful of his role as one of the brewery’s attorneys. “Back to the glories of the filibuster. The House Committee on Liquor Traffic convened and was ready to put forward the ‘daylight’ bill. In the Senate, however, the ‘daylight’ bill was seemingly never going to see daylight. Our good friend Senator Q.U. Watson was in the chair for much of the session, and his rulings were marvelous. Senator Hume introduced a lengthy, musty old bill about reorganizing the National Guard, which, of course, had to be read into the record. The pros were doing everything they possibly could to secure recognition from Senator Watson. Recognition would represent a suspension of the pending business and would have provided an opportunity for the introduction of the liquor bills. Senator McManus at one point shouted that he was in favor of keeping everybody there for two weeks if it would take that long to whip them.”

“Senator Austin even tried to introduce a seemingly harmless resolution,” says Mr. C.A. Goeth, “to present the flag that had covered Stephen F. Austin’s casket to the Daughters of the Republic. No luck. Senator Watson would not budge. Senator Bryan tried to threaten the chair by warning that Senator Watson’s name would be on the lips of all the good people of Texas tomorrow, and what they were saying would not be polite.”

“That old Watson did not so much as dignify him with a reply. He calmly leaned back in his chair,” explains John as he leans back in his chair and demonstrates with his lit cigar, “drew deeply on his cigar and slowly. Deliberately. Puffed out a huge cloud of smoke and sent it swirling around his head. He said he would entertain no motions to adjourn other than one to adjourn to inaugurate Governor Colquitt.”

“The pros,” continues Mr. Fred Goeth, “then tried a different ploy. They presented a petition to Lieutenant Governor Davidson claiming Senator Watson was usurping the power of the chair and trampling on their constitutional rights by refusing to recognize them. At first, it appeared their strategy might work. The Lieutenant Governor relieved Senator Watson of the chair.”

“But, lo and behold,” interjects Mr. C.A. Goeth, “the Lieutenant Governor ruled that dispensing with the reading of the bill would not be constitutional. He assured Senator Watson that he was presiding properly and promptly returned the gavel to him.”

“The bickering continued, and the Lieutenant Governor had to return to the chair several times on one trumped up, from a wet point of view, charge or another,” says Mr. Fred Goeth. “Things were beginning to look rather bleak for us, but then the distinguished Senator Murray rose up with a long-winded speech that meandered extensively through the subjects of history and literature rather than addressing anything before the Senate. He finally yielded to a motion to adjourn until Tuesday, a motion that did not pass.”

John jumps up out of his chair. “The pros leapt out of their chairs like jackrabbits with their tails on fire. They were yelling at the Chair and flailing their arms to obtain recognition. In his infinite wisdom, however, Senator Watson called on Senator Austin, who has an ample supply of Texas history and lore stored up that he was more than willing to share with his colleagues.”

“In the meantime,” says Mr. Fred Goeth, “the House finally had adjourned without passage of the daylight closing bill. The only hope left for the pros would be for the Senate to pass the bill before adjourning and forward it for the House to take up Monday.”

“But the pros were getting nothing but saddle sores in the Senate,” gloats John. “After Senators Murray and Austin successfully consumed three hours, Senator Hume demanded the reading of his bill be continued. Senator Watson then smoothly said, since he had been relieved from the Chair several times during the session, he was unsure how much of the bill had been read earlier. So he instructed the clerk to commence reading the bill again from beginning to end. Senator Cofer grew redder than a beet and commenced bellowing that Senator Hume would suffer dire consequences for his filibuster. Senator Hume said he was willing to face the consequences of exercising his constitutional rights and planned to continue the readings through Tuesday, if need be.”

“Senator Cofer should have stopped there but, instead, vented his anger in the direction of the Lieutenant Governor, insinuating he was shirking his duties by letting ‘these travesties of justice’ occur,” says Mr. Fred Goeth. “The Lieutenant Governor indignantly indicated it was Senator Cofer who was in the wrong.”

“‘We have no more rights here than so many dogs,’” shouts John. “That is what Senator Sturgeon bellowed out at the Lieutenant Governor, which, of course, only compounded the Lieutenant Governor’s indignation. Senator Sturgeon challenged him to permit the hearing of the ‘daylight’ bill. Senator Paulus countered by asking why the bill could not be put in cold storage for a few days longer. With more fervor than a Baptist preacher could summon, Senator Sturgeon replied, ‘We don’t belong to the cold storage crowd.’”

“Who is his crowd?,” the Colonel mutters. “The only crowd that would welcome him would be armed with hatchets and led by the likes of Carrie Nation.”

“The Senate finally recessed, totally exhausted and with many in foul humor, on Saturday at one minute after midnight,” concludes John.

“Which is when we began to put your plan into action, Otto. It was much too risky to rely on the House to squelch final efforts to put those bills to a vote today, and, if it happened in the Senate, we would surely loose. We enlisted the help of our brother A.C.,” explains Mr. C.A. Goeth. “We made our rounds to our allies quickly, and managed to get 11 Senators to agree to comply with the scheme. Separately, so as not to arouse suspicion, they boarded the train in Austin one by one. Fred and I had our automobiles at the train station here, and they furtively joined us, again one by one, slipping off the train like fugitives. We rounded up some canned goods and bedrolls and spirited them off to Fred’s ranch. We tucked them away where no snoopy reporters, not even the Texas Rangers, could find them.”

“By using the long distance phone lines in the commission government headquarters, A.C. was able to keep us posted on when we could safely liberate our 11 guests today,” explains Mr. Fred Goeth. “Before I left Austin, I had suggested a new tact to our Representative Terrell. This morning, A.C. reports that Representative Terrell raised a point of order that the Committee on Liquor Traffic was not yet fully appointed. Therefore, the committee’s efforts to forward the bill and place it on the calendar were improper. Speaker Rayburn concurred, and the House had nothing left to do but adjourn so that the hall could be transformed into the setting for tomorrow night’s Inaugural Ball.”

“With dancing and drinking, by God!,” exclaims John. “We sure john-l-sullivaned them, all right.”

“The Senate,” continues Mr. Fred Goeth, “was faced with 11 empty chairs this morning. No one could find neither hide nor hair of the absent senators. They vanished into thin air. The pros were caught completely off guard by the mysterious disappearance and were not pleased. They tried their darnedest to get the Lieutenant Governor to let them bring forth some form of official condemnation of the missing, but he steadfastly refused. They finally threw in the towel in disgust and adjourned after only 30 minutes.”

“The delinquent senators are now comfortably ensconced in The Menger Bar,” says John. “We will all board the morning train for Austin and the inauguration of our Governor. Are you sure you and Emma do not want to change your minds and join us? We all deserve this celebration, but you most of all.”

“No, I can endure only so much pomp,” Mr. Koehler answers. “I am reserving all my tolerance for our trip to the celebration of the Busches’ 50th wedding anniversary. Adolphus is a fine ally, but his royal airs can be tiresome. I have no doubt their festivities will be more ostentatious than a European coronation. Besides, Emma’s wheelchair greatly lessens her enjoyment of a crowd of that size.”

Mr. Koehler stops to hastily pen a note on the company letterhead.

“We will miss you,” says the Colonel.

Mr. Koehler folds the note and places it in an envelope. “Colonel, please take this and slip it to the former Governor Campbell as you pass through the receiving line.

“A job well done, everyone. Go drink, and dance like the devil!”

Copyright Gayle Brennan Spencer, 2007


Please feel free to beg for more...

san antonio brewing association