Molly Ivins, who died the last day of January, and I first met in 1965. I was 25, fresh out of The University of Texas at Austin, a cub reporter at the Houston Chronicle, with a wife and two daughters. Molly was a 20-year-old intern, home in Houston from college for the summer. As a new reporter starting in the summer, I was included with the Tuesday morning meetings of the interns, including Molly and Carlton Carl. Though still growing as a writer and life observer, Molly was a powerful presence even then.
In 1970, Molly, with a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and time as a reporter in Minnesota, became co-editor of the Texas Observer with Kaye Northcott. It was a great time to cover Texas politics, with the Sharpstown stock fraud and banking scandal - revelations of sweetheart deals to help pave the way for self-serving legislation - about to blow apart Texas state government.
I was in Dallas at the Morning News by then. When in Dallas, given the Observer's shoestring budget, Molly often bunked at our house with my first wife Saundra and me. She became a close Dutch aunt to our grade-school daughters Michelle and Candace.
Covering Dallas politics, with many friends and the state government in Austin, I spent a lot of time there in the early 1970s. Molly and the Observer crowd were housed in an old twostory house at the corner of West Seventh and Nueces Streets.
I'd call to see what was going on.
"Come on over," Molly would often say. Usually, she'd add, "You might bring along a six-pack of Bud."
So we'd hang out on the Observer's great second-story porch, look south through the oaks, tell political stories, and drink beer.
Before Molly joined the New York Times in 1976, she once hosted a slumber party for daughter Michelle. Michelle and Molly talked about it from then on. When I was going into a divorce in the late 1970s, Molly invited daughter Candace to spend several days with her in Denver, where she was the New York Times Rocky Mountain bureau, covering 10 western states.
In 1978, before Molly moved back to Dallas to write a column for the Dallas Times-Herald in the early 1980s, I had moved to Austin to work for the Austin American-Statesman. Molly was as troubled as other friends that Saundra and I were divorcing, but hung tough as our friend.
She also developed a great respect and love for my next wife Carole Kneeland, who Molly had actually known in Houston. Molly helped lead the singing and dancing at our backyard wedding in 1982. Molly moved with her column to Austin in the 1980s. After the Times-Herald folded in late 1991, Molly moved to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Over more than four decades, Molly and my evolving family shared a lot, like canoeing and camping trips with our friends. One highlight was the annual late-winter campout on Bob Armstrong's ranch, northwest of Austin. Campfires, music, food, drink, camaraderie, and sometimes rain, cold and mud. It became an extended family reunion.
The Final Friday monthly gathering of an eclectic Austin progressive community was started by Virginia and Sam Whitten. When they aged out as hosts, Kate and Ty Fain took over. When the Fains moved to Marathon in West Texas, Molly picked up the ball.
She hosted it even after diagnosed with breast cancer. Final Friday survived for several years, with its pot-luck, adult beverages, and music and poetry - often emceed by Molly - until her cancer, and too many strangers showing up to drink and carouse, led Molly to call a halt.
Molly was one of the wonderful women who shared a book club with Carole - often talking more about loves, letdowns, lusts and life than literature. When Carole's breast cancer got worse, that group provided enormous support during the weeks Carole convalesced before she died.
It was experience put to use when Molly's own cancer was diagnosed and worsened. Molly later wrote that she took my advice: Don't do cancer alone. Let friends help you. It gives them a way to show their love, and helps you get done things you need to.
When Carole died in 1998, Molly was at her funeral. Five years after Carole's death, when I married my neighbor, and my and Carole's longtime friend Kathryn Terwey Longley, who also endured breast cancer, Molly was there.
Molly always was there for me, and probably thousands she has known as personal friends, plus millions who enjoyed her wonderful talents as a very iconoclastic writer, speaker, and incredibly humorous watchdog of politics.
Losing Molly is losing a part of my life. But I know, with all her friends, that her spirit will lift us, forever.
Contact McNeely at dmcneely@austin. rr.com or 512/323-0248.