JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, Molly Ivins, who died yesterday of breast cancer in Austin, Texas. She wrote books, essays, and they were always very funny and usually about very serious matters. We chose an example of her work that was broadcast here on the NewsHour in 1986. It was an essay on what Molly called "fine art in her home state."
MOLLY IVINS, Columnist: Many people will tell you Texas is beautiful. Mostly Texans will tell you that. Well, it's true, in parts.
But there is a lot of Texas that's not much to write home about. Parts of it are just plain homely, and then, here and there, ugly barely covers it.
But what does mankind do when faced with the challenge of ugliness? Man creates art, is what he does, builds his own beauty. And that's what we do down here in Texas, too. And I'm about to show you some of it, so don't say you weren't warned.
A lot of our art is found in front of courthouses, so as to let folks know it's official. Now, this here is a statue of a peanut found in the courthouse square in Floresville. And here's a statue of a shrimp right here in downtown Aransas Pass.
In Seguin, we have a statue of a pecan. Not everybody likes it. Crystal City, Texas, happens to be the spinach capital of the universe. You may not have known that. It's hard to make a good statue of spinach, so they built one of this guy instead.
Now, out here in Odessa, which is way to hell and gone on the other side of the state -- and I hope you all appreciate the trouble we went to getting here -- is this piece of art.
Now we are in Paris, Texas. Just like Paris, France, this Paris is famous for art. Here, for example, is a statue of a Brahma bull on the roof of the Fina Filling Station. This is a fine example of a genre of Texas art: the cow-on-building genre. I don't know why we like to put cows on the roof, but I kind of like it.
Now, here in the Paris cemetery, we found the stone of the late Willet Babcock, which, as you can see, says, "Love never dies." Mr. Babcock passed on to the big ranch in the sky back in 1881. And you see here on his stone a statue of Jesus leaning on the cross. Looks a little tired to me.
Come around to the back side of Jesus, you'll notice he's wearing cowboy boots. The wind just lifted his robe a little so we can see them. I thought you'd like that.
Actually, the best statue of Jesus I ever heard about was one made out of tuna fish for the centerpiece of an Easter buffet. It had a little pimento stigmata in its outstretched little tuna-fishy hands, but I can't show it to you, 'cause it's already been ate.
Some art does not do a thing in the way of overcoming ugliness; in fact, it just compounds the problem. This is probably the ugliest statue in the whole state. It's the Goddess of Liberty, which normally resides on top of the state capitol, which houses the state legislature, which is bad enough without having this thing up there.
Right now, it's down here being fixed because it started to come apart. But instead of taking advantage of this great opportunity to improve the statue's looks, all they're doing is restoring it to its original state of ugliness.
They made this new, unimproved statue of the Goddess of Liberty out of recycled aluminum, specifically out of old beer cans. Now, you know that is true on account of this is the "MacNeil-Lehrer show" and they wouldn't let me make anything up.
What else would the state of Texas make a Statue of Liberty out of except old beer cans? It's legal to drink while driving in Texas, which many Texans believe is an art in itself.
Now, here's a statue I think would look good on the state capitol. It's our state bug, the roach. Can we see how it would look on top of the capitol?
You all want to hear an old roach joke? You know how come all Texans wear pointy-toed boots? So's we can stomp the roaches that hug in the corners.
Well, it sure has been a pleasure visiting with you all about art in Texas. Sincerely yours.
JIM LEHRER: Our friend, Molly Ivins, was 62 years old.