His Royal Highness, the prince of Wales, was in Texas for 20 hours before he encountered something authentic. Prince Charles had viewed wealth and commerce up and down the city freeways, but wealth and commerce look the same the world over; a Jaguar is a Jaguar, and if one has seen one blue-tinted tower one has seen them all. Who has not heard enough about high tech?
But finally, at the entrance to city hall in the summer's heat of February, the Kilgore Rangerettes came into view.
The eyes of the United Kingdom were upon them.
The blokes from Fleet Street spotted them first. Arthur Edwards and Harry Arnold of The Sun, who call themselves Windsor Travel for all the time they've spent photographing and scribbling about the royal family, trained their lenses on the fourth Rangerette from the left. She was blond and wore a smile that hurt, and that meant something special to Art and Harry. Lisa McCutcheon looked Texan from her white boots to her white hat, 20 years worth of Lone Star history in her pose and smile.
"Rangerettes! Attention!" ordered Lisa, and at that moment the royal motorcade arrived. Charles greeted 300 or so Dallas commoners across the way, then turned and walked the red carpet toward city hall, striding past the flank of Kilgore Rangerettes. For reasons unknown, he stopped when he got to Art and Harry's favorite.
"Aren't your legs cold in those short skirts?" the future king of England asked the queen of North Texas' cowgirl parade unit.
"No," said Lisa, understating the case in this 85-degree afternoon. "It's warm today. If it was cold we'd be wearing tights."
Texas might be only 150 years old, but its people, when they aren't trying to be things they are not, such as British, are wise and practical, as Lisa McCutcheon showed the prince. Gov. Mark White had invited Charles as a special guest at the state's sesquicentennial activities, and tonight, at a banquet attended by First Lady Nancy Reagan and 1,600 guests, the prince gave billionaire benefactor H. Ross Perot a prestigious award from the Winston Churchill Foundation.
But the five-day tour, presumably, also is being made to learn what it is that makes Texas Texas, and during Charles' first day and a half here, there was little Texiana to be found.
When the prince arrived at Dallas-Fort Worth Regional Airport Monday afternoon at 5 precisely, he stepped off the Royal Air Force jet to the sounds of the British Caledonian Airways Fife and Drum. Familiar enough. And the red carpet rolled out on the runway looked like a roll end from Rug City. White was there at the end of the line of dignitaries, but he had a few things on his mind that are not usually associated with Texas.
Earlier in the day White had called together his agency chiefs in Austin and told them he needed 13 percent cuts in their operating expenses to fend off the first budget deficit Texas has faced since 1961, when Prince Charles was 13. The prince is now 37, but if he came to Texas to witness American enterprise at its finest, perhaps he came the wrong month of the wrong year.
These are hard times in Texas. Many of the industrialists who heard the prince speak at the city hall luncheon today are worried about the stability of their banks. In Houston tomorrow he will see a city very different from the city he visited briefly in 1977 during the boom. Its can-do attitude has been tempered not only by the oil and gas bust but also by the deaths of seven of its adopted sons and daughters, the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, who trained at the Johnson Space Center. And in Austin on Thursday, the prince will be greeted by state legislators who have no idea how they can get the money to balance the next budget.
The prince came to Dallas and got the Chamber of Commerce, not the TV show, which Art and Harry took especially hard. Their readers associate this city with J.R. and Miss Ellie. Wherever Fleet Streeters huddled yesterday and today, the names "Larry Hagman" and "Linda Gray" could be heard amid the spitfire mumbling and cackling. For a time it was rumored that Harry had heard of a secret meeting last night between Charles and J.R. himself. But that would have required stamina beyond even this strong and patient prince's capacity. After all, it was midnight British time when he arrived in Dallas.
Harry and the boys did find Hagman at a reception downtown last night. They got their pictures of him and sent them across the Atlantic, which made something out of what was for them a boring day.
The closest Prince Charles got to the characters of Southfork was a reference during his city hall speech this afternoon: "Many of you may have thought you had seen the last of me for a bit following our visit to Washington last November. But like some of the longer-running sagas for which this part of Texas is famous, I'm afraid I shall be returning at regular intervals."
The prince came to see Texas and instead saw an English garden. That is, he saw the Chantilly Ballroom of the Anatole Hotel, where Perot was honored tonight for furthering Anglo-American relations. The ballroom is slightly smaller than the Houston Astrodome.
Prince Charles called Perot "a great contemporary American" who met the standards set by Churchill and two earlier recipients of the award, W. Averell Harriman and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. "They have chosen a man whose enterprise in building one of the most dynamic computer companies in the world has only been matched by his daring in rescuing two of his employes from misery and imprisonment in Tehran and by his successful efforts to improve the lot of American prisoners of war in Vietnam."
Perot was also praised by Prince Charles for leading a movement to reform the public education system in Texas, but no mention was made of another recent endeavor, Perot's acquisition for the University of Texas of a prized collection of English literature, including the first book published in the English language and quartos and folios of William Shakespeare.
Mrs. Reagan, who had visited a drug rehabilitation school in Fort Worth earlier in the day, praised Perot for beginning what was known as the Texan War on Drugs in 1979. "Ross' message has reached into every corner of this great state," said Mrs. Reagan.
When the Churchill Foundation informed Perot that they wanted to honor him with a dinner in Dallas, they also asked him to pick someone to organize the banquet. He chose Liener Temerlin, chairman of the advertising agency Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon and Eckhardt. The ad agency decided on the English garden look for the ballroom, and then hired Peter Wolf Concepts, which designed stage sets for the Broadway shows "Mame" and "The King and I."
Johnny Wolf, the conceptualizer's son, brought in his work force to staple huckleberry branches to architecturally designed blocks of wood, which were then placed behind a dais, in the shape of an English garden. One of Wolf's laborers is Orn Sam, who lives in Dallas but two years ago left his homeland of Cambodia. As he attached branches of huckleberry to the boards with a pneumatic stapler, Orn Sam said he knew nothing about the banquet. Ross Perot? The prince of Wales? "No, sorry," he said.
Johnny Wolf said at first they were going to use carnations instead of huckleberry, but it was decided that that would look too much like a Hare Krishna festival.