Just after dawn today, Di Rogers of Midland, wife of a Charles, positioned herself on the south side of the massive pink granite state capitol building here to await her prince in his double-breasted suit, who would speak after noon.
"You didn't notice my Princess Di earrings," she called to others who had traveled from the flatlands of West Texas to see the prince of Wales. Soon, she said, she wants to match the pearl, heart-shaped droplets dangling from gold and diamond bows with a sapphire ring encircled by diamonds, identical to Lady Diana's engagement ring.
"We're waiting for the price of oil to go up," she explained.
Such was the tenor of Charles' third full day in Texas. This morning, after his arrival at an Air Force base nearby, the prince grinned in bemusement as the mayor of Austin presented him with three $200 beaver-skin cowboy hats (one for him, two for his sons, Princes Henry and William) and gamely tried one on. It fell over his famous forehead, almost touching the nose that featured four fresh scratch marks from a skiing accident in Switzerland last week.
Watching the prince on television, haberdasher Manny Gammage said he nearly fell over in shock.
"I pride myself on size," Gammage said, and blamed the British Consulate with passing on an incorrect hat size for their emissary. "They said he wears an English 7 1/4, but I'd put him in an American 7 1/8, just by guessing. I'm going to get that hat back."
More likely the hat will go into a royal closet, along with a British map of the Republic of Texas printed in 1838 given to the prince on the capitol steps by Gov. Mark White and a stuffed miniature Texas longhorn handed him as he worked a line of students watching him enter a University of Texas engineering sciences building this afternoon.
Keith Dunlap, a blond-haired, blue-eyed business student from Baytown, Tex., shook the prince's hand as he entered the building and urged him to "hook 'em," showing him the UT hand gesture born in the days when John Connally was president of the Texas student body. A bit lamely, the prince signaled back.
But a few minutes later, as the prince emerged from his tour, Dunlap shrieked for his attention. "Prince Charles, Prince Charles, over here," Dunlap waved. The prince returned, and this time Dunlap presented him with a stuffed orange-and-white longhorn, named after the UT mascot Bevo, which he had been keeping in his dormitory closet.
"I'm learning this new sign now," Charles replied. Working the line of students anew, some of whom hung from trees and tripped over hedges to spot his eminence, he waved "hook 'em" again before returning to his armored Jaguar.
Prince Charles met briefly with Texas legislators, lunched with White and some guests and sliced a piece of what was billed as the world's largest cake, manufactured by Duncan Hines, in his third of a four-day tour of Texas marking its 150th year of independence.
To cut the 90,000-pound cake, the prince wielded a 22-carat gold replica of the sword Sam Houston carried at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Texas won its independence. He then took one dainty bite and passed it on.
There was only one hitch in the making of the cake. That is, its flavor was to be chocolate until chefs at Kensington Palace passed the word: Chocolate makes Charles sick.
"Oops. It was back to the drawing board," said a spokesman for Duncan Hines. "Quick, we were told, change those orders to yellow cake mix." So Duncan Hines sent back its chocolate mix and carted out 31,036 boxes of deluxe yellow just in time for the baking.
While temperatures rose to the unseasonable mid-90s (it was near-freezing in London), royal-watchers stripped down to shorts and T-shirts. The cool prince carried on in his blue double-breasted suit.
Inside the capitol, built partly by Scottish masons, as the prince noted several times, Lt. Gov. William P. Hobby gave him an honorary oversized gavel, at which the royal visitor grimaced and then said he might use it on his sons as they grow older.
Texas House Speaker Gibson (Gib) Lewis gave the prince a Texas flag and delivered what is known in Texas as a "Gib-berism."
"I can't say how thankful you are to be with us," Lewis said. He meant, of course, how thankful they were to have him. (Earlier this week, Lewis said the state should slice its tight budget through "nutrition," meaning attrition.)
After thanking the dignitaries and saying his stay in Texas was "not nearly long enough as far as I'm concerned, possibly too long for you," the prince shook hands with legislators and their wives. He appeared especially impressed by state Sen. Tati Santiesteban of El Paso and his wife Sue, who wore a white fur cowboy hat.
"Your Royal Highness," the Mexican-American state senator said in a sparkling Hispanic drawl, "you have a very funny accent."
Before leaving for San Antonio and later Palm Springs, Calif., where he will play a game of polo and see family friends Lee and Walter Annenberg, the prince was scheduled to dine with Lady Bird Johnson at the Lyndon B. Johnson Library and afterward attend a concert headlined by Willie Nelson. His presence at a $5,000-a-couple dinner was expected to raise nearly $1 million for capitol restoration.
"We could have done it without him," said George Bristol, executive director of the Capitol Restoration Board. "But this visit helps."