Every high-powered official needs a quiet retreat, preferably with an evocative name, to which they can escape from the thrust and parry of politics. Richard Nixon found respite from bombing the hell out of Cambodia at the ironically-named La Casa Pacifica. The Not-Yet-Zombie Reagan spent an eighth of his presidency at Rancho del Cielo.
But you'll never guess the name of the 1072-acre West Texas hunting retreat to which Rick Perry brought friends and lawmakers while serving as state agricultural commissioner and governor — wait, did you say "N****rhead?" Yes, of course it was called N****rhead, a name emblazoned in block letters on a rock at the camp's entrance…
In an earlier time, the name on the rock was often given to mountains and creeks and rock outcroppings across the country. Over the years, civil rights groups and government agencies have had some success changing those and other racially offensive names that dotted the nation’s maps.
But the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp.
The locals in Haskell County must be as alarmed about this as the Perry campaign, which has pointed out that Perry and his father only leased the property and took efforts to hide the racist signage beneath a veneer of
Racial attitudes here have shifted slowly. Haskell County began observing Martin Luther King Jr. Day two years ago, according to a county commissioner. And many older white residents understand the civil rights movement as a struggle that addressed problems elsewhere.
"It wasn't the same issues here you were dealing with," said Don Ballard, the superintendent of the Paint Creek school district. "Certainly were no picketing signs. Blacks were perfectly satisfied with what was happening."
It is within that context that many people explained the name of the hunting camp.
"It's just a name," said Haskell County Judge David Davis, sitting in his courtroom and looking at a window. "Like those are vertical blinds. It's just what it was called. There was no significance other than as a hunting deal."
See, those are vertical blinds. And this is a table. And that's a "n****rhead." Nothing to see here, folks. Go back North with your racially-sensitive etymology. No, but seriously, go to New York, because Texas is far from the only state dealing with the artifacts of racial animus.
Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Tags: Racism, Rick Perry, Texas