Get Wise

Some weeks ago I wrote a column about proposed changes to the city-owned classical music station, WRR-FM, in which I made negative remarks about Wise County, a rural area north of Fort Worth. After that column appeared, I received a deluge of angry e-mail from Wise County residents who felt I had unfairly maligned their county. In fairness and good conscience, since then I have made a concerted effort to learn more about Wise.

As a result of these inquiries, I have come to a conclusion that I find both disturbing and urgent: Wise County must be eliminated.

If Texas hopes to hold its head high among the civilized states of the union, then the time has come for Wise to go. I call upon our governor, Rick Perry, to place the elimination of Wise County on the calendar for the upcoming special session of the Texas Legislature. If I were to reduce this idea to a bumper sticker, which I may yet do, the bumper sticker would say: "Get Wise."

The need for the legal de-chartering, decertification, disbanding and disestablishment and abolition of Wise County is urgent and non-negotiable. It must be done. It must be done now.

As far as why, I don't even know where to begin. Perhaps I should begin as I did on my recent road tour of Wise County, by talking about the first town I encountered, the village of Rome, Texas. The thing one notices on approaching Rome, according to the sign at the city limits, is that it is spelled Rhome.

Rheally. I suspect the underlying problem here may have to do with dialect. When I asked for directions to a gas station, I was told Rome had several: "Thesco, Shayluh and He-Shawn" (I have no idea). The fact is that the people of Wise County have humiliated us by naming a Texas town after one of the great cities of the world and then misspelling it. According to the signs at the city limits, the town's motto is "Reduced Speed Ahead." And that actually may be fairly apt.

A few small points I would like to make in passing: Many of the angry e-mail writers objected to my characterization of Wise County as being full of "Gomers," and some writers even suggested my description might be somehow actionable. I made a study of Wise County obituaries, and I found a surprising number of persons in Wise County, living and deceased, whose first or last names were Gomer. So, "a word to the wise," so to speak: The last thing I want to do is intrude on anyone's grief unless I have to, but in a court of law I will be able to prove that Wise County is, in fact, home to quite a few Gomers.

But I would like not to make this personal, and instead I want to reach out to the people of Wise County in a spirit of reconciliation. There are many positive steps that can be taken to reintegrate the people of the former Wise County into the social mainstream of Texas. These involve garrisoning a large number of United Nations troops in Wise County--I will explain--and possibly creating a special interim authority administered by the Trilateral Commission. My dream for Wise County would include a major role for Hillary ("It takes a village") Clinton, but more on that later.

These ideas may sound radical, but I believe that with time and education, the people of Wise County will come to "see the wisdom," so to speak.

First of all, a brief history of Wise County: It was established by an act of the Legislature on January 23, 1856. In the mid-1980s, Ricky Green of Boyd kidnapped, molested and murdered four people, including a 16-year-old boy on Jacksboro Highway, abetted by his wife, Sharon Dollar Green.

In 1997 four Wise County residents identified as Satanists, militia leaders, anarchists and members of the "True Knights of the Ku Klux Klan" were convicted of plotting to blow up a natural gas plant next to a school.

Last year authorities began to suspect someone was operating a very large meth lab in an isolated region of Wise County where they noticed a defoliation of trees and huge numbers of birds dropping from the sky. A resulting investigation produced four arrests and a bigger chemical laboratory than anything found thus far in Iraq.

The seat of Wise County is Decatur, best known for the phrase, "Eighter from Decatur, County Seat of Wise," a gambling motto in the game of dice. The phrase, made popular in a Bob Wills song, was not a reference to the number eight, according to an article by Bud Kennedy in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, but to an extremely "popular" female Decatur resident named Ada. The actual spelling, of course, may have been Hayhdhah, perhaps explaining some of the confusion.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze