by Gallagher & Schleicher
Like the rest of you, Wacoans love Joanna and Chip Gaines’ HGTV show, magazine, housewares, books and (most of all?) biscuits and gravy. No one objected when they turned giant silos from eyesores into religious icons. Only a few protested when they recently bought “The Castle” — namesake home of Waco’s most esteemed neighborhood, Castle Heights. But murmurs are starting now that they’ve purchased the 151-year-old Fort House, formerly managed by the Historic Waco Foundation.
We wish to be counted as two who don’t mind. In fact, anything that adds to the more than 2 million visitors a year they’re bringing to town is just fine in our book.
If you can keep a secret, we’ll confess it’s all part of our plot to make Waco more progressive. It’s a given that the larger a U.S. metropolitan area gets, the more likely it is to elect Democrats. #ThanksMagnolia.
We not only back the Gaineses in their rapid expansion of holdings in Waco and elsewhere (did we mention they’re starting their own TV network?), we’d like to help by identifying these buying opportunities:
1. Brazos River: Starting in New Mexico and ending in the Gulf of Mexico, it’s 1,280 miles of glorious brown agua. It’s already used in Waco for river tours, paddle-board yoga, kayaking and watching Baylor football games from boats in the marina. We propose it be purchased for $7 billion and the portions not running through Waco be leased back to affected state and local governments.
2. Baylor University: The world’s largest Baptist university is hamstrung of late by Title IX controversies and a football program can’t seem to catch a break. On the upside, its Lady Bears basketball team remains resilient. We propose a price of $2.6 billion, roughly twice its current endowment. Underperforming teams could be sold off. Those remaining could be rebranded from “the Bears” to “the Silos.” Conflict-of-interest disclosure: Chip and Joanna are alumni, as is one of your columnists (and wife of the second).
3. The Suspension Bridge: Opened in 1870 and innovative for its time, it’s among the most iconic of Waco images. Originally built for around $150,000, it bears lots of pedestrian traffic but might not meet standards for today’s heavier motorized vehicles. We suggest $15 million, to be paid back over time at the same five cents a head (OK, back then, cattle, but…) as in the good old herd-driving days. All those cattle sculptures will heighten the mood!
4. Interstate 35: With terminals in Duluth, Minnesota, and Laredo, this 1,500-plus-mile superhighway is among the most important in the country — and talk about fixer-upper opportunities! Give Buc-ee’s a run for the money. Imagine what could be done with a few hundred thousand knotty-pine side tables, planter boxes and spring candles. Estimated value (pre-restoration): $1.7 trillion.
5. Waco Mammoth National Monument: You have to go back to the Pleistocene epoch since anything this big happened in the area, where the remains of 24 Columbian mammoths (Mammuthus columbi) were discovered and preserved. Scientists believe these lumbering forerunners to the modern Asian elephant died in at least three separate incidents, possibly flash flooding. Current topographical survey and soil analysis strongly recommended. More old bones await discovery!
6. Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute: Home of Texas’ national soft drink, concocted in 1885 for Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store fountain customers, Dr Pepper (no period!) was introduced to 20 million visitors at the 1904 World’s Fair and Exposition in St. Louis. What better to wash down Jo’s insanely popular cupcakes!
We need look back only to 1930 to find a time when Waco and Austin were similar in size. A mere 90 years from now they might well be again, by which time we’ll have dropped the cumbersome and difficult-to-spell “McLennan County” for “Magnolia County.” (Sorry, “Gaines County” is already taken).
What the Branch Davidians long destroyed for Waco and George W. Bush refused to do (never admitting that Crawford was a Waco suburb), the Gaineses have done in fewer than six years: Make Waco Great Again.
David Gallagher is a transplanted Texan, living and working in London and tweeting @TBoneGallager. David Schleicher practices law and blogs at ContranymTimes.com. This piece originally appeared in the Sunday, March 24, 2019 Waco Tribune-Herald, where the Davids serve on the Board of Contributors.