Winfrey Point Debate Stirs Up a Memory of a Blooming Genius

Categories: Schutze

SHZ_GetOffMyLawn_TitleImageV2.jpg
Of course I can't read about the ugly mess at the Dallas Arboretum without remembering Bobby Scott, my weird brilliant friend and enemy who patrolled in front of my house for a year muttering that he wanted to kill me. Then at the very end I visited him in the hospital and saw that, as I suspected, he still loved me. I can't remember the year of his death.

Bobby was an unmarried, unfriended, seldom-employed security guard in his mid and late 20s when I first knew him. He wandered around in empty lots behind commercial properties off Garland Road staring at the ground as if communicating with the dirt.

He was a genius. When he wasn't wandering, he was in the library teaching himself botany. He called me -- I was a columnist for The Dallas Times Herald -- because he wanted me to write a column about how stupid everybody was. And, you know, I did that three times a week anyway.

We wandered some empty lots together. I could see used car sales taking place across fences. Bobby could see wonder in the earth.

spring creek.jpg
Old-growth forest along Spring Creek in Garland -- Bobby Scott's legacy.
He told me he had discovered how native plants grow and interact in soil that has never been plowed. Bobby said he had discovered something no trained botanist believed existed at the time -- virgin undisturbed blackland prairie right in the nasty noisy midst of urban/suburban development.

Bobby is a long story. The end of his story is now called Spring Creek Forest -- a fragment of the many incredibly rare invaluable finds he made of virgin prairie and forest surrounded by used car lots and apartment buildings. There is a historical marker about him there. The city of Garland and a private friends group have done a heroic job of preserving some of his discoveries. Others have been destroyed.

He was crazy in a wonderful way. My favorite Bobby memory is of a very fancy high-society do of some kind at the Galleria shopping center to honor Lady Bird Johnson for her campaign sowing the highways of America with what she thought were "wildflowers."

I forget how I got myself in to it, let alone Bobby. But he went into a colorful rant -- he was never obscene -- at Lady Bird, telling her all the flowers she was spreading around the landscape were 17th and 18th century imports from China and that she couldn't tell a wildflower from a turnip.

Very serious security led him away by the elbow, of course, still ranting. I can't remember if I was led away or just followed, laughing.

Most of Bobby's life, sadly, was given over to bitter disputes with academic botanists, several of whom actually came to admire and respect him, persuaded he was right and his discoveries valid. Bobby suffered from diabetes he didn't take care of and the attendant mental challenges.

He wanted to kill me because I hadn't bailed him out of jail once. I didn't bail him out because he had proved himself a danger to his family.

Bobby was a brilliant man who understood plants and dirt so profoundly he could read all of time and history in them. His antagonists in life, real and imagined, were fancy people who saw plants as either food, weeds or decoration.

In last weekend's nasty showdown at the Dallas Arboretum, the most telling moment for me was when arboretum Dallas Park and Recreation Board chair Joan Walne -- nose very very high in the air -- sniffed that the lakeside field the arboretum wanted to mow and use for overflow car-parking was not a valuable patch of original prairie at all but a mere empty lot covered with noxious growth.

"They are weeds," she told WFAA-TV. "They are invasive weeds."

And there you have it. The dispute between arboretum and the defenders of Winfrey Point lays it all out in a pattern my late friend Bobby would have recognized in a flash.

The arboretum, a vast and glitzy showplace where people pay stiff ticket prices to see man-made plant shows, is a bastion of the botanical decorators, the fancy people, the tribe Bobby Scott believed, often quite unfairly, were his own enemies, not to mention enemies of the earth.

The people who want to save Winfrey Point will always be the Bobby Scott tribe for me, not because they're crazy like Bobby but because they can see and understand plants and the planet at a more profound level than the decorators.

The decorators are not lost. They can still come around. Fancy plant shows can serve as a kind of gateway for urban people who need to realize that non-plastic plants even exist in the first place.

But when I saw Walne on television sniffing that the field at Winfrey Point was to her an ugly place, the first face that came into my mind was Bobby's, leading me across a trash-strewn vacant lot in Garland that first day with his nose bent to the ground, me stumbling behind wondering why I hadn't gone to dental school so I could have a grown-up job.

Bobby Scott turned out to be so right. He saved us a wonderful window on prehistory, a place we can go to and walk with our own noses bent to the ground, just like him. It's so ironic that the Joan Walnes of the world think they're the ones who understand flowers, when the vastly more sophisticated view is at Winfrey Point.

Every once in a while in that last bitter year, a neighbor would say to me, "Do you know there's a homeless guy who walks in front of your house telling people he's going to kill you?"

I always asked for a detailed description. With great relief I would think, "OK, it's just Bobby. We haven't added any." I mean, I didn't want eight guys walking up and down in front of the house shaking their fists at the gables. I had to think of the family.

But Bobby all alone was a threat only to himself. He saw the planet so deeply but was so terribly lost on it. I sometimes peeked down on him from behind the blinds upstairs and prayed he could be rewarded for his contribution with just a moment of peace. And then he was.


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57 comments
WhiteRockLake
WhiteRockLake

The fight over Winfrey Point isfar from over. The latest documents discovered by Hal Barker leave a bad tastein our mouths, and reminds us of Mao Zedong’s slogan: "Man must conquerNature." Read the latest here, and browse the new documentation justreleased: http://white-rock-lake.blogspo... 

East Dallas Dad
East Dallas Dad

I've never really understood the appeal of the Arboretum. It looks nice enough I guess but I would much rather hike through some untouched tract of land and discover something beautiful and inspiring that wasn't planned and created by humans. The world needs more Bobby Scotts and fewer Joan Walnes. 

howl
howl

Could the Arboretum be any more blundering in their actions or dismissive of their obligation to their neighbors? I'm sure the irony has not escaped anyone that the catalyst for all of this was Las Vegas artist Dale Chihuly's FAKE FLOWERS. Well, they have a tiger by the tail now. I have lived in the area for 30 years and am proud of my neighbors and our neighborhood. In East Dallas, the Arboretum has a more entrenched and determined foe than they realize. The Arboretum may win the battle, but they will definitely lose the war. 

GO EAST DALLAS! DOWN WITH THE DALLAS ARBORETUM!

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

If the anti-progress folks in the area want to save these weeds, they can always just go pick them and replant them in their own yards.Then, instead of being a burden on taxpayers, they'll just be a burden on the homeowners.

The only thing they'll lose is their excuse for being outraged... over weeds.

Hal Barker
Hal Barker

Great story. You have perfected the art of communication....

Kim Pierce
Kim Pierce

Jim Schutze, you are a Dallas a Dallas treasure. Hope I can learn to write like you when I grow up. 

trannyntraining
trannyntraining

Bobby told me you liked being jerked off. Considering the comments below; I think you got your wish.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Very nicely done.  The fancy people may not have been Bobby's enemies but they sure look like enemies of the earth and the arboretum.

Steve T
Steve T

Our culture has a disease: Nature Deficit Disorder; we've forgoten that the economy is based on the ecosystem, not the other way around.

dt&ot
dt&ot

Jim, What a nice and honest tribute. Thanks for sharing.

Whiterock neighbor
Whiterock neighbor

I am worried that this is just a small part of the plan to swallow up the lake and make it a toll park. I am sure the developers want to make us pay to see a sunset over the lake or pay to run or walk with our families.  We just have to stop the Arboretum from taking over our beautiful lake.The Arboretum has always been limited in parking but forged ahead by not addressing the problem.Put a bright light on the park board and demand they correct THEIR problem and quit lying to us.We have thousands of neighbors that are really mad.Thank you to Representative Eric Johnson and Representative Robert Miklos for listening to us.When it comes time to vote for a person to represent me, I will support them. Where is Mr Sheets? Has he come forward to help us?

EveretteLeeDeGolyer
EveretteLeeDeGolyer

Go to google maps, zoom in, and look at the relationship between the current arboretum, Winfrey point, the houses in between, and the giant pile of dirt right next to the Arboretum. That pile of dirt was farmland 100 years ago, slowly wooded over. Arboretum has owned it forever. Zoom in and out to get the effect of wooded-dirt-wooded-dirt. That pile of dirt is going to be the Children's Adventure Garden. A "six flags of nature", and huge money-maker. They need the parking garage to handle the huge influx of visitors they'll have. There's literally nothing like this park in the world. With all of this money, you'd think that they would figure out a better way to park people. It wouldn't surprise me if they were slowly buying up all of the land from there to Emerald Isle Dr...

T Michelle Connally
T Michelle Connally

Its too bad they do not use the original parking lot for Valet Only and set up a system with DART buses to people move from a nearby shopping center parking lot, then give the DART users a discount on the entry fee into the Arboretum. This would resolve all issues and bring back respect to the Arboretum, I cannot believe they will destroy Native Grasslands for a parking lot to look at Flowers that need human assistance. So sad, so ignorant... 

CindyS
CindyS

Thank you, Jim. Sad and beautiful.

realtor
realtor

it is like all the realtors that ran all the small business owners out of downtown because they weren't pretty enough.  now downtown is mostly empty retail, a few liquor stores, and several pretty chains.  

Harvey
Harvey

Now I know why I call you "Shootz" when I talk about you to the likes of Wilonsky.  You are a loose cannon, a wonderfully gifted wordsmith cannon......

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

I feel like I know Bobby just from your writing this article.  Excellent!

Big D
Big D

How much of this is Really artfuly pitched NIMBY? With afew modifications, it sounds like the same pitch opponents of moderate income housing used up in North Dallas several years ago.

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Jim, you and Jacquelyn Flood from DMN have created two pieces of written art in both DO and DMN.Check her article out. Both brilliantly written and get right down to the core of the issue. Sadly, DMN's Editorial board has suddenly got the 'wet nails' syndrome and still cannot decide how to speak to the possible destruction scheduled for Winfrey Point.

As for Joan Walne, she just recently completed her Dallas Gas Drilling Task Force stint where she and Margaret Keliher sided  with the gas industry and said that, 'yes, we should drill in the Trinity River floodplain and parklands since nothing else is going on down there.' Yes, the same Joan married to the guy running the 'money pit' known as The State Fair.

Joan was appointed to her Park Board job by Jerry Allen, then shoved up to the Task Force by lap dog, Dave Neumann. She is one of the most ill qualified, uneducated, uninformed, people to be on the Task Force or Park Board and should be replaced immediately. The woman is a menace to the Dallas environment.

So today, on the eve of the Trinity Toll Road meeting, we along with Texas Campaign for the Environment invite you to see the Dallas City Hall drawn map of what is to come to the Trinity River Floodplains and Park lands. The diagonal black lines show you what was leased to the industry, and yet this is only ONE company. There are more, and we wait for City Hall to give us the other map. It took about a month of cajoling to get this, via a council member and a State Representative.

http://dallasdrilling.wordpres...

The City of Dallas has lost it's soul of what it used to be and the more we find out, the sadder it becomes.God bless Bobby, we need more like him today and everyday of the year.

MushMouth1
MushMouth1

Beautiful and poignant. Well done Jim.

RTGolden
RTGolden

I've often wondered why I continue to read Jim's posts here at UP.  I'm often in violent disagreement with him, and I'm more than slightly disturbed when I find myself agreeing with him.This piece, and the one you wrote at Christmas (or Saturnalia, as the case may be), are why I will always read your posts.  Of all the different news tidbits, journal entries, emails, blog posts and other assorted sot I read on a daily basis, by Jim and anyone else, these gems are by far the best.  When Mr. Schutze is writing about people, common people, and their interaction with each other and the world, he is at the top of his game.  There is none finer.Excellent work, young man, excellent work.

KS
KS

What a great piece of writing! Thank you on so many levels.

JS
JS

I knew I had to read this when even Rogers gives it two thumbs up. And he was right. Now I am checking to make sure it isn't supposed to sleet tonight.

Lee
Lee

Joan Walne is not board chair for the Dallas Arboretum. She is chair of the Parks & Recreation board.

Texasdb
Texasdb

Sometimes I feel like killing you too. But this piece got me. Good job Schutze. I wish I had known Bobby, thanks for telling me about him.

Lakewooder
Lakewooder

JimS, every now and then, you hit one out of the park - no pun intended. Very nicely done.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Jim has our backs and is pointing the Gun at the folks who are always following US .

Carol Bell-Walton
Carol Bell-Walton

This piece gave me goosebumps! Once you get past the guy pointing a gun at you, it is a very touching story.

Cjbwalton
Cjbwalton

Goosebumps here - what an incredible essay!

kittb
kittb

 Guessing you think they should get rid of that un-natural lake too?

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

I just cant wrap my head around the idea of someone who *honestly* doesn't understand why some people might like a flower garden.To say it's just not natural enough - well that's just bonkers.What next - complaining that our water's just not *wet* enough.There's just no pleasing some people.  So I hope the Arboretum goes ahead and builds their parking lot - and doesn't waste it's time trying to please the unpleasable.

Harvey
Harvey

I'm always amused by the concept that someone who wants to preserve what has already been preserved is somehow against progress. Parking over a park grassland is not progress, especially when such great effort has been made - and rewarded - to protect it in the first place.  Call it a 'fix', but nothing more.

Something the 'pro-growth' (to use the same logic) people need to understand is that they are the one's who don't get it and are the backward minds in this conversation. Growth has its place.  Apparently it's wherever the dollar will travel.  

engmofo
engmofo

"Who's that Trip,Trap,Tripping ,over my bridge........"

guest
guest

I really miss Alan Vaught. Sheets seems to blend into the woodwork a lot

guest
guest

There is just a thin line of trees between the proposed children's park and those residences. How will the Arboretum address the multitude of loud children shrieking with joy from their fun time?   Will the noise be heard in the peaceful parts of  the Arboretum   . Won't that be super noisy and disturb the peace inside for the patrons and outside for the neighbors?

Lyonheart80
Lyonheart80

You know, they could have forgone any pissing and moaning if they had built a garage where they put the surface employee parking. But don't expect anyone in government to be bright enough to think of something like that.

(Conversely, people probably would have bitched about a 4 or 5 story parking garage too so who knows).

billmarvel
billmarvel

Somewhere between hating flowers and contempt for blackland prairie, there's GOT to be a middle ground. 

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

The parking lot isn't being made just for the fun of building parking lots.  It's not a conspiracy by oil companies to pollute White Rock or Marxists coming to turn us all into Muslims.

The people who want this parking lot are die-hard, fully credentialed, socialist, liberal tree-huggers.  They want this parking lot so that people can enjoy nature, not to kill nature.

This is in STARK contrast to the folks who oppose the parking lot - people who want taxpayers to maintain a weed garden, but who are unwilling to cultivate those weeds in their own yards and at their own expense.

You wanna protect itchie algee and mlkweed?  Fine by me.  But don't ask me to fund it.  I like flowers.

Sanders Kaufman
Sanders Kaufman

Putting a parking lot next to the Arboretum IS middle ground.

billmarvel
billmarvel

Stop.You're giving flowers a bad name.

billmarvel
billmarvel

Dad,The Arboretum is not about nature. It's about horticulture, the cultivation of plants and flowers, one of the oldest of human activities. Only city folks who don't really have to deal with "real" nature all that much go off on these romantic mind-voyages. Love nature? Leave those cars and computers behind and go out and live in it a couple years.

East Dallas Dad
East Dallas Dad

The arboretum is only nature for people that are too lazy to make the effort to find and travel to real nature.

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