In some ways, Ben Ferguson has won the day. I am writing this post about him, and his listeners are blowing up my phone at work, many of them calling just to swear at me. Here’s what has happened:
For our Best Suburbs issue, I spent an afternoon in Rockwall to write a ditty about that fine burg. Two things struck me: first, the contrast between the gaudy, struggling Harbor development on the lake and the charm and bustle of the historic downtown; and, second, James Russell. Russell has cut hair in his tiny Hair Cut Place for a long time. Congressman Ralph Hall has been a customer for 20 years (which means he started going to Russell when he was 70). Before I drove back to Dallas, on a whim, I stopped in to get my head shaved by Russell — who shared his political views with me willingly and colorfully. From the story I wrote:
“I’ve been cutting Ralph Hall’s hair for 20 years, his kinfolk’s even longer,” he says, pointing to a framed picture of the congressman. “He’s a gentleman. That guy who beat him? He’s an asshole. All these assholes have moved in here. I had a better clientele 20 years ago, no assholes.”
Russell doesn’t say this with anger. He sounds more bemused. By the way, he thinks the chief of police is also an asshole.
The haircut was a good one and cost $10. The diatribe was even better, and it came free of charge.
So this morning I got an email from Ben Ferguson inviting me onto his show, which airs on WBAP. “Wanted to get you on my show to talk about the asshole problem in Rockwall,” Ferguson wrote. I told him I didn’t have much more to say. I went to Rockwall and got my hair cut. I suggested Ferguson try to book Russell, who I think would make a great guest (except for the fact that he doesn’t have a phone in his barbershop).
About two hours ago, the tweets started. Then the phone calls — to me, to Cristina, to our sales staff. Like I said, some folks were just calling to cuss and blow off talk-show generated steam. One woman accused me of being an “Obama lover.” I talked to a guy from Waco, though, who hung up with a much different notion of what has happened here after I explained to him that I thought Ferguson was twisting my words to gin up anger on the air, that all I did was quote a barber I found in Rockwall who feels a loyalty to Ralph Hall, that I had no dog in the hunt, and that I wasn’t trying to say anything negative about the Tea Party or the Rockwall chief of police. “Oh,” the caller from Waco said. “Thanks for explaining that.”
Ferguson seems to be enjoying the controversy and has said the invitation still stands to come on his show and explain myself. I’ve given him material to twist for one morning. I’m not inclined to give him more.