Storer Rowley
January 21, 1986

''Good fences make good neighbors.''

Robert Frost, ''Mending Wall'' DATELINE: DALLAS

Kenny Bob Parsons is out to stop the ''Californication of Texas,'' his term for the heavy migration of outsiders to the Lone Star State. ''U.S. out of Texas'' is his motto and he wants ''damn Yankees'' to go home.

To preserve ''truth, justice and the Texan way,'' Parsons, 38, a financially-strapped Texas xenophobe, intends to start construction this year on the Great Wall of Texas, or part of it.

''To keep out the Mongol hordes,'' he said, China built a wall and Texas should do the same--only bigger and longer, in keeping with the Texas mystique --encircling the state along its 3,449 miles of land border.

His fantasy has struck a responsive chord in the state expected to supplant New York as the nation`s second most populous by 1990. A surprising number of Texans, and non-Texans, are intrigued. Some brick companies here and Texas masons have expressed an interest.

At $10 million and 9 million bricks a mile, Parsons figures, it would take $34.5 billion and 31 billion bricks to stretch a wall 40 feet high and 40 feet wide around all of Texas except the Gulf shore.

That`s more than twice the size of the Great Wall of China, which is over 1,400 miles long, 20-plus feet high and 20 feet wide. Like China`s wall, the Texas version probably won`t ever keep out invaders. Unlike China`s wall, odds are it won`t ever reach serious proportions.

''Everybody is skeptical to start with,'' said Parsons, founder and head honcho, his real title, of the fast-growing Great Wall of Texas Society, which gives out local whimsy and ceremonial bricks for its $18.36 charter membership fee.

''It`s a natural reaction when I pose the possibility that there could be a wall built around Texas, people say that it`s a bunch of hooey. Of course, give me five minutes with them and they`re asking how they`re going to get their in-laws in and out from Oklahoma.''

Parsons is trying to put together a group of investors and he`s negotiating now for a $2.8 million, 539-acre parcel of land for the first section along Int. Hwy. 35 just north of Gainesville, overlooking the Red River and the Oklahoma border.

Groundbreaking is scheduled for Sept. 26-28, he boasted, along with the society`s First Annual Chili Cook-Off and the laying of a cornerstone containing a dead armadillo and records by country singer Willie Nelson.

''The difference between a Yankee and a damn Yankee,'' Parsons told a visitor to his Dallas home recently, ''is a Yankee comes down as a tourist and a damn Yankee comes with a U-Haul and stays.''

Since Parsons started the society in December, 1981, more than 3,300 members have joined, 2,500 of them in the last year, from 44 states and nine countries, and he hopes that number will continue increasing. He has raised $35,000 for the project and spent twice that on it.

''I`m not a nut. Well, I`m a bit of a nut,'' he mused, his kitchen, backyard and garage packed with nearly 10,000 bricks. ''I`ve been called everything from a Communist to a Nazi. Many people think I`m small-minded, but I don`t think that population is progress.''

Citing Texas historian T.R. Fehrenbach, Parsons called ''alarming''

statistics that show by 1990, at the present rate of influx from all sides, 50 percent of white Texans will be first-generation Yankees and 70 percent of all the people in Texas will speak Spanish.

In an interview, Fehrenbach suggested there is ''a historical basis'' for the ''half-serious, half-comic'' great wall society which goes beyond xenophobic reactions to recent Sunbelt migrations.

''There has long been a feeling in Texas of resistance to national pressure,'' he said. ''Much of the consciousness of modern Texas has been shaped by federal interference and resentment has grown.

''This is behind why almost every Texan, when he hears about the great wall, first kind of smiles, and then underneath, it kind of scratches a little itch.'' Fehrenbach noted that ''there are some polls showing definite concerns about overcrowding.''

Ironically, it has taken outside interest to bolster the society`s goals, which now include financing the wall through tourism. ''I would like it if Northern tourists would stop and buy memberships,'' Parsons said.

''And we`re going to hand them a brick and walk them over about 50 yards and make them lay the brick and put a bumper sticker on their car saying they did. Thereby, have the Yankee tourists build the wall for us.

''What we want to do is put a Texas Rangers museum in the wall, have the Daughters of the Alamo come up with a lineage type of museum, put in a Southwest regional art gallery, put a Wild West town up there and stage gunfights. Maybe a golf course too, and the Great Wall of Texas Society clubhouse.''

Reaction has been varied. Patricia Paolello of Arlington, Tex., wrote in a letter to the Dallas Times Herald, ''Remember, the Civil War is over and the `damn Yankees` won! Let (Parsons) move to China with the rest of the communistic people.''

Parsons wrote back, ''It occurred to me that damn Yankees may be a communist plot.''

One of six society members in Illinois, Chicago attorney Mary Kay Schick, 26, of Des Plaines, said her brick makes ''a good paperweight'' and that club members ''can do whatever they want as long as they don`t put red flags on top of the wall.''

The Lone Star Cafe in New York City, which symbolically seceded from New York and was annexed by Texas this year to mark the 150th anniversary of Texas independence, keeps its brick over the bar.

Parsons acknowledged that his project started, and remains, ''tongue-in-cheek.'' But he said he wants to start construction because ''it symbolizes the spirit of Texas. This thing is not really meant to offend anybody. It`s meant to make Texans higher on themselves, if that`s possible.''

Gene Autry sang a song about fencing in Texas--''I`m Going to Build a Big Fence Around Texas''--during its 1936 centennial celebration. Parsons got his idea when he penned a song of his own about a great wall here and a friend told him: ''Forget the song. Build the wall.''

''This could be the best idea since secession,'' said one official with the Texas Sesquicentennial Commission, but the wary commission has not sanctioned the great wall as an official event of Texas`s year-long 150th birthday bash.

Parsons writes business management computer programs to pay his bills, and he`s $16,000 in debt. ''I don`t have enough money to buy a new car,'' he said. ''I am a poor boy who has created a monster. I`m not in this to martyr myself and die a poor man.''



When the ancient Chinese wanted to protect themselves from invading hordes, they built the Great Wall.

Kenny Bob Parsons of Dallas wants to protect his homeland from the hordes of ''foreign-thinking'' Yankees who prefer white wine to Lone Star beer. And Kenny Bob Parsons is planning his own wall, a Great Wall of Texas.

''Our forefathers risked life and limb to protect and preserve this Edenesque land,'' Mr. Parsons says. ''The time has come to stand up and tell the world of our concerns for the future of this great republic.''

More than a few Texans have stood up to join him. The Great Wall of Texas Society, founded by Mr. Parsons four years ago, has attracted 2,500 members and raised $35,000 for construction of a wall around the 3,449 miles of the land border of Texas. This would be more than twice the length of the Chinese Wall, ''because everything's big in Texas,'' Mr. Parsons said. It would be 40 feet high and 40 feet wide, on the order of the Chinese wall.

He Has a Land Offer

A North Texas land cartel has agreed to donate a piece of land on the Texas-Oklahoma border for the first stretch, which Mr. Parsons hopes to begin in April. A host of Texas-oriented organizations, including the Texas Rangers law-enforcement agency, are considering putting shops and museums into the vaults of the wall.

An architect in Richardson is working on designing a wall of bricks without using steel or wood framing. And the Texas Institute of Masons has offered its services for the actual laying of the 31 billion bricks it is estimated would be required to fence in the state, not counting the stretch along the Gulf of Mexico, which Mr. Parsons decided last year to leave open for the sake of trade and saving bricks.

''It's the type of a project that could only happen in Texas,'' Mr. Parsons says. ''You couldn't build a Great Wall of Rhode Island. I don't think you could build a Great Wall of Nebraska.''

A Song-Writing Failure

Four years ago Mr. Parsons was writing business management programs for computers and trying to break into the music business with a weathered-cowboy-sings-the-praises-of-Texas song called ''The Great Wall of Texas.'' But the idea of a wall met with more approval than the song, so Mr. Parsons is in the wall-building business.

With an office in Dallas's World Trade Center and a staff of three, Mr. Parsons has begun a marketing drive for 100,000 members by the end of the state's Sesquicentennial Celebration next year.

Partly because of doubt that the project will actually get under way, the state has not officially responded to Mr. Parsons's efforts. The Sesquicentennial Commission has so far not endorsed the wall, although it did offer to declare the bricks the official bricks of the 150th birthday celebration and one program officer called it the ''best idea since Secession.''

Of the 2,500 people who have already joined, only 700 live in Texas. The rest are from around the United States and Norway, Japan, England and France. ''There are lots of relocated Texans,'' Mr. Parsons says.

Each Gets Official Brick

Everyone seems to have a personal reason for paying $15 to receive an official brick and a membership certificate. Some oil companies have purchased bulk memberships to give away as gifts. The Lone Star Cafe in New York joined and displays its brick over the bar. A Chicagoan recently sent Mr. Parsons an application with a note reading: ''I think a wall around Texas is a wonderful idea. Maybe it will keep all of you Texans down there in the state.''

In part because of his success with ''foreigners,'' Mr. Parsons has softened his rhetoric. ''Yankees are not evil in themselves,'' he says. ''After all, Stephen F. Austin was one. The real menace is those Yankees who want to change our way of life.''

Visionary Hoping to Push Fellow Texans to the Wall
Ann Herold


Kenny Bob Parsons has a dream. In this vision he sees 3,617 miles of brick wall defining the borders of the great state of Texas, the wall towering to a height of 40 feet and well nigh impenetrable at a thickness of 40 feet. Parsons calls his vision the Great Wall of Texas and he sees it as “a symbol of the spirit of Texas, or an example of the limitless horizons that we have as Texans.” Parsons, who markets long-distance telephone services and pens songs on the side “to keep sane,” has already formed the Great Wall of Texas Society in Dallas, with 3,700 members. At 9 million bricks a mile, the wall, which would exclude the Texas coastline “for free trade purposes,” would take more than 32 billion bricks to finish the job. There has been some concern that the wall could prove something of a roadblock to relations with the rest of the nation. “We have folks that are real concerned about how they are going to get their in-laws in from Oklahoma. All I can say is we’ve already come up with our own ‘green cards,’ ” he said.

--When temperatures in Vancouver, British Columbia, soared into the upper 90s, even the polar bears and penguins had enough sense to head for the shade. But it took sprinklers and a heavy dousing for keepers at a Canadian zoo to force their kangaroo population to pack up their pouches and come in out of the searing noontime sun. “The ‘roos just sit there in the sun and pant when all they have to do is move into the shade,” said Larry Lesage, curator at the Stanley Park Zoo. “They just can’t figure it out. We were going around lifting them bodily into the shade until somebody got the bright idea of a water sprinkler. Really, with all respect to the Australians, those animals aren’t too bright.” Meanwhile, the penguins and polar bears are beating the heat by just spending more time in the water, Lesage said.

--A woman who left $2.3 million to the government of Brazil to help pay the country’s $111-billion foreign debt probably figured her donation would at least make a sizable dent. Would you believe a small crack? The Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper has estimated that the generosity of Ruth Mariano da Rocha, who died last month, should pay for two hours worth of interest payments. Even making this modest contribution could be a problem. The Central Bank said creditors wanted hard currency, not cruzados. And the newspaper said the will was also being challenged by relatives of the woman, who was a farmer in the southern part of the country.




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