The legendary Tyrus Fain

My friend Tyrus Fain passed away today. He leaves behind the lovely Kate Fain, some grown up kids, and about thirty bazillion friends.

When I first met Ty he was a political consultant. Later when he moved to the Big Bend, he was the President of the Rio Grande Institute, doing his part to protect that great river. I first met him through then-Texas Land Commissioner Garry Mauro in 1991. Some of his other friends go back years further than that, perhaps all the way back to one of several Kennedy campaigns for President and/or US Senate, or even before.

I wouldn’t even know how or where to begin to describe Ty in a way that would do him justice. That’s why this is going to be a different kind of tribute, because Ty Fain was a different kind of man. So here’s the deal: there are so many stories about Ty Fain’s never-ending efforts to have fun, screw with Republicans, save the Rio Grande River, or otherwise be notable in some way, that no one person could know them all, much less begin to tell them. So I want to tell a couple of stories about Ty, but I want this tribute to be audience participation; those of you who knew Ty, please please PLEASE share your stories with the rest of the class, in the comments section. While it might not be particularly challenging to tell a great story about Ty, you might find it more challenging to think of one which can be told in mixed company. I know you’ll do your best.

Here are mine:

Ty loved to mess with Republicans. For some reason, he particularly loved screwing with Bush 41. George H.W. Bush was able to claim Texas residency in the 80’s only because he’d registered to vote using the address of a hotel room in Houston. So in 1988, in efforts to demonstrate to Ty’s fellow Texans the extent to which Bush wasn’t much of one, Ty and some friends rented that very hotel room in Houston, put out a bunch of bologna sandwiches, added a cardboard cut-out of Bush, invited the media, and had themselves a party. It got national news.

Ty was also completely absent-minded. He often told the story of how, when he was an advance man for Bobby Kennedy’s presidential campaign, he was advancing the next scheduled campaign stop after the one at which Kennedy was tragically killed. Ty was at that next event site preparing when they called to tell him the news. Ty was shell-shocked when he heard, and he jumped in his rental car, drove back to his hotel, packed his bag, took a cab to the airport, and returned to Washington.

Ty said it was a full six months later when one night, he bolted up out of a dead sleep in bed, suddenly remembering that he’d left that rental car, keys still in the ignition and the engine running, in front of his hotel somewhere in California. He called the rental car company, who upon hearing from him responded, “oh yes, Mr. Fain – we know all about you.” He claims to have been banned for life from renting from that company again.

Ty always offered a chilled shot of Patron tequila and great political war stories to anybody who came to visit he and Kate at their house in Marathon, Texas. Over the years I drank a lot of his liquor and listened to a lot of his stories. And I grew to love him and Kate (and also the tequila, come to think of it) more and more as time went by. I’m very sad that there will be no more visits with Ty.

The professional river guides on the Rio Grande always said that Ty Fain had a death wish. They said they often saw him do things in his kayak on that river that even they would never do. But he always emerged from the rapids on the other end of the run without a scratch. I imagine that Ty’s back floating on the river now, doing what he loved to do, where he loved to do it, pretty smugly happy with himself for leaving it all out on the field. He should be – he did.

Add your Ty Fain stories in the comments section so we can all enjoy ‘em, and so we can continue enjoying him. Meanwhile, I think it’s high time I had a chilled Patron while I fondly remember my old friend. Rest in peace, old scoundrel. You’ll never be forgotten.

 Update: apparently, settings in the comments section automatically correct “Ty” to “Thank you.” Despite the fact that is seems entirely appropriate, I hope I have changed the settings to disable this temporarily. I fear that the correction is distracting to the central message. Carry on.

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