The naysayers were much in voice leading up to last week’s Chamber of Commerce banquet. After months of rumors, gently fanned by executive director Victoria Dühring, few among us believed that Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey could actually be enticed to appear at a public function in Uvalde, even if it is his place of birth, and even if he has slipped in and out of town on numerous occasions through the years.
But suddenly there he was. And not only Matthew but his mother, Kay, and brother Mike “Rooster” McConaughey materialized on stage at the Event Center at the Uvalde Fairplex in front of almost 700 banquet goers. It wasn’t a drive by, either. The McConaugheys stuck with the crowd for the better part of an hour, reminiscing about their 16 years in Uvalde and answering questions from the audience.
With the crowd dressed to the nines for the chamber’s 100th anniversary, it felt like the Academy Awards and a comic routine rolled into one act. Matthew was witty and gracious. His mother – direct and charming – sat between her sons and acted as something of a referee, while Rooster was wound tighter than Dick’s hatband. With beer (after beer) in hand and cigar clinched between his teeth, he resembled a West Texas version of stand-up comic Ron White, who tends toward Scotch but is devastatingly funny.
The crowd soaked it up, creeping as close to the stage as manners would permit to record the scene with their phones. Some, like Ramon Castro and Annabell McNew, posed questions. Castro wanted to know when the McConaugheys would move back home and McNew, who is director of the Texas Hill Country River Region, asked about their favorite river. School district superintendent Hal Harrell told the McConaugheys that Kay had been his kindergarten teacher at St. Philip’s Episcopal School. Kay replied that Hal was a good student, and Matthew quipped that his mother was not a real teacher. Rooster said all those graduates might need to repeat kindergarten.
Matthew was born in Uvalde in 1969, but the family moved to Longview when he was 10. Rooster is better known to many around town because he arrived in Uvalde as an 8 year old and graduated from Uvalde High School. And Kay, who is now 88, was just drop-dead gorgeous, according to people who knew her then. Uvaldean Willie Edwards tells the story (not at the banquet) about giving her golf lessons and not knowing how to demonstrate the proper swing without touching her, which he did not trust himself to do.
In fact, Matthew allowed that his parents had been married and divorced three times (he was conceived after their third marriage) and that Kay killed their father, Jim, who was born in 1922. In her book, “I Amaze Myself,” published in 2008, Kay writes that Jim suffered a heart attack one morning in 1992 while the couple was making love. When the EMT’s attempted to cover the lifeless body with a sheet, Kay insisted they leave it off because she wanted to show off Jim’s “gift.” Small wonder that both Matthew and Rooster have turned into actors. There was plenty of family drama to draw on.
Sadly, or maybe it’s for the better as Uvalde is not big enough to hold the present day McConaughey family, they won’t be moving back. Kay told the chamber audience that family members are content where they are, she at Georgetown, Matthew in Austin – and all over the world – and Rooster in Midland, where he has made a fortune in the pipe business and hosted a reality television show entitled “West Texas Investors Club,” among other acting endeavors.
But the McConaugheys clearly love Uvalde and their connection to the people and places that have left them with scores of indelible memories.
“So many successful people came and learned and left this town and went out and kicked ass,” Rooster said. “This town is giving to people that live here.”
Finally, thank you, Victoria, for giving us a 100th anniversary celebration that will be nearly impossible to top and for teaching us skeptics to be a little more hopeful.