“The Whole Thing Just Rolled Over and Lay Down–Like a Big Cow”

I read a passage in a book that I’m reading that made me laugh out loud on the treadmill. It’s a book called The Big Rich, which chronicles the great fortunes made and lost by four famous Texas oil men. The first of the big rich to buy a serious yacht was Houston’s Big John Mecom.

He purchased the same 315-foot ship in which Franklin Roosevelt had fished alongside [oil tycoon] Sid Richardson and Clint Murchison [ditto] in 1937, renaming it the Nourmahal. He had owned it barely three months when it caught fire at its berth in Texas City and sank. “The whole thing rolled over and lay down like a big cow,” the Texas City fire chief observed.

The more refined wildcatters—there were a few—started art collections. Alger Meadows of Dallas began buying paintings on his vacations in Europe, and dreamed that some day he would build and stock a Texas version of the Prado. He donated many paintings to Southern Methodist University and then in 1964, went on a tear, buying fifteen Dufys, seven Modligianis, three Matisses, two Bonnards, a Chagall, eight Derains, a Gaugin and a Picasso.

Then, just as Meadows was contemplating building the Texas Prado, an assessor judged them all fake. He spent years replacing everyone with authentic versions.