As soon as the little girl was old enough to understand (and she was old enough very young; at three and a half she was not only reading adult books but could speak fluent Spanish), Stevenson began telling her stories— wonderful stories— about the history of the United States, and of Texas— and of Greece and Rome. After she started school, on days when snow or ice made the roads impassable and she couldn’t get to school, he and Teeney would take over her education themselves, reading to her. And when Jane was nine, Coke and Teeney started showing Jane history for herself. They had read her the accounts of the Alamo, of course, and of the battles of San Jacinto and Goliad and Sabine Pass, and they took her to all those sites, but they also ranged farther afield. They took her to see the Oregon Trail, reading Parkman’s The Oregon Trail as they drove; the three of them followed the trails of Lewis and Clark. “And many of the other Western trails, too, trails we never hear of,” Teeney recalls. “Coke knew all the trails.” There was the Revolution and the Founding Fathers, and there were trips to Mount Vernon and Monticello, and there was the Civil War, and all the battlefields that made up part of the history that Coke Stevenson loved. By the time Jane was a teenager, she had been taken by her mother and father to every one of the forty-eight states, and to several provinces of Canada, also. And there was a trip to a place nearer home. Coming home from school one evening when she was eleven, Jane told her father and mother that her class had begun studying how the state government worked. Coke took her to Austin so she could see it work for herself; once again, there was the whisper in the halls of the Capitol, “Coke Stevenson’s here,” and people came out of their offices into the halls to see a tall, erect old man holding by the hand a skinny little girl in pigtails.The little girl was Jane Stevenson Murr Chandler, who died in 2010. I can't find an obituary for her, and I wonder what she did with her life. Perhaps she lived in quiet obscurity, endlessly reading history, walking the great trails, visiting the battlefields and landmarks.
We were talking just a few days ago about parents who travel with children, and the subject was more the way parents these days take pride in keeping up an adventurous travel program even after their children are born, how they'd like to jet to Europe, baby on board, and are a bit ashamed when they resort to resorts where one lolls about by a pool or on the beach. That looks so dismal and pathetic compared to what Stevenson did for Jane — did with Jane, because what he did was only possible because he loved reading history so much and he really believed in something about America.