Behold, there was a sign. Verily I say to you, it was a sign, right there off Interstate 35, beside the peaceful water of the Brazos, downstream from the Suspension Bridge, upstream from Baylor University.

And the sign said:

“Howard Johnson.”


Yes, and the sign appeared while all the world’s eyes were trained on Waco. It is no coincidence. It was foretold. I foretold it.

Let us clear up one thing. I do not claim to be a prophet. I am but prophecy’s vessel.

I forecast Howard Johnson’s coming in this very space, in a column Nov. 12, 1991. And some of you doubted me.

You shouldn’t have. It was guaranteed from the historic moment that the people of Waco saw another sign: golden arches.

But first, we must go back to the beginning. It all started with Adam and Eve, and a Dairy Queen. For the presence of a Dairy Queen begat a Piggly Wiggly, and a Piggly Wiggly begat a Woolworth. And from Woolworth came Montgomery Ward and Sears, and so on. After a lot of begetting, in 1961 Waco got Texas’ first enclosed mall: Lake Air, which begat Richland in 1980.

But no event has had the commercial or cosmic significance of the one that occurred in 1972. That’s when Waco got it first McDonald’s on 1225 N. Valley Mills. For it is true that one McDonald’s starts a chain reaction.

Waco now has three McDonald’s, not to mention all the major chains twice over.

The list

This was guaranteed. I knew this, and reported it, because I had in my possession a lost, a secret list. It came from the Office of Guaranteed Economic Trends, Progressions and Somesuch (OGETPS).

At the time a new Black-Eyed Pea was moving into town. I advised, referring to my OGETPS list, that a Chili’s would be next. Bingo.

Now, I know you may want to know what other chain restaurants were contained on that list, but they’re a done deal, trust me.

What’s more important are the other chain reactions predicted in that column. For instance, after it gets Neiman Marcus and Macy’s, as it will, Waco will have Galleria III.

And after it gets its National Football League franchise, it will acquire Universal Studios and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Don’t sweat it.

UT coming here

The University of Texas moves to Waco sometime after the turn of the century, along with the Ann Richards Presidential Library.

Sometime after Waco hosts the Olympic Games in 2012, things really get serious. When Disneyland falls into the sea in the Big One, Waco becomes its new home.

The people of Waco may have wondered why all the nation’s press organizations have been here in recent days. Actually, the reason was all foretold. According to the OGETPS list, Waco will become the nation’s broadcasting hub. Rockefeller Center. CBS. NBC. ABC. CNN. The networks have just been here scouting out downtown property.

The same goes for the Department of Treasury and the FBI. They’ll be here permanently, according to OGETPS, along with the Pentagon and the Smithsonian Institution.

By now you can guess what comes next. The White House. The Supreme Court. The U.S. Capitol. The United Nations. Orange Juliius.

Are we prepared to host the International Supreme Council of Governments? According to the list, we have no choice. It is predestined. And when the Intergalactic Congress and Defense Structure opens headquarters here, Waco will be, officially, the center of the universe.

Prepare for your destiny, Waco. Howard Johnson has come.

John Young’s column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

Read the Tribune-Herald's 7-part investigative series on the inner workings of the Branch Davidians. Hours after Part 2 appeared in print, the ATF raided the group's compound.

Read the Tribune-Herald’s account of the ATF raid on the Branch Davidian compound on Feb. 28, 1993. Four ATF agents and six in the compound were killed in the gunfight.

Read the daily news accounts of the 51-day siege at the Branch Davidian compound near Elk, which began Feb. 28 and lasted until April.

April 19 and beyond: FBI agents began inserting canisters of tear gas into the Branch Davidian compound in the early morning hours. By noon, it was on fire.

Federal officials left the compound site in late May 1993. As identifications of bodies continued, questions about the survivors, the compound and the cult itself began to emerge.

As the world began to take a critical look back at the events and legal proceedings continue, the ATF's bombshell report forces a shakeup at the top after the raid gone "tragically wrong."

In 1994, the surviving Davidians went on trial in San Antonio. Over six weeks, more than 140 witnesses testified, with the verdict coming just two days prior to the anniversary of the ATF raid.

The Rodenville shootout and the 1988 trial, the end of the world in 1959 and more stories from deep in the Trib archives.