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Pride of Place

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Since Roy Bedichek's influential Adventures with a Texas Naturalist, no book has attempted to explore the uniqueness of Texas nature, or reflected the changes in the human landscape that have accelerated since Bedichek's time. Pride of Place updates Bedichek's discussion by acknowledging the increased urbanization and the loss of wildspace in today's state. It joins other recent collections of regional nature writing while demonstrating what makes Texas uniquely diverse. These fourteen essays are held together by the story of Texas pride, the sense that from West Texas to the Coastal Plains, we and the landscape are important and worthy of pride, if not downright bravado. This book addresses all the major regions of Texas. Beginning with Roy Bedichek's essay "Still Water," it includes Carol Cullar and Barbara "Barney" Nelson on the Rio Grande region of West Texas, John Graves's evocative "Kindred Spirits" on Central Texas, Joe Nick Patoski's celebration of Hill Country springs, Pete Gunter on the Piney Woods, David Taylor on North Texas, Gary Clark and Gerald Thurmond on the Coastal Plains, Ray Gonzales and Marian Haddad on El Paso, Stephen Harrigan and Wyman Meinzer on West Texas, and Naomi Shihab Nye on urban San Antonio. This anthology will appeal not only to those interested in regional history, natural history, and the environmental issues Texans face, but also to all who say gladly, "I'm from Texas."

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1. Roy Bedichek, “Still Water” from Adventures with a Texas Naturalist

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Chapter 1

Roy Bedichek

Still Water

Roy Bedichek (1878–1959) was the author of four books: Adventures with a Texas Naturalist (1947); Karankaway Country (1950); Educational

Competition: The Story of the University Interscholastic League in Texas

(1956); and posthumously The Sense of Smell (1960). His Adventures with a

Texas Naturalist is widely regarded as essential reading for those interested in Texana.

Joy shall be in the bird-lover’s heart over one new bird more than over ninety and nine already listed. If the newcomer is found to be nesting in territory well outside his usual breeding range, the event stirs the amateur still more deeply.

I say amateur, since the professional ornithologist through overindulgence tends to become insensible to this pleasure, or, in the manner now fashionable, conceals emotional reactions as bad form or as indicating untrustworthy observation. I sometimes think that we have become dominated by a cult of unemotionalism. We speak of “cold” scientific fact as if temperature had something to do with verity. We assume that strong feeling and sound judgment are incompatible, and regard with suspicion all facts which really excite us.

 

2. John Graves, “Kindred Spirits” from From a Limestone Ledge

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Chapter 2

John Graves

Kindred Spirits

John Graves lives near Glen Rose, Texas, on his four-hundred-acre farm. He is the author of several books; among them are Goodbye to a

River (1960), Hardscrabble (1974), From a Limestone Ledge (1977), and his recent memoir Myself and Strangers (2004). “Kindred Spirits” is taken from From a Limestone Ledge.

I have what started out as a canvas-covered wooden canoe, though with the years it has taken on some aluminum in the form of splinting along three or four fractured ribs, and this past spring I replaced its rotting cloth rind with resin-impregnated fiberglass. It is thus no longer the purely organic piece of handicraft that emerged from a workshop in

Maine some decades back. Nor do I use it more than occasionally these days, to run a day’s stretch of pretty river or just to get where fish may be.

Nevertheless I retain much fondness for it as a relic of a younger, looser, less settled time of life.

While readying its hull for the fiberglass I had to go over it inch by inch as it sat on sawhorses in the barn—removing the mahogany outwales and stripping off the old canvas, locating unevennesses in the surface of the thin cedar planking, sanding and filling and sanding again so that protuberances and pits would not mar the new shell or lessen its adhesion, and

 

3. Carol Cullar, “12 Variations on a Theme or Why I Live in West Texas”

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Chapter 3

Carol Cullar

12 Variations on a

Theme or Why I Live in

Southwest Texas

Carol Cullar is Executive Director of the Rio Bravo Nature Center

Foundation, Inc. in Eagle Pass, Texas. She holds the Rio Grande and its preservation/conservation dear to her heart. Both visual artist and writer, her most recent book, Maverick in the Chaparral: the Eagle Pass Poems, focuses on living on La Frontera and 26 years in the Tamaulipan Biotic Province of

Southwest Texas. The great-granddaughter of Robert Wilmeth Crossman

(poet, inventor, nephew and namesake of the R. W. Crossman who died in the

Alamo, US Marshall of the Oklahoma Territory, and cohort of Wyatt Earp),

Cullar credits her ancestor’s frontier spirit with her restless dissatisfaction with civilization and her determination to live on the Frontera in Southwest

Texas—or it could be pure-dee cussedness that has given her a love of Maverick

County. Cullar’s Texas roots run deep, but as a young woman, she took afternoon tea with Generalissimo de Santa Ana’s granddaughter and considers the dispute settled.

 

4. Pete Gunter, “A Sense of One Place as the Focus of Another: The Making of a Conservationist”

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Chapter 4

Pete Gunter

A Sense of One Place as the Focus of Another:

The Making of a

Conservationist

Pete A. Y. Gunter is past president of the Big Thicket Association and currently serves as Big Thicket Task Force Chairman of the Texas Committee on

Natural Resources. He grew up in Houston and Gainesville and has divided his time between writing on environmental issues, teaching philosophy, and writing about the relationship between philosophy and environmental ethics.

Among the products of this latter preoccupation are Texas Land Ethics (1997) with Max Oelschlaeger, plus numerous articles and reviews.

I have been haunted, while writing this paper, by Annie Dillard’s remarks concerning human perception in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. We see the world impressionistically, she admonishes, noting the green fringe of trees, the blue sky, a swatch of grass, a few human figures in the foreground or background. We feel at home in a world which we have constituted for ourselves out of a mixture of impressionistic gloss and sheer familiarity:

 

5. Barbara “Barney” Nelson, “That One-Eyed Hereford Muley” from The Wild and the Domestic

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Chapter 5

Barbara “Barney” Nelson

That One-Eyed

Hereford Muley

Barbara “Barney” Nelson has published six books, the most recent is

God’s Country or Devil’s Playground: The Best Nature Writing from the Big

Bend of Texas. In addition, her scholarly essays appear in three recent collections about Henry David Thoreau, Mary Austin, and Edward Abbey. She has also published numerous popular press essays, photographs, and poetry— the most recent is “My First Daughter was an Antelope” in Heart Shots: Women

Write About Hunting (edited by Mary Stange, Stackpole, 2003). Nelson is an associate professor of English at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Nelson’s work mixes the rural, agricultural voice with nature writing.

“I am interested in exploring my personal ecology.

I live from deer; this voice has been fed from deer.

I appreciate the fact that I am made out of the animal

I love.”

— Richard Nelson

I was sitting in a boring literature class one day, a shiny-faced, idealistic undergraduate, thinking about boys—only I had started calling them men. I was an Animal Science major, studying to become a ranch manager, or a cowboy’s wife, whichever came first.

 

6. Joe Nick Patoski, “Springs”

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Chapter 6

Joe Nick Patoski

Springs

Joe Nick Patoski lives, works, plays, and swims near the Hill Country village of Wimberley. He’s been writing about Texas and Texans for more than 35 years.

Of all the features that define the natural state of Texas, nothing speaks to me like springs do. As the source of water in its purest, most pristine form, springs are the basic building block of life. They present themselves in a manner as miraculous as birth itself, gestating in the womblike darkness of an aquifer deep underground until pressure percolates, pushes, and forces it up through cracks, fissures, and faults in the limestone cap until it bubbles, seeps, sometimes even gushes to the surface, magically turning everything around it lush and green. Springs feed creeks, streams, and rivers, and nourish and sustain plant and animal life. Springs are why

Texas has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years.

Compared to escarpments, aquifers, uplifts, domes, valley, mesas, sky islands, estuaries, and the other natural attributes that make Texas

 

7. Gary Clark, “Memories of a Prairie Chicken Dance”

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Chapter 7

Gary Clark

Memories of a Prairie

Chicken Dance

Gary Clark is a dean at North Harris College and author of “Wonders of Nature,” a weekly column in the Houston Chronicle. His writing has been published in a variety of state and national magazines including AAA

Journeys, Birds & Blooms, Birder’s World, Living Bird, Rivers, Texas Highways,

Texas Parks & Wildlife, Texas Wildlife, and Women in the Outdoors. Gary’s

first book, Texas Wildlife Portfolio (Farcountry Press, 2004) is available through major booksellers.

Gary has been active in the birding and environmental community for over 25 years. He founded the Piney Woods Wildlife Society in 1982 and founded the Texas Coast Rare Bird Alert in1983. He served as president of the Houston Audubon Society from 1989 to 1991 and purchased the North

American Rare Bird Alert (NARBA) for Houston Audubon in 1990. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory.

During his collegiate career, Gary has been a professor of marketing, a faculty senate president, a Teacher Excellence Award recipient, and the

 

8. Marian Haddad, “Wildflower. Stone.”

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Chapter 8

Marian Haddad

WILDFLOWER . STONE.

Marian Haddad is a native Texan, born and raised in the westernmost part of the state, in El Paso’s desert town nestled between the Franklins. After traveling and living for periods in Boston, Massachusetts; South Bend, Indiana; and in San Diego, California, she couldn’t stay away from Texas. Haddad currently and happily resides in San Antonio and adores the infusion of Mexican culture in this south central Texas city. One of her favorite pastimes is driving through Texas; one of her “most” favorite drives is the drive on I-10 to El

Paso. She shares some of her observations made along this drive, as well as the drive to the Texas coast, in the following essay. Among Haddad’s visiting writerships, workshop instruction, and poetry and creative non-fiction manuscript editing, she, of course, writes: her works-in-progress include a number of children’s books, a collection of essays dealing with her Syrian-immigrant family that resided/resides in El Paso’s bordertown, and two collections of poetry, one which deals with the landscapes and seascapes of Texas and

 

9. Wyman Meinzer, “Nature Writer”

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Chapter 8

Wyman Meinzer

Nature Writer

Wyman Meinzer has been a professional writer and photographer of

Texana for 25 years. He is the author/photographer of eighteen books since

1993 and is currently completing five more. His photographs have graced the covers of over 200 magazines. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2003 Star of Texas (along with John Graves) from the Gillespie County

Historical Society. He is also a faculty member at Texas Tech University in the Department of Mass Communication teaching Special Problems

Photography.

I have always admired the writing style of the pioneers and explorers from early day Texas in the voice of Marcy, Gallagher, and Kendall and although few if any contemporary authors employ such stylistic eloquence, the writers of yesteryear have impacted my writing and fascination with our wild and remote Texas for over 40 years.

It would be interesting to find evidence of my first creative written endeavor, perhaps having its birth in my preteen years, and for certain with a leaning to the outdoor genre. I have retained, however, some short stories from somewhat later years, I think from the tender age of about

 

10. Ray Gonzales, “Tortas Locas” from The Underground Heart

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Chapter 10

Ray Gonzales

Tortas Locas

Ray Gonzalez is the author of nine books of poetry. Turtle Pictures

(Arizona, 2000), a mixed-genre text, received the 2001 Minnesota Book

Award for Poetry. His poetry has appeared in the 1999, 2000, and 2003 editions of The Best American Poetry (Scribners) and The Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses 2000 (Pushcart Press). “Tortas Locas” is taken from his collection of essays, The Underground Heart: A Return to a Hidden Landscape

(Arizona, 2002), which received the 2003 Carr P. Collins/ Texas Institute of Letters Award for Best Book of Non-fiction, was named one of ten Best

Southwest Books of the Year by the Arizona Humanities Commission, named one of the Best Non-fiction Books of the Year by the Rocky Mountain

News, named a Minnesota Book Award Finalist in Memoir, and selected as a Book of the Month by the El Paso Public Library. His other non-fiction book is Memory Fever (University of Arizona Press, 1999), a memoir about growing up in the Southwest. He has written two collections of short stories,

 

11. Naomi Shihab Nye, “Home Address” from Never in a Hurry

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Chapter 11

Naomi Shihab Nye

Home Address

Naomi Shihab Nye’s seventh and most recent anthology, Is This Forever, or what? Poems & Paintings From Texas, came out in 2004. “Home Address” is from her collection Never in a Hurry: Essays on People and Places. She lives in San Antonio with her husband, photographer Michael Nye and their son. Her collection of poems 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle

East was a National Book Award finalist. Forthcoming in 2005 are A Maze Me

(poems for girls), Going Going (a novel for teens) and You and Yours (poems).

She is one of the many Texans who still believes in separation of church and state.

Yesterday we paid off the mortgage on our ninety-year-old white house on South Main Avenue. I drove from San Antonio to Austin with a cashier’s check in my purse and a receipt marked HAND-DELIVERED for the mortgage company to sign. I wanted to see that stamp marked

PAID IN FULL, to step back out the door into the sun and blink hard and take a full fine breath.

When I entered the marble lobby of the office building—cool and blank as any bank—beams of light were slanting through high windows onto the gleaming floor and the music playing over loudspeakers was the very same trumpet anthem I walked down the aisle to at our wedding

 

12. Gerald Thurmond, “Faith’s Place” from Crossroads: A Southern Culture Annual

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Chapter 12

Gerald Thurmond

Faith’s Place

Gerald Thurmond grew up in San Antonio, Texas. He attended Baylor

University and the University of Georgia and is a sociologist at Wofford

College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He has a fascination with all kinds of critters. He is an avid birder, he keeps snakes, and, as a sociologist, he is a professional people watcher. His essay “Midnight with Elvis” won the Hub

City Hardegree Creative Writing Contest for non-fiction and was published in Hub City Anthology II. He edited, with John Lane, The Woods Stretched for Miles: New Nature Writing from the South published by the University of Georgia Press. “Faith’s Place” was previously published in Crossroads: A

Southern Culture Annual from Mercer University Press.

The white-frame house seemed much the same, but the little town around it was slowly dying. Old Calvert Street was mostly empty of traffic, and several of the stores along it were boarded up or had that hopeless look that empty, dust streaked windows give. I had traveled over 1100 miles to be here. For twenty years I had come, but now it was different.

 

13. David Taylor, “Paddling the Urban Sprawl of North Texas”

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Chapter 13

David Taylor

Paddling the Urban

Sprawl of North Texas

David Taylor grew up in Lewisville, Texas, and returned to north-central

Texas in his mid-life. He has a beautiful daughter, a dog, and now has his own canoe; he tries to find activities combining all three. He edited this anthology.

Christmas holidays are for most a return. Whether that return is the ritual unpacking of decorations and the stories that follow, memories of a childhood Christmas, watching It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas

Story, or driving to visit family, the ghost of Christmas past pervades the

Yuletide season. My own has always been a return to north-central Texas, to my parents’ house. They live within eyeshot of the Lake Lewisville dam, and their neighbors across Mill Street are a small herd of longhorn which gawk and chew at the passing lake-goers.

At the time, I had lived in the southern Appalachians for almost ten years, first on the Tennessee side, then in South Carolina. I had grown accustomed to some color of seasons: winter, a definitive black and gray and dots of white in the high mountains; spring, full of a yellowish green and the fiery white of dogwoods; summer, still lush in cool rhododendron groves; and fall, oranges, scarlets, and yellows coat mountainsides fueled by what must be the poetics of a god somewhere. Such a god of seasons ignores north-central Texas, though; while spring is calculable

 

14. Stephen Harrigan, “What Texas Means to Me” from A Natural State

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Chapter 14

Stephen Harrigan

What Texas Means to Me

Stephen Harrigan writes fiction, journalism, and screenplays. He is the author of multiple novels and collections of essays. He and his family reside in Austin, and he teaches at UT’s Michener Center for Writers. “What Texas

Means to Me” is part of his collection A Natural State.

Lying in a feather bed, in the guest room of a friend’s two-hundredyear-old house in western Massachusetts, I suffered a lapse of faith in

Texas. I’m not sure what brought this crisis on. Perhaps it was simply the act of waking up, looking out the window at the syrup buckets hanging from the maple trunks, at the banked snow glistening in the sharp air, and realizing that Texas would never be that.

I could stand to live here, I thought. I would keep my cross-country skis propped by the front door, a bowl of apples on the kitchen table, a steady fire by which I would read during the dim winter nights.

But it was not just Massachusetts. The hard truth was that I was getting tired of Texas and was now able to imagine myself living in all sorts of places: on one of those minor Florida keys where a little strip of land containing a shopping center and a few houses counted as barely a riffle in a great sheet of translucent ocean; in an adobe house, even a fake adobe house, in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos; or perhaps in a city like

 

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