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WHAT A WONDERFUL, HONEST look at Willie Nelson [“Willie at 65,” April 1998]. None of us has had a perfect life, but it seems Willie takes the punches and holds his head high. I truly admire him.
IT SURE WAS GOOD to see Willie Nelson on the April cover and to read such an insightful article on this Texas icon. Willie and Texas are synonymous; his fans are countless. I’ve been one since the early seventies, listening to KEXL-FM in San Antonio. Willie has been a big attraction at the Western Idaho Fair in Boise, and the April issue will be passed around to his many fans up here.
WILLIE AT 65” WOULD BE more aptly titled “Fear and Loathing on the Pedernales With Gary Cartwright.” In his interview with Willie Nelson, we learn nothing new about Willie. Surely with an artist possessing as much diversity, talent, and history as Willie, you’d think that Mr. Cartwright would find something interesting to write about. Instead, we learn that Gary and Willie are old friends, that Gary once sang onstage with Willie (who hasn’t?), that Gary got married at Austin’s Texas Chili Parlor, and that Gary and Willie seem to smoke a lot of pot when they’re together. Leave the “Hi, Willie. How ya doin’?” stories for USA Today’s Life section and next time tell us something we don’t know.
Los Angeles, California
Gary Cartwright replies: I didn’t inhale.
IMAGINE MY SURPRISE—IN THE age of political correctness—an article on Uppity Revisionists versus Creaky Traditionalists that is actually balanced and fair [“Forget the Alamo,” April 1998]. I have only two quibbles. I regret there was no mention of the finest work of Texas history I’ve ever read: Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman, by J. Evetts Haley. Haley gives us the total package: heroic subject, tumultuous times, graceful prose. And there was also no acknowledgment of Elmer Kelton’s 1995 collection, My Kind of Heroes, in which he addresses the issues raised by “Forget the Alamo” with characteristic insight and wit.
Interestingly, Kelton is an unreconstructed traditionalist whose fiction finds mythic heroism in exactly the sort of hard-pressed everyday folks celebrated by the revisionists. Could it be that Kelton’s fair-minded blend of sensibilities is the answer? Why can’t we simply include T. R. Fehrenbach, Haley, and David Montejano on our reading lists? If the revisionists don’t begrudge us Lone Starry—eyed romantics the right to remember the Alamo, I guarantee we can clear some shelf space for their insights into the social, economic, and political dynamics of Texas’ past.
Westlake Village, California
WHAT MOST MULTICULTURALists attempt to do amounts to the same—nihilism. They trash the figures in history who possessed the vision, who originated the strategies, who crafted the nitty-gritty of the plans, who delivered the impassioned speeches, who quietly led by example, who inspired and motivated the soldiers to march, to sacrifice, to do, and to die. Today’s deconstructionists choose to glorify the followers, who most certainly deserve credit in passing, but who were not truly responsible for the development of culture and history. Without heroes, without leaders of varied ethnicities and backgrounds, without legend, without myth, the “little guy” never could have brought about the superior freedom, economic opportunity, and education Texas enjoys today.
THE FIRST THING OUR YOUNG people want to know about our nation’s history is: Who were the heroes and what did they do? Yet teaching about heroes today is scorned by the Race, Class, and Gender scholars as “triumphalism,” “right-wing male capture of history,” and “narrow boosterism.” Underlying this is a hostility toward the “elite,” Western tradition, and capitalism. As a consequence, our children are cheated. The stories of the Alamo, San Jacinto, the Angel of Goliad, Travis’ letter from the Alamo, Juan Seguín, La Salle, Baron de Bastrop, Lorenzo de Zavala, and Clara Driscoll go untold. Stories such as these are the cultural glue that binds us together as one people. Our children enjoy an unparalleled legacy of freedom and opportunity that comes from they know not where, paid for in blood, sweat, and tears by men and women whose names they barely know, or—if they do know them—they know them from the Race, Class, and Gender scholars as racists, sexists, or imperialists.
B. Rice Aston
IT’S JUST SWELL THAT EX-COP turned drug addict turned convict turned novelist Kim Wozencraft can turn her life around and wind up in the pages of Texas Monthly nineteen years after her troubles on the Tyler Police Department, but as one of the reporters who wrote about her saga, I find her attitudes as expressed in her article vacuous at best [“The Needle and the Damage Done,” April 1998].
Ms. Wozencraft may have been naive, and yes, she quite likely lost her perspective at some point during the drug investigations, but the fact remains that she gave in to the dark side of the drug probe and became that which she had sworn to defeat. She was clearly no ingenue swept up by forces beyond her control and then forced to suffer for acts not her own. And, most importantly, she knew that she, her partner, and the drug investigations were out of control; she knew where she could get help, but she pressed on. It doesn’t matter that the people she and her partner were investigating were, in fact, prime candidates for incarceration—they were then and probably remain so today—but she broke the rules; she knew she broke the rules; she knew at the time why she was breaking the rules, yet she continued with the cases nonetheless.
Ms. Wozencraft is right that our efforts in fighting the drug war are largely ineffectual and that something different needs to be done, but her detailing of what’s wrong with our law enforcement and criminal justice systems is tantamount to O. J. Simpson’s writing a treatise on marriage counseling. It’s clear to me that today, as it was back then, Ms. Wozencraft still thinks others are to blame for her troubles. That just ain’t so.
Former police and investigative reporter, Longview Morning Journal
The Tooth of The Matter
MANCE LIPSCOMB’S DENTURES WERE special because they were made by a dentist who loved him and his music [Texas Primer, April 1998]. They were not “extravagant,” because they were paid for by his coming to Cameron and playing for me and my friends. I had to make him a second set because, Mance said, “Someone stole my teeth while I was in Kennedy. You know, that big cold country on top of the USA.”
Editor’s note: In the photograph accompanying “Whodunit?” [Texas Monthly Reporter, May 1998], Alex Bickley was misidentified as Charles Mayhew, Sr. Texas Monthly regrets the error.