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THANKS TO PAUL BURKA AND photographer Andrew Yates for capturing the story of the Stoners [“Home on the Range,” by Paul Burka, October 1996] with compassion and respect. As a 57-year-old ranch wife trying to keep my ranch going with my son (the fifth generation farmer-rancher on our land) and his wife, the story hit close to home. My husband of 32 years, Ralph, died last December, leaving me, born and raised on Long Island, New York, with land and cattle he had spent his life improving. Then the drought started, cattle prices were sickeningly low, grain and hay were scarce and sky-high, and nothing looked promising. Forced to make changes, we formed a partnership to sell our beef directly to customers, rather than at auction, as we had for years. Our work load has increased tremendously, but none of us is willing to give up without trying to preserve what Ralph worked so hard to build. My 2-year-old grandson is sharing a way of life with his parents that offers tremendous chances to grow and learn—and value what life is all about.
AFTER WATCHING GIL STONER In team ropings all over the Southwest, I took him my dear bay gelding, which I had decided to sell. Amy, Gil, and Red were immediately like old friends to me. They are genuine, honest, caring folks. Not only did Gil find excellent new owners for my rope horse, he and his family allowed me the chance to observe and appreciate some of the best things about down-home Texas.
D. Denee Thomas
WHAT MR. BURKA CHRONICLED was not the story of just one ranch but a story being played out on a number of ranches and farms across Texas. Through four generations the Stoners have shown love and respect for their land. They’ve worked hard to hang on to it. Drought, low cattle prices, high feed costs, and dwindling returns are just a few of the challenges this family has had to overcome through the years. And for every obstacle they tackle, rest assured another waits on the horizon. Despite these growing challenges, the Stoners press on. Why? Like countless other families working from dawn till dusk plowing their fields or tending their livestock, the Stoners just want a chance to make a decent living from the land. Rising costs, growing demands, increasing government regulation, and changing times will make the challenge that much tougher in the years ahead. However, few of the families will choose to walk away. We should all be thankful for that—since it’s the farmers and ranchers of this state who work hard every day to produce the food on our tables and the clothes on our backs.
Commissioner Texas Department of Agriculture, Austin
YOUR ARTICLE “A SHRIMP TALE” [October 1996] gives the bay-shrimping industry a story-book image, but the fact remains that it is senseless to harvest millions of pounds of a juvenile species for a mere fraction of its potential value. The juvenile shrimp, spawned offshore in late winter, move into the bays seeking temporary protection in the nursery areas. It is while they are in these nurseries that they are harvested by bay shrimpers. The shrimp are small—one hundred shrimp to a pound—and have an approximate value of less than $1 per pound. Within six to eight weeks (coinciding with the two-hundred-mile shrimping closure in the Gulf), these shrimp can triple in size and weight. At the same time, their value increases even more because the larger shrimp are worth substantially more money per pound. In other words, each million pounds of shrimp caught prematurely in the bays brings perhaps $1 million to the Texas economy. Left to mature, the same million pounds would become three million pounds with a value in excess of $5 million.
Western Seafood Company, Freeport
GARY CARTWRIGHT’S ARTICLE “FUNNY PAPERS” [Media, October 1996] argues that Jaime Woodson’s obituary, which noted his military service (gunner on a B17 ï¬‚ying out of England), his writing for The New Yorker, his participation in the screenplays for various motion pictures (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Night of the Iguana, and others), and his friendships with various notables (Elizabeth Taylor, William Holden, and others) was all a fraud. This is not true. While none of Jaime’s friends ever thought that he was the lead writer or the sole creative genius on any of these movies, there was no doubt that he worked as a writer in the film industry and almost certainly worked—to one extent or another—on the named pictures. It is interesting to note that neither Mr. Cartwright nor any of his associates saw fit to speak with Jaime’s former wife to whom he was married while he was in the service; she has knowledge of his having been shot down and spending weeks convalescing in a hospital in England. She could speak about his friendships with screen personalities (for example, Elizabeth Taylor and Ginger Rogers). Most important, the article was completely misdirected. Jaime Woodson was a private, scholarly type individual who was well read and traveled extensively. He was a gentleman to whom good manners and correct grammar were not only natural but also sources of fun. He was a contributor to many social causes and to every animal protection organization known to man. He had friends all over the world.
Allan K. Butcher
The editors reply: Gary Cartwright showed the obituary to be fraudulent, not “all a fraud,” as Mr. Butcher contends. Mr. Woodson’s military record is only partially available, which is acknowledged, because of the destruction of military records by fire. Cartwright restates much of the obituary without comment for readers to make their own judgment. But Woodson’s claims of authorship of The Catcher in the Rye and of a writing career under an alias at The New Yorker were easily refuted. A fact checker or an editor would be reluctant to rely on a subject’s ex-spouse to be a source of record when written records are unavailable; neither would either base a verification on hearsay (what most anecdotes amount to). The anecdote about Elizabeth Taylor was not dismissed as untrue but repeated for the fascinating possibility that it might be true.
IN THE FIFTIES THE DALLAS TIMES HERALD sponsored the white elephant contest, not the rival Dallas Morning News, and the winner was reader “D. M. Swen,” who reported ownership of a real white elephant’s remains. The culprit was a News sportswriter, Hamilton B. “Tex” Maule (not columnist Paul Crume), who admitted the hoax by spelling in reverse the “News” part of the Dallas Morning News.
James Chambliss Gresham
REGARDING “HE’S NUDE, DUDE!” [Reporter, “Low Talk,” October 1996]—what’s the issue here? The article says the shots of Matthew McConaughey were not pornographic and were genitalia-free. I was Matthew’s first-grade teacher. He attended St. Philip’s Episcopal School in Uvalde from pre-kindergarten through third grade. He was a delight to have in our school. I would give my next month’s social security check to have the glossy of Matthew that you showed in the October issue.