Two framed letters hang side by side in the main conference room at the offices of TEXAS MONTHLY, both of them written and signed by the magazine’s founder and former publisher, Mike Levy. The first is a note that prefaced the inaugural issue, in February 1973. The second is a follow-up published in the next issue. Aside from the obvious foundational importance of these documents, they were chosen to hang in the magazine’s inner sanctum because they illustrate well one of the most serious challenges faced by its staff over the past four decades: how to write about bluebonnets.
“Texas Monthly is a major effort in magazine journalism,” Mike’s initial note read. “We’re not competing with the vapid Sunday supplements with bluebonnets on their covers.” In case this message was unclear to anyone, the first issue was buttressed with a marketing campaign that posed a bold and impudent question: “Sick of Bluebonnets and Bum Steers? … Send us ten dollars and we’ll send you a damned good magazine about Texas. Monthly.”
The following month, the handful of readers who picked up the March issue of TEXAS MONTHLY found the second note, which addressed the reader response provoked by the magazine’s apparent hostility to the state flower. “We were getting what can charitably be termed ‘critical commentary’ even before our first issue was off the press,” Mike reported. “One gentleman from Dallas wrote to say that ‘we are not sick of bluebonnets, a roadside or field of which is just about the most beautiful sight in the world. Why would you think we are