(Images from the Twenty-fifth anniversary issue are not available online.)
Thousands of photographs have appeared in the pages of Texas Monthly since the magazine debuted 25 years ago. Narrowing them down to the hundred best images was tougher than a Texas Ranger. We wanted a fair reflection of the subjects that the magazine’s writers have covered since 1973 as well as of the various photographers whose work illuminated the articles.
Once the winnowing was through, the pictures fell naturally into three sections, which we labeled Home and Heritage, Fame and Fortune, and Life and Death. This opening section celebrates Texas’ strongest cultural ties: those to the land and legend of the West, the historical truth and mythos that give us our feeling of specialness. Most modern Texans are far removed from the cowboy and the country, but as the following 33 photos prove, they cherish it still.
The number on each picture is not a ranking of quality but strictly a device to permit easy cross-reference to the attached article. The stories, which begin at the end of each photographic portfolio, include outtakes, snapshots, and other behind-the-scenes vignettes that put the reader on the other side of the photograph and the photographer on the other side of the lens.
Images from the Twenty-fifth anniversary issue are not available online.
The Stories Behind the Pictures
IT HAS BECOME ONE OF TEXAS MONTHLY’S most beloved and resonating images: that of the six-foot-five, unyielding sentinel of the West, our eternal Texas Ranger. The image is fraught with irony, however. The subject of this photograph, Joaquin Jackson (along with several other veteran Rangers), had quit the elite law enforcement corps in disgust over its politically correct hiring practices and its growing timidity as a crime-fighting outfit. The reality beneath the myth was not so pretty, in other words. Yet to us Texans, the notion of the silent, strapping serpent-slayer meting out swift and sure justice in our raggedy Garden of Eden remains irresistible.
Jackson is himself an irresistible character, with a drawling but agile wit and a fondness for pricey cigars and top-grade tequila. He fears no one except God and his wife, Shirley, a pint-size Alpine middle school counselor whose voice—“Joaquin, get in the kitchen and start marinating those fajitas!”—sounds like the definitive crack of a bullwhip and produces an equivalent effect. I have heard many sad stories about retired Rangers, but none such will be told about this man. Jackson handles security for several West Texas ranchers, has done similar work on movie sets (twice landing small acting roles), and otherwise hacks his way across the region’s golf courses when he’s not autographing posters of himself. Anytime he wants to run for sheriff of Brewster County, the job is his. I suspect he’s having too much fun to consider it.
The unseen character in the Texas Rangers cover image is another favorite of mine. Dan Winters is, even by photographers’ standards, a manic and twisted soul. He looks like a burly skinhead, except that he smiles a lot and has no tattoos that I know of. Winters cut an odd figure in Alpine. Inexplicably, Joaquin Jackson took to him and later invited him back for javelina hunting (“C’mon, Dan. Shoot that son of a bitch!”). At the end of a long session in the desert, Winters was driving them back to town when a highway trooper stopped him for speeding. The photographer broke into a sweat: He thought he had a warrant out for an incident in Austin (minor, yet best left undiscussed). “Hold on,” the retired Ranger said to Winters and stepped out of the car. Winters agonized while Jackson and the trooper chewed the fat for several minutes. Eventually, Jackson returned to the passenger seat. “Hoof it,” he told Winters. “Shirley’s gonna chew me up if I’m home late.” Robert Draper
Tall Texan by Windy Drum
Waco, “Windy’s City” September 1993
“WACO IS BLESSED WITH A LOT OF PHOTOGRAPHIC HISTORY,” says James Jasek, an amateur archivist who has collected more than 100,000 images of local interest, including the extensive work of commercial photographer Lavern “Windy” Drum, who died in 1988. Tens of thousands of Drum’s shots captured the beauty queens, hamburger stands, holiday parades, and other fifties icons of the all-American town. “Windy started shooting in Waco in 1947, when he went to work for Jimmie Willis, another photographer in the city,” Jasek recalls. “Jimmie’s wife remarked he worked so fast he moved like the wind. That’s how he got his name.
“He was a very accomplished photographer, very intelligent, very good in the darkroom. He shot pictures like a professional, with the eye of an amateur, because if he saw something he was interested in, he’d shoot it—it didn’t matter if he could sell it. Unfortunately, he didn’t keep very good records. Once he took a picture, he was done with it. He didn’t write down information. I wish I’d talked to him about his negatives before he passed away.”
Fortunately, this photograph does have some documentation. Drum marked the negative “newspaper,” meaning he sold the shot to one of Waco’s dailies (there were two in 1957), which ran the photograph next to copy noting the grand opening of the Westview Shopping Center. After the image was reprinted in Texas Monthly in September 1993, reader Beverly Hammond McCalmont wrote a letter to the magazine, recalling that as a ten-year-old, she’d walked over to the new shopping center against her mother’s wishes. After her mother recognized her in the newspaper the next day (she’s standing to the right of the tall cowboy), Beverly got in big trouble. Joe Nick Patoski
Cowgirl Ann Holland Daugherty by William Coupon
Gage Holland Ranch, Alpine, “In Praise of Cowgirls” November 1987
“I’VE WORKED WITH A LOT OF SUBCULTURES around the world,” says William Coupon, who has shot photographic essays of such indigenous populations as the Turkish Kurds and Australian