This issue contains twenty essays and interviews in which Texas writers, performers, and even gubernatorial candidates Rick Perry and Bill White offer their reflections on the subject of “where I’m from.” The theme is universal; each of us is from somewhere, and our origins have shaped us in ways that we may not even realize. Texans thought they knew Lyndon Baines Johnson, but it wasn’t until Robert A. Caro published The Path to Power, the first volume of his epic biographical series about LBJ, that Texans came to know the Hill Country not just as a bucolic land of spring-fed rivers and summer camps but as “a trap baited with grass,” where men’s dreams were shattered by the fruitless effort to grow cotton out of limestone and where a son’s ambition began to take shape.
“Where I’m from” is a concept that is not defined solely by geography. It is also defined by time. Larry McMurtry did not contribute to these recollections, but his preface to In a Narrow Grave, a compilation of essays on Texas, first published in 1968, is an elegy for a mythic region at the moment of transition:
Before I was out of high school I realized I was witnessing the dying of a way of life—the rural, pastoral way of life… . I recognized, too, that the no longer open but still spacious range on which my ranching family had made its livelihood for two generations would not produce a livelihood for me or for my siblings and their kind. The cattle range had become the oil patch; the dozer cap replaced the Stetson almost overnight. The myth of the cowboy grew purer every year because there were so few actual cowboys left to contradict it.
McMurtry came of age at the precise moment that Texas ceased to be a rural