Looking at your Willie cover, I see him praying, my wife sees him stoned, and my daughter sees him reflecting on a long, well-lived life. It is truly a work of art.
James Jolley

Twenty-four hours after literally being stopped in my tracks by its impact, I’m still left speechless by your cover.
John E. Midgette

Yeehaw! That cover cranks (that’s “rocks” with a country twist)! If there is a hall of fame for magazine covers, this one deserves to be in it!
Rick McKinney
via e-mail

As predictable as the sun rising in the east, Texas Monthly has paid another tribute to its favorite icon, Willie Nelson [“‘Willie’s God! Willie’s God! We Love Willie!’” May 2008]. Willie may have created the tipping point that changed country music forever in the late sixties and seventies, producing a fresh new sound beyond the ubiquitous three-chord style so common up to that point, but after Red Headed Stranger, arguably his seminal contribution to the music world, he jumped the shark. His music developed a sameness that made it indistinguishable. He still tours, but now he just plays his guitar and “talks” the lyrics to songs he once sang with such beauty. Recently, he has been seen performing in Europe with the likes of Snoop Dogg. Sadly, Texas doesn’t need this. Please put this to rest once and for all.
Fred Mecklenburg

A Mountain’s Due

You have my sincere thanks for the in-depth story on Jerry Patterson and the Christmas Mountains [“This Land Is His Land,” May 2008]. From what I knew about the issue from local news, I could not imagine why Patterson appeared to be so insensitive and closed-minded. And yet part of me knew that we probably weren’t hearing the whole story. Sure enough, as S. C. Gwynne shows, the decision of whether to sell the Christmas Mountains (and to whom) wasn’t quite as simple as the sound bites made it appear. I understand now that Patterson’s approach is not just a butt-headed, money-focused one, and I’m inclined to trust whatever decision he comes to. Plus, he sounds like a real hoot of a character who is open and honest about his own opinions—unusual in any political climate.
Jo Virgil

Grave Concerns

I found Mr. Cartwright’s history of the Texas State Cemetery a bit lacking and the racial undertone throughout somewhat disturbing [“Remains of the Day,” May 2008]. The innuendo that this hallowed ground was established as a Confederate memorial or bastion of Anglo-American superiority is a stretch. The site was founded by abolitionist Andrew J. Hamilton as a final resting place for General Edward Burleson and nothing more. Later, as provisional governor of Texas during Reconstruction, Hamilton ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, which ended American slavery. No self-respecting Confederate cemetery would be placed on land with such a liberal pall, although an unofficial section might be set aside for rebel soldiers. During the burial ground’s first fifty years, it was more a pauper’s cemetery for politicians who happened to expire in office and elderly inmates of the two nearby Confederate homes. Few citizens wanted to be buried in the small, roadless cemetery until Stephen F. Austin was reinterred there, in 1910. It’s ironic that while many of the older residents of the historic site probably wished to be buried in their family plots across Texas, the rich and famous are now dying to get into it.
Sloan Rodgers

Code Names

I was reading your finished piece on Farmers Branch and wanted to thank you for your interest in our city [“No Place Like Home,” May 2008]. There is one very specific inaccuracy I need to bring to your attention. Your story makes reference to the nine-thousand-plus code citations issued last year in our city of about eight thousand single-family homes. That is not correct. For our code enforcement officers, compliance is the ultimate goal. To that end, they issued some nine thousand notices of violation (that is not a citation). Of those, according to building official Jim Olk, less than 2 percent wind up as citations.
Tom Bryson
Director of Communications and Marketing
City of Farmers Branch

Editors’ Note: When contacted during the course of reporting, Mr. Bryson confirmed the number but did not make a distinction between citations and violations. We’ve since updated the story on our Web site.

Government 101

Excuse me, Margaret Spellings. While your expertise may have qualified you to become Secretary of Education, you seem to misunderstand a basic tenet of the way this country is supposed to work [Reporter, Texas Monthly Talks, May 2008]. Your phraseology—“Federal policy works like this: If you want to take our money, these are the conditions . . .”—echoes a frustratingly familiar refrain, spewed by those who perpetuate the myth that “the government” is handing out gifts when it issues grants, refunds, and rebates or sends any type of funding back to the states. Anything that comes back to the taxpayer, or to the city or state governments or schools, isn’t coming from your private little pot of gold; it is, literally, our own money coming back to us.
Ellen Stevenson

Stinky Friedman

Years ago I knew a cowboy in Big Bend country. If he heard a joke or a story that wasn’t funny to him, he’d roar and say, “Now, men, that’s about as funny as cat poop in the church punch bowl.” I wish he were alive to have read the Kinky story [“The Four Questions,” May 2008].
Mike Cusack
Willow City

Color Theory

Come on, Burka. Your analysis of the overwhelming Democratic turnout for the primary missed only the most obvious reason for such a disparity: that the GOP race was already over and there was no need for Republicans to even show up, unless they were going to cross over and vote for Hillary to keep the Democratikremec uncivil war going on [Behind the Lines, “Almost Blue,” May 2008]. I swear, sometimes I think your name is really Paul Begala.
Mark Wheeler