Great Escape

Your colorful, creative, high-profile cover story is especially valued now, when state parks, like all other aspects of state government, will soon face the reality of operating with fewer resources [“Into the Wild,” June 2011]. However, we do have one concern that amounts to a minor quibble when compared with our appreciation of the overall article. Your page about the unopened Chinati Mountains property is technically accurate, in that outfitter Angell Expeditions is a valued private partner with a concession contract to lead visitors into Big Bend Ranch State Park, and they can access the Chinati property as volunteers. However, it is misleading to give the impression that significant numbers of your readers can access that site as volunteers. Until such time as we have resources to open it, we are essentially caretaking the Chinati site with staff from adjacent Big Bend Ranch, which is wide-open for business and invites all comers.
Brent Leisure
Texas Parks and Wildlife

Motion (Picture) Sickness

Not to besmirch your parliament of experts, but to not even mention Kevin Reynolds’s 1985 tour de force, Fandango, is tantamount to urinating on the Alamo [“No Country for Bad Movies,” June 2011].
Alan Cable

I would have to make room for Places in the Heart, one of the finest of all Texas films.
Bill Durham
via email

Regarding the panel of experts, I hardly know where to begin. I’ll start with the facts. Expert Bloom is completely wrong when he mentions Rock Hudson “coldcocking the guy at the diner.” In fact Rock Hudson gets the shit beaten out of him, and what he gains is a moral, not a physical, victory. Expert Ramírez Berg is mistaken when he says that No Country for Old Men is set in El Paso. Two or three scenes take place there, true, but the heart of the film is the broken borderlands of Terrell County, three hundred miles or so downriver from El Paso.

Some other observations: I can’t imagine why the experts had to debate whether Giant should be included. Red River, Giant, Hud, and The Last Picture Show are givens. Then there’s the strange upside-down Texas exceptionalism that pops up throughout the experts’ opinions. Expert Killen says, for example, “Texas is so big . . . and there’s a hopelessness and an ennui . . . that leads to something like going on a Bonnie-and-Clyde-style rampage.” This is ridiculous on the face of it; murderous rampages have taken place all over this country and the world. Finally, Expert Rapp is exactly right when she argues on behalf of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. This film, along with Lone Star, should be on the list instead of Bonnie and Clyde and Chainsaw.
Don Graham

Cry Fowl

I am simply dumbfounded that a publication as intelligent as TEXAS MONTHLY would give voice to someone who breeds animals so they can be sacrificed for sport and then present him as some kind of legitimate businessman to boot [The Working Life, June 2011]! You fail to inform your readers that cockfighting has, in fact, been illegal in Texas for one hundred years, and it’s only through exploiting loopholes in the existing law that people like Jones stay in business. Further, I find Mr. Jones’s logic to be woefully inadequate.

He compares cockfighting to the Red River Shootout and boxing matches. He has completely failed to note the obvious difference: Football and boxing are sports actively chosen and engaged in by independent human beings who have the ability to leave the sport when they wish, whereas cockfighting is premised on human beings making money and finding entertainment in the physical suffering and subjugation of animals who have no power and no voice.

And may I ask, what in the world is convincing about saying cockfighting came over on the Mayflower? There are many outdated American practices and traditions that intelligent citizens have deemed unworthy in our modern culture. Cockfighting is one. And if it takes my urban lack of morality to see that, well, then I’d prefer to stay out of rural areas with their own special brand of morality, thank you very much.
Nancy U. Pollard

The Humane Society of the United States has been working with law enforcement officials for years to eliminate cockfighting in the Lone Star State. The federal government released information tying animal fighting to drug trafficking, and state law enforcement testified before the Legislature this session asking lawmakers to close loopholes in state law so that they are able to arrest spectators at these illegal fights.

Cockfighting, like dogfighting, is a blood sport with absolutely no socially redeemable value. It drags down Texas communities, both rural and urban. These animals are forced to fight to the death, and when they are finally ripped open, with their internal organs hanging outside their bodies, they are simply tossed aside to die slow, painful deaths.

Texas should follow the lead of bordering states and close loopholes that allow cockfighters, and game fowl breeders like Jones, to profit from animal cruelty.
Nicole Paquette
Humane Society of the United States

Graham Cracker

Wow. Don Graham is a gut merchant [Books, June 2011]. Perhaps West Texas cornpone isn’t literary, but the idea that “a boy don’t get to be a man with clean britches on” would be a useful social message nowadays. And then there’s that “rock-ribbed self-reliance” that Elmer Kelton touts. Graham is probably right. It wasn’t widespread in the West Texas I grew up in: All our neighbors took federal handouts. But my dad didn’t, even though we ate meat only about once a week. So maybe I can be forgiven for admiring him. And for loving a writer whose writing makes that kind of stand-up man a standout. 

John Holt
via email

Perhaps what made Elmer Kelton so beloved by West Texans was that he didn’t look down his nose at the work of others. Let’s see how many statues are erected to Don Graham.

Preston Lewis
San Angelo