With so great a host of believers around Matt and Kari Baker, it is tragic that no one saw the serious pain Kari felt or tried to seek professional help for her [“The Valley of the Shadow of Death,” March 2008]. It’s also tragic that Matt and Kari’s two little girls are left in the wake, to grow up without their loving mother. But possibly the biggest tragedy of all are the people Matt influenced who are now rejecting the word of God.
Susan Murphy

Sad Sack

You have to feel sad for folks like Mike Flynt [“Untitled Mike Flynt Project,” March 2008]. I have the utmost respect for his desire to go back to right a wrong, but the purgatory he put himself through, in my estimation, has all been for naught. His first move should have been to seek out and apologize to the young man he attacked back in ’71, but those who read this article will know that this would not be possible for Mr. Flynt. Not after his recollections of the events were told. Not after his recollections were compared with his teammates’. For me, the feel-good story turned into a sad documentary.
John T. Johnson III

Chairman of the Boards

The Wyatt McSpadden photo of the Stampede Dance Hall, in Big Spring, opened up a lovely conversation with my 81-year-old dad, Burl Dennis, who still lives in Big Spring [“Wyatt’s World,” March 2008].

My grandpa Floyd Dennis was good friends with Hoyle Nix and his brother, Ben. In 1954 Hoyle asked my grandpa to build a dance hall for him. My grandpa replied, “Hoyle, I’ll do it for you, but it’s a good thing you asked, because I wouldn’t build Ben an outhouse!” (Apparently, my grandpa didn’t appreciate the fact that Ben would sleep till noon!)

So, in 1954, Grandpa, with the help of Tom Johnson and a guy named Daniels, built the Stampede one board at a time. The original dance floor (now a bit worse for wear) is still there, and western swing is still alive and well in Big Spring, as Hoyle’s son, Jody, carries on the tradition at the Stampede.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the walk down memory lane.
Merlee Walter
Cedar Park

Home Economics

Antonya Nelson goes to great lengths to describe all the nice things she did for her housekeeper and her housekeeper’s family, on which she kept very careful score—the limo ride for her children, the help with government forms, and so on [“The Easier Life,” March 2008]. Yet the article smacks of noblesse oblige. All these are things that Nelson’s wealth and social position made possible for her, at the cost of no particular personal sacrifice or discomfort. In fact, when faced with the prospects of real discomfort, which would have resulted from taking someone less fortunate into her home, Nelson’s eloquent rationalization kept her from extending herself. She even admits she can’t stand having to step over all the heads of the desperate sleeping Mexicans on the border bridge and decides never to return for her party forays because the spectacle was distasteful to her.

We come to realize, as she closes her article, that nothing has changed—the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor (or poorer). This is, after all, the land of America, as those who wield power have remolded it more to their liking, and hers.
Ingrid Edisen

Holy Smokes!

Thank God Kinky’s back [“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes,” March 2008]! With due respect to Sarah Bird, let her spread her wings on another page. Give us the wire-haired sage.
Jimmy “K.T.” Kessler

Why isn’t Kinky Friedman running for president? He is 100 percent right on. I cannot wait until our government infringes on yet another “freedom” in the land of the free. Maybe SUVs are next on the government’s list, or how about guns?
Robert Rosa
via e-mail

I want to compliment Texas Monthly on its kindness and charitability. I wasn’t aware that a great magazine such as yours would donate that much advertising space under the guise of a column. Selling cigars while sharing his sophomoric views on government was just the kind of shtick that wore so thin during Mr. Friedman’s failed race for governor. If he wants to continue to be a shameless huckster, that’s his choice, but you shouldn’t allow him to do it on your dime.
Paul Burgess

While Kinky Friedman’s offbeat sense of humor is appreciated, we felt he missed the mark. Despite Mr. Friedman’s description of smoke-free laws as trivial, these laws protecting nonsmokers from secondhand smoke are among the most important public health measures of our generation. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in America and Texas, burning a trail of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses right through the middle of our families. Secondhand smoke delivers these same diseases to people who do not smoke. We agree with Mr. Friedman that freedom is of utmost importance, but the freedom we seek is for the more than 80 percent of Texans who do not smoke.

We would also like to clear up the common myth that cigars are somehow less harmful than cigarettes and a safer alternative. For decades, the American Cancer Society and other health organizations have battled the tobacco industry’s continual efforts to make false health claims. The truth is that cigars are no less deadly than any other tobacco product. In fact, one large cigar can contain as much tobacco as an entire pack of cigarettes and a hundred times more nicotine than a cigarette.

Despite the death toll and the tremendous burden to our society caused by tobacco, the tobacco industry’s marketing is a powerful lure, especially for the prime demographic of new first-time smokers: our country’s twelve-year-olds.

Until now, cigars were the vice of middle-aged men, but the age trend is now dropping to teenagers. One third of the twelve-year-olds who start smoking today will eventually die of cancer, heart disease, or other smoking-related illnesses. While Mr. Friedman’s claim is true that elderly survivors of smoking can be found, a 30 percent chance of suffering a painful death is too high to be the subject of a humor column.
Mark Clanton
Chief Medical Officer, High Plains Division
American Cancer Society