I HAVE TO PROTEST your exclusion of what I consider one of the most magnificently beautiful areas of Texas from your “Take a Hike” article: the Panhandle [October 2006]. My father grew up in Vega, the county seat of Oldham County, 35 miles west of Amarillo. Anyone but a real Texan might consider this area filled with absolutely nothing. To me, it was the home of the biggest sky in the world, where you could see almost literally forever. There’s nothing more breathtaking than watching a violent thunder-and-lightning storm while you stand miles away in beaming sunlight on a golden plain of grama grass or walking along the seemingly endless plain, only to have it open into the Canadian River Breaks, a paradise of red rock canyons, mesas, creeks, and draws, with Native American artifacts by the thousands to be found by even the most casual searcher. I am sure that if you never walk this great and glorious expanse of Texas, you’ll never completely know what our state is all about.
Brentwood, New Hampshire

Farewell to Arms

OH, HOW I LOVED “Great Guns,” by John Graves [October 2006]. It brought back sweet memories of growing up in the farm-ranch town of Stamford, out near Abilene, in the forties and early fifties. My dad, a small-business man, was an avid hunter. I pestered him constantly about wanting a shotgun as I tagged along with him and fellow hunters after dove, quail, and duck. I was his “retriever,” even to the point of wading after downed ducks in some ranch “tank” in icy-cold weather. My dreams came true when I received a Winchester single-shot .22 rifle for Christmas when I was twelve and then, finally, a Mossberg 20-gauge shotgun when I was thirteen. I will never forget those winter days of walking out in pastures for quail and maybe a cottontail or two (which my mother hated to see me bring home). I wasn’t the greatest shot in the world, but just to be out on some secluded Texas ranch and feeling a good shotgun in your hands and watching a good dog work was pure pleasure not forgotten, reserved now for those of us who will appreciate Graves’s excellent writing. My old Mossberg stands handy for protection, but essentially my guns are now quiet and cold in a closet.

ANY PIECE BY JOHN Graves is a treasure, and this is no exception. His writing remains as sharp and expressive as when he penned Goodbye to a River, which I reread every year or so when I find myself pining for my Texas roots.

I still have my grandfather’s old Winchester Model 97 pump, which I dug out of the back of the closet after reading “Great Guns” and recalled the stories my father told about it. Thanks for the memories, Mr. Graves.
Grayslake, Illinois

Odd Man Out

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE at learning from Michael Ennis that the most recent gubernatorial contest was a four-way race [“All Shook Up,” October 2006]. As the fifth candidate in that four-way race, I was somewhat distressed to learn that neither I nor any of the 80,000 Texans who petitioned to put the Libertarian party on the ballot actually existed. C’mon, y’all, does Michael Ennis even live in Texas?
Libertarian candidate for governor

Private Matters

SARAH BIRD HELPED ME discover that it is possible to laugh and cry at the same time [“Going Private,” October 2006]. I’ve been on the same roller-coaster ride through the education system. Public schools have amazing people doing their very best to bail out the ocean with a teaspoon, and private schools are in the realm of religions that seem unwilling to acknowledge any other religion. I’m sure there will be some indignant huffing and puffing about Sarah’s column, but I’m delighted by the chance to laugh about a situation that generally makes me want to cry.

IF SARAH BIRD hadn’t already been one of my favorite writers, this one sealed the deal. My son (apparently the same age as Baby Man) spent one year at the grammar school she describes—because everyone said it was the best in the district, you see. (Boy, do I remember how heartbroken he was comparing his handmade Japanese garden with all of those amazing Asian fantasies with their running water and twinkly lights—and personally crafted by superior second-grade classmates, of course.)

Not Ready to Make Nice

I WAS NOT AWARE A VOTE was taken that put you in charge of inviting the Dixie Chicks to return to Texas [Reporter, Topic A, October 2006]. The response that folks are giving them by not buying tickets to their concerts should tell you something about the way we feel.

IS IT TIME to welcome back the Dixie Chicks? An analogy: The Dixie Chicks are to Texas what Jane Fonda is to Vietnam vets, an open wound that may never heal.

GOOD MUSIC ASIDE, don’t you lecture Houstonians for having our own opinion about what is acceptable. Just like the Chicks had the right to follow their heart so too do the people of Houston. If you (and others) think it is acceptable to pay your hard-earned money to purchase Chicks albums and concert tickets, have a good time. But for those of us who believe that the Chicks brought this all on themselves, please allow us our rights without all of your guilt thrown into the mix.

IT’S EASY TO BLAME the anti-fans for the Dixie Chicks’ not keeping their original Texas tour dates. However, the band’s stick-it-to-the-man tenacity should also be questioned. I believe the Dixie Chicks ladies are a great band who have shown the public what they’re made of. They just couldn’t take it when the public showed them what it was made of. If the public (fans and anti-fans included) is expected to forgive and forget the past, why is it that the Dixie Chicks can’t seem to do the same? To quote their most recent hit: “Forgive sounds good. Forget. I don’t think I could.”