November 2009 Issue

bon fire football memorial feature
On the Cover

Ring of Fire

On November 18, 1999, at 2:42 a.m., the most passionately observed collegiate tradition in Texas—if not the world—came crashing down. Nearly sixty people were on top of the Texas A&M Bonfire when the million-pound structure collapsed, killing twelve, wounding dozens more, and eventually leading to the suspension of the ninety-year-old ritual. Now, ten years later, on what would have been Bonfire’s centennial, the Aggies celebrate the history, relive the tragedy, and wrestle over what happens next.


Below the Surface

In 1996 a powerful South Texas ranching clan accused ExxonMobil of sabotaging wells on the family’s property. Thirteen years, millions of dollars in legal fees, and one state Supreme Court opinion later, the biggest oil field feud of its time is still raging.


Gone to New York

Bud Shrake’s letters to friends back in Texas during his years in New York show the late novelist in all his ribald, freewheeling glory. And never more alive.


Newspaper Days

Once upon a time, Molly Ivins was just a kid from River Oaks with an internship at the Houston Chronicle. Her time there set her on the path to becoming the most famous firebrand in Texas.

Seeing Red

One year after President Obama’s election, what does the world look like in the county that voted against him more overwhelmingly than any other?


Street Smarts

Downtown Llano

Handmade crafts, homey cafes, and cowboy couture make this Hill Country hamlet a browser’s paradise.

Bob Schneider

The 44-year-old Austin rocker has fronted many bands, but it was on the success of his 2000 solo album, Lonelyland, that he rose to national fame. His latest CD, Lovely Creatures (Kirtland), was just released.You’re the son of an opera singer. Yes, but my dad’s now retired. He was

Author Interview

Steven L. Davis

Readers who know J. Frank Dobie only as a wizened old author on the pages of their English textbooks may not recognize the vibrant and rebellious figure who emerges from the pages of J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind. The biography, which seeks to revive Dobie’s fading literary legacy,

Book Review

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After

The proposition at the heart of The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After, Steven M. Gillon’s examination of the immediate aftermath of President John F. Kennedy’s death, in Dallas, is that Lyndon B. Johnson’s actions during his first day in office foreshadowed the high and low points of

Book Review

Peter & Max

Former Texan Bill Willingham has taken his long-running Fables comic book series to a new medium and new heights with Peter & Max, his first novel. As in his Fables works, he cleverly reimagines fairy tale and nursery rhyme figures (think Snow White and Little Boy Blue) living

How to Build a Día de los Muertos Altar

How to Build a Día de los Muertos Altar

Every November 2, known as the Day of the Dead or All Souls’ Day, Hispanics across the Southwest transform grave sites, offices, and corners of their homes into vibrant memorials for their deceased loved ones by assembling multitiered ofrendas, or altars. “The day is devoted to the departed, and an

Randy Goode, Artificial Inseminator

Goode grew up on a ranch in Damon, where he now runs an artificial insemination business. He travels the country collecting DNA for a U.S. Department of Agriculture research project on mad cow disease.Back in the seventies, my dad learned to artificially inseminate cows by reading a book and using


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Fundamental Arguments

On October 26, the first FLDS criminal trial in Texas begins. What legal strategies remain for the defense?

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Aggie Muster

By the time Overland’s design to build the Bonfire Memorial was chosen, Bob Shemwell and his team had eighteen months to create a budget, hammer out the portals, create an underground support system, and immortalize twelve kids.

Pat's Pick

Bailey’s Prime Plus

To paraphrase H. L. Mencken, no one ever went broke overestimating the appetite of Texans for red meat. It doesn’t seem to matter how many steakhouses there are in our fair state, there’s always room for one more. And so it was that a month ago I found myself

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Finding Texas at the Film Festival

Texas doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time. But at this year’s Austin Film Festival, two smaller films seemed to capture the spirit of the Lone Star State.

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Getting Lost

Reviews of two films, The Messenger and How I Got Lost, which premiered at the Austin Film Festival.

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Warning Shot

Texas parents have the choice to opt their children out of school vaccination requirements based on “reasons of conscience.” But what about the other kids around them?


Editor's Letter

Memory of Fire

The cliché about any great tragedy is that it creates indelible markers in time and space: Had John F. Kennedy visited Dallas in 1963 without incident, few Americans would be able to recall much about where they were or what they were doing on November 22 of that year.

Roar of the Crowd


I’d about given up that y’all even knew Texas had other college football programs outside of the University of Texas [“Mike Leach Is Thinking . . . ” September 2009]. Kudos for finally realizing what we’ve known for years: Mike Leach is a great coach and is giving much-deserved

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