October 2009 Issue

The southeast edge of the South Rim, in the Chisos Mountains.
On the Cover

Climb Every Mountain

Whether you want to ride a horse, bomb down a mountain-bike trail, hike up a hill, relax in a hot springs, scale the face of a giant granite boulder, or just sit on your tailgate and look at a pretty sunset, there’s a lot to do on and around the peaks of West Texas. So strap on your pack and go!


Texas High Ways

A growing chorus of unlikely voices, from the El Paso City Council to the Arizona attorney general, has called for a serious look at legalizing marijuana. Why Texas should lead the way.

Merrianne Jessop, child from the Yearning for Zion Ranch.

With God on Their Side

The child custody battle between the State of Texas and a fundamentalist Mormon sect prompted many people to wonder how 437 kids could have been ripped away from their parents. When the criminal trials of a dozen sect members got under way this month, the question became, Was it really

Abandoned lobby in the Baker Hotel.

Fear Factor

If you really want to scare your boots off this Halloween, take a look at these eight places, which our bloodcurdling, hair-raising, nerve-racking research has determined to be the state’s spookiest.


Sarah Bird


Turns out being a test subject for a dermatology research lab is not the best thing that could ever happen to a girl.

Behind the Lines

What I’ve Learned

Nine years as editor of this magazine taught me a few things, like failure is always an option, the writers are usually right, and whatever you do, stay far, far away from postcoital astronauts.


Jerry Jones

“I don’t like confrontation, although it’s alleged that I do. But I learned playing football that confrontation is necessary. You’d better get another sport if you don’t acknowledge and accept and willfully go after confrontation.”

Book Review

Lying with the Dead

Two-time Texas Institute of Letters Award winner Michael Mewshaw has delivered an impeccable eleventh novel, Lying with the Dead, which plumbs the depths of one dysfunctional Maryland family’s misery. Mitchell siblings Maury, Quinn, and Candy find their happiness to be directly proportional to the distance between them and

Tom Russell

Born in Los Angeles, the 56-year-old songwriter has lived everywhere from Austin and Brooklyn to Vancouver and war-torn Nigeria, but he now calls El Paso home. His ambitious, literary-minded writing has resulted in more than twenty albums; the latest, Blood and Candle Smoke (Shout Factory), was just released.You set

Music Review


Like many contemporary Nashville recordings, Revolution (Columbia), the third album from Lindale fireball Miranda Lambert, is a country record in attitude only. Pedal steels are fleeting, and you’ve heard less electric guitar grunge on a Nirvana CD. The sound is edgy, compressed—and fatiguing. Which is a shame. Talent

Music Review

One Foot in the Ether

It was the kind of thing that Austin nurtures so well: A chance assemblage of unknown songwriters began sharing the stage and then evolved into something larger than the sum of its parts. The Band of Heathens became a hometown favorite and released a couple live albums. Their lineup

Music Review

Too Much Living

The tragic 2007 shooting death of New Bohemians guitarist/keyboardist Carter Albrecht rocked the Dallas music scene. Albrecht was a well-liked and valued member of several bands, including the indie-pop outfit Sorta and the locally popular Sparrows. Playing alongside him in both groups was bassist Danny Balis, who recorded his

Neil Sheehan

The Massachusetts-born journalist has never been afraid to rankle the establishment: In 1971 he obtained the infamous Pentagon Papers from Daniel Ellsberg, which uncovered the government’s secret history of the war in Vietnam, and his 1988 Vietnam exposé, A Bright Shining Lie, earned him a National Book Award and a

Book Review

Fever Chart

Jerome Coe, the narrator of Dallas native Bill Cotter’s dark and picaresque Fever Chart, accurately (if uncharitably) describes himself as a “needy, yellow, luckless, less-than-reliable mutilatee who comes with fallible shut-off valves.” Nevertheless, one is charmed by Jerome from the moment he appears, newly discharged from the Boll

Doug Ables, Chimney Sweep

Ables, who grew up in Brady, owns and runs Ables Top Hat Chimney Sweeps. He has been sweeping chimneys in Central Texas for almost thirty years.When I was 28, my wife and I moved into a house in Brady, and I started looking for someone who could sweep our chimney.

How to Build a Barbed-Wire Fence

The HISTORYIn 1876 salesman John W. Gates brought barbed wire to Texas when he wagered $1 million that he could build a fence that would capably contain cattle. Some incredulous gambler took the bet. Gates erected a fence in San Antonio’s Military Plaza and shocked a gathered crowd as a


Web Exclusive

Oh, the Horror!

Christian Sosa, the producer of a new horror flick called The Eves, talks about the film, the cast, and shooting in southeast Texas.

The Champs

How mixed martial arts went from what one senator called “human cockfighting” to an event that draws record crowds and millions of pay-per-view buyers.

Texas Tailgate

For some University of Texas football fans, getting together with friends to eat, drink, and rally before a game is a ritual that they wouldn’t miss for the world. Photographs by Kristin Ellertson

Web Exclusive

Family Portraits

Austin-based and independent filmmaker Andrew Bujalski talks about Beeswax, relationships, working with friends, and the allure of documentaries.

Web Exclusive

Parent Trap

I’ve read more articles on overscheduled children than I care to count, and I like to think that I’m very in tune with trying to balance school, free play, and scheduled activities. But am I?

Web Exclusive

Excerpt from A Fiery Peace in a Cold War

1. ELLIS ISLAND AND A TRAGEDY IN TEXASThe men in the Schriever family were venturesome types who immigrated to America to better themselves or took to the sea. Schriever’s paternal grandfather, Bernhard, after whom he was named, had jumped ship as a young German sailor in the port of Norfolk,


Editor's Letter

Fare E Well

Exactly one year ago in this space Evan Smith bid farewell to Mike Levy, founder of TEXAS MONTHLY and its publisher for 35 years. This month I find myself writing you about another profound departure: Last month was the final issue in which Evan’s name appeared at the top

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