1. How Dry We Are
When the heat has even the grackles lying low, the pleasure of a swimming hole cold enough to knock the breath out of you is limitless. Alas, water is not, a truism sorely evident to the residents of the Hill Country town of Wimberley, where proposed development may spell the end for the beloved Jacob’s Well, already stagnant due to too little rain and too much pumping. Would-be tubers along the depleted Frio, Nueces, and Medina—pretty much anywhere west of Interstate 35—are also learning firsthand how bad the situation is.
Thanks to the drought and Texas’s unprecedented population growth, the race is on across the state for new water supplies. Even San Antonio, the poster child for water conservation, is eyeing Val Verde County, a Wild West territory where groundwater is plentiful and regulation nonexistent. What are the consequences for San Felipe Springs, the drinking water source and summer refuge for Del Rioans? No one knows.
This “I drink your milk shake” bonanza has been spurred on by the Legislature’s $2 billion allocation to water infrastructure, a nice subsidy for still more mega projects that will move water from rural to urban areas, where nearly a third of our supply is applied to the grass growing in our yards.
Can we defend the sanctity of Texans’ private property while guarding our treasured watering holes? It’s a quixotic but existential task. Next time you find yourself bracing for the plunge at your favorite swimming spot, ask yourself: Is it your lawn where you imagine bringing your grandchildren? Or this place? —Sharlene Leurig
2. Papa Quiz
Q: What semi-infamous Texan had crossed paths with J. Edgar Hoover, legendary TCU quarterback Davey O’Brien, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Connally, John F. Kennedy’s purported mistress Judith Exner, and the musicians John Denver, Delbert McClinton, and Shawn Phillips before turning 22?
A: Robert Allen Hale, who attended Arlington Heights High School with Oswald, Denver, McClinton, and Phillips and was the son of I. B. Hale, who roomed with O’Brien at TCU before going to work at the FBI under his good friend Hoover. In 1959 Robert Hale married Connally’s daughter Kathleen and was the only person present when she died of a suspicious shotgun blast. Two years later the FBI spotted him breaking into Exner’s apartment. (Given his father’s position with the FBI and the fact that his mother, Virginia, introduced Oswald to some Dallas-area Russians, it’s remarkable that the family doesn’t figure more prominently in JFK conspiracy theories.)
Tom Kizzia’s Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier (Crown), which comes out July 16, moves quickly past Hale’s early years to focus on the time he spent in the Land of the Midnight Sun, where, as “Papa Pilgrim,” he abused his second wife and many of his fifteen children before becoming the object of a manhunt. It’s a riveting read. Someone should write a prequel, set right here in Texas.
3. Let’s Paint the White House Black
The summer action flick White House Down is the second movie of the year in which the White House is destroyed, after March’s Olympus Has Fallen. Notably, in both films the commander in chief is black: Morgan Freeman did the honors in Olympus; Terrell native Jamie Foxx plays President James Sawyer in White House Down. The two characters join the small fraternity of Hollywood’s fictional black presidents, a few of which are listed below. None of them, of course, have as far-fetched a backstory as the Indonesian-raised former pot smoker who became the most powerful man in the world after serving half a term in the U.S. Senate. To the surprise of many, in 2012 his show was picked up for a second four-year run.
4. The Zelig of Classic Rock
Austinite Bobby Whitlock has released plenty of solo albums, but he’s best known for his contributions to three classic LPs made under others’ names: George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, Delaney & Bonnie & Friends’ On Tour With Eric Clapton, and Derek and the Dominos’ Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs. Where There’s a Will There’s a Way: The ABC-Dunhill Recordings (Light in the Attic), a reissue of his out-of-print 1972 albums Bobby Whitlock and Raw Velvet, goes a long way toward correcting the historical record. Whitlock, with an all-star cast, is the better album, featuring lovely lead work from Clapton on “The Scenery Has Slowly Changed” that, unfortunately, gets drowned out near the end by Whitlock’s howling. Excess is a bigger problem on Raw Velvet, which finds Whitlock pushing a more anonymous backing band into overdrive and then bellowing above the resulting din. He’s that rare musician who seems to do his best work when he’s slightly cowed by the people around him.
5. Falling Down, Falling Down
Given how heavily the specter of the drug cartels and “the lost women of Juárez” hangs over nearly every scene, it’s noteworthy that The Bridge is an adaptation of a Scandinavian series and was first pitched to FX with a U.S.-Canadian locale. The network, home to such lurid, compulsively watchable fare as Sons of Anarchy and The Shield, balked—until the producers decided to set the show someplace where there could be lots of loose talk about drug cartels dumping severed heads in the street.