Roar of the Crowd

Readers respond to the June 2016 issue.

What could be more Texan than this? Houston native Andrea Valdez, who happens to be the editor of texasmonthly.com, takes her popular, long-running column from the magazine called the Manual, turns it into a book for UT Press titled How to Be a Texan, and shines at a release party held at the Bullock Texas State History Museum, in Austin. That was the scene on May 13, when nine hundred people turned up to have their copies signed by Valdez and learn how to play 42, dance the Texas two-step, and generally celebrate the incalculable joys of Texanness. The only question you’ll have after you read the book—or at least the excerpt from our June issue—will be, When will she write a sequel?

And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers.

Memory Banks

I’ll be eighty years old on July 9. For the past few months I’ve been thinking back across those eighty years. A high-risk teen who got paid in terror and excitement. A new father so filled with fear and doubt. Years of struggling to find my way, some way. Finally getting a toehold, a little traction. And now, in these most-recent years, partings and preparing to part. In “The Secret Tank,” Sterry Butcher perfectly captured what I’ve been thinking and experiencing these past few months: my eighty years, filled to the top with risk and excitement, gain and loss, pairing and parting, have, after all of it, been a life well lived. Thank you for helping me understand that.
Bill Perkins, Austin

Color me proud. I’m through twelve of nineteen (including the first ten) on your list of eminently visitable waters [“Get Thee to Water”]. But just as the Frio and the steel tank merited mention, one of the grandest (and least known) missed the cut but will live forever in the memories of those who attended Camp Stewart for Boys. There, not far from Hunt, on the Guadalupe’s North Fork, lies a clear and limpid stretch of water, on one side of which looms a great chunk of rock broken from the ridge that separates the river’s two forks, on the other an ageless cypress and a shallow slope of washed river rock. Fed by the springs along the course of the North Fork as it winds its way up the gentle, scenic valley, the waters always run cool and occasionally downright chilly, not as shocking as Balmorhea or Barton Springs can be but a vivid contrast to the Hill Country’s hot, dry summers. Camp Stewart’s ownership and operations have changed since my days there in the fifties, but I’m sure access is as guarded as it was back in the early thirties, when my dad, then a medical student, manned the first-aid cabin. All too many of the boys with whom I camped and later worked with as a junior counselor are gone themselves, but for some, the few and fortunate, the memories linger on. I hesitate to even request permission to visit, sure that the ghosts of campers and counselors past will overwhelm me.
Tom M. Oliver, Waco

Writer of Passages

It’s Memorial Day and I’ve just completed Stephen Harrigan’s poignant article “Off Course,” a befitting story for this day. Mr. Harrigan has done it again with another compelling story. Y’all are lucky to call him one of your own!
Gina E. Guthrie, Huntsville

I started reading and could not stop. The story is touching, real, and riveting. There were so many things I related to. Hats off to Stephen Harrigan, whose heart, vulnerability, curiosity, insight, and talent made me feel alive.
Aralyn Hughes, via texasmonthly.com

Stephen Harrigan, your story, so beautifully written, parallels my own in many ways. I felt the same eagerness to know everything about my father but was reticent to ask questions, just sweeping up any crumbs I could get. The bomber crash near the Air Force base in Lubbock that took my father also left three widows in their first trimester of pregnancy. You have inspired me to find those two other babies before the sixtieth anniversary of the crash, next Valentine’s Day. Thank you.
Connie Morain Baker, via texasmonthly.com

Not Feeling the Bern

Texas Monthly tends to take the side of the inmate and tell it from a view that leans in his favor [“Bernie in Hell”]. It’s hard to take the side of anyone who shoots an elderly lady in the back. I don’t care if it was a crime in the heat of the moment and Mr. Tiede didn’t know what he was doing. He put four bullets in her back and put her body in the freezer for nine months. I don’t believe that’s a “heat of the moment” crime.
Justin Mayes, via facebook

I knew both Bernie Tiede and Marjorie Nugent. She was a sweet person when not crossed, very independent and opinionated and quick to express her views, but had her quirks. Very much like her father. Her husband brought out the best in her, but after he died, she became bitter and dependent and withdrew from family and friends who thought they knew “what was best for her.” Bernie saw his chance and moved in. The rest is history. I believe in Texas justice, and since he was not sentenced to death, he is where he should be. No more wasting our taxes to satisfy Hollywood.
Patricia-Gulley Aaron, via Facebook

The folks who live in Carthage are the ones who need to speak up. A lot of those folks knew both parties. But I do believe that if you do the crime, you must do the time. The movie is, after all, just a movie, but to cast Matthew McConaughey as Danny Buck, well, they were really reaching.
Michelle Soliz-Williams, via Facebook

Shop Talk

Your article about the H-E-B/Walmart face-off [“Food Fight”] was interesting and gave good insight into the strategy that grocery stores use to attract and keep customers. However, I think one strategy was ignored: customer service. I shop at a very small, rural H-E-B weekly and once a month go into a moderately sized H-E-B in a nearby city. I’ve also shopped at the Walmarts in both locations. At H-E-B I have always been met with smiles, inquiries as to my finding what I want, check-out people with both efficiency and care with my groceries’ bagging. I’ve made special requests at our local H-E-B and the requested items have been ordered, and I was called when they arrived.

Walmart is a different story. Perhaps it is just the ones I frequent, but the associates don’t seem all that interested in customer satisfaction. Other than a greeter at the door, it seems that customers are on their own.

Bigger megastores, without good employees, are perhaps good for the corporation but don’t do much for customers.
Jane T. Brown, via email

Bellyaching

Your reply in the June 2016 issue was way off [The Texanist]. As a Kentuckian with a (Hubbard) Texas grandma, I am here to tell you that dinner and supper did not, and to this day do not, occur together on any day! Monday through Saturday, it is breakfast, lunch, supper. Sunday, holidays, and special events, it is breakfast, lunch, dinner. Dinner was the big, fancy meal, with real meat, tablecloths, nice plates, silverware, etc. And in our families, during pro-football season, after church we got only breakfast and dinner (at about one or two o’clock), then the women “closed the kitchen” and you were on your own, Bubba!
Dave Colvin, via email

In Remembrance of Jack

I was devastated to hear about the passing of Jack Unruh, your monthly illustrator for the Texanist. When I would get my copy of texas monthly, I always started on the back page first, something I’m sure was not the intended path for most readers unless they had seen and knew his work. If you enjoyed those articles and, even more, the hysterical imagery that accompanied them, you’d understand. 

I took one of Jack’s illustration classes. He was an excellent teacher, but he was hard, no-nonsense—get your projects done by next class. He always said, “Find someone whose work you like, study it, and then take off on your own style.”

Jack always had an overall sparkle and a twinkle in his eye. He had a delicious sense of humor and a robust laugh. You saw all of this and more when you were with him. I was never more amazed at what he had on his drawing board or what he had just done. I lost my “Jack Unruh” file to Hurricane Isabel and would later sit down at garage sales looking through old National Geographics to find his illustrations. I’ve even been watched suspiciously at a Bass Pro Shop if I lingered too long over a Field & Stream article that included his artwork.

I’ll forever be looking for pages to refurbish my file. I will continue to say to myself, “How would Jack draw this?” No one else will ever capture the incredible beauty of his work. Only now, and sadly, there is a beginning and an end. Thank you, Jack, for helping us all to see the world in a totally different and beautiful way. I was so lucky to have had a chance to be near one of the greats—as an artist, a person, and a friend.
Trisha Turner, via email