Texas Monthly is no stranger to the ups and downs of the University of Texas at Austin. In a November 2008 cover story, we labeled the Longhorns the “most successful college sports program of all time.” But then came the collapse of Mack Brown and the football team, earning UT a spot on the Bum Steers cover in 2011. Hope springs eternal, of course, and in September 2014, we featured the university’s new athletics director, Steve Patterson, and new football coach, Charlie Strong, on the cover with the line “The Horns Strike Back.” Barely a year later, we all know how that turned out. And in the interview we ran in the October issue with UT chancellor William McRaven, he didn’t mention any problems with Patterson, who was fired right as our interview was coming out. Well, you can’t win them all, but no doubt we’ll be writing about that soon enough. The next installment of Bum Steers is just around the corner.

And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers:

The Booze Brothers

I enjoyed the article on Texas spirits by Eric Benson in your October issue [“The Hangover”]. It is a growing industry here and I appreciate your exposure. I would be remiss, however, if I did not express my regret that more mention was not made of the efforts of Dan Garrison, of Garrison Brothers, in Hye. Dan and his crew are bourbon pioneers in distillation, legislation, marketing, and quality production that we can all be proud of. The article featuring Chip Tate did not give enough credit to other worthy entrepreneurs. I hope you revisit this subject as this industry grows and do some taste comparisons with local as well as national brands. I am confident my choice will shine.
Jim Ezell, Terlingua

Green Space City

Great article and interesting to get the historical perspective of Houston’s open-space development [“Green Acres”]. We live in a high-rise across from the Buffalo Bayou project. It has become a remarkable public space. Houston is reinventing itself but still has a long way to go. If it can solve its mobility problems (more light rail), it can become a world-class city, rather than just one of the largest cities in the U.S.
Larry Jacobs, via texasmonthly.com

Coming of the Aged

In 1993 a handful of Baylor seniors watched Fandango and, consequently, decided to road-trip in the middle of the night to the Texas-Mexico border by Del Rio in order to bury a bottle (their own Dom) containing sentimental articles and notes describing what they wanted to be and do over the next decade [“ ‘Let’s Go Dig Up Dom’ ”]. In 2003, exactly ten years later, we gathered together in Dallas from points all over the United States and drove back to the spot (we hoped) where we would discover our treasure. Well, we found it and celebrated our friendships, reading over the notes we penned as seniors while eating at the same Mexican restaurant in adjacent Ciudad Acuña that we’d dined at a decade earlier. It was so meaningful to us that we committed to our own Fandango by reuniting every year, often in the Texas Hill Country. Fandango the movie captured the spirit of friendship in a flesh-and-bone way that Facebook, Instagram, and other social media can never do today. We’re definitely grateful for Kevin Reynolds’s reflections of his own time at Baylor (although the story was changed to UT so as to not embarrass his father, who later became Baylor’s president), because they surely inspired ours.
Yancey Arrington, League City

In the late seventies, on college field trips, and in the eighties, working as an oil field “doodlebugger,” I had many occasions to travel to West Texas and other remote places of the Pecos and Big Bend areas—cactus, beer, college students, coyotes, rowdy roughnecks, tarantulas, rattlesnakes, and numerous other nefarious denizens included.

There was always one other aspect of those long road-trip experiences: the girl who was left behind.

Kevin Reynolds captured much of the essence of that time period as I experienced it, and the cast did a great job of reenacting it. But, as is true of all reenactments, nothing compares with the experience of really living it. I think that’s what Gardner Barnes was trying to tell us.
Bob Moyer, San Antonio

Editors’ note: We misidentified the film’s fifth groover as Bryan Cepak instead of Brian Cesak. We regret the error.

Debt by Degree

While I’m satisfied that Chancellor William McRaven will make a fine addition to the University of Texas System, one of his comments has me concerned [Chat]. When questioned about the cost of attendance, he replies, “At the end of four years, the average student debt across the University of Texas System is under $21,000. . . . education is the best value going.” I was scratching my head on that one. That money is coming from somewhere. The student’s and/or parents’ savings or other “non-student” loans, don’t you think?  I suspect that most of those attending the Austin campus are paying room and board. Those attending the other campuses are likely living at home, so that $21,000 debt might be reasonable, but doubtful, at the Austin campus.
Michael Oleson, Fort Worth

A better question for the chancellor would be: Of the students who do not qualify for financial aid, what is the average amount of debt incurred to obtain a four-year degree? (The $21,000 number is completely disingenuous.) Middle-income families are feeling the hit, and we’re the ones who are taking on the vast majority of debt on behalf of our children.
Michelle Smith, via email

Austin Chronicles

“The Road to Damascus” is a beautiful story about a beautiful person. Austin Tice’s freedom and safe return must be the prayer, the hope, and the deepest desire of every American and freedom-loving person in the world. May God give understanding, strength, and faith to Austin, his family, and his loved ones.
TexasThicket, via texasmonthly.com

Seeing Red

Erica Grieder takes Texas voters to task for electing Ken Paxton to the Texas attorney general spot, indicating that he was unqualified for anyone’s vote since he, as a Texas legislator, had never offered any significant legislation, chaired any important committees, or been influential in any important policy discussions [Behind the Lines].

Grieder’s article could have garnered the attention of a wider audience had she discussed how in 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama also failed to have any such qualifications for office when he ran, yet was still elected! America and the world have been likewise “stung” by that!
Bob Zane, Austin

The staff at Texas Monthly still doesn’t get it: Texas is proud to be a Republican state! That means that most in its population are conservatives, if you need explanation.

In “Stinging Indictment,” Erica Grieder says, “the apparent strength of the Republican party of Texas has increasingly struck me as a trick of the eyes.” Well, OPEN your eyes! Grieder attributes the popularity of the Republicans to “ the torpor of the state’s Democratic party and complacency among the voters themselves.” Perhaps it’s not “complacency” but grassroots invigoration that keeps the conservatives at the helm. Has she paid any attention to what Texas Republicans want out of Washington and Austin?

Texas Monthly should represent Texas, not the minority of voters. The elitist attitude of the magazine seems to suggest that no one of wealth or intelligence would vote Republican. We do. We can drink “homegrown craft beer, wine, and spirits,” and shop at your advertised stores, and still want what’s best for our nation and state.
Loretta Bedford, via email

Be Advised

The newest issue of Texas Monthly arrived today, and I wanted to thank you for the thought and sincerity (and research!) you put into your response to my email about dating in West Texas [The Texanist]. Your commentary was a well-timed social wake-up call for me, as I’ve realized I have been throwing a too-small loop in trying to rope a gentleman caller. Receiving an objective outside opinion has been most helpful. I’ll be making plans to attend several rodeos and livestock shows in the near future (as well as diligently surveying Main Street between Stripes and Sonic on Friday nights), at your suggestion. Again, thank you immensely for your assistance.
Allison Moore, Andrews

I’m overjoyed that the Texanist explained the definition of “tump.” The word was always in my vocabulary, as I grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana. (For the record, since Shreveport is just twenty miles east of the Texas state line, let’s just say I grew up in a suburb of East Texas.)

When I moved to Atlanta, people often ribbed me when I used the word. They’d say, “Tump? What kind of a word is that?” Even my Houston-raised husband and my Georgia-born daughters thought I’d made up the word.

Let me just tell you, when I’m in a canoe and I flip over, I don’t “tip” over, I definitely “tump” over. There’s just no other word to describe it. Thanks for validating my vocabulary!
Rebecca Ruffin Leffler, Atlanta, Georgia