At a time of fake news and unease about the trustworthiness of the media, we’re proud to say that Texas Monthly’s writers have been recognized for the excellence with which they practice their craft. Three articles we published in 2016 earned a place on the year’s “best of” lists. Associate editor Sonia Smith’s “Ruffled Feathers,” the story of two endangered whooping cranes slain by a teenager outside Beaumont, earned a place on Longform’s Best of Science list. Smith was also recognized for “Unfriendly Climate,” a profile of atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe, which Longreads named one of the year’s Best Under-Recognized stories. Last but not least, executive editor Pamela Colloff’s “The Reckoning,” which explores the aftermath of the 1966 University of Texas Tower shooting from the perspective of one survivor, made a number of lists, including the Columbia Journalism Review’s Best Journalism and Longreads’ Best Crime Reporting lists.

Bum’s the Word

May I suggest you take your own advice from the cover of your January edition: Make Bum Steers Great Again. Your latest effort was clearly ready to be ground into hamburger.
Mark Peterson, New Glarus, Wisconsin

Wow. A Bum Steer with a red cap. Just more left-wing, progressive, subliminal (not so much) propaganda.
Ronald Sims, via email

Jukebox Hero

Nice article on the dive bars of Texas [“Where Everybody Knows Your Name”]. Our group, the TABC (Thursday Afternoon Beer Club), frequents the Barbarossa Trough regularly. Alvin is the epitome of a bar owner and a great guy. As stated in your piece, a good jukebox is required, and the Trough has one. Alvin’s favorite song is “Lost Highway Saloon.” Walk in, play it, and you’ll make a friend for life.
Joey Miller, Seguin

Youth and Consequences

Adolescents are not adults, period [“The Prisoner”]. They may be as large as adults. They may look like adults. They may engage in adult behavior. But when it comes to cognition and neurological function, children do not fully mature until their early twenties. We must lobby for changed laws so that we can begin looking at juvenile offenders as opportunities for rehabilitation. Sadly, because people still choose to look at situations like Edwin Debrow’s from a biblical “eye for an eye” perspective, or in willful and intentional ignorance of the science involved, change is going to take a long time.
ApocalypsoFacto, via

Should Edwin Debrow get out of jail early? Let’s see, did the guy he murdered rise from the dead? No? Well, then, rot in jail. It’s a bit cowardly of the writer to put so much time and effort into exonerating this murderer.
MagicalMcgoo, via

Your compassion is focused within a remarkably narrow cone. Venture outside that cone, where the lives of this young man’s victims exist in shattered pasts and unrealized presents and futures. Edwin let loose a maelstrom onto the world, laying waste to many lives.

Where is the compassion for any of those lives? Why are the comparatively minor inconveniences and insults accorded Edwin and his parents what so concern the author? Why does his heart not bleed for the innocent instead?

From whence comes the blindness to the needs of justice? Please rewrite this article, changing only the identity of its antihero. Inappropriately sentimental treacle is the spun sugar of the emotional world. Something more nourishing, please.
Jack_sprat2, via

Your problem is minimizing what this kid did. You cry tears for someone who killed someone for no reason but don’t really mention the person who was killed for no reason. I give more sympathy for the person that was minding his business and got killed. Sorry if you don’t get that, and please go ahead and feel very sorry for me, ’cause I don’t forgive as easily as you.
Angryspit, via

Land That We Love

Thank you for singing to us the poetry of Texas, Sterry Butcher [“The Earth Below”].
Andrew Scriveley, via

Very nice writing! Very nice, indeed! Thank you!
Picpoule, via

This piece grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It’s good to read an article by someone this observant and connected to the land.
Dmmz, via

Makes me want to return to Texas. Great piece!
Walt Longmire, via

Freeze Frames

I was recently swept back in time while reading Stephen Harrigan’s “Frame by Frame.” On November 22, 1963, I was living in Portland, just across the bridge from Harrigan’s Corpus Christi, and I too was fifteen (in fact, that very day was my fifteenth birthday). Our band class at Gregory-Portland High School was dismissing for lunch when that announcement came through on the intercom. I will never forget it.

I don’t think books, movies, or anything else can ever bring back that moment in its most distinct form to anyone who isn’t old enough to remember it firsthand. The gloom came down around us, and it took a very long time for that cloud to begin to lift (though parts of it will always remain). In a very sad way, the event united us; even those who would never have supported President Kennedy grieved alongside those who loved him (with some exceptions, of course). We were paralyzed in our tracks for days, and the world wept with us. We wished then, and we still wish to this day, that, in the words of Harrigan, this point in time “still might, somehow, by some benevolent magic, be undone.”
Vivian Barrington, Jasper


I live in Greatwood, a subdivision near the Jester State Prison Farm, and being a history geek, I’ve always wanted to learn more about the area’s “unofficial” history (every place has a hidden history that the “winners” don’t promote). I really valued this article [“Blood and Sugar”] for sharing this story, and people like Reginald Moore are so courageous to champion such stories and keep the memories alive. I’m a Mexican American who is always championing the unofficial Mexican history of Texas and was excited to learn from this article that I live near an area that was one of Stephen F. Austin’s land grants by Mexico. Totally encourages me to do more digging! Thanks, Texas Monthly, and best of luck to Mr. Moore.
Ignacio Gonzalez, via Facebook

Excellent article. I agree that the past, however ugly, should never be covered up or forgotten, but I can also see how people who had nothing to do with those atrocities wouldn’t want it shoved in their faces on a constant basis. Some of what Mr. Moore’s asking for seems reasonable, like a memorial next to the cemetery. But a museum? Reparations from the city? Come on, dude. We should never forget, but eventually we should move on.
Murvin Auzenne Jr., via Facebook

Hope Votes

First, one hell of an accomplishment for Sheriff Zena Stephens [“She’s the Sheriff”]. Second, kudos to the Jefferson County voters who voted her in. Hopefully this represents a more tolerant and, yes, progressive attitude in an area whose history would cause us to be cynically hopeful.
TacoRub, via

Hearty Farewell

With a lump in my throat I read the story of the passing of Dr. Denton Cooley [Reporter]. He was all you described and more.

When he did open-heart surgery on my father, William H. Greenlee, in January 1992, they found his lungs to be terribly damaged as well. Three days later Dr. Cooley went back in to repair his lungs. Dad ended up being in a coma for several months. Meeting Dr. Cooley on the elevator, my mother asked, “Where do we go from here?” He looked at her thoughtfully and said, “From here we just pray.”

My mother was notified by the insurance company that they would not pay the bill because they had wanted the surgery done in a regional hospital. The medical bills went over $1 million, and one day Dr. Cooley saw my mother crying in the waiting room (it had been 96 days since the first surgery). She told him what she had found out about the insurance, telling him it would take all of their retirement money and everything they had to pay it. He told her, “Don’t worry, I will take care of it.” When she got her bill, the total was $600.

My father not only fully recovered but lived another fifteen years. Thank you, Dr. Cooley. You truly changed lives.
Jan Greenlee Hayes, Lubbock

The Kids Are Not All Right

The children in the care of CPS have never been a priority at the Legislature, as they are seen as not being of the right class, et cetera, since they wound up in the care of the state [“Capitol Crisis”]. It is only the federal court that is making the Legislature face up to the crisis, and predictably, much of the talk has been about the “accountability” of the agency and not the needs of the kids. Whatever is done will be the minimum.