Among the well-wishers and reminiscers who observed the retirement of Paul Burka with fond testimonials (some of which can be read below) were a number of Paul’s media brethren and a handful of politicos he’d spent his four-decades-long career covering. Wayne Slater (himself a recent retiree, from the Dallas Morning News) cited Paul’s “clear-eyed insights on Texas” as “a must-read,” while former senator Kay Bailey Hutchison credited Paul with capturing “the culture of Texas politics better than anyone since Molly Ivins.” Here at Texas Monthly, we choose to celebrate Paul not only with an ever-faithful commitment to fair and tenacious coverage of the statehouse—just as he has taught us—but also with renewed spirit on the softball field. The Burkas resumed play in April.
And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers.
Texas, Our Texas
My husband, daughters, and I very much liked the “Welcome to Texas” guide: we laughed as I read aloud the “User’s Guide to Tacos,” my husband making funny faces about the different varieties; he knew Pearl beer before I even said it when reading “What the Texanist Drinks”; as current Ford F-250 drivers (and past owners of Chevy and GMC trucks), we related to Paul Knight’s “Drive a Pickup (or Don’t)”; we were more than a little embarrassed when we learned that the San Jacinto Monument is taller than the Washington Monument (something that we probably learned, having been born and raised in Houston, but just forgot); and we howled when reading “How to Talk Like a Texan,” reflecting fondly on the words we use frequently, like “blue norther,” “feeder road,” “fixin’ to,” and, of course, “y’all.”
Then we got to page 97. My tone turned from lighthearted to incredulous. I saw your disclaimer, but still, I couldn’t believe that a magazine seemingly dedicated to celebrating Texas would ask—and then actually pay—someone to write what Dave Hickey did [“Don’t Move to Texas”]! We were appalled. And hurt! My husband told me to stop reading well before I finished—he didn’t want to hear anymore, and the things he said about Mr. Hickey are not publishable here. Why would—and how could—someone say such hateful things about the state that I and so many others love? After the initial anger subsided, I thought about how pitiful and miserable Mr. Hickey must truly be to write such insulting garbage and how glad I was that he didn’t live here anymore. Good riddance.
Kirsten McFarland, Midland
Who is Dave Hickey? This was a made-up name, right? You guys at TM are pulling our leg, aren’t you? One of you wrote it just to try and get a rise out of us, didn’t you? And don’t you think that if there were truly a Texas ex-pat named Dave Hickey spewing this kind of narcissistic crap in Santa Fe, New Mexico would be shipping him back?
John T. Johnson III, Arlington
It’s sure that east of Eden there’s no perfect place to live, but for me, and for those TM readers who still hang their hats here, Texas will do.
Howard Cox, Alto
You left out three very important words Texans—and only Texans, I believe—use in your guide for “How to Talk Like a Texan”: “bar ditch” (which I—being a Dallas girl—learned only while dating a boy from Seymour), “chunk” (when everyone else says they “chucked a rock,” we say “chunk”), and “tump” (the falling over of an object, as in, “I don’t know, Mom, it just kinda tumped over by itself”).
Beverly Walker, Plano
For you to exclude “Hook ’em” and other rallying signals and/or slogans from this list is an insult to the rest of us in this great state.
Bobby K. Jameson, Paris
A Texas playlist without Buddy, Stevie Ray, Janis, Lyle, or Asleep at the Wheel? I’ll pray for your Texas soul, Michael Hall.
Steve Brow, Kerrville
Kudos to Paul Knight for the short article on why trucks in Texas are so great to own, numerous, and mostly impractical for a daily driver but still very much loved. My daily beater is a ’99 Jeep Cherokee Sport 4×4 for many of the same reasons, but I also own a ’91 GMC Sierra Extended Cab short-bed that has been in our family since it was brand-new. My brother purchased it, then sold it to me about ten years ago. It is one of seven trucks that I have owned over the past 35 years. One of my twin daughters drove it while going to nursing school, and after that her twin’s husband had it for a while until it conked out due to a fuel pump issue. It languished unmoved in their driveway for over a year until I replaced the pump, and it has since come back to live with me again. I use it when something won’t fit in the back of my Cherokee, which is not all that often, but it’s always there, waiting on me for when I need it. The old truck is beat to crap on the top and hood, having endured the hammering hailstorm in Fort Worth back in ’95, but the side panels and interior still look good, the tires are new, and the driveline is in very good shape and rock-solid dependable. And not a rattle or a squeak. Honest! I wouldn’t get rid of it for anything. I’m sure it will still be there for any of my grandkids when they reach driving age. And likewise the old Jeep. But it squeaks. A lot!
Patrick Crabtree, Granbury
Bye Bye Burka
It’s inevitable that as we get older, we will feel sentimental when good and familiar things come to an end. And so it is with Paul Burka. His farewell column [“What I’ve Learned”] hit this Texan hard. I’ve always taken his insight and well-crafted commentary on state politics for granted. Now our regular rendezvous within the prized pages of Texas Monthly have ended. It’s as if Willie stopped playing, Matthew McConaughey quit acting, and the San Antonio Spurs didn’t make the playoffs.
Doug McMurry, San Antonio
I have been a reader and fan of Paul Burka’s since his earliest days at Texas Monthly. When someone lays their hammer down, there can be many different emotions. And Paul captured his in his usual blunt style.
We hope you enjoy your new freedom, Paul, and keep us posted when the Legislature is in session, for we can’t just quit cold turkey.
Morton Meyerson, Dallas
As a native Texan who barely made it into the 1970’s, I have grown up with Texas Monthly and Paul Burka. Over time I have even morphed from a very conservative Christian Republican into an extremely liberal Independent and now teach government at the college level. Both on a personal and a professional note, I am devastated by Paul Burka’s retirement. Someone has awfully big shoes to fill.
Hollie Bartlett Dawson, Denton
The Fabulous Baker Boy
I expected to dislike James Baker before I started reading the interview in the April edition [“The Fixer”]. After all, he gave us George W. Bush. But Mr. Baker won me over early. He recognizes that wrench in the machinery called “redistricting” for what it is—a political game that makes governing ever more difficult. As Mr. Baker correctly points out, it hollows out the middle of the political spectrum, the place from which you govern.
But Mr. Baker improved his standing further (with me, at least) when he portrayed both Fox News and MSNBC as outlets that pour gasoline on the fire. I’m sure that each thinks it provides the counterweight to the other, but in fact all they do is work to spin their viewers farther to the edges.
Mr. Baker sealed the deal with his observations on Ronald Reagan. Reagan was never my favorite politician (due mainly to his over-the-top rhetoric), but he did know how to get things done by working with all sides toward a common middle ground. Today’s wannabes who invoke his name as a guiding spirit (yes, Mr. Cruz, I’m speaking to you) seem to have a very shallow understanding of his presidency.
I’m not smart enough to know how to fix all this, but I do know that our current partisan trajectory is not sustainable. Yes, I have a left arm and right arm, but they only work through a solid connection to the body in the middle.
Niel Powers, Kerrville
Blades of Glory
I just read about the youngster who was having trouble getting his pocketknife back [The Texanist]. I too have quite a few pocketknives and also feel naked without one in my pocket.
When I met my wife of 55 years, she needed insurance that I would show up at the appointed date. We were both from East Texas but from different towns. She suggested I give her my pocketknife. After a little soul-searching, I consented. I had no idea how many knives she had collected like that, but with some trepidation I surrendered my knife.
I showed up at the appointed time and she returned my cluto. That should be the end of the story. However, some time later I traded the knife to someone else, and after 55 years of wedded bliss I’m still reminded I had no right to trade that pocketknife.
J. W. Gooch, Orange
Editors’ note: Our April story on the open carry movement in Texas [“Pistol Pushers,” by Erica Grieder] incorrectly reported two details of activist Kory Watkins’s 2000 conviction for theft. The incident occurred in North Richland Hills, not Mansfield. We also incorrectly stated that the case might make him ineligible for a concealed handgun license. The misdemeanor conviction disqualified him for the next five years, but it no longer has any bearing on his eligibility for a concealed handgun license. We regret these errors.