As we went to press on this the first issue of 2015, we received a nice pat on the back for the year that just passed: Longreads, an online proselytizer of quality storytelling, released its list of 2014’s best narratives. We were thrilled to see two of our pieces make the cut: associate editor Sonia Smith’s provocative look at an eccentric East Texas church (“Sinners in the Hands,” February 2014) and executive editor Michael Hall’s epic examination of a thirty-year-old murder case (“The Murders at the Lake,” April 2014). 

And now, a sampling of feedback from our readers.

Gov Story

Folks, there is only one word for Brian D. Sweany’s open letter to Governor-elect Abbott [Behind the Lines]: “outstanding!”
Kent Adams, former Chair of the Jefferson County Republican Party, Houston

Brian D. Sweany’s sour-grapes rant hits all the clichés but fails to grasp the reality of the recent election. Texas voters overwhelmingly rejected the policies advocated by Wendy Davis and her fellow Democrats, which texas monthly consistently supports. This is not because a “far-right element” has taken over the GOP but because Texas voters desire lean and efficient government. Governor Rick Perry unquestionably presided over the “Texas miracle” (not so-called) by steadfastly resisting tax increases. No amount of hectoring by Sweany and other out-of-touch liberals is going to persuade Govenor-elect Abbott to ignore his mandate. Get used to it. Your team lost in a landslide.
Mark Pulliam, Austin

If I were giving free advice to the new governor of Texas, I would take a different tack from Sweany’s. I probably wouldn’t have thought to say all those nice things before I got to the meat of my advice. I wouldn’t have thought that a government agency would be a good source of information about how much money it needs to maintain the roads and highways of this great state. Has there ever been a government entity that did not want and “need” more money? I would have made suggestions about cutting waste out of government spending, thus freeing up dollars to be better spent. I would have made suggestions about securing our southern border. I would have suggested that more money could be spent on education and teachers by cutting a lot of bureaucratic fat out of layers and layers of state education. I wouldn’t have touched on health care at all. Dead-last among the states is still far better than everywhere else I’ve traveled in this world.
Jerry Cline, via Email 

I’m sure that Greg Abbott didn’t read beyond the third paragraph of the “free” advice from Brian Sweany. I’ll hand it to Brian: at least he showed his true colors—vitriol blue—right from the start.
George Carrington, via email 

Sacred Truths

I had the privilege of meeting Charles Moore in the late nineties at Grace United Methodist Church [“Man on Fire”]. I remember his quiet stature, his wry smile, and his openness, the kind that could result only from a heart so clear about its purpose to share grace with others. When I heard about his death, I cried, wishing he’d known how much of an impact those few meetings had on me. Reading this incredible piece on his journey, I was brought to tears again—for his impact, for his family, and for our community’s loss.
Doug Upchurch, via Facebook

Charles was the most passionate advocate for the equal treatment of all people that I have ever had the pleasure to know and to call friend. His devotion to equality was rivaled only by his devotion to ministry. That he chose to end his life this way was a terrible shock but really no surprise; this was a man of measured words and purposeful action, and in the end, he left us in much the same way that he lived.
Steve Basile, via

Great reporting. This piece helped us to understand a little bit better why Charles Moore would immolate himself. 
Bruce Stanton, via email

A great read. It’s interesting to see the philosophical and theological progression of this man. While his end was tragic, it seems there’s much in his life to be celebrated.
Danny Kellermeyer, via

Extraordinary article about an extraordinary man.
Rhonda Poe, via Facebook

I just wanted to send a note to tell you that I found a deep sense of satisfaction after reading this story. What an incredible and beautifully written article. Although the details of the story itself are disturbing and mind-boggling, I distinctly felt I was in the presence of art as your words wove the story together. I have had lifelong training in classical music, and there is a term used for musicians who transcend the written music and express pure musicianship: “off the page.” That is how I would describe my experience of reading this work.
Bonnie Werner, Phoenix, Arizona

Eat Stay Suggest

Kloesel’s Steakhouse, in Moulton, should have been on your “Eat Stay Love” list. 
Joanne Rebecca Soward, via Facebook

Ranchman’s steakhouse, in Ponder, too!
Linda Park, via Facebook

Concession Stand

I would correct Erica Grieder’s narrative slightly [“Master of the Senate”]: I called Dan Patrick a pathological liar, not just a liar. The difference is, he believes what he’s saying, or at least he believes in his heart that his cause is so noble it justifies the means. My comparison was not limited to Huey Long. What I said repeatedly was that Patrick was a composite of Pappy O’Daniel, Huey Long, and Elmer Gantry. You need to add the Pappy analogy because they both had radio shows.

Am I a fan of Dan Patrick’s? Clearly I am not. However, I predict he will far exceed the doomsday predictions so many are making now. He is savvy, he relishes praise more than most politicos, and he will do much better for Texas and the Texas Senate than is expected. Patrick’s real problem will be the disappointment of the tea party when he doesn’t deliver as they were led to believe he would. His campaign narrative was carefully crafted to make them think he would do radical things, even though he never actually promised some of what they expect. 
Jerry Patterson, outgoing land commissioner and former candidate for lieutenant governor, via 

Reservations for None

Good luck to the Wanderer in getting a response to her letter to Cibolo Creek Ranch owner John Poindexter about her recent disappointing stay. My wife and I had a very similar experience some ten years ago. Seems nothing has changed. Apparently you need to be an A-list celeb to be treated as a guest worthy of attention. My advice? Don’t go.  
Jon Hornaday, Austin

Editors’ note: Mr. Poindexter did in fact reach out to the Wanderer after the publication of her column. He expressed appreciation for her piece and offered his sincere commitment to ensuring the best possible experience for all future visitors to Cibolo Creek Ranch. 

Perry Tales

What a hodgepodge of discontinuous facts. You position this [“What a Difference Fourteen Years Make”] as the Texas Rick Perry leaves behind, but I’m pretty sure Governor Perry has had little influence over the drought or our ethnic makeup.

This would have been better served as two infographics: the socioeconomic makeup of Texas then and now and the effect of Rick Perry’s policies then and now.
Douglas green, via Facebook

Christmas Cheers

One Christmas morning about forty-plus years ago, I woke up to see a strange item sitting on my chest of drawers [“Bottle Rocket,” November 2014]. It was a Lone Star beer bottle with a note from my older brother. It said “ Merry Christmas . . . I was at the Longhorn Ballroom last night and had Willie Nelson sign it.”

The story was that he had gone out back after Willie’s show to try to catch him for an autograph. He flagged the car but had no paper, so he quickly grabbed the bottle off the ground and Willie graciously signed it.

It has faded somewhat over time but stays with other treasures. The Longhorn, Lone Star, Willie—and a precious memory of a big brother’s kind and generous gift. 
Karen Cangemi, Irving