The Power of Books

I enjoyed Skip Hollandsworth’s remembrance of Larry McMurtry [“The Larry I Knew,” May 2021], so I want to share this story. I grew up in Waco in the fifties and sixties. In 1990 I taught a freshman composition class at Marshall University, in West Virginia. The Last Picture Show was on the syllabus. At the end of the class, two boys asked me, “Do you have any more books like that? That ‘Picture Show’ book.”   

Both teens told me it was the first novel they had ever read. These were guys from a small town in West Virginia whose Texas counterparts would be young cowboys, and, as McMurtry often made clear, not the reading type. They were inspired in a way I rarely saw in young students. 

I recommended other McMurtry books and a few other authors. Both led discussions of The Last Picture Show, often relating their own lives to characters and situations in the novel. 

Larry McMurtry will be sorely missed but always remembered and revered.
Tommy Wooten Gibbs, Edgewater, Florida 

I, too, have had a few encounters with Larry McMurtry. One was in Houston in 1980, when I was attending a Western Literature Association conference. Several of us were sitting in the lobby of the hotel, and I happened to be sitting beside Larry. We were talking about our students, and I remarked that most of mine had never been out of the state. Larry turned to me and said, “I tell my students they won’t turn to sand if they cross the border.” 
Dorys C. Grover, Pendleton, Oregon 

Writin’ on the Storms

I thoroughly enjoyed your article in the May issue [“Meet the Neighbors”] regarding trips to our neighboring states. I noticed a common thread in each story: that sometimes the weather is less than ideal. In my family’s years of traveling, I am never surprised when Mother Nature gives us a good smackdown. I think we have probably camped in as much bad weather as good. Okay, maybe forty-sixty. Caprock Canyons State Park: forced to evacuate due to a grass fire whipped up by strong winds. Beavers Bend State Park, in Oklahoma: forced to evacuate twice in one night due to rising waters. Taking cover from tornadoes in one of those Civilian Conservation Corps–built rock bathrooms at Robbers Cave State Park, also in Oklahoma. All of these make great campfire stories, so get out there, make the most of it, and enjoy Mother Nature! 
Tammi Entriken, Poetry 

Parton Ways

I was born in Corpus, and Texas Monthly keeps me on top of all things Texas. In answering the question about why more Texans are moving to Tennessee than the reverse [The Texanist, May 2021], you forgot to consult one very important expert. George Strait answered it in a song: “All my exes live in Texas / And that’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.” If fewer people are moving from Tennessee to Texas, maybe Tennessee just has a lower divorce rate (in addition to Dolly Parton). 
Leigh Ann Harvey, Atlanta

Why Do Y’all Love Trump?

I have written you twice recently with regard to your terrible position in support of the worst president we have ever had, Donald J. Trump, as well as your unbelievable support of the Republican party. I get that you have been critical of Democrats in your state.

I believe that you may now see the light with regard to your errors. In the article “Cold Justice” [May 2021] you are critical of your Texas Republican governor and the Republican representatives who are responsible for the deaths of seven hundred Texans during the February freeze. I am glad you woke up and decided that Greg Abbott was a terrible choice and has no talent, expertise, or skill whatsoever in running the great state of Texas. He is surrounded by incompetent people who have demonstrated this by allowing the failure of your electrical grid.

Why don’t you print letters from people who recognize the shortcomings of your governor and the politicians who run your utility system?
William M. Ford, Alexandria, Louisiana

Corrections, Clarifications, and Amplifications

The exclusive book excerpt about Phil Collins’s collection of Alamo memorabilia, which we published in our June issue, contained some small errors of fact. In addition, two of the story’s subjects have asked us to provide further context on a few matters. The relevant changes have been made to the version of the story on our website.

• Alex McDuffie says that he did not own a web development business, as was reported, but instead worked as an employee of such a business.

• Alfred Van Fossen did not live in San Antonio, as was reported, but in the Houston area.

• The correspondence between McDuffie and Phil Collins took place not via text, as was reported, but rather via email.

• The excerpt stated that Van Fossen was notorious for selling questionable items supposedly associated with the Alamo. While Van Fossen had a reputation for selling questionable items, McDuffie says Van Fossen was better known for selling items from the Confederacy.

• The excerpt stated that “according to rumors circulating among knife collectors, [Jim] Guimarin and McDuffie arranged for Collins to buy the knife [purportedly owned by Jim Bowie] for $1.5 million.” McDuffie and Joseph Musso, the knife’s seller, both state that that figure is incorrect but have declined to provide an accurate figure.

• The excerpt stated that McDuffie took his purported Bowie sword to a metallurgist who determined that the blade was from the appropriate era. McDuffie has asked us to note that the metallurgist also stated that the inscription “J. Bowie” was covered with score marks and that those marks were left when the saber was pulled from its scabbard, “which indicated that the name was inscribed before usage.” (The excerpt did not include that information because the authors believe that the metallurgist’s examination was improperly conducted.)

• The excerpt quoted Thomas Nuckols, a volunteer archaeologist with the Texas Historical Commission, as saying that Collins claims “he has cannonballs shot by the Twin Sisters at San Jacinto. Nobody knows what caliber those cannons were!” McDuffie says that the cannons’ caliber is known because it was cited in Sam Houston’s memoir. (The excerpt did not include that information because Houston’s memoir is regarded by many as unreliable on this issue and because the cannons’ caliber is widely debated among scholars of the period.)

• The excerpt stated that Mark Zalesky, the longtime editor of Knife Magazine, claimed “that one of [Joseph] Musso’s lab reports proves that the [purported Bowie] knife was not made from the steel that would have been used in the nineteenth century. (Other experts interpret the lab results differently.)” Musso has asked us to make clear that he believes that the lab report proves that the knife was made from steel that would have been used in the nineteenth century.

The intent of our excerpt was to report on the controversy among those who have studied Alamo antiquities, regarding the authenticity of key items in Phil Collins’s collection. The purpose was to present multiple sides of the argument, not to take a side in the controversy. The authors of the piece stand by their reporting and suggest that those who are interested in exploring this subject further read their book Forget the Alamo: The Rise and Fall of an American Myth.