I WAS QUITE DISTURBED BY “The Killer Cadets” [December 1996]. What a shame and a tragedy for our society that we have failed to instill respect for each other into the minds of our young people.
James D. Troutman

ZZ Come, ZZ Go

FOR THE RECORD, I WAS NOT FIRED from ZZ Top for being “a bad influence on Frank Beard” [“Still ZZ After All These Years,” December 1996]. I had received a call from my two old buddies Jimmie Vaughan and Doyle Bramhall about coming back to Dallas to play the blues with my homeboys. After talking to them, I quit the band. I did this just before the band signed with London Records. I didn’t want to be tied down to a contract with that particular band at that point in time. I have only the utmost respect for Billy, Frank, and Dusty and am glad they’ve done well. We all go back a long way.
Bill Etheridge

A Survivor’s Tale

Like lance armstrong, my picture-of-health forty-year-old husband, Ronnie, was diagnosed with testicular cancer [“The Race of His Life,” December 1996]. During exploratory surgery, the urologist discovered 90 percent of Ronnie’s right testicle was cancerous. His testicle was removed, and he endured six weeks of radiation therapy to eradicate any cells that may have escaped into his lymphatic system. Today, two years later, he is alive, apparently well, and fully functional. But unlike Lance, Ronnie’s athletic lifestyle was probably not the cause of his cancer. Every spring and summer he has been exposed to undiluted pesticides and herbicides on our produce farm. In their concentrated form, these are some of the deadliest chemicals available to the general public. Of course, after they are diluted and exposed to sunlight and water, they are supposed to break down into harmless compounds in a matter of hours. Until Ronnie’s last pesticide certification, we had never made the connection between his exposure and his illness. The certification instructor warned his all-male class repeatedly of the disturbing connection between pesticides and testicular cancer in farm workers. I hope the rest of the class took his warnings to heart. More importantly, I hope farm-chemical manufacturers are working on a new generation of safer, user-friendly chemicals. Farmers have to suffer enough without this.
Stephanie M. May

Divided State

AS A FOURTH-GENERATION TEXAN, I was outraged and embarrassed after reading Gary Cartwright’s “Shooting Blanks” [Politics, December 1996]. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is an out-of-control agency dominated by special-interest extremists and directed by the agenda of the National Rifle Association. Why are steel-jawed leg traps, a legacy of our cruel and uncaring past, still legal in Texas? Why, despite a drastic drop in population, are mourning doves still being hunted without controls? Most incredible of all, how can any moral, sane person take inner-city children, already inundated with violence, give them guns and teach them to kill for fun? The Parks and Wildlife commissioners, hoping that these mostly minority children will grow up to be hunters to continue the blood legacy and justify the commissioners’ existence, seem to answer to no one of any conscience.
Sydney Busch

MY WIFE AND I ARE FOURTH-GENERATION TEXANS. My great-grandfather taught my grandfather how to hunt and fish, my grandfather taught my father, and my father taught me. What we’ve killed or caught, we kept to eat and never wasted anything. I agree that there are too many idiots out there in the woods today with guns. Young people haven’t learned to appreciate nature or respect natural resources. The next generation will only have a handful of kids raised in rural areas who understand the limited resources we have. I am teaching my son how to hunt and fish, but it is not what you think it is. He is not only learning about animals but also about nature. I am talking about having him appreciate the meaning of taking a doe because of overpopulation, know how to start a safe campfire, identify small animals, know the stars in the heavens—to go fishing all day just to catch and release the fish and have fun in the outdoors.
Fred Henry Hilscher

THE INTERESTS OF HUNTERS and bird-watchers may seem incompatible, but only to the shortsighted. Both hunting and non-hunting appreciators of nature have a vested interest in the perpetuation of wild species and their habitat. This concern is not shared, however, by animal rightists, whose priority is protecting individual creatures, not species, whether wild or domesticated, and imposing their notions of morality on the rest of us. Accordingly, many served by Parks and Wildlife both bird-watch and hunt, and this is nothing new. Pioneer environmentalist Aldo Leopold hunted, as did George Bird Grinnell, one of the founders of the National Audubon Society. Bad-mouthing hunters may be fashionable, but let’s look at reality. Texas is more than 90 percent privately owned. Since hunters need a place to hunt, they lease from ranchers, who in turn need the lease income to survive and are motivated by that income to keep their land more or less wild. Abolish hunting, as the animal rightists would love to do, and ranchers may have to clear their land or sell to developers. Thus ranchers have become the main custodians of Texas biodiversity.
Landon Lockett

THERE IS NO BASIS FOR DIVIDING PARKS and Wildlife into two departments. It is doing an excellent job of maintaining the state parks system, protecting non-game species, and managing wildlife. Why create more bureaucracy when government at all levels is streamlining? When we had two separate agencies, we had a less-desirable parks system. The parks and the other managed areas are so improved today because of efficient management and the hunting and fishing licenses and the portion of sales tax revenue that fund the services. As for the criticism of the department’s attempt to be self-sufficient and not rely on funding from the state’s general fund—how about more government agencies becoming as innovative?
Jeff P. Lawlor
Texas Parks and Wildlife Expo and Advisory Committee,