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Books for Texans, About Texans, By Texans BY RAYE GREEN

Texas Reads

dialect, our own way of L

et’s face it—Texas and Texans are unique, a little diff erent from the rest of the country. We have our own thinking and

behaving, our own landscapes, and certain- ly our own extremes of weather. It must be very hard for a writer who is a non-Texan to capture and portray the truth about such a place and its people. A case in point is Edna Ferber (who never lived in Texas) and her novel Giant, one of the most well-known novels about Texas. T e rest of the country loved it, but most Texans agree that she got it all wrong.

The Time It Never Rained by Elmer Kelton | Forge Books

Charlie Flagg is a stubborn, hardworking, some-

what cantankerous rancher making a pretty good living on a ranch near San Angelo, until the historic drought of the early 1950s comes along. He is unrelenting in his eff orts to adapt to a period of no rain, but also unrelenting in his refusal to accept federal assistance as almost all of the other ranchers do, taking pride in his self-suffi ciency even though his banker tells him, “T ere’s no way a man can still make it all by himself.“

It In the hands of a less-capable writer, this novel could have been an h d

idealized tale of the last of a (perhaps) dying breed, the independent man of the West. But Kelton is a better writer than that. His Charlie is a fully realized character, faults and all. He seems so real that some readers have been convinced that Kelton patterned him after their fathers or grandfathers. He sounds a great deal like my own grandfather, now that I think about it. T e dialogue and even the narration are absolutely authentic for the

place and time. Perhaps Kelton’s very authenticity prohibited his wide acceptance as a novelist outside the West. For example, one of his characters is said to be “telling a windy.” Do people in other states even know what that means? Another unique aspect of the novel is its frank depiction of the

tensions in the interactions of the Anglos and Hispanics who share the region. Even though Charlie shows none of the overt bigotry of some of his neighbors, he often behaves in a paternalistic way toward his ranch hand’s family, assuming they “need” him to take care of them. As the story progresses, however, he comes to view his Hispanic neighbors in a new light. T is author is well-known by those who read westerns, having written

over 40 novels set in the West, including a series about Texas Rangers. T is is his most prize-winning book (Spur Award from Western Writers of America and Western Heritage Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum), but I would not call it a western in the usual sense. It has more in common with the literary novels set in the West of Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy than it does with the westerns of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. Elmer Kelton (1926-2009) was born on a ranch outside of Andrews,

grew up on a ranch near Crane, graduated from the University of Texas, and spent all his working years as a journalist and magazine editor in San Angelo.

The Wind by Dorothy Scarborough | University of Texas Press

Imagine yourself to be a sheltered and pampered

18-year-old girl living in Virginia in a snug house surrounded by orchards, fl owers, and streams. And then a family death and overwhelming debts force you to travel to live with a relative in an unpainted wood-frame shack on a Texas ranch, where the area is suff ering its worst drought ever—no trees, no greenery, no running water. And the wind blows all the time. How would you fare? T e year is 1887 and the ranch location is outside

Sweetwater, Texas. Letty Mason is not at all prepared for her new environment, particularly not for the weather. Circumstances go from bad to worse as her relative’s wife begins to resent Letty’s intrusion, and she fi nds herself almost forced into making a loveless marriage. She begins to think of the constant wind as a demon, and “began to dimly comprehend how women tried beyond endurance might sometimes go mad.” Later in the novel she believes that the ever-present wind is actually

a malevolent force trying to destroy her. She thinks, “Hell was a place where the winds blew all the time, winds that tormented you, but would not let you die….Demon winds!” T is novel is somewhat melodramatic, although historical accounts

do tell of pioneering women who, indeed, went mad. A reader who has not ever lived “where the wind comes sweeping down the plain” may dismiss the heroine’s obsession with the wind as overdrawn. But for anyone who has ever lived in West Texas, it will seem much more plausible. T e descriptions of the sunrises, sunsets, and scenery are partic- ularly evocative, and the regional dialogue sounds natural. And that’s not easy to do--impossible, perhaps, for a non-Texas. Dorothy Scarborough (1878-1935) was born in Mt. Carmel, near

Tyler, and later lived in Sweetwater for fi ve years before moving to Waco, where she received a B.A. and M.A. from Baylor. Published in 1925, this novel created much furor at that time from area Chambers of Commerce. Today it is considered by many critics to be a classic of Texas literature.

Many noteworthy novels have been

written by Texans about Texas and its people. These were selected for review because they refl ect a predominant concern of Texans drought,

these days—the in spite of some recent rains. In

both books the weather plays a central role, certainly in the fi rst—almost as one of the major characters. T ey were both written by Texans who actually lived in the areas

described, and I believe they got it all right. • ● ● These books may not be available at your chain bookstores, but they are both available on-line from Amazon and can usually be found in public libraries. Raye Green’s book review blog can be viewed at, with postings once or twice a week of reviews from varied genres.


22 Volume 6 Issue 1 | TexasLiVE |

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