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Picture of the cover to the September 2006 magazine

Texas Reader: Personal Histories in Texas

By Charles J. Lohrmann

You’ll keep going back to both of these very different collections once you’ve read them the first time. They’re both unique and informative and, even though you’ll enjoy jumping around to find entries or essays that pique a specific interest, either book holds up to a straight-through reading like a novel. The title of Life Among the Texas Indians: The WPA Narratives (Texas A&M University Press, 270 pages $19.95, softcover) implies that it’s a collection of first-hand oral histories from Native American informants. It’s not, but that’s OK. In his preface, David La Vere explains how the collection grew into the eclectic mix of stories from whites, blacks and Indians, as well as “soldiers, cowboys, ranchers, settlers, former slaves, preachers, teachers, Indian agents, government officials” as well as “a host of Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws, Cheyennes, Delawares” who came in contact with Texas Indians. And he explains that he made no effort to censor the informants’ points of view. Even though some of these personal points of view are alarming (and the stories they tell, horrifying) they are what make the stories so engaging. In one brief account, a white missionary to the Kiowa and Comanche describes an incident in which the school superintendent sent students home with smallpox to help spread the epidemic throughout the tribes.

Hunting and Fishing in Texas by Hart Stilwell (Collectors Covey, 287 pages, $29.95, cloth) is considered a classic of outdoors writing, and now, thanks to this reprint (first released last year), it’s not so hard to find.

This collection of essays and photographs was first published in 1946. Stilwell’s independent spirit and joy in the outdoors infuse his writing with a compelling energy that will make you feel like you’re along on the adventure.

In “Fishing the Birds,” Stilwell writes, “And, if you get into real action, you will find things moving so fast you almost get dizzy. Shrimp will be bouncing against your boat, gulls will be shrieking and diving at you as though they were trying to drive you away, trout will be popping at the surface, and you and your fishing companion will be bouncing around in that little boat as the wind blows you through the school of fish — bouncing and shouting and hurrying to get the trout in so you can hang into another.”

Now if Collectors Covey will just reprint Hunting and Fishing in Mexico.

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