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From the Pen of Carter Smith

I was just a starry-eyed kid, not quite even a teenager, when I first met the man. It was on a ranch up in the Rolling Plains right outside of the little town of Benjamin. We had gone up to see some rancher friends of my parents, who had invited us up for a visit, and a quail hunt to boot. I was beyond excited to be there.

The gentleman showed up before light one morning in his trademark black felt hat, a worn duster, knee-high riding boots and big sweeping mustache. He had a bed full of dogs in the back of a weathered pickup truck that by the looks of things had clawed its way around the rough breaks of many a ranch in that part of the world.

To add to his mystique, our friends had told me that the man lived in the old jail in Benjamin and that he supported himself for the longest time living in an old dugout line camp on one of the big ranches trapping bobcats and coyotes. He apparently had put himself through college back when furbearer prices could earn a man a decent wage.

We hunted with him over a glorious few days and had a big time chasing blue and bobwhite quail, as well as ducks and geese. He also introduced me to the ways of calling coyotes. I had no idea a person could make so many distressed rabbit sounds of varying pitch and frequency. I was hooked the first time a big bushy coyote decked out in his winter best came barreling up out of a draw, skidding to a stop a mere 10 yards or so away from us, expecting to find breakfast, but alas and too late, finding us instead.

The man seemed to know everything there was to know about hunting game in the Rolling Plains. But that wasn’t all. There wasn’t a plant or animal, big or small, that he couldn’t identify. He’d then regale us with some engaging story about its value and place on the landscape. He seemed to wax particularly enthusiastically about roadrunners, telling story after story about colorful ones he had followed around as a kid and later on as an adult. On top of all that, he had some of the most extraordinary wildlife pictures I had ever seen.

The man was simply an artesian well of information, an outdoorsman’s outdoorsman. It wasn’t until 10 or so years later that I learned just how talented that man was and just how fortunate I had been to traipse around with him for a few days out in nature.

That man was Wyman Meinzer.

Wyman, as you may know, is the official Texas State Photographer, an honor rightfully bestowed upon him by an appreciative state Legislature. His ability to capture the majesty of Texas’ stars and skies, pastures and prairies, woods and waters, birds and game, wide-open spaces and vast places is simply legendary. Two of his photo books, Between Heaven and Texas and The Roadrunner, occupy prominent places in my office. When it comes to the lens and our wild things and wild places, Wyman Meinzer is simply as good as it gets.

Wyman is no stranger to this magazine, and we have enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with him over the years, happily featuring his immense artistry. This month, he shares with us a beautiful photo essay of some of the rarest of rare color anomalies he has documented in wildlife. It’s a real feast of nature for the eyes.

Speaking of nature and such, this month’s issue focuses on the state’s rich bird life and birding traditions. Spring is a great time to hit the proverbial trail across Texas to enjoy what many people believe to be the best birding in the United States. And, as Naima Montacer writes so compellingly about her sojourn out into wilds around Dallas, you don’t have to venture far from our urban centers to do it.

Wherever you are, whatever you are doing this spring, I hope you’ll find some time to heed our call of “Life’s better outside.”

Thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. They need you now more than ever.

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