55 Texas Tales: From Galveston to Amarillo to Brownsville to El Paso

I must admit that I’m a proud Texan with a mild Texas accent and a whiff of Texas braggadocio. And I think reading books by Texan authors or books set deep in the heart of Texas is a great way to spend a summer afternoon.

Adams, Andy. The Log of a Cowboy. Semicolon review here.

Anderson, Jessica Lee. Border Crossing. YA novel about an Hispanic teen who is dealing with paranoid schizophrenia. I will be looking for a copy of this novel soon.

Appelt, Kathi. The Underneath. Animal story from the Big Thicket of East Texas. Semicolon review here.

Baker, Betty. Walk the World’s Rim. The tragic story of a Native American boy named Chacko and of Esteban, the slave who accompanied Coronado on his search for the Seven Lost Cities of Cibola.

Beatty, Patricia. Wait for Me, Watch for Me, Eula Bee. Captured-by-Indians fiction set in West Texas, 1860’s. Semicolon review here.

Bertrand, J. Mark. Back on Murder. A murder mystery/police procedural set in Houston. Sequels are Pattern of Wounds and Nothing to Hide. Semicolon review here.

Bissinger, H.G. Friday Night Lights. The book that started it all, led to a movie and then a TV Series. I read that the people of Odessa are still mad at Bissinger for his portrayal of their town. I’m not mad, but I do think he probably misunderstood a few things. Semicolon book review here.

Brammer, Billy Lee. The Gay Place. This novel is supposed to be about LBJ in disguise. I haven’t read it, but I’d like to check it out.

Brett, Jan. Armadillo Rodeo. A picture book about Bo the Armadillo who longs for adventure.

dePaola, Tomie. The Legend of the BLuebonnet. A picture book telling the Native American legend concerning Texas’s state flower, the bluebonnet.

Donovan, James. The Blood of Heroes: The 13-Day Struggle for the Alamo–and the Sacrifice That Forged a Nation. I haven’t read this book yet, but Al Mohler recommends it.

Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Semicolon review here.

Erickson, John. Moonshiner’s Gold. Great action-packed adventure with engaging characters and a lot of history sneaking in through the back door. John Erickson is known for his Hank the Cowdog series, but this stand-alone adventure is just a good as the Hank books and should be just the right reading level for most sixth graders.

Erickson, John. The Original Adventures of Hank the Cowdog. Early and middle grade readers will enjoy this series of tales about a lovable cowdog.

Ferber, Edna. Giant is really a fantasy. I just don’t know very many people in Texas who live like the Benedicts or who ever did. And Ms. Ferber was from Michigan. But Giant is a fun Texas fantasy, and it does manage to give the sense of how everyone in Texas wants to at least pretend that Texas and all its cultural appendices are bigger than life.

Fritz, Jean. Make Way for Sam Houston. Semicolon review here.

Garland, Sherry. In the Shadow of the Alamo. This YA novel set during the Texas Revolution is different because it’s told from the perspective of a Mexican boy, Lorenzo, who’s conscripted into Santa Anna’s army and forced to fight the Tejanos at the Alamo and at San Jacinto.

Garland, Sherry. A Line in the Sand: The Alamo Diary of Lucinda Lawrence Gonzales, Texas, 1836. A Dear America series book set at the battle of the Alamo.

Gibbs, Stuart. Belly Up! Semicolon review here.

Gipson, Fred. Old Yeller. Classic. (I once had Mr. Gipson’s ex-wife for an English teacher in high school. I think. At least that was the rumor in my high school.)

Graves, John. Goodbye to a River. A story of the author’s canoe trip down the Brazos River.

Greene, A.C. A Personal Country. Memoir/essays about the culture and people of West Texas, Abilene in particular. I want to read this book, too.
Harrigan, Stephen. The Gates of the Alamo. Adult fiction. Semicolon review here.

Hemphill, Helen. The Adventurous Deeds of Deadwood Jones. An engaging Western novel about cowboy life for middle school readers. Semicolon review here.

Hoff, Carol. Johnny Texas.

Holt, Kimberly Willis. When Zachary Beaver Came to Town. National Book Award winner.

Janke, Katelan. Survival in the Storm: The Dust Bowl Diary of Grace Edwards, Dalhart, Texas 1935. Another Dear America journal-style book for middle grade and young adult girls.

Karr, Kathleen. Oh Those Harper Girls! Semicolon review here.

Karr, Mary. The Liar’s Club: A Memoir. I haven’t read this best-seller from 1995 about the author’s dysfunctional East Texas upbringing. Can anyone else recommend it?

Kelly, Jacqueline. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. Middle grade fiction set in 1899. Semicolon review here.

Kelton, Elmer. The Day the Cowboys Quit. Kelton was born in Crane, Texas, and he used to live in San Angelo, my hometown.

Kelton, Elmer. The Time It Never Rained.

Kelton, Elmer. Lone Star Rising: The Texas Rangers Trilogy. The Buckskin Line, Badger Boy and The Way of the Coyote. Semicolon review here.

Lake, Julie. Galveston’s Summer of the Storm. Semicolon review of this children’s fiction book set before and during the Galveston hurricane of 1900. It starts with a very lazy Texas summer with Texas foods and hot weather and front porches and grandmother’s house. Then disaster!

Larson, Eric. Isaac’s Storm. Semicolon review of this nonfiction tome about the man who was the chief weatherman for the U.S. Weather Bureau on Galveston Island in 1900.

Matthews, Sally Reynolds. Interwoven. A memoir by a pioneer woman about life on the Texas frontier.

McMurtrey, Larry. Lonesome Dove. I hated this book, but I’m in the minority.

Meacham, Leila. Roses. Tumbleweeds: A Novel. I haven’t read these “family saga” novels by a Texas author and set in East Texas and Amarillo, respectively, but they sound intriguing.

Meyer, Carolyn. Where the Broken Heart Still Beats. YA historical fiction about Indian captive Cynthia Ann Parker.

Meyer, Carolyn. White Lilacs. Early 1920’s, segregation and racial conflict. Here it is reviewed at Becky’s Book Reviews.

Michener, James A. Texas. Typical Michener, somewhat mythologized, but sprawling and readable.

Moss, Jenny. Winnie’s War. Semicolon thoughts here.

Murphy, Jim. Inside the Alamo. This nonfiction account of the famous Battle of the Alamo is a good introduction for grown-ups, too.

Reading, Amy. The Mark Inside: A Perfect Swindle, A Cunning Revenge, And A Small History Of The Big Con. I haven’t read this nonfiction book either, but I saw it recommended at NPR’s website.

Rinaldi, Ann. Come Juneteenth. Slavery in Texas during and after the Civil War.

Sachar, Louis. Holes. Set in a sort of mythical, contemporary Texas, this Newbery-award winning novel is just right for a sweltering hot Texas afternoon.

Saenz, Benjamin Alire. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Yet another book I haven’t read, but it’s recommended at NPR’s summer reading list. Set in El Paso with two young men as protagonists, it sounds wonderful. I just picked it up at the library, so I’ll let you kow.

Shefelman Janice. Comanche Song. Semicolon review here.

Shefelman, Janice. Spirit of Iron. Semicolon review here.

Smith, Sherri. Flygirl. YA WWII fiction about an African-American girl who “passes” for white and becomes a WASP (Women’s Air Force Service Pilot). Semicolon review here.

Stokes, David R. Apparent Danger: The Pastor of America’s First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920′s (aka
The Shooting Salvationist: J. Frank Norris and the Murder Trial that Captivated America) Semicolon review here.

Thomason, John W. Lone Star Preacher. “traces the life and times of a fiery Methodist preacher in East Texas during the Civil War era.” This novel joins my lengthy TBR list.

Tinkle, Lon. 13 Days to Glory: The Siege of the Alamo. You can never read too many books about the Alamo, and this one is classic.

Valby, Karen. Welcome to Utopia: Notes from a Small Town. “The book is a portrait of a small town in transition, a town that is growing globally and perhaps even philosophically, if not physically.” ~Booklist

Wisler, G. Clifton. All for Texas: A Story of Texas Liberation. 13-year old Thomas Jefferson Byrd gets caught up in the War for Texas Independence.

Wisler, G. Clifton. Buffalo Moon. Semicolon review here.

Wisler, G. Clifton. Winter of the Wolf. Semicolon review here.

Wisler, G. Clifton. The Wolf’s Tooth. Semicolon review here.

Wood, Jane Roberts. The Train to Estelline. From this list at Texas Reads.

Tour of Texas Towns

Nimrod, Ding Dong,
Needmore, Seymour,
Dime Box, Gill.

'Texas' photo (c) 2009, Calsidyrose - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Dripping Springs, Argyle,
Red Lick, Thrall,
Rosebud, New Hope,
Zionsville, Rawls.

Sour Lake, Big Lake,
Runaway Bay,
Smiley, Snook, Shamrock,
Buffalo, Fate.

Nazareth, Noonday,
Oyster Creek,
Mount Calm, Moscow,
Trinidad, Wink.

North Zulch, Happy,
Lazbuddie, Crow,
Chester, Lovelady,
Lollipop, Grow.

Muleshoe, Oatmeal,
Eldorado, Maud,
Paradise, Eden,
Maybelle, Claude.

'TX base (portion)' photo (c) 2009, Justin Cozart - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/George West, Tom Bean,
Bug Tussle, Rusk,
Loco, Looneyville,
Noodle, Lusk.

Melvin, Marvin,
Jot’em Down, Joy,
New Home, Mountain Home,
Cut and Shoot, Troy.

Carthage, Dublin,
Naples, Brushy Creek,
Athens, Paris,
Maple, Caddo Peak.

Nameless, MaryNeal,
Circle Back, Draw,
Byspot, Cherokee,
Sacul, Recklaw.

Gun Barrel City,
Fly Gap, Rhome,
Okra, Placid,
Weeping Mary, Nome.

Strange names dot Texas map by Roy Bragg.

Texas Tuesday: The Buckskin Line by Elmer Kelton

Elmer Kelton is from my hometown, San Angelo, Texas. I’m not much of a reader of westerns, but I thought I should at least sample the work of Mr. Kelton, seeing as he’s a hometown boy and was the farm-and-ranch editor for the San Angelo Standard-Times. Also, for five years he was editor of Sheep and Goat Raiser Magazine, and for another twenty-two years he was editor of Livestock Weekly. He wrote more than thirty western novels, set mostly in Texas, and he was awarded several Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America. In 1977, Kelton received an Owen Wister Award for lifetime achievement, and in 1998, he received the first Lone Star Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Larry McMurtry Center for Arts and Humanities at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas. Now that’s a resume to be found only in West Texas.

The Buckskin Line introduces us to Rusty Shannon, a red-headed orphan who is nearly captured by the Comanches in the first chapter. The Comanches do kill Rusty’s parents as the story opens in August, 1840 during the Comanche raid into south central Texas during which the small town of Linnville in Victoria COunty was sacked and burned. “The surprised people of Linnville fled to the water and were saved by remaining aboard small boats and a schooner . .. at anchor in the bay.”

In the story three year old Rusty is carried off by the Comanche raiders, but rescued by a ragtag group of pursuers, including Mike Shannon, an Irish-Texan wanderer who farms the land he finds until it wears out and then moves on. Mike has a wife, but the two have been unable to have childen. So they adopt the orphan boy and keep his first name, Davy, the only thing the young boy can tell them about himself. Davy grows up to be called “Rusty” in reference to his red hair.

Most of the book is about the adventures of the young adult Rusty Shannon, as he joins the Texas Rangers on the Red River border with Indian Territory just before and after the outbreak of the Civil War. Rusty is a brave and honest young man, but somewhat rash in judgement and too ready for revenge when someone hurts the people he loves. The Buckskin Line shows how Rusty Shannon matures and learns to temper his judgement with faith and patience.

I liked it enough to want to read the other two books in Kelton’s Texas Rangers Trilogy, Badger Boy and The Way of the Coyote.

Kylie Jean, Blueberry Queen by Marci Peschke

Cybils nominee: Early Chapter Books. Nominated by Jennifer Glidden, Capstone Press.

Kylie Jean, who lives with her family in Jacksonville, Texas, has a lifelong dream: she wants to be a beauty queen. I’ve never heard of Jacksonville, but it’s a real town in East Texas, Cherokee County, and it has a population of 13,868 (2000 census). Jacksonville is “the Tomato Capital of the World”, but it’s blueberries that play the starring role in Kylie Jean’s journey to becoming a beauty queen.

In the story the big festival in Jacksonville every year is not Tomato Fest, but rather the Blueberry Festival. Kylie Jean wants to be Blueberry Festival Queen, and since Kylie Jean is not only pretty, inside and out, but also determined, she enlists some help and sets out to realize her dream.

I’m not much on beauty pageants, but I liked Kylie Jean. She talks and acts “Texas” through and through with her “right pretty” and her “hollering” and her “yes, m’am” and “no, m’am.” I liked the way Kylie Jean makes a list of the things she needs to do to enter the beauty pageant, and she goes right down the list, checking each thing off as she gets it done. And I learned a few things you might not know (I didn’t):

“Shouting is not ladylike.” Beauty queens don’t shout.

“Beauty queens always wear a slip because it is classy.”

“Pretty is as pretty does . . . means being nice to the old folks, taking care of little animals, and respecting [my] momma and daddy.”

I’ll just bet at least one of those pieces of information is new to you, too. Consider it a part of your free education in Texas culture.

Z-Baby: “I think all of the books about Kylie Jean look good: Rodeo Queen, Hoop Queen, and Drama Queen.”

*This book is nominated for a Cybils Award, and I am a judge for the first round thereof. However, no one paid me any money, and nobody knows which books will get to be finalists or which ones will get the awards. In other words, this review reflects my opinion and Z-baby’s and nothing else.

Texas Tuesday: Oh, Those Harper Girls! by Kathleen Karr

A few years ago I read Kathleen Karr’s The Great Turkey Walk out loud to some of the urchins, and I remember us deriving immense enjoyment from the humorous story of a simple boy named Simon and his turkey drive across the Midwest. Well, I would love to read this book, Oh, Those Harper Girls!, to my younger children sometime when we’re studying Texas history. I’m sure they would love getting to know the six Harper sisters: March, April, May, June, Julie, and Lily. (Lily, the youngest was born in April, but that month had already been taken. Hence, Lily.)

The Harper girls live in Texas, in 1869, just after the Civil War, with their refined mother and their ne’er-do-well daddy on the Double H Ranch. Unfortunately, the bank is going to foreclose on the Double H if the Harpers can’t come up with enough money to pay off daddy’s bank loan. Fortunately, Daddy H has a plan. Unfortunately, the plan involves rustling some of the neighbor’s cattle and re-branding them with the Double H brand. Fortunately, the girls fail at cattle rustling. Unfortunately, Daddy has another plan . . . etc, etc, etc.

Oh, Those Harper Girls! is a wonderful comedic farce set in frontier Texas. I think kids and adults together could read this one and enjoy the broad humor as well as the subtle touches or irony and understated absurdity. For instance, the Double H, which is falling apart and mortgaged to the hilt, has a backyard full of “black ooze that kept creeping up around the plants no matter what Mama did to get rid of it. Disgusting, thick, sticky stuff. . . Wouldn’t you know her daddy would pick just such a site to build his ranch on. Poor Daddy never did do the right thing.” Only thirty years too soon.

For some Texan hijinks with a little comedic romance and jail-breaking and a stage tour and stagecoach robbery and even a foiled bank robbery all thrown in for free to keep the story moving along, you can’t go wrong with Ms. Karr’s portrait of six sisters trying to survive and thrive in heat- and poverty-stricken Central Texas. Near Fredericksburg. But the sisters eventually get to go to New York and go on stage at Tony Pastor’s Opera House. (We’ll join the Astors at Tony Pastor’s/And this I’m positive of/That we won’t come home/That we won’t come home/No, we won’t come home until we fall in love!)

Friday Night Lights: What Comes First?

I just finished watching the final episode of the final season of the TV show Friday Night Lights, and I am quite impressed with the quality and thoughtfulness of the entire series. The show’s creators and writers and actors got a lot of things right, and I enjoyed the ride.

First of all, for the most part, they got Texas right. The actors talked and acted like Texans, and it wasn’t overdone or caricatured as it is in so many Texas setting movies and television shows. A lack of Hispanic characters was a weakness in the program, since Texas is 37% Hispanic, but the characters who were there were pure Texan.

They got football right, too. Football really is King in much of Texas, especially small and medium-sized towns in Texas. A few of the situations the writers got themselves into with outlandish behavior by football fans and boosters were over the top, but they showed just how seriously many Texans take their high school football.

I was disappointed, however, by the overall take on sex and Christianity in the program. Christianity was portrayed as a Sunday thing: almost everyone went to church on Sunday, but faith didn’t inform their lives the rest of the week at all. Characters rarely prayed, except in a formulaic way before football games, and Christian moral values were not even considered as characters in the show engaged in promiscuous, casual sex with multiple partners at a young age. In fact, as the series drew to a close, Coach Taylor and his wife Tammy, a guidance counselor at the local high school, were unconcerned that their nineteen year old daughter had sex with her long-time boyfriend, quarterback Matt Saracen (played by actor Zach Gilford, one of the best actors in a series filled with good acting, by the way), but were completely appalled that Julie and Matt wanted to get married at ages nineteen and twenty respectively. “You’re too young!” No one ever mentions that it’s better to marry than burn (as Paul says) or that sex comes after marriage, not before. It’s just not an issue, and everyone is doing it. The “rules” seem to be:

Be sure you’re “ready”, emotionally and mentally prepared.
Use condoms. (One high school student gets pregnant because she and her boyfriend didn’t. Later, her mom lets the boy come back, with the admonition, “Use a condom this time or I’ll kill you!”)
Don’t have an affair with a married man or woman, and if you’re married , don’t commit adultery. It’s the last taboo.
Don’t get too involved or committed because sex is just sex, and marriage is only for old people and has nothing at all to do with sex.

I take it back: at the beginning, the first couple of season, FNL did “get religion”, at least to some extent. Then, I think the writers thought it became too limiting to the dramatic necessities of the show to have Christian characters trying to live their convictions, even though they were shown failing and trying again. This clip from the pilot episode shows that promising beginning:

Give all of us gathered here tonight the strength to remember that life is so very fragile. We are all vulnerable, and we will all, at some point in our lives… fall. We will all fall. We must carry this in our hearts… that what we have is special. That it can be taken from us, and when it is taken from us, we will be tested. We will be tested to our very souls. We will now all be tested. It is these times, it is this pain, that allows us to look inside ourselves.

Mary DeMuth says Friday Night Lights taught her about community and the need for close relationships.

Friday Night Lights: the TV series

I read the book by H.G. Bissinger a few weeks ago, and I devoured it because I grew up in West Texas. The Odessa Permian Panthers (Mojo) were our rivals when I was in high school. I thought the book was authentic and probably fair and factual.

So I started watching the TV series inspired by BIssinger’s book. In the TV show, the Odessa Panthers become the Dillon Panthers, and the football is joined to the romantic lives of high school students as the main focus of the story. I’ll admit that I got addicted to the show.

The first season was really good. The star quarterback, Jason Street, gets hurt in the first pre-season game, and sophomore Matt Saracen must grow into the role of #1 quarterback for the Dillon Panthers while Coach Taylor struggles to take his mostly young team all the way to the state championship in Taylor’s first year as coach. As the season progressed, and especially in the second season, I noticed that it had become a soap opera, complete with rotating (sexual) relationships, a patriarch and matriarch (Coach Taylor and his wife Tammy), and lots of angst and politics and sexual tension—not to mention murder, drunkenness, and family arguments galore. By this time the show has become something of a guilty pleasure for me, although I’m trying to find some redeeming social value other than the cute guys and my desire to find out what will happen to these characters.

Now I’ve started watching season three of the show. And I’m not a happy camper. Let me count the ways in which the writers have attempted to ruin this show:

1. One of the characters, Lyla, spent the entire second season living out her new-found commitment to Jesus. There were bumps and there was immaturity, but she seemed sincere and committed. I liked the idea that the show was exploring this aspect of West Texas life and culture, and I thought they were doing it without either idealizing evangelical Christianity or ridiculing it. As the third season began, Lyla had outgrown her Jesus phase, and she had returned to her bad-boy love, Chris Riggins. Apparently, it’s not possible for TV writers to portray an interesting, well-rounded, flawed but growing Christian character for more than one season.

2. The show has simply dropped major story lines from the first and second seasons. I understand writing characters out of the show as it continues. I understand that eventually high school students graduate and move on. But tell us what happened to them. Jason Street ended the second season with a pregnant girlfriend that he was trying to talk into having his baby. What happened? An Hispanic character was introduced in the second season, and he’s simply disappeared. If you want him out of the show, then tell us that he got arrested for drug possession or moved to Mexico or graduated early and left for Harvard or something. Lyla’s boyfriend from season two also evaporated into thin air. Did he dump her or vice-versa? Don’t just leave characters and stories hanging.

3. Coach Taylor’s wife has been promoted from high school counselor to high school principal. And she has a year old baby? Unbelievable, but I’ll go with it. However, they’re also messing with my favorite character, Matt Saracen, and trying to bring in another quarterback, a ninth grader, who according to everybody except Coach Taylor, can out-throw and outrun and out-play Saracen who is a senior with two years of experience under his belt. I don’t believe it. And I don’t believe anyone else would believe it, no matter how rich Baby Quarterback’s dad is.

4. This last is a problem that has been evident from the beginning of the series: too much sex. Every single major teen character on the show, except for one (the coach’s teenage daughter, and she’s been close at least a couple of times), has been shown in bed with somebody else. I’m not naive; I know that teens have sex, but I don’t believe they have it as often or as casually as the characters in this show do. And I think TV shows that imply that “everyone’s doing it” do a disservice to those teens who are trying to stay morally pure before marriage or who are looking for some reason to wait for marriage.

I’ll keep watching because they hooked me in the first two seasons. But I’m warning the Friday NIght Lights powers-that-be that if this third season continues to bug me and strain my credulity, I’m going to complain to a higher authority. Maybe the UIL? Or the Texas Education Agency? Or am I confusing fiction with reality?

Texas Tuesday: Apparent Danger by David R. Stokes

Apparent Danger: The Pastor of America’s First Megachurch and the Texas Murder Trial of the Decade in the 1920’s by David R. Stokes.

I get a lot of emails from publicists pitching books that I might want to review here on the blog. Mostly, I don’t respond because a) most of the books just don’t sound that interesting to me, and b) I don’t like being pressured to read a book and write a review on someone else’s time schedule. However, when I received an email about Apparent Danger, I took the bait because I am interested in Texas history, particularly Southern Baptist history in Texas, and the book was about the notorious J. Frank Norris, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fort Worth from 1909 until Norris’s death in 1952.

What I knew about Norris before I read the book: He was the pastor of FBC, Fort Worth. He got thrown out of or left the Southern Baptist Convention with his church. He was a real, live “fundamentalist.” He was involved in some kind of scandal or something?

What I learned from the book: J. Frank Norris was much more than just a run-of-the-mill pastor of a large church. He was a celebrity with aspirations to become the religious and political leader of the fundamentalist movement after the death of orator and politician William Jennings Bryan. The “scandal” I vaguely associated with Norris was really more than one scandal, but the biggest one was that he shot and killed an unarmed man in his church office —and was subsequently indicted and tried for first-degree murder. (And we think we have outrageous behavior among the clergy nowadays!) Of course, the book goes into much more detail about Norris, the murder, the trial, Norris’s relationships with Fort Worth’s finest, almost everything you’d ever want to know about Fort Worth and its politics and culture in 1926.

And I ate up every word. The picture that Mr. Stokes paints of this larger-than-life preacher and his strange reaction to criticism and controversy is fascinating. I kept trying to figure out what made J. Frank Norris tick and why so many people were so devoted to him and to his church for so long. That I never completely understood or got answers to those questions was not the fault of the author so much as the subject. Pastor J. Frank Norris didn’t seem to want to be understood so much as feared and followed and obeyed and admired. He was virulently anti-Catholic, associated with the Ku Klux Klan if not a member, and yet he spent a lot of time visiting in the homes of his six thousand church members and and seemed to see himself as a crusader against the evils of alcohol, gambling, and immorality in general. But he didn’t see anything immoral or even questionable about his shooting of Mr. D.E. Chipps in cold blood in the church building on July 17, 1926.

I thought the book, again, was wonderful in its detailed and comprehensive view of the time period and of the particular circumstances of Chipp’s death and the subsequent trial of J. Frank Norris. At the same time I very much wanted to know who Norris was and why he did what he did. Did he really believe what he preached? Was he a charlatan out to make a buck and enjoy his power over the masses? Was he ever sorry for the events of July 17th? What did his children think of him? Or his grandchildren? If he didn’t really believe the Bible, how did he sustain such a ministry for a lifetime? If he did, how did he square his actions with Jesus’s commands to practice peace and humility and lovingkindness? How could a Christian man ever feel justified in killing another human being, even in self-defense? (Oddly enough, George W. Truett, pastor of FBC, Dallas, during the same time that Norris was in Fort Worth, accidentally shot and killed a friend in a hunting accident, and it nearly ended his ministry. Truett was deeply depressed by the accident and only recovered after much prayer and encouragement from his congregation and family.)

I found this article, A Tale of Two Preachers, by author David Stokes linked at his website, and it added some to the story. But still I came away from the book wishing I knew more about this man, Doctor J. Frank Norris. (He received an honorary doctorate from Simmons College, as my alma mater, Hardin-Simmons University, was called back in those days.) How could he continue on for twenty-five more years in the ministry at the same church without ever revealing his heart? Did he have a heart? Did he preach the gospel, or just so much legalistic, racist, anti-Catholic nonsense? Was it all so mixed-up that you couldn’t sort it out? What really sustained Norris, besides Kipling’s poem If, a poem he had posted on his study wall and could quote by heart?

Apparent Danger is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of fundamentalist Christianity, of Fort Worth, of Texas Baptists, or of religion in the 1920’s. It reads like a fresh news story and seems to be well-researched and sourced without having the story itself get bogged down in footnotes and minutia. Recommended history.

Texas Tuesday: Wait for Me, Watch for Me, Eula Bee by Patricia Beatty

My Texas history class at homeschool co-op read this novel over the holidays. Patricia Beatty wrote over fifty books of historical fiction, and every one of them that I’ve read is a winner. Wait for Me, Watch for Me, Eula Bee is no exception.

Our hero is Lewallen, age thirteen, who’s been left to be the man of the house (and farm) when his older brother and father go off to fight for the Confederacy. Lewallen Collier has a younger brother and a little sister, Eula Bee. Because most of the men have gone to war, the Comanches have become more daring in their raids on farms and ranches, and Lewallen’s family is invited to shelter in the local fort and come back to their farm when the Indians have settled down or when the men have come back. Unfortunately for them, the Collier family make the wrong decision, and they fall victim to a band of Comanches who take Lewallen and Eula Bee captive and kill the rest of the family. (Warning: this scene in the book is fairly violent, not for squeamish readers.)

As a captive of the Comanche, Lewallen learns to work harder than he’s ever worked before, ride a horse like a Comanche, and hunt buffalo. He eventually escapes, but he spends the remainder of the book trying to rescue Eula Bee, for whom he feels a great sense of responsibility. In the course of his adventures, Lewallen saves the life of an Indian chief, becomes friends with the comancheros (Indian traders), and confronts the Kiowa brave who killed some of his family. The question throughout is whether or not Eula Bee will remember Lewallen if he ever finds her again.

The depictions of Comanche life and of Texas frontier life are vivid and memorable. Lewallen is a tough kid who has to grow up fast. And some of the minor characters are well-drawn, too, such as Grass Woman, a captive who has become one of The People (Comanche) and no longer wants to go back to the white man’s ways.

I was particularly struck by the family loyalty that Lewallen showed as he searched for his sister. I wonder if I would have that kind of stamina and faithfulness, or if my kids would.

If you’re teaching this book, here are a couple of links for materials:
Vocabulary quiz for Wait for Me, Watch for Me, Eula Bee

Other Indian captive books:
Trouble’s Daughter: The Story of Susanna Hutchinson, Indian Captive by Katherine Kirkpatrick. Susanna, daughter of the famous dissenter, Anne Hutchinson, is captured by the Lenape after the massacre of her entire family.She draws strength from the memory of her famous, strong-willed mother, but she finds herself becoming more and more admiring of the Lenape women she comes to know.
I am Regina by Sally M. Keehn. When Regina is captured by the Indians, she repeats her name to herself to remeind herself of her identity. However, after eight years of living with the Indians, all she knows is her Indian name. Based on the true story of Regina Leininger, Pennsylvania, 1755.
The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline Cooney. 11 year old Mercy is taken captive by the Mohawks during the French and Indian War in 1704. Mercy also becomes accustomed to Indian life and may not want to go back when the opportunity arises. Study guide for this book.
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison by Lois Lenski. 12 year old Mary is captured by the Seneca, based on a true story of a girl by the same name taken by the Indians in New York in 1758. Mary first becomes Corn Tassel, then later gets a new name, Woman of Great Courage. Discussion guide.
Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan, Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania, 1763 by Mary Pope Osborne. Part of the Dear America series. Quaker children Caty Logan and her brother are also captured by the Lenape, and although they eventually return to their home, Caty feels estranged from her family and misses Indian life.
Where the Broken Heart Still Beats: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker by Caroline Meyer. Cynthia Ann Parker was ckidnapped by the Comanche, married a Comanche leader, had three children, and was then kidnapped back by Texas Rangers in this story based on a true incident.
Captive Treasure by Milly Howard. In a sudden encounter on the trail with a Cheyenne raiding party, Carrie Talbot is taken off to a new life in the Cheyenne camp along the river.
The Raid by G. Clifton Wisler. When his little brother is carried off by raiding Comanches, fourteen-year-old Lige disguises himself as an Indian and joins a former slave in a bold rescue attempt.

Texas Tuesday: Make Way for Sam Houston by Jean Fritz

General Sam Houston: “We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: none is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard, and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name.”

Sam the Ambitious Politician: “Were I the nation’s ruler, I could rule it well.”

After Sam’s baptism, November 19, 1855: When a friend remarked he guessed Sam had all his sins washed away now, Sam replied that he hoped so. “But if they are all washed away,” he said, “the Lord help those fish down below.”

“The people want excitement, and I had as well give it as anyone.”

Newspaper headline announcing Sam’s arrival in town for a political appearance: “The Hero of San Jacinto is Communing with the People!”

Sam’s advice to his son: “It is a matter of great satisfaction to me to hope that my children will be in circumstances to receive a good education. Mine was defective and I feel the inconvenience, if not the misfortune of not receiving a classical education. Knowledge is the food of genius, and my son, let no opportunity escape you to treasure up knowledge.”

Old Sam the Prophet (as the Civil War began): “Let me tell you what is coming. Your fathers and your husbands, your sons and brothers, will be herded at the end of a bayonet. You may, after the sacrifice of countless millions, win Southern Independence . . . but I doubt it.”

Houston’s last words, July 26, 1863: “Texas . . . Texas. Margaret . . .”

Jean Fritz is a fine biographer, and Sam Houston is a fascinating subject. What more need be said? Still, I’ll add a few details for those of you who need a little more encouragement to pick up this Texas Tuesday pick.

Houston was the George Washington of Texas, but he was a much more flamboyant character than George was. Houston served as governor of two different states (Tennessee and Texas), was a congressman from Tennessee, was elected president of the Texas Republic twice, was a senator from Texas, and was indeed the Heroic General who led the Texians to independence in his victory over the army of Mexican general and dictator Santa Anna.

Houston and his third wife, Margaret, had eight children (just like me and Engineer Husband). Margaret was a good influence on Sam Houston; she got him to give up alcohol which Sam admitted had become an addiction and a hindrance to his ambitions. She also took him to church regularly, and he eventually received salvation and was baptized.

An adult biography I’ve seen recommended is The Raven by Marquis James, but if you just want an introduction to a colorful Texan hero, you can’t go wrong with Jean Fritz’s one hundred page account of the life of Sam Houston.

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