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Julie Duong marked it as to-read Jan 09, Emily marked it as to-read Mar 07, Pang marked it as to-read Apr 06, Monica added it Aug 01, Kellie Demarsh marked it as to-read Apr 17, There are no discussion topics on this book yet. About Ann Roth. Ann Roth. I'm a bit of a voyeur. I love to stick my nose into total strangers' business and observe how they deal with life's hurdles and whatever obstacles fate throws at them.
The surprises and insights are amazing. The people who interest me most are the ones I I'm a bit of a voyeur. For me, writing their stories is both rewarding and a whole lot of fun. I have emphasized the literature that reveals nature. My method has been to take up types and subjects rather than to follow chronology. Chronology is often an impediment to the acquiring of useful knowledge. I am not nearly so much interested in what happened in Abilene, Kansas, in —the year that the first herds of Texas Longhorns over the Chisholm Trail found a market at that place—as I am in picking out of Abilene in some thing that reveals the character of the men who went up the trail, some thing that will illuminate certain phenomena along the trail human beings of the Southwest are going up today, some thing to awaken observation and to enrich with added meaning this corner of the earth of which we are the temporary inheritors.
By "literature of the Southwest" I mean writings that interpret the region, whether they have been produced by the Southwest or not.
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Many of them have not. What we are interested in is life in the Southwest, and any interpreter of that life, foreign or domestic, ancient or modern, is of value. The term Southwest is variable because the boundaries of the Southwest are themselves fluid, expanding and contracting according to the point of view from which the Southwest is viewed and according to whatever common denominator is taken for defining it.
The Spanish Southwest includes California, but California regards itself as more closely akin to the Pacific Northwest than to Texas; California is Southwest more in an antiquarian way than other-wise. From the point of view of the most picturesque and imagination-influencing occupation of the Southwest, the occupation of ranching, the Southwest might be said to run up into Montana. Certainly one will have to go up the trail to Montana to finish out the story of the Texas cowboy.
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Early in the nineteenth century the Southwest meant Tennessee, Georgia, and other frontier territory now regarded as strictly South. The men and women who "redeemed Texas from the wilderness" came principally from that region. The code of conduct they gave Texas was largely the code of the booming West. Considering the character of the Anglo-American people who took over the Southwest, the region is closer to Missouri than to Kansas, which is not Southwest in any sense but which has had a strong influence on Oklahoma.
Chihuahua is more southwestern than large parts of Oklahoma. The principal areas of the Southwest are, to have done with air-minded reservations, Arizona, New Mexico, most of Texas, some of Oklahoma, and anything else north, south, east, or west that anybody wants to bring in. The boundaries of cultures and rainfall never follow survey lines. In talking about the Southwest I naturally incline to emphasize the Texas part of it.
Life is fluid, and definitions that would apprehend it must also be. Yet I will venture one definition—not the only one—of an educated person. An educated person is one who can view with interest and intelligence the phenomena of life about him. Like people elsewhere, the people of the Southwest find the features of the land on which they live blank or full of pictures according to the amount of interest and intelligence with which they view the features.
Intelligence cannot be acquired, but interest can; and data for interest and intelligence to act upon are entirely acquirable. I might never have noticed rose-purple snow between shadows if I had not seen a picture of that kind of snow. I had thought white the only natural color of snow. I cannot think of yew trees, which I have never seen, without thinking of Wordsworth's poem on three yew trees. Nobody has written a memorable poem on the mesquite. Yet the mesquite has entered into the social, economic, and aesthetic life of the land; it has made history and has been painted by artists.
In the homely chronicles of the Southwest its thorns stick, its roots burn into bright coals, its trunks make fence posts, its lovely leaves wave. To live beside this beautiful, often pernicious, always interesting and highly characteristic tree—or bush—and to know nothing of its significance is to be cheated out of a part of life.
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It is but one of a thousand factors peculiar to the Southwest and to the land's cultural inheritance. For a long time, as he tells in his Narrative , Cabeza de Vaca was a kind of prisoner to coastal Indians of Texas. Annually, during the season when prickly pear apples tunas , or Indian figs, as they are called in books were ripe, these Indians would go upland to feed on the fruit.
During his sojourn with them Cabeza de Vaca went along. He describes how the Indians would dig a hole in the ground, squeeze the fruit out of tunas into the hole, and then swill up big drinks of it.
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Long ago the Indians vanished, but prickly pears still flourish over millions of acres of land. The prickly pear is one of the characteristic growths of the Southwest.
Strangers look at it and regard it as odd. Painters look at it in bloom or in fruit and strive to capture the colors. During the droughts ranchmen singe the thorns off its leaves, using a flame-throwing machine, easily portable by a man on foot, fed from a small gasoline tank.
From Central Texas on down into Central America prickly pear acts as host for the infinitesimal insect called cochineal, which supplied the famous dyes of Aztec civilization. A long essay might be written on prickly pear.
It weaves in and out of many chronicles of the Southwest. Sowell, one of the best chroniclers of Texas pioneer life, tells in his life of Bigfoot Wallace how that picturesque ranger captain once took one of his wounded men away from an army surgeon because the surgeon would not apply prickly pear poultices to the wound. In Rangers and Pioneers of Texas , Sowell narrates how rattlesnakes were so large and numerous in a great prickly pear flat out from the Nueces River that rangers pursuing bandits had to turn back.
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Nobody has written a better description of a prickly pear flat than O. Henry in his story of "The Caballero's Way. People may look at prickly pear, and it will be just prickly pear and nothing more. Or they may look at it and find it full of significances; the mere sight of a prickly pear may call up a chain of incidents, facts, associations.
A mind that can thus look out on the common phenomena of life is rich, and all of the years of the person whose mind is thus stored will be more interesting and full. Cabeza de Vaca's Narrative , the chronicles of A. Sowell, and O. Henry's story are just three samples of southwestern literature that bring in prickly pear. No active-minded person who reads any one of these three samples will ever again look at prickly pear in the same light that he looked at it before he read. Yet prickly pear is just one of hundreds of manifestations of life in the Southwest that writers have commented on, told stories about, dignified with significance.
Cotton no longer has the economic importance to Texas that it once had. Still, it is mighty important.
In the minds of millions of farm people of the South, cotton and the boll weevil are associated. The boll weevil was once a curse; then it came to be somewhat regarded as a disguised blessing—in limiting production. A man dependent on cotton for a living and having that living threatened by the boll weevil will not be much interested in ballads, but for the generality of people this boll weevil ballad—the entirety of which is a kind of life history of the insect—is, while delightful in itself, a veritable story-book on the weevil. Without the ballad, the weevil's effect on economic history would be unchanged; but as respects mind and imagination, the ballad gives the weevil all sorts of significances.
The ballad is a part of the literature of the Southwest.
But I am assigning too many motives of self-improvement to reading. People read for fun, for pleasure. The literature of the Southwest affords bully reading. A student in the presence of Bishop E. Mouzon was telling about the scores and scores of books he had read. At a pause the bishop shook his long, wise head and remarked, "My son, when DO you get time to think?
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