By WALTER PRESCOTT WEBB
Originality often consists in seeing the simplicity in something
that appears complex. Take the map of Texas as an example, and
try to describe it in words so as to create a visual image. The
United States map is a rectangle, Europe is a triangle, Italy is a
boot, and South America is a camel lying down, head pointed
south. But what is Texas like? The five-pointed star is a rough
symbol, but one must use imagination to make a star out of the
map of Texas.
Every Texan carries the map of his state on his right hand.
It was not the geographer, historian or scientist who discovered
this. It was the poet, Townsend Miller. Before we speak of his
poem, look at your right hand as you hold it up, palm outward,
in front of you. Bend down the last three fingers at the joint,
and as the poet says, "I think you have it." The thumb represents
the trans-Pecos region with El Paso at the tip. The line from
thumb to wrist is the Rio Grande with the first joint suggesting
the Big Bend. Brownsville lies at about the place where the
doctor feels for your pulse. A line across the base of the hand
represents the Gulf coast. The eastern boundary comes down
the little finger and the Red River boundary runs across the
three bent joints. The index finger, fully extended, is the
The poem, entitled "A Letter from Texas," was published in
a book of some twenty pages by Neiman-Marcus in 1939. In
reality it was Stanley Marcus who arranged for its publication
in order that visitors to Texas might find something significant
and characteristic to send to friends elsewhere. Stanley Marcus,
as a member of the Texas Book Club, has sponsored the art of
good book making in Texas. "A Letter from Texas," printed
by Carl Hertzog of El Paso, is an example. The edition is
limited to 415 copies.
John, it is a strange land. John, it is hard to describe.
But perhaps like this: hold up your right hand, palm outward
And break the last three fingers down from the joint
And there I think you have it. The westering thumb
The beautiful bleak land, the silent mesas
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 43, July 1939 - April, 1940. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101111/. Accessed February 6, 2016.