Notes and Documents
Prairie Trails in Literature
CARL C. WRIGHT*
W HEN I WAS GROWING UP ON THE BLACKLAND PRAIRIE OF CENTRAL
Texas, reading was an antidote for the sweat and hot sun of
cotton fields. Books and magazines, whatever their literary value, gave
relief from farm drudgery and dispelled the gloom of winter and of
dark, rainy days. In the hayloft or by the fireplace, with a kerosene
lamp for light, my brothers and I read such books as Robinson Crusoe,
Nick Carter, The Malay Pirates, Boy Scouts of the Dismal Swamp, and
the novels of Horatio Alger and Zane Grey.
Our parents consumed The Semi-Weekly Farm News, column by
column. Published in Dallas and reaching our mailbox on Tuesdays
and Fridays, this timely newspaper was well suited to a busy farm
family. On the young folks' page, thousands of teenage Texans saw
their first writing in print. While in high school I earned spending
money by writing articles on plants and animals. A distinguished fea-
ture of this paper was an editorial cartoon of "Old Man Texas," drawn
by J. Knott.
We rarely read any literature about farm life. Realistic writing about
hard prairie life was unheard of in our community. In fact I never saw
Hamlin Garland's Main-Travelled Roads or Ole Edvart R6lvaag's
Giants in the Earth until my second year in college. Our preference in
reading material was western stories. The pulp Western Story Maga-
zine, with a four-color cover showing man, horse, and pistol in action,
was the first choice of our reading public. Western stories, as Walter
Prescott Webb has pointed out, "deal with a new subject and a strange
environment; they portray a life that was so simple and elemental that it
*Carl C. Wright is a professor emeritus of English at Pan American University. He has
written articles for a number of publications.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 82, July 1978 - April, 1979. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101206/. Accessed March 15, 2014.