The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983

Book Reviews

important contribution to the lore and understanding of this singular
individual, and will be especially useful to those who teach and study
the literature of the West and Southwest.
Eagle Pass, Texas BEN E. PINGENOT
From a Limestone Ledge: Some Essays and Other Ruminations
About Country Life in Texas. By John Graves. (New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1980. Pp. xv+228. Preface, illustrations.
$11-95.)
Landscapes of Texas: Photographs from Texas Highways Magazine.
(College Station, Tex.: Texas A&M University Press, 1980. Pp.
157. Preface, introduction, photographs. $24.95.)
John Graves is among the best of what he calls "the pleasant long
line of writers on nature and the soil and the soil's people" (Graves,
Hard Scrabble, p. 141). Although Graves is often referred to as a
"Texas Thoreau," Walden Pond's most famous citizen eschewed the
ownership of land in his effort to "Simplify, simplify, simplify."
Graves, however, is of the belief that one cannot fully participate in
communion with nature without owning a place of one's own. Fur-
ther, he contends," you don't really own a place till you own it in your
head by watering its soil with your sweat and seeking out its crannies
and plants and creatures, and by that time the place comes in a way
to own you too" (Hard Scrabble, p. 253).
Thus John Graves came to be "squireen-yeoman-kulak" of a small
and largely worn-out farmstead near Glen Rose in Somerville County.
Into this farm he has poured years of loving care, and from it he has
derived a considerable portion of country lore, folk wisdom, and en-
forced patience, if not a great deal of monetary remuneration. Among
Graves's bits of lore is the observation that farmers' "daily and ab-
sorbing concern with their land, with animals and grass and water
and fences and the rest, is a lonesome thing much of the time and they
find it good occasionally to share it with someone who's willing to lis-
ten" (Landscapes, p. 15). In his own case, the sharing is as important
as the farming, for farmer Graves's principal crop is the grist for writer
Graves's literary mill. His first book, Goodbye to a River, is an account
of a canoe trip down the Brazos River and through the land he now
tills, and the second, Hard Scrabble, is the story of his love affair with
his eroded acres and his struggle to pull them back from the destruc-
tion wrought by generations of single-crop farming and overgrazing.

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed February 5, 2016.