The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990

Book Reviews

ture postcards, for example, Hales generalizes about viewers' response
to the images when his research really deals with the images themselves
rather than with their reception. Nevertheless, such arguments are not
totally negative. In a sense, they indicate the reader's involvement with
a book that is tremendously engaging, both intellectually and visually.
University of Texas at Austin EMILY FOURMY CUTRER
A Natural State. By Stephen Harrigan. (Austin: Texas Monthly Press,
1988. Pp. xii+ 185. Preface, illustrations. $14.95.)
Like outdoor writer Roy Bedichek, whose Adventures with a Texas
Naturalist appeared some forty years ago, Stephen Harrigan is another
Texan-by-choice. Born in Oklahoma and raised in Abilene and Corpus
Christi before going on to the University of Texas at Austin, Harrigan
experiences a crisis of faith. A visit to the East Coast causes him to ques-
tion his "Texas habit." Is it or is it not "a place that I want to believe is
real and not just wished for?" he asks (p. 166). To test this, he flies to
Amarillo, drives through childhood haunts, and returns to his domicile
in Austin. The reality of the land's size strikes him. It demands an "eye
for breadth" he reports (p. 174), plus an ability to "look close and hard
at the unlovely places" (p. 174). Characteristics of bigness and the un-
spectacular anchor the eight essays that make up this slim, 185-page
volume.
Houston is the first big and ordinary place whose zoo denizens live
behind bars as much to keep the humans out as to keep the animals in.
Heat and aridity, reminders of his Abilene boyhood, envelop West
Texas, including Big Bend and the vastness of the Chihuahuan desert.
Unlovely humidity and the destructive activities of commerce and tour-
ism on the barrier islands arouse memories of Corpus Christi and char-
acterize the long ribbon of dune bulwark against tempest and tide of
the Gulf.
Two chapters explore the ecology of sand dune and foreshore and
pay special attention to Padre Island. They are the most effective ex-
amples that this Texas Monthly author explores. We learn about the se-
cret life of the coquina clam. As a beach walker, Harrigan notes the
passage of migrant passerines and shorebirds. He peers down as a resi-
dent white-head hawk would, searching for movement-a kangaroo
rat stalked by a rattler, a rice rat busying herself with a nest of young
tucked away in a blackbird nest, or an unwary cottontail. Each species
has its agenda; each adjusts its activities to the season and time of life.
Harrigan, like Bedichek, introduces us to animal and plant por-
traits in a seemingly barren, homogenous landscape of sand. Again like
Bedichek, who tramped through pastures, fields, and over fences and

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/. Accessed August 30, 2014.