The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Other than some definitional concerns about the terms "South" and "mod-
ern" (local and state economic regulation were commonplace in colonial and
antebellum times in America and the South in keeping with old-fashioned
republican ideology) and associating the Old South and the Confederacy exclu-
sively with racism and lynching (Yankees were racists before and after 1865 and
had no qualms about lynching as is noted on p. i65), The Path to a Modern South
admirably fulfills the mission of its author and the University of Texas Press.
Both are to be congratulated for a job well done.
Alabama State University W. KIRK WOOD
From Can See to Can't: Texas Cotton Farmers on the Southern Prairies. By Thad Sitton
and Dan K. Utley (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997. Pp. x+316.
Illustrations, acknowledgments, introduction, notes, bibliography, index.
ISBN 0-292-77720-5. $25.00, cloth.)
In writing From Can See to Can't Thad Sitton and Dan K. Utley have prepared
what they describe as an "ethnology of the farming life in Fayette and
Washington counties of south-central Texas." They have accomplished, however,
far more than this modest goal suggests.
Standard histories of late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century Southern rural
life typically focus on changes in regional agriculture during the decades
between the Civil War and the present. Little room is given to examining the
actual lives of the thousands of people on Southern farms. For decades the
majority population of the region was rural.
In selecting two adjoining Texas counties in the Brazos and Colorado valleys
as their case study, Sitton and Utley have drawn from rich oral interviews and
documentary sources. Their work chronicles the daily aspects of life for rural
Texans during the early twentieth century. In so doing they have recreated in
words a historic lifestyle once incredibly common and today gone.
The authors organized their book around the yearly life cycle of the cotton
plant, which for decades governed most aspects of human life for the majority of
rural Texans. They describe daily lives of German, Czech, Anglo, and African
American farm families during the 920os, just before the Great Depression,
though their discussions cover decades on either side of the period. The choice
of Fayette and Washington Counties means that the study region includes not
only alluvial bottom lands, but also blackland prairies and sandy-land post-oak
timber belts. Many of their observations extrapolate to the lives of past genera-
tions of cotton raisers elsewhere in the South.
The book begins with two chapters that introduce the study region, its peo-
ple, and the cultivation of cotton as a cash crop. Here, as throughout the book,
readers learn through the voices and memories of historic farmers. Every lesson
learned has a human face. The authors proceed to chronicle the lives of south-
central Texas cotton farmers through chapters on the three "seasons" of their
year: (1) midwinter rest, (2) spring and summer cotton planting and cultiva-
tion, and (3) autumn and early winter cotton harvesting. The description of

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed July 10, 2014.