Along Forgotten Raver: Photographs of Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel,
1997-200oo, With Accounts of Early Travelers to Texas, 1767-858. By Geoff
Winningham. (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 2003. Pp. 164.
Photographs, maps, list of travelers, acknowledgments. ISBN 0-87611-186-
X. $39.95, cloth; ISBN 0-87611-190-8, $125.00 limited.)
Texas is a state defined, in part, by its streams. Rivers form the physical bound-
aries with Mexico and adjacent states. They figure metaphorically in Texas litera-
ture, captured beautifully by John Graves and others. Historians will note the
importance of rivers as impediments to travel by early settlers and as militarily
significant as armies moved across the land. Geoff Winningham, a leading docu-
mentary photographer, combines all these aspects and more in his perceptive
and informative project on Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel.
Today it is difficult to understand the original native beauty of the short stream
that begins in the prairie near the quiet town of Katy. Access is difficult. Urban-
ization has changed the face of the adjacent areas. With carefully selected ac-
counts from early travelers and with his wonderfully evocative photographs,
Winningham conjures up images of Texas wild and natural, weaving them with
the reality of the present. His description of the sea-going vessel Laura making
her way to the site of the future city of Houston in 1837 and his other introduc-
tions to each stretch of the bayou and ship channel provide a welcome historical
perspective to the area. In the past, Winningham has focused on cultural sub-
jects. His recent work in Mexico (In the Eye of the Sun: Mexican Fiestas, W. W. Nor-
ton & Co., 1997) and his earlier work on high school football (Rztes of Fall: High
School Football in Texas, University of Texas Press, 1979) both won high praise.
With the present work, he combines his cultural sensitivity with beautifully ren-
dered landscapes. The two-page gatefold, "North side of downtown Houston, in-
cluding Buffalo Bayou," vibrates with energy as counterpoint to the poetic
stillness of the earlier "Buffalo Bayou, from the Studemont Street Bridge."
While the photographs are beautiful, the message is not always pleasant. In
"Along Buffalo Bayou, Downtown Houston," the image of a homeless man stark-
ly contrasts with the sylvan scene, the misty bridge in the background giving the
urban context. Again, as the photographs progress downstream toward the bay,
the hazy skies of "Houston Ship Channel and Refineries, Galveston County"
evoke concerns of air pollution and industrialization run amok.
The images in the book conclude with the peacefulness of "Galveston Bay and
the Houston Ship Channel" where tiny ships shrink man's efforts to insignifi-
cance. The sky and reflected light of the sun combine to tell us that the world re-
ally is bigger than Texas.
Abilene Bill Wright
Promised Lands: Promotion, Memory, and the Creatzon of the American West. By David
M. Wrobel. (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2002. Pp. ix+322. Ac-
knowledgments, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN 0-7oo6-
1204-1. $34.95, cloth.)
David Wrobel's Promised Lands is a detailed, broad-ranging, and suggestive
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/. Accessed March 7, 2014.