The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997 Page: 262
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
account of stockmen and hunters in the piney woods is replete with details that
we have so swiftly forgotten in the shift to modern urban life.
This is a historical geography of an isolated region. The author takes us back a
century or more when stock roamed freely, was rounded up for branding, killed
for selling in the market, or for bartering in the community. Sitton guides us in-
to the Big Thicket country, revealing how local geography reflects the names of
residents and special events that gave identity to landscape features. Sitton in-
volves us with hunting: how terrier-sized dogs tracked opossums at night, how
Walker-hounds bayed after foxes. We learn how folk trapped mink, bobcats, and
raccoons for pelts, fed paddlefish to hogs, and knew how to deal with dangerous
feral boars. Making moonshine, clearing waterways of logs, running cattle in the
woods, and shooting deer and wild turkeys are all covered in vivid prose. We
watch the comings and goings of rural folk in a bygone era. It is amusing to real-
ize that the first autos stampeded life in all directions as the crude machines
chugged by. Even house dogs cringed, or ran.
Sitton is to be congratulated for his dedication to recovering the environmen-
tal history of an area that some have dismissed as folksy and redneck. He brings
to life the colorful personalities of the people. It is an honest account from a
person who knows the Neches Valley, and who has been able to write a history
and geography that is insightful, humorous, and authoritative.
University of Texas at Austin ROBIN W. DOUGHTY
Circling Back: Chronicle of a Texas Raver Valley. By Joe C. Truett. (Iowa City: Univer-
sity of Iowa Press, 1996. Pp. 213. ISBN 0-87745-531-7.)
This volume of the University of Iowa Press' American Land and Life Series,
edited by Wayne Franklin, explores the twentieth-century cultural and environ-
mental history of the Angelina River valley of East Texas. Ecologist Joe C. Truett
grew up in the rural communities of north Jasper County, and this sensitive re-
turn to the landscapes of his childhood takes the form of a personal memoir
(with digressions) focused on the life of his grandfather, Corbett Graham, who
died in 1967.
Joe Truett's view of the changed and changing landscape of the place where
he grew up is by turn personal, historical, and ecological, full of many internal
"circling backs" from direct personal experience to the larger meanings of
things to personal experience once again. At times this complex internal struc-
turing works very well, at times it does not. Truett's account of childhood events,
his backwoodsman grandfather, and the Angelina bottoms are invariably elo-
quent and compelling-something that cannot always be said of his discursive
side trips far from the swamps and pine woods of southeast Texas.
Truett's multidimensional exploration of place-and his eloquence-at times
reminds the reader of another historian/ecologist and another book, Aldo
Leopold and A Sand County Almanac (1949). In Circling Back, and in his prizewin-
ning environmental history of East Texas, Land of Bears and Honey (written with
Dan Lay), Truett's best writing invites comparison with his famous predecessor.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 100, July 1996 - April, 1997, periodical, 1997; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101218/m1/314/: accessed April 25, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.