Ten Best Football Books of 2012

according to Kirkus Reviews
link here: www.kirkusreviews.com/lists/10-best-football-books-2

10 Best Football Books

We know what you’re thinking—why are those book nerds over at Kirkus pontificating about the best football books? Do they even watch football at Kirkus? Ahem—we’ll bypass that question to remind you that if it’s a book, we know whether it’s any good. This week, we highlight 10 gripping, insightful stories about the big egos, big money and big bruises at the heart of America’s national sport. You won’t get all 10 read before Sunday’s epic battle, but any of these titles will provide some nice perspective on why that little oval of pigskin—and the guys fighting and fumbling over it—capture our attention (even our attention).
Cover art for MUCK CITY
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 23, 2012
MUCK CITY: WINNING AND LOSING IN FOOTBALL’S FORGOTTEN TOWN
by Bryan Mealer
“Mealer tries a little too hard to tug at the heartstrings; nonetheless, he offers a stirring tale of sports as a means of escape from dire circumstances.”
High school football players and other residents of hardscrabble Belle Glade, Fla., fight for their pride and their lives in this chronicle from veteran reporter Mealer (All Things Must Fight to Live: Stories of War and Deliverance in Congo, 2008, etc.). Read full review >
Cover art for THE DALLAS COWBOYS
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 9, 2012
THE DALLAS COWBOYS: THE OUTRAGEOUS HISTORY OF THE BIGGEST, LOUDEST, MOST HATED, BEST LOVED FOOTBALL TEAM IN AMERICA
by Joe Nick Patoski
“A fittingly exhaustive history of a larger-than-life franchise.”
Texas journalist and author Patoski (Willie Nelson: An Epic Life, 2008, etc.) delivers an oversized history of one of sport’s greatest franchises. Read full review >
Cover art for WAR ROOM
NONFICTION
Released: Nov. 8, 2011
Kirkus Star WAR ROOM: THE LEGACY OF BILL BELICHICK AND THE ART OF BUILDING THE PERFECT TEAM
by Michael Holley
“A deeply reported, thoroughly engaging look at what it takes to succeed in the NFL–and a perfect complement to the NFL Network’s compelling miniseries Bill Belichick: A Football Life.”
A longtime Patriots chronicler goes inside the brain trust of the NFL’s most successful team. Read full review >
Cover art for OUR BOYS
NONFICTION
Released: Aug. 18, 2009
OUR BOYS: A PERFECT SEASON ON THE PLAINS WITH THE SMITH CENTER REDMEN
by Joe Drape
“A feel-good story of youthful drive, great coaching and the value of unflagging communal support.”
Turning his attention from horseracing (To the Swift: Classic Triple Crown Horses and Their Race for Glory, 2008, etc.), New York Times reporter Drape follows a high-school football dynasty. Read full review >
Cover art for THE GLORY GAME
NONFICTION
Released: Nov. 4, 2008
THE GLORY GAME: HOW THE 1958 NFL CHAMPANIONSHIP CHANGED FOOTBALL FOREVER
by Frank Gifford, Peter Richmond
“Touchdown, Gifford!”
NFL great Gifford (The Whole Ten Yards, with Harry Waters, 1993) reminisces about the legendary game between his New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Read full review >
Cover art for THE BEST GAME EVER
NONFICTION
Released: June 3, 2008
THE BEST GAME EVER: GIANTS VS. COLTS, 1958, AND THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN NFL
by Mark Bowden
“Not quite on par with Bringing the Heat (1994), among the best football books ever, but surely a delight for anyone interested in the history of the NFL.”
Bowden (Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam, 2006, etc.) takes a sharp look at the 1958 National Football League championship game, which featured “the greatest concentration of football talent ever assembled for a single game.” Read full review >

Cover art for CARLISLE VS. ARMY
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 4, 2007
CARLISLE VS. ARMY: JIM THORPE, DWIGHT EISENHOWER, POP WARNER, AND THE FORGOTTEN STORY OF FOOTBALL’S GREATEST BATTLE
by Lars Anderson
“Gripping, inspiring coverage of three powerful forces’ unforgettable convergence: the sports version of The Perfect Storm.”
Sports Illustrated staffer Anderson (The All Americans, 2004, etc.) chronicles a 1912 game that proved a turning point not just for college football, but for the sport as a whole. Read full review >
Cover art for NAMATH
NONFICTION
Released: Aug. 23, 2004
NAMATH: A BIOGRAPHY
by Mark Kriegel
“Namath was no angel, thank goodness, but this evocative portrait shows him at play in the fields of magic. ”
Meaty biography of Broadway Joe from sports-columnist-turned-novelist Kriegel (Bless Me, Father, 1995). Read full review >
Cover art for BACKYARD BRAWL
NONFICTION
Released: Sept. 3, 2002
BACKYARD BRAWL: INSIDE THE BLOOD FEUD BETWEEN TEXAS AND TEXAS A&M
by W.K. Stratton
“Good-natured, intelligent, funny, and less bombastic than the title suggests.”
A savvy sportswriter uses the football rivalry between the University of Texas and Texas A&M to paint a lively, partial portrait of the Lone Star State. Read full review >
Cover art for MY GREATEST DAY IN FOOTBALL
NONFICTION
Released: Oct. 8, 2001
Kirkus Star MY GREATEST DAY IN FOOTBALL: THE LEGENDS OF FOOTBALL RECOUNT THEIR GREATEST MOMENTS
edited by Bob McCullough
“Simply not to be missed: Meat and potatoes for the football fan.”
Fun memories from football greats, and some fascinating insights into the politics of the Hall of Fame and football’s evolution over the past 50 years, as compiled by McCullough (My Greatest Day in Golf, not reviewed). Read full review >

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Cowboys first Bling Ring 4 Sale

Dallas Cowboys’ first team publicist is auctioning off a rare keepsake: his ring from team’s first Super Bowl win in ’72

The link is here direct from the Scoop blog at the Dallas Morning News.

And here’s the Scoop:

By Robert Wilonsky
rwilonsky@dallasnews.com
9:51 am on January 24, 2013 | Permalink

Curt Mosher’s held on to this Super Bowl ring for more than 40 years. Selling it now, he says, is “the thing to do.”(Courtesy Heritage Auctions)

Curt Mosher, a sportswriter who got comfortable in some front offices around the National Football League, officially became the Dallas Cowboys’ public relations director on April 1, 1967. He wasn’t the first to hold the position: “Tex Schramm’s official title was general manager and chief public relations executive,” says Joe Nick Patoski, author of The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America. “But Curt was the first I read about who was ID’d as team publicist.”

Mosher held that title till 1976, when he left to run the day-to-day operations of the expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers; a year later, he was assistant general manager for the Atlanta Falcons. But he left Dallas with one heck of a parting gift: a diamond-studded “World Champions” ring, the result of Dallas’ 24-3 whipping of the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI at Tulane Stadium down in New Orleans.

And now it could be yours: Mosher and wife Mary are selling the ring in Heritage Auctions’ February 23-24 Platinum Night Sports Auction, which will take place in New York City. As far as Heritage can tell, this is the first 1971 season title ring to be offered at auction.

“It’s hard to part with it,” says the 80-year-old Mosher. “And it’s a gorgeous thing. Tex was the one who OK’d the design. Tex was appreciative of a lot of things, including jewelry. It’s gorgeous.”

But Curt hasn’t worn it “for quite a while,” says Mary. The reason: “He’s been ill, and it just fell off his fingers. It’s been laying around for years …”

“Not years,” interrupts Curt.

“Well, you haven’t worn it for years,” Mary says.

“I wore it when my fingers and hands worked,” Curt says. “I’m very arthritic. And I’ve had health issues. But you don’t want to hear all that.”

In an emailed statement Chris Ivy, director of sports auctions at Heritage, reminds this is far from the first Super Bowl ring Heritage has sold; it was news back in 2011 when long-ago Green Bay Packer Fuzzy Thurston sold his Super Bowl II jewelry to cover some back-tax issues, for instance.

“But we can’t find another instance of a single 1971 Cowboys Super Bowl ring ever coming up a public auction,” says Ivy. “For fans of America’s Team this may well be the ultimate artifact, and there’s certainly no telling when, or if, another one will surface.” He guesstimates the bidding will open around $10,000 and go up from there.

For Curt, parting with the ring won’t be easy. His connection to the Cowboys of old goes way back and runs deep. “I loved Tex Schramm,” Curt says. He and Mary were at his house just days before the team’s first president and general manager died on July 15, 2004.

And “he was the messenger who informed Roger Staubach that Don Meredith had retired, sealing the Dodger’s future with Dallas,” says Patoski. “Until that point, Staubach was thinking his future was probably with another team. And he was in the inner circle of the front office that got to party with Clint Murchison at Spanish Cay, back when owners were beloved rather than reviled.”

The Moshers say, yes, it’ll be nice to make some money off the ring. Of course. Absolutely. “That’d be great,” Mary says.

“But I’d like to see it in the hands of someone who loves it as much as I do,” says Curt. He says he used to wear the ring all the time — even in New York, when he worked for the National Football League’s Management Council, though he would wear it backwards as not to attract undue attention. But those days are long over. Time to pass it on to the highest bidder who’ll really appreciate such a rare keepsake from the team’s very first Super Bowl win.

“I always love to hear good things about the Cowboys,” says Mosher. “It’s just been very pleasant. Mary’s taken on the task of selling it, and that’s the deal. Yes, it’s hard to give it up, but that the thing to do.”

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Book of the Week on TheFinancialist.com

Very fine review from the Finalialist, link here http://www.thefinancialist.com/book-of-the-week-the-dallas-cowboys/

Book of the Week: The Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t won a Super Bowl in nearly two decades. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009. They finished this season with an 8-8 record and a gut-wrenching loss to the Washington Redskins that ended their hopes for a playoff berth.

Despite their lackluster performance in recent years, the Cowboys still have a swagger that delights their fans and enrages their many detractors. “America’s Team,” as the Cowboys have dubbed themselves, plays in a $1 billion stadium that includes displays of high-end art alongside the team’s five Lombardi trophies. The stadium and its gigantic high-definition screen (the fourth largest in the world) is a reminder that, win or lose, the Cowboys always seem to be in the spotlight.

In his 800-page book, “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America,” former Texas Monthly journalist Joe Nick Patoski explains how the team cultivated its larger-than-life persona over the last four decades. He argues that the Cowboys’ brash attitude is part of the Lone Star State’s own unique football culture, where high school and college football often approach the status of religion. In fact, when Clint Murchison Jr., the son of an oil baron, invested $600,000 to launch the Cowboys in 1960, he had to rely on a healthy dose of spectacle to convince fans who passionately followed high school and college play on Friday and Saturday to also cheer for professional football on Sunday.

While Murchison used marketing to build a fan base, by the 1970s, the team was drawing crowds with its winning ways. Head coach Tom Landry, always wearing his trademark fedora, led Dallas to five Super Bowl appearances, winning in 1971 and again in 1977.

Much of Patoski’s best material comes from this era, including his descriptions of quarterback Roger Staubach, who asked for a station wagon instead of a sports car after being named M.V.P. of Super Bowl VI, and running back Duane Thomas, who refused to speak for an entire season as part of a contract dispute.

Patoski also dedicates a great deal of ink to the Cowboys’ current owner Jerry Jones, whose over-the-top sense of style personifies today’s team. The author portrays Jones as a passionate, hands-on owner who signed some of the league’s biggest contracts and built one of the its most ambitious stadiums.

In his own way, even though the Cowboys are no longer winning, Jones has helped solidify the brand established by Landry and Staubach back in the 1970s. Dallas remains big and bold, and whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are still America’s team.

Photo courtesy of Ken Durden / Shutterstock.com

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My latest Cowboys screed, courtesy of the TM Daily Post

link here www.tmdailypost.com/sports

Why the Cowboys Should Go Socialist
by Joe Nick Patoski
Nov 29 2012, 11:30 AM

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Editor’s Note:

Another week, another Cowboys loss, and another round of fan unrest with Jerry Jones. This time, no doubt inspired by all of the secession talk in Texas, a desperate and disgruntled fan took to the White House “We the People” website, asking President Barack Obama to faciliate the “removal” of Jones as Cowboys owner and GM: “We, the Citizens of the Great State of Texas, and Dallas Cowboys fans worldwide, have been oppressed by an over controlling, delusional, oppressive dictator for way too long,” it read, as Dan Graziano of ESPNDallas reported. Unfortunately, the petition violated the site’s terms of participation, no doubt because it failed to “address the current or potential actions or policies of the federal government.” Fear not. Longtime Texas Monthly contributor Joe Nick Patoski has another solution:

If Jerry Jones wants to make a really big move before the 2013 season rolls around, he’s got to go beyond bringing in another formerly successful coach/GM like Bill Parcells or Mike Holmgren.

Last week, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Holmgren (above, left, with Jones) would be interested in coaching the Cowboys should the job come open, even as Holmgren publicly denied it.

Holmgren may have been a winner at Green Bay and Seattle, but his most recent record running the Browns leaves something to be desired. If Jerry really craves the Packer legacy and record, he should go much further than simply hiring its Super Bowl coach. He also needs to embrace Green Bay’s socialism.

Jones the owner has been fantastically successful, monetizing the value of the franchise as the NFL has monetized itself into America’s biggest entertainment. Jones the general manager is a failure, despite his “socks and jocks” declaration when he bought the team in 1989. And the owner won’t fire the GM.

So Jerry, go ahead and hire Holmgren. Give him the authority to make trades and run the football end of the franchise. But then double down and emulate the Green Bay model of ownership.

The Packers are the only community-owned team in the NFL, with over 300,000 shareholders owning a piece of the franchise. And yet, despite that—or more accurately, because of that—the Pack remain a dynastic team that consistently competes among the league’s elites.

Why would the NFL’s most ruthless capitalist embrace that model? Because then Jerry Jones could finally get what he really wants most—another Super Bowl win.

Think of it: 300,000 Cowboys fans, in Texas and around the world, willing to pony up $10,000 apiece (a pittance compared to the personal seat licenses fans pay to dib a prime viewing seat at Cowboys Stadium, much less a luxury box) to call themselves part-owners. That’s $3 billion more for Jerry. He also gets to keep the stadium receipts (like all that pizza money).

Meanwhile, a real GM is hired, and, finally, a better football team takes shape, and brings back the Lombardi Trophy. That earns Jerry absolute forgiveness, both from everyone who’s suffered the past decade-plus, and from older fans who haven’t forgotten Jones’s classless firing of Tom Landry.

Jones and his son Stephen might even be retained as business managers, so they can continue to wheel and deal. And if Jerry needs to get his football ya-yas out, he can always donate more dough to his alma mater the University of Arkansas, which, in its current state, can probably use him as a bench jockey and armchair general manager (it’s been suggested Jones was at least partially responsible for the Razorbacks’ overture to LSU head coach Les Miles this week).

The NFL is a very complicated game and business, one that requires specialized expertise at every level. The owner of the Jones-era Cowboys has tried to do it all for the past 15 years. He’s succeeded wildly at revenue and branding, but ultimately failed by not delivering on his business’s core-product: the football team.

So go socialist, Jerry! Make yourself a hero to the fans, and make the Dallas Cowboys worthy of their global fan base once again.

Joe Nick Patoski is the author of THE DALLAS COWBOYS: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America (Little, Brown). Read an excerpt from it here.
Tags:
Sports, America’s Team, cowboys, Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Jerry Jones, Joe Nick Patoski, Mike Holmgren, NFL, Dallas

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Hector Saldana’s profile in the San Antonio-Express News

Story link here:

by Hector Saldana

Author Joe Nick Patoski was looking for a Texas story bigger than Willie Nelson, the subject of his last book.

He found it in the Dallas Cowboys, a team whose history and mystique not only transcends the game but reflects the elevation and coming-of-age in pop culture status of professional sports. The team’s star logo is second only in recognizability to that of Coca-Cola.

“The light bulb went off,” said Patoski. “The only thing bigger in Texas than Willie Nelson is the Dallas Cowboys.”

Patoski’s latest book is titled “The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America.”

Best known for his musical biographies “Willie Nelson: An Epic Life,” “Selena: Como La Flor” and “Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire,” his love of secret swimming holes and for his many years at Texas Monthly, Patoski says his outsider status uniquely qualifies him to write the Cowboys story.

“I really am a music guy,” said Patoski. “My history has been using music as a way to understand culture. It’s an easy way to understand and identify culture.”

Patoski admits he longed for something different.

His books on Nelson, Selena and Vaughan are definitive and covered areas that he loved — country, blues and Mexican music.

“I really felt I’d completed this triumvirate of what Texas is all about, African American, Mexican American and Anglo American. That’s our ethnic foundation,” Patoski said.

Patoski, who grew up in Fort Worth, says the task of telling the Cowboys history in a state known for football was daunting, but piqued his curiosity.

“We didn’t invent the game, but we own it,” he said. “This is all larger-than-life (stuff). The Cowboys are the story of Dallas. The story of the NFL since 1960 is best told through the Dallas Cowboys, the premier franchise. It’s why we even care.”

hsaldana@express-news.net

Read more: http://www.mysanantonio.com/entertainment/books/article/Tall-Cowboy-tales-3899864.php#ixzz27yoiqitf

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Joe Nick Patoski Slam-Dunks Dallas Cowboys Tome (Houston Press)

William Michael Smith, Houston Press writer and Odessa Permian grad, weighs in on the book here:

Football
Joe Nick Patoski Slam-Dunks Dallas Cowboys Tome
By William Michael Smith Fri., Sep. 21 2012 at 12:30 PM
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Categories: Football

cowboys2.jpg
The dust jacket from Joe Nick Patoski’s new tome on America’s Team
If there is one reason Joe Nick Patoski’s books — biographies of Selena, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Willie Nelson — are so good, it is his ability as a storyteller. Any decent reporter can sift news clippings and videos or interview the participants, but Patoski’s style and organization turn what could have been dry, pedantic history into a page-turner. You can actually picture him whittling on a piece of pecan while, with a knowing huckster twinkle in his eye, he wheedles you into something you didn’t bargain for. It’s the Texas way.

It doesn’t hurt that his subject matter in the thorough-to-a-fault 816 page tome Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America is the self-proclaimed America’s Team, that garish, gauche agglomeration of rich nut jobs, rigid Christian automatons, true-believer underpaid players like Lee Roy Jordan, Bob Lilly, Dave Manders, and Don Perkins, and too-highly-paid thugs like Pac-Man Jones and Michael Irvin known as the Dallas Cowboys.

Ever since the ultra-kooky Dallas zillionaire Clint Murchison founded the franchise with his twisted brain trust of carnival barker Tex Schramm and rigid Jesus-nut coach Tom Landry, the Cowboys have been a three-ring larger-than-life circus.

Federico Fellini couldn’t make this shit up.

For people of a certain age — those of us who still remember the team in its infancy, when Sunday NFL football was changing Sunday viewing habits forever and who have been sucked in by the Cowboys media juggernaut for the past fifty years — the book is the key to forgotten personalities and events, a history closely paralleling our own lives.

“If there is a goal to this book, it’s to trigger memories in readers,” Patoski told me recently. We were discussing short term head coach Chan Gailey, whom I had completely forgotten. “Chan the Man was not that bad a coach, he just had a very tough act to follow, the Cowboys still being in thrall of Jimmy Johnson’s aura.”

While Patoski has gathered a smattering of information firsthand via interviews — mostly from innocent bystanders like center Dave Manders’ wife Betty who add color and validity — he did not interview any of the major principals in the story, although he did request an interview with current owner Jerry Jones three times.

According to Patoski, seeking an interview with Jones was something any good journalist would do, but Jones ignoring his requests didn’t really alter the book in any way.

“The security guy told me he wouldn’t respond, there wasn’t anything he’d gain from that,” says Patoski. “Listen, the written record on this subject is so huge, I didn’t need to talk to him or anyone, really. My goal was figuring out the bigger story.”

And figure out the bigger story he did. Not only does Patoski leave no stone unturned in relation to the Cowboys on- and off-the-field actions, he also masterfully ties in the history, politics, business environment, and culture of Dallas and the DFW area. He even draws a subtle comparison with Houston, using Molly Ivins’ insightful line, “Houston is degenerate, Dallas is perverse.”

The overarching highlight is Patoski’s cinematic Technicolor evocation of the circus the Cowboys are and have always been. Sex, drugs, rock and roll have never looked so salacious, except in Pete Gent’s great fictionalization of the Cowboys, North Dallas Forty.

“That’s the outrageous part,” Patoski explains. “It wasn’t anything I said, it’s what the written record said.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the book is how well the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders come off. In spite of their hyper sexed-up public image, up beside all the macho crazoid stuff going down with the team and its management the cheerleaders come off as one of the few true positives, mainly due to the careful management and civic foresight of the various managers of the organization over its history. Few realize the economic impact the cheerleaders have made; they frequently add more than a $1,000,000 in profits to the Cowboys’ bottom line annually.

Patoski paints dynamic, carefully researched portraits of all the main players in the drama, neither diminishing the accomplishments nor exaggerating the freak-show events. But it is his timely, unblinking portrait of current owner Jerry Jones that stands out.

A megalomaniac of epic proportions, Jones is rightfully portrayed as a marketing genius who took both the Cowboys and the NFL to almost unimaginable financial heights, yet for all his financial success and a brief return to glory during the Jimmy Johnson regime, Jones’s football club has been barely above mediocre on the field over the long haul. Patoski lays the blame for Dallas’s .500 record over the past decade squarely at Jones’s feet.

Patoski makes the case — as have others — that the problem is Jones’ insistence on functioning not only as owner but as general manager, the only owner in the league to do so. For every stroke of genius comes another incident where Jones comes off like a spoiled, redneck brat who puts his celebrity above winning by continually meddling with coaches and football decisions.

Patoski labels the fact that Jones and the Cowboys continue to be thought of by the public — and by ticket buyers — as a great football team in spite of their lackluster record over the past decade as “Jerry’s con.” Never in the history of the NFL has such a mediocre team demanded so much rabid loyalty or had such astronomical television ratings.

The author also makes plain that in spite of all the smoke and mirrors, Jones and his revolving cast of head coaches haven’t come close to matching the success of the original owner and coach. Patoski does offer hope to the faithful that the Cowboys may right themselves when Jones steps down in favor of his son Steve Jones, who has been in the family business since day one and is apparently less of an egomaniac than his flamboyant father.

Don’t be intimidated by this five-pound monster. Because of Patoski’s feel for Texanspeak and Texanthink plus his highly trained reporter’s instincts, the book can be cruised through in a week. Well written, informative, and entertaining, it stands every chance of being a true blockbuster, just like its subject.

Follow Houston Press on Facebook and on Twitter @HairBallsNews or @HoustonPress.

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Writing with a Sense of Place

A couple weeks ago, it was my privilege to teach a class for the Writers League of Texas (writersleague.org) at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.


Susan Weeks is not pictured. Susan was flooded in the RV Park where she was staying on Friday morning, and didn’t make it to the last class.

I say it was a privilege because I had a great group of students to kick around the whole idea of writing, communicating, what it all means, and why we do what we do.

One student, Light T. Cummins, was in his last week of being the official State Historian of Texas. (Like I said, this was an exceptionally talented group.)

Light was kind enough to share his blog about his experiences, which I am sharing here.
Here’s the link to his blog, An Historian of Texas (historianoftexas.blogspot.com)

And here’s what he wrote:
Is there a difference between being an author and a writer? Until last week, I would have said yes, because it has long been my contention that authors and writers are not the same literary animal. My opinion was that historians (including myself) are authors only. We are not writers. Academic historians research and write synthetic works of historical analysis. What we say is potentially more important to us than how we say it. Writers, in particular those who deal in non-fiction, were to me a different breed of folk. They have the freedom to write from their feelings, observations, and opinions in ways that academic historians do not. The way a writer says something with their words can be the main event of what they write.

My mind has been changed about this and I now contend there is no difference between a good writer and a good author. Historians are writers, or at least they should attempt to be. This revelation came to me because I recently attended the summer writing workshop sponsored by the Writer’s League of Texas. The League holds this annual event at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. I was one of almost a dozen students in a seminar taught by Joe Nick Patoski, who is one of the most wide-published writers in the southwestern United States. “Writing with Sense of Place” served as the title and frame of reference for this seminar.

Joe Nick Patoski
Joe Nick Patoski has written a shelf-full of books that people read everyday. His forthcoming book on the history of the Dallas Cowboys promises to be a true blockbuster. Joe Nick put all of us attending the seminar through our writing paces while he engaged in a constantly fascinating barrage of animated talk that explained literally everything he knew about how to be a writer. His talk is the equal of his writing. Over the course of the week he extemporaneously spoke a book to us verbally. Its title could have been “How To Be a Good Writer.” It was a magnum opus.

Tom Michael and Rachael Osler Lindley visited the seminar to talk about their radio station, KRTS, 93.5 FM. This PBS station, popularly known as Marfa Public Radio, is one of the smaller public broadcasting stations in the nation. It mounts each day a full schedule of national and local programs, many of which highlight writers and their work. It was fun while in Alpine to tune-in KRTS on my radio dial instead of being an internet listener, my usual means of hearing the station. Historian Lonn Taylor also visited our group to read from his latest book, Rambling Boy, and talk about his very popular writing. Taylor writes a regular column for the Big Sentinel in addition to being heard regularly on Marfa Public Radio. Curator Mary Bones took us on a tour of the Museum of the Big Bend, something that regally highlighted our sense of place about the region.

The fine writing and cogent comments manifested by the other participants in the seminar, many of whom are also published writers, served as powerful reinforcements to Joe Nick’s writing exercises, the class visitors, and our group discussions. I was happy with my participation because I was able to shake the archival dust off some of the things that I wrote in the seminar. In fact, a few things I put on paper actually read as if they had been written by a writer.

For Joe Nick Patoski’s website, Click Here.
For the Writer’s League of Texas website, Click Here.
For Marfa Public Radio, Cllick Here.
For Lonn Taylor’s column, Rambling Boy, Click Here.
For the Museum of the Big Bend, Click Here.

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Water For All? Texas Coop Power’s water issue

Water for All?

Texas Coop Power’s water issue follow the link to download the pdf file.

I’m proud to be a part of the team that put this issue together and especially proud of the journalism done in the name of Texas and its future.

My article on groundwater and surface water in Texas is below and through this link:

photo by Woody Welch

Once deemed too ‘secret, occult and concealed’ to regulate, groundwater remains a vexing subject too deep to capture for today’s lawmakers

By Joe Nick Patoski
August 1, 2012

Water: It’s a deep subject, and veteran journalist Joe Nick Patoski has been trying to get to the bottom of it for years. Spring-fed Jacob’s Well, his favorite swimming hole, sustains the Blanco River and recharges the Edwards Aquifer. But while Wimberley’s Jacob’s Well is threatened by drought and increased pumping of the Trinity Aquifer, some homeowners in nearby Austin have paid to have private wells drilled in the Edwards—not for drinking water, but for water to keep their lawns lush and green.

Water is water, except in Texas.

All of Texas’ freshwater comes from precipitation. Where it goes when it falls makes all the difference in the world.

Surface water, meaning creeks, rivers and lakes, is considered a public resource commonly owned by the people of Texas. Simple enough.

Groundwater, that is all water that you can’t see below the surface of the Earth, is a whole other matter. That water, contained in aquifers and bolsons (Spanish for “bag,” in this case meaning hollowed basins), found tens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of feet below the surface, is regarded like oil or other minerals—a resource owned by the owner of the land above it.

Got that?

In 1904, the Texas Supreme Court determined in the Houston & T.C. Railway Co. v. East case that property owners could pump as much groundwater as they pleased without regard to the effects on neighbors’ wells. Groundwater, the court ruled, was too “secret, occult and concealed” to regulate. No one understood how groundwater worked, so the court applied rule of capture, a remnant of British common law, to the case.

In February 2012, the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling in the Day v. Edwards Aquifer Authority case affirmed that the property owner of the ground also owned the water under that ground.

The problem with both decisions is that groundwater does not observe property lines. Some aquifers are so large they span several counties. Some, hydrologists have learned over the past century, are actually moving rivers. Plus, no matter how groundwater moves, what’s clear is more water is being pumped from underground than is being put back in through recharge.

That explains why other states in the American West have developed different laws and strategies regarding management of groundwater. Texas is the only Western state where rule of capture is law. That may work well for property owners wanting to sell their groundwater, or sell their mineral rights, but not so great for most of the rest of the population that relies on water as a life source.

Where water is abundant, rule of capture works fine, because whatever water is pumped out from underground is usually replenished. But in arid, water-short regions, such as all of the state west of the 98th parallel (roughly following U.S. Interstate 35), the devil’s in the details. Consider this: It’s perfectly legal for a single landowner, taking advantage of his or her property rights, to drain so much groundwater that neighbors’ wells go dry or the groundwater underneath their property disappears.

The most notorious case illustrating that point is when Clayton Williams Sr. and other businessmen pumped groundwater below land they owned west of Fort Stockton to create a pecan orchard in the desert. Because of their actions, Comanche Springs, the largest springs in West Texas, went dry, forcing more than 200 truck farms east of town to go under. Williams’ right was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in 1954.

The Texas court has since reaffirmed property owners’ right to underground water; in 1999, the court upheld the right of Ozarka to mine a spring in East Texas for commercial purposes, even though it caused neighbors’ wells to go dry.

The Texas Supreme Court’s decision in early 2012 affirmed that Texas landowners own the groundwater “in place” beneath their property, and that they may have a valid claim for compensation from the government if regulations go too far in limiting their ability to capitalize on their groundwater.

Still, there are limits to unregulated pumping.

The withdrawal rate of pumping groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer—one of the world’s largest underground aquifer systems that covers most of the Great Plains, including the Texas Panhandle and South Plains—has exceeded recharge of the aquifer through rain and snowmelt over the past century. Parts of the water table in Texas have been drained, while less than half of the underground aquifer’s original ground water supply remains. Pumping costs have increased to the point where many Texas farmers have quit irrigated farming altogether, even if groundwater is available. In other words, pumping without regulation is unsustainable.

In 1993, Federal District Judge Lucius D. Bunton III ordered the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to set pumping limits in the Edwards Aquifer—which at the time supplied San Antonio with all its drinking water—to protect endangered species dependent on the Comal and San Marcos springs, the biggest spring systems in Texas.

“Without a fundamental change in the value the region places on freshwater, a major effort to conserve and reuse Aquifer water, and implemented plans to import supplemental supplies of water, the region’s quality of life and economic future are imperiled,” Bunton wrote in his decision.

Bunton’s ruling led to the creation of the Edwards Aquifer Authority by the Texas Legislature. The authority regulates pumping from the Edwards Aquifer.

In 1997, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1, establishing statewide water planning for the next 50 years. The bill and subsequent legislation have stated that the best means of local management of groundwater are the 101 groundwater districts established across the state. The rub after the Texas Supreme Court’s 2012 decision is, if a groundwater district or other government entity limits a landowner’s desire to pump, the landowner can sue the district for a “taking” of private property.

“While the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling in the Day case makes clear that landowners own the groundwater in place beneath their property, it is much less clear how far a groundwater district may limit pumping before it amounts to a taking of private property,” says attorney Tom Mason, the former general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority who now specializes in water law in Austin.

Which means groundwater districts, regional planning groups and state water authorities, in order to ensure sufficient water supplies 50 years from now, will have a hard time managing groundwater in a way that allows long-term, sustainable use by a variety of landowners/pumpers.

So, groundwater is a property right, and as such requires a whole lot of trust and awareness of the unwritten “law of the biggest pump” when it comes to management of groundwater resources locally, regionally or statewide. Otherwise, if all property owners exercised their right to pump, there wouldn’t be any groundwater left to fight over.

Surface water, on the other hand, is owned by all Texans, even though despite the different laws, really, it’s all the same water.

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Joe Nick Patoski is the author of nine books, including Generations on the Land: A Conservation Legacy (Texas A&M University Press, 2010). Patoski, an avid swimmer and kayaker, lives in Wimberley, in the Hill Country.

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