Tune in, call in, verbalize, criticize. It’s all good.
My phone talk with Michael Pollan that ran on Talk at Ten
on KRTS-FM in Marfa, MarfaPublicRadio.or
Grab the link by clicking here. Gratis, gratis, gratis. Enjoy the read.
A free preview of three chapters from my forthcoming history of the Dallas Cowboys are now available to Kindle readers.
Here’s Amazon link to the Kindle chapters. If you like what you read please order up the entire 800+ page book and write a review on Amazon.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Amazon offers a free sneak of the Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America. Just follow the link and download accordingly.
Publishers Weekly weighed in on my new book THE DALLAS COWBOYS: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America by Joe Nick Patoski (Little, Brown)
It’s the first review and it’s a good ‘un.
from Publishers Weekly, July 30, 2012 http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-316-07755-2
The Dallas Cowboys:
The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America
Joe Nick Patoski. Little, Brown, $29.99 (816p) ISBN 978-0-316-07755-2
In this superbly detailed, obsessively researched, and equal parts serious sports scholarship and outrageous laugh-out-loud reporting about the Dallas Cowboys, Patoski (Willie Nelson: An Epic Life) focuses in part on Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who spent $1.2 million on a new stadium (“aka Jerry World; aka the Death Star”) into which the Statue of Liberty could fit standing up, as well as the Empire State Building laid on its side. Patoski starts with the Death Star as a way into viewing the ups and downs of the 50-plus–year history of professional football in Dallas, from its inception as a popular amateur team sport in the 19th century, speaking to “Texas’s legacy as a republic that had won its independence from Mexico by fighting hard and using whatever means necessary,” through the team’s professional start under the direction of businessman Clint Murchison and coach Tex Schramm, to its various championships and its controversial sale to Jerry Jones, who brought in the equally controversial head coach Jimmy Johnson. But Patoski’s supreme ability to capture the intricacies of the team’s history doesn’t get in the way of his equally impressive and cleverly sly portrayals of the many wacky players throughout Cowboys history, from quarterback Don Meredith to the players living and partying in “the White House” in the Dallas suburbs, about which offensive lineman Nate Newton famously said, “We’ve got a little place over here where we’re running some whores in and out, trying to be responsible.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Ebook – 978-0-316-13271-8
Here’s some of the back stories to fill in the blanks from the Drive drive I did for Texas Monthly’s Drive issue, June 2012
The PRE DRIVE part of the drive:
INTERSTATE 10 WEST
“The Land of Living Waters” earns its name from the hundreds of springs in the area and from the North Llano and South Llano rivers which converge here. The South Llano River State Park, three and a half miles south of town offers tubing, swimming, fishing, and paddling, as well as camping, picnicking, hiking, cycling, and birding opportunities, while a number of ranches as well as motels offer accommodations Lum’s Country Store and a Cooper’s serve top-shelf barbecue in town.
For more information: junctiontexas.net
Cool radio (except when they run Rush): KOOK, 93.5 FM, The Real Deal, a local station beaming from Ozona that plays retro country music with a great morning show hosted by Gordon Ames and Kinky Friedman doing the station IDs.
SIMON BROTHERS MERCHANTILE, Exit 438, 18 miles west of Junction and a mile north of the highway, is worth a looksee to soak up the general store atmosphere, get some coffee, a drink or a burger in the café in back, admire the deer trophy heads on the wall, or pick up copies of Racks pinup calendars featuring pretty, scantily clad young women posing with deer antlers and a Keep Roosevelt Wild bumper sticker. Not for nothing is this The Horniest Little Store in Texas.
3861 State Loop 291, 325-446-2604 Simonbros.org
SONORA, Exit 400, marks the halfway point of Interstate 10 across Texas. The Old Ice House Ranch Museum, Old Ice House Ranch Museum, 206 S. Water Ave., 325-387-5084, tells the town’s history and features exhibits on Will Carver of the Wild Bunch gang, who met his demise here, and water drilling, which made this part of Texas habitable. Open Wed-Fri 1-4 pm, Sat, 10 to noon and 1-4pm, or by appointment. Donations appreciated. The Eaton Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and Nature Center offers three miles of hiking trails on its 37 acre spread which shows off flora and fauna from the Hill Country and the Chihuahuan Desert, which converge here. Open sunup to sundown. Free. 500 City Hill Rd., 325-387-2615, eatonhill.blogspot.com
For more information: sonoratexas.org
CAVERNS OF SONORA The Caverns of Sonora, Exit 392 eight miles beyond the town of Sonora and 7 miles south of the interstate, is the premier show cave in Texas and easily on par with Carlsbad Caverns as one of the most magnificent in the world, give its abundance of helictite calcite crystal formations. Guided walking tours and specialty tours are scheduled throughout the day. The basic two hour tours is $20 for adults. Camping and RV hookups available. Open daily 8-6. 325-387-3105, cavernsofsonora.com
CIRCLE BAR TRUCK CORRAL A small automobile museum with custom rods and pickups is attached to the Circle Bar Truck Corral, Exit 372 Taylor Box Rd, 7 miles before Ozona. Taylor Box Road, 325-392-2637
THE DRIVE DRIVE begins here:
OZONA, Exit 365, has the last dependable gas, DQ, and Subway of this journey. The Visitor Center Park on the south side of the Interstate has 24 hour restrooms along with information about local attractions. The Crockett County Museum, 408 11th Street, 325-392-2837, crockettcountymuseum.com , M-F 9-5, Sa 10-3pm, tells the local history, focusing on the early pioneer settlers. $2 donation is requested. A statue of Davy Crockett, the county’s namesake, is at the south end of the town square.
For more information: Ozona.com
FORT LANCASTER HISTORICAL SITE
This frontier military fort, established on Live Oak Creek in 1855, thrived for six years until the start of the War Between the States, providing protection to travelers and freight haulers on the Government Road from hostile Indians. The 82 acre park stewarded by the Texas Historical Commission, has a visitor center with a stagecoach out front and a fine exhibit inside detailing life at the fort. Behind the center are the ruins of the fort which make for a splendid 2.5 mile walk if the weather cooperates (it can be torrid hot here in the summer). 9-5 daily. Admission: $4 adults. 432-836-4391, Visitfortlancaster.com
SHEFFIELD boomed in the 1920s with the discovery of oil, but took on an all-but-abandoned look once the nearby Interstate was finished in the 1980s. Despite a growing population of 600, motels, restaurants, and other traveler services have dried up and blown away. At 1:30 pm on a weekday, the sole service station with an Open sign was locked, with a note attached to the door “Closed until 2 pm. If you need something, call….”
SANDERSON is the self-declared Cactus Capital of Texas. The collection of stucco and adobe buildings suggest desert, while the architecture of the former Kerr Mercantile building is a Trost & Trost classic from the Chicago School. Several restaurants and four motels provide the essentials. The Terrell County Visitor Center on US 90 East, 432-345-2324, has all the details. Sanderson also has a shuttle service for Lower Canyons river trips on the Rio Grande. A mile-long nature trail connects the high school football field track to Javelina Hill, a scenic overlook above the town.
For more information: Sandersontx.org