Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category



09
Oct
13

always look for the helpers

A few weeks ago, Americans paused to remember the 12th anniversary of the tragic attacks we have come to know as simply “9-11.”  My first born is now 13 years old.  Every year at this time, when I reflect on those terrible events, I take myself back to being a new father of barely a few months.

I distinctly recall the stark contrast between the horrors on television, and the peaceful rhythm of my son’s breath on my neck as he slept while I watched the atrocities unfold that morning.  Some moments in time are indelibly burned on your brain forever… this was one of those.

More recently, when the explosions occurred at the Boston Marathon, my middle son curiously asked about them.  You see from what he had already learned about 9-11 to date was understandably upsetting him.  This, as I knew would be, was inevitable.

My second born practically came into to this world with a concerned look on his face.  He is my planner, he tends to have the most angst about how things are going, or not going to work out.  He’s not one you can ever satisfy by saying, “Josh, don’t worry, it will work itself out.”  I have learned that statement tends to have the opposite effect on him.

He wants to know what the plan is – he quietly takes it all in.  His silence following any explanation is broken only with concise questions seeking clarification to the dilemma at hand.  He needs to know who’s calling the shots.  And he will darn sure let you know if he doesn’t think whoever that is, can’t follow through with those plans – yourself included.

Fear has a way of cutting through the conversational pleasantries when talking with him.  There’s no bull with this one, he’s going to let you know what is on his mind pretty quickly.  I have also found that absent leadership, he often carries those plans out himself.  An amazing and incredibly mature trait for an 11 year-old boy, I just love that about him.

Now all three of my sons attend a small school across the street from the University of Texas in Austin.  And, every time some wiseacre calls in a bomb threat, approximtely 225 Pre-K through 8th grade students get their world turned on their wet little ears, while teachers, caretakers and first-responders alike go into immediate action.jdeUSA

All threats are taken very seriously and given the unfortunate frequency of these crazy occurrences, well you can imagine the anxiety that builds up over time for kids who have no memories of their own when it comes to 9-11.  What they have seen are the pictures and videos afforded them in this day and age of technology.  You know this, If they want to know about something, they “google it.”  I have found this to be a fairly typical origin for a first impression for this generation and more and more, unfortunately, we are left to explain.

So, my son who worries, asked me this simple question on the morning of September 11, 2013,  “Dad, do you think that can happen again? Do you think it can happen here?”

My mind immediately began swimming, I could hear the voices of my father, mother, wife, grandparents, even my own voice as I was rifling through scores of things in my mind I have heard or read – searching.  It was like my brain was sifting through masses of audio files – processing.  That little hourglass or pinwheel was spinning on the monitor of my brain and just when I thought my son could actually see the empty in my eyes, my thoughts locked – I had something.

I’d like to believe the years of on-the-job training as a dad and maybe even as a kid myself as it turns out, all kicked in.  Because just as I knew this was going to have to be a very good answer, as this kid especially is never going to forget the words I’m about to say here – a familiar voice popped in my head.  I knew what my son was really asking.  And I found myself paraphrasing simple words borrowed from a childhood icon, Fred McFeely Rodgers.

“Son, when I was a little boy and I would see or hear scary things, I would always look for the helpers.  If something terrible ever happens, and I can’t be there for you, I want you to just remember that there will always be people there who will help you – always look for the helpers.”

I couldn’t lie, he’d see right through that.  I did ultimately share that I thought it was highly unlikely, but the simple truth that I didn’t share is sadly – yes I suppose it could.  But like any father, I wanted to share something positive, something comforting.  I pray everyday the he would never have to rely on that advice, but God-forbid if he did – I want the first thing that goes through his mind to be that of the multitude of first-responders we have in this world.

MrRogersBefore Mr. Rodgers was a famous television show host he served his community as an ordained Presbyterian minister. That would come to no surprise to the millions of kids he imparted his wisdom on every morning for so many years – yours truly included.

He was so respected that he once had his car stolen in his own hometown, and when the news broke – the thieves returned it to the exact spot it was taken from  – with a note of apology.

Every September 11,  we all pause and return to that spot we were when we learned of the terrible events of that day.  Not a day goes by that we don’t have an army of first responders ready to jump in at a moments notice to remove innocent bystanders from harms way, or to apply life-giving first aid.  Often at the risk of their own safety.

So as you reflect on all the souls lost on that fateful day, when you utter the words “we remember” to yourself in the shower or on the way to work or wherever you find a quiet moment in your day to reflect – also remember the helpers. Wherever there is something bad happening, always look for the helpers.

17
Sep
13

if he just hadn’t intercepted that pass

Now all is right in the great state of Texas.  No, it’s not that we solved our transportation funding needs. Sorry, not yet anyway.  And we still have to scurry when hurricanes come calling on our gulf coast – that may be a hard one.  And while we are at it, no, we have not found enough fresh water solve all our problems either.  It’s much bigger than all that, it’s Texas schoolboy football and it’s off and running!

And thank goodness – not a moment too soon.  It’s the first indication that fall, and more importantly, fall weather is lurking nearby – at least we sure hope so.  I can hardly repress my own excitement seeing how my own children are also so deeply ensconced in the sport as well.  And this time of the year, it’s a good thing the clock moves quickly when you’re having fun – that’s very important when it’s still 100 degrees at kickoff by the way.

It’s not that it’s just that time of year to be focusing on football, but to compound the fact, I received an article from dear friend that she read in the Amarillo Globe-News that gave me great pause.  One quote in particular resonated.

The quote comes from the former White Deer Head Football Coach, Windy Williams at a reunion of sorts for a team from the Texas Panhandle that for me will always remind me of what might have been.

Image

Courtesy of the Amarillo Globe News

Players from the 1988 1A State Champion White Deer Bucks gathered in Amarillo this summer to reminisce about their perfect season.  I was a 17 year old tight-end and defensive end on a team that fell two points short of advancing against them in the UIL State High School Football playoffs – one lousy point to tie, two to win.  And actually in those days when games were tied up you didn’t go to overtime or flip a coin, instead you turned to who had the most offensive penetrations.  That was simply how many times your team advanced the ball into the opposing teams territory, inside the 20 yard-line.

It was a classic battle – two talented teams, destined to slugging it out on the grid-iron since two-a-day practices started in early August, winner take all.  We scored late in the fourth quarter to match them and the potential game-tying extra-point was about to step onto the field.  We knew we were about to tie the game because our own sure-footed All-State Quarterback doubled as our kicker, and the kid just didn’t miss.

Our head coach called a time-out to study what I call the “what–if” factor.  And he was right – scoring was a premium that night and having just matched White Deer in scoring the 3rd touchdown of the game with little time left, our coach surmised we were down by one penetration.  The statisticians with UIL on the sideline confirmed it, and in a tied Texas High School playoff game in 1988, that was as good as a loss for us – and we were going for the win!

Still the right decision today as it was 25 years ago.  But that doesn’t make the sting any less.

White Deer’s own ace quarterback and defensive back, Bart Thomas, thwarted our efforts to score that two-point conversion.  When the last second ticked off the clock that night, it ended in a 21-20 defeat for us.   It was the day after Thanksgiving at Lowrey Field in Lubbock, Texas, on one cold and very crisp West Texas Friday night.  Bart intercepted that pass and changed the fate forever of brothers on both sides of the ball, bonded by a wonderful sport.

It was a magical ride that goes down in Panhandle Lore even today for the White Deer Bucks.  While the Bearkats would go on to see two state titles in the coming years and dozens of playoff trophies, White Deer would only see one playoff win over the next 17 years.  But for that night, and for me and the rest of the 1988 Garden City Bearkats, the state quarterfinals were just not to be.

Image

Courtesy of the San Angelo Standard Times

There isn’t a day that goes by when I watch a high school football game that I don’t think of my old teammates.  Last week, the Amarillo Globe-News writer Lance Lenhart asked Coach Windy Williams about that interception – 25 years later, “I’ve always thought how different things would be if he hadn’t intercepted that pass.”

You see, the rest of the games in the playoffs for White Deer that year were won handily, all the way up to the State Championship.   Coming from the losing side of that equation – the quote is quite the understatement.

But football taught me many things about life that I can only hope to pass along to my own sons.  My wish for them is that they may have their own experiences like this also, and hopefully learn from them as I have. You have to know what failure tastes like to learn to hate it so much.

Loss can be a great motivator, but unfortunately it motivates by it’s lasting impression.  On that particular night.  There in that visitor’s locker room in the north end zone after the game, knowing I was taking that jersey off for the last time with the brothers I had bled with, sweat with and broke bone and bread with, I knew it was the end of the road.  I had gone to battle with these guys time and time again since junior high, and the stark reality of it hit me.   And for the first time since the first day of summer two-a-days my freshman year – I lost my lunch.

I have never forgotten that burn ever since.  If team sports taught me anything it was that.  The pulitzer prize winning writer, H.G. Bissinger would soon begin working on his most acclaimed piece,  Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream, about the 1988 Odessa Permian Panthers.  Years later it spawned a successful television show in which the saying, “clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose,” was popularized.   Well, I still hate to lose to this day, but that experience also taught me something of great value – to expect the unexpected.

In preparing for White Deer, one of our defensive coaches kept warning us – harping actually.  Everybody in the state was talking about their quarterback and defensive star, Bart Thomas.  Bart went on to play for Coach Fisher DeBerry at the Air Force Academy the following year.  Meanwhile coach kept insisting that we had better not underestimate Bart’s younger brother, a freshman starting at the linebacker spot. The upstart was also the leading tackler on the team, a freshman – that really got my attention.

I recall coach walking over to me during a skills walk-through session and slapping the side of my helmet with his playbook and dry-erase marker lid in mouth barking something to this effect while scribbling on his laminated notes full of X’s and O’s:  “I’m telling you guys, this kid plays like no freshman I have ever seen on film or scouting anywhere in the state – he will put his nose right in your ear and your going to find yourself suddenly looking up from the grass at him grinning.”

Well, as it turns out, Zach Thomas left White Deer after his sophomore year and finished his high school career at Pampa.  He traded his schoolboy cleats for Collegiate All-American ones at Texas Tech and later spent a 12-year career in the NFL as an All-Pro with the Miami Dolphins and finished his career with the Dallas Cowboys.  Putting his nose in the earholes of much larger and faster men than the ones of the 1988 Garden City Bearkats that late November day, on Lowrey Field.  I can personally attest, on that particular day, he did a pretty good job of doing just that.

Our paths crossed again over time while we were both students at Tech and we always talked about that game.  The consolation for me was it was the toughest game I had ever been a part of and the closest when the stakes were the highest.  That’s exactly where you want to be.  Unfortunately there has to be a winner and a loser, despite what the rest of the world today thinks when it comes to competition at 12 years of age, 17 years of age, 32 years of age or 92 years for that matter.  It’s not “everybody wins” – its win, lose or draw folks.

Zach’s assessment in the Amarillo Globe-News last week was pretty profound and bears repeating here.  “That’s the best experience of my whole career,” Thomas said of White Deer’s 1988 season. “No doubt. I never sniffed another championship my entire career.  I know how hard it is to win a championship no matter what level. I learned in football it’s not about one individual but about winning as a team.”

Image

Jake celebrates a play-off win over the Weslake Chaparrals with a family friend

When young Jake P. Esparza and his Southwest Austin Bulldawg team won the 2012 Central Texas Pop Warner Football Division Championship last year, his head coach gave a great speech to a captive audience of 11 and 12 year-olds and their families at the December football banquet following the season as a proud papa looked on and reminisced.

“Boys, look around at each other, you will always be able to say you are champions. You may play football for another 20 years and never see another championship season.  Champions are rare and the love you have shared with your brothers here this year is like that championship medal on your necks – you have all been bonded by something that can never be taken away from you.”

Jake’s coach was right – as was Zach Thomas.  The accolades are special but the bonds are something that can never be taken or broken.

We spend our careers striving to be champions at something.  Whether it’s Football, Technician or Truck-Driving.  Or just trying to be the best boss or owner we can be.  It’s important that we celebrate our achievements along the way.  Crow about them, because as we like to say in Texas, “It aint braggin if it’s true!”

But do celebrate them, and along the way you will grow to appreciate the bonds you forge with the people in this industry that make your daily work worth doing.  To borrow a line from a great sports movie, Bull Durham, “…sometimes you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes – it rains.”  And into each life a little rain will certainly fall, but everyday you toil at it – you learn and strive to be better than the day before.  That’s a champion my friends.

Image

Southwest Austin BullDawgs Central Texas Division II Champions 2012

08
Sep
13

this labor day – much of america was actually laboring

Labor Day just isn’t what it used to be – though I think we can safely say that about most things. Or as Dylan phrased it, “The times they are a changin” and though he was speaking to a more politically and socially charged issue than a federal holiday, the same sentiment can be assessed of Labor Day’s evolution, or reversion for that matter. Image

From its inception and first governmental recognition in 1886, Labor Day was meant to pay tribute to the “contributions workers made to the strength, prosperity and well-being” of our nation. Paying tribute by providing a holiday to celebrate those contributions.

An article in Time magazine properly titled This Labor Day, Much of America Will Be . . . Laboring stated that ironically many workers across the country now will be spending Labor Day at work or looking for jobs. “Bloomberg BNA data shows that 39 percent of employers will keep operations open and require some workers to come into work, while a separate survey of Beyond.com users says that 45% of those folks will spend Labor Day working or looking for work.” An interesting departure from its original purpose.

But as we look at this contradiction, it begs the question – if we cannot slow the cogs of industry on a day federally devoted to praising the influences of and the resulting progress or workers – then when and why is it even important to do so?

Most all of us personally know what a challenge a day off line or out of pocket can be; even if it is a pre selected one!  Unplugging, disconnecting and unwinding can be an unnerving and difficult task in this day and age – an age of “constant electronic noise”. But the importance of doing so cannot be lost.

A New York Times article I ran across a few years ago put this in a very reflective perspective for me.  The reporter followed five neuroscientists on a week long camping, hiking and rafting trip down the San Juan River in a remote area of southern Utah.  “It was a primitive trip with a sophisticated goal: to understand how heavy use of digital devices and other technology changes how we think and behave, and how a retreat into nature might reverse those effects.”Image

“If we can find out that people are walking around fatigued and not realizing their cognitive potential …. What can we do to get us back to our full potential?”

As the researchers continued through the weekend, it was noted that the group became “more reflective, quieter, more focused on the surroundings.  Even without knowing exactly how the trip affected their brains, the scientists were prepared to recommend a little downtime as a path to uncluttered thinking by the end of their voyage.”  And though their motivation was centered on the effects of digital media and stimulation on attention and focus, it is an interesting parallel to our world of busy, rush and hurry.

Now lets apply that to Monday.  While we are all acutely aware that freight does not stop moving and America needs our trucks and drivers to do their expert jobs even when the lights go down or the government holds a holiday, it is imperative to know the benefit of unplugging, disconnecting even if only for a single day.

Most importantly, its about getting to the root of what this holiday, this Labor Day, is about — celebrating those honored jobs, the workers committed to them, opportunities provided by this industry and the families that benefit from the goods that flow on the backs of American transportation.  Benefits that provide for us all.

With that thought, I hope you all had a restful Labor Day and the time to truly unwind, unplug and be thankful.

31
Aug
13

a man of constant sorrow

If you have ever seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, there is a character that is more than loosely based on the famous (or infamous) Governor of Texas, W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel.  In real life, O’Daniel moved from Kansas to Fort Worth as a young man where he became the sales manager of the Burris Flour Mill.   This company was heavily involved in radio advertising, and the medium proved to be one the future governor took to naturally.  He also had an affinity for songwriting and ultimately hired a group of musicians to form and old timely band originally called the Light Crust Doughboys.

Now you may have never heard of the Light Crust Doughboys (or later the Hillbilly Boys) but the group launched a few things I assure that you have heard of.  One was Western Swing, and the other was its King and a doughboy alumnus, Bob Wills.

Image

O’Daniel ultimately captured the public spotlight with a noontime radio show that focused on good music and the catchy phrase he often used, “pass the biscuits, Pappy!”  His popularity was so great that he was easily persuaded by his adoring fans to run for Governor of Texas.  He campaigned on the virtues of the Ten Commandments, tax cuts and economic development.  He was often accompanied by his band whose popularity was skyrocketing at the time and thus drew huge crowds.  Aside from the brilliance of bringing your own band, yesterday’s campaign talking points are not so different than todays.  That is of course unless our very own King of Country Music decides it’s not a far hike from San Antonio, or his ranch in Cotullla to the Governor’s Mansion…hmmm.

Well despite his popularity, Governor O’Daniel, who was the only person to defeat Lyndon Baines Johnson, was largely unsuccessful in delivering on his campaign promises.  In fact, as his record suggests, he reneged on most of them and ultimately was known more for his musical legacy than his leadership.

Back then, the colonial practice of “riding the rail” was still within the political vernacular of the times.  In the movie, there was a scene were Pappy O’Daniel works the crowd up in the presence of his political foe and incites them into doing just that.  The masses demonstrate their displeasure by straddling the ousted on a rail held on the shoulders of two men, then taken to the street and dumped – right on a steaming pile of horse apples I might add for effect.  Boy – you sure knew exactly where you stood back then didn’t you?  The good ole days.

Image

President Abraham Lincoln gets credit in a speech for quoting someone else about riding the rail, but history suggests he used it often, “if it weren’t for the honor of the thing, I would just as soon walk.”  Unfortunately, in this day and age it is becoming increasingly clear that this odd, old colonial practice still perhaps has a place in politics today.  Now I am a firm believer that there is no higher calling than serving your fellow man.  Be it your church, community, school or neighbor. And it takes many forms – deacon, peace officer, firefighter, first responder, military, community volunteer, elected official and the list goes on.  But once you demonstrate your inability to distinguish between public service and self service, folks it’s time to hang em up.

If you can’t see that for yourself, well then there is always the rail.  Let’s not forget that we voters speak with our feet, but we can always take a page from history if that message isn’t strong enough.  Go a little further back and tar & feathers were the instruments of choice to demonstrate displeasure.  Now that would be just a little too ridiculous don’t you think?  But given the level of self-service we have seen demonstrated lately – maybe it’s exactly what Pappy would have ordered.

19
Aug
13

walking that deck

Foreign Object Damage or FOD is simply any substance, debris or article alien to a vehicle or system which could potentially cause damage.  We all go to great lengths to protect ourselves from foreign intrusion which can cause us irreparable harm, and as well we should.  The disruption of progress can disguise itself in many forms.  What’s most important, is that we identify and protect ourselves from it.  We prepare.  We have a uniform plan to equalize any harmful effects – any unwanted outcome.
I have a buddy who while in the Navy worked on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.   He once told me that periodically the whole crew would link arms and walk every square inch of the deck –  forwards and backwards.  Scanning, searching – looking for any object large are small that may have made its way undetected onto the carrier.  While many of you are familiar with the size of an aircraft carrier, the next time you fly out of your local airport, think about packing all that runway, equipment, personnel onto a relatively small space, and then add explosives by way of armament.  I’ll remind you also that the same small space is a floating living quarters for thousands of America’s finest.  Pretty impressive.  That kind of logistical efficiency also brings with it some very high stakes.  Yet it always struck me as odd that arguably one of the most important of tasks, was handled rather rudimentary  – simple, but highly effective.  Get out there with your own eyes and see for yourself.  Put on your coat and walk that deck.  FOD
 So, in this case, should a foreign object go undetected and further ingested into the turbine intake of a multi-million dollar aircraft at the very instance it is being catapulted of the deck of a billion dollar aircraft carrier at full throttle and loaded to the gills with fuel and arms – complete chaos and cataclysmic failure could result.  Not to mention the potential for loss of life.  As I suggested, the stakes are very high.  Therefore, systematically checking for foreign objects that can cause mayhem is mandatory and requires an extraordinary amount of discipline.  Another great example of how taking care of the little things promote the bigger things into falling in place.
And if you think about it – the faster the speed of the aircraft, the more catastrophic the mayhem.  This is not so different then how we manage and lead right here at home.  First, always be on the look out for FOD.  It can come in many forms and all of them are disruptive.  The faster we go and the more we are trying to consume in our day, the higher the likelihood the mayhem will be great should we fail to detect those foreign objects.  Second, when it comes to looking for FOD, make it a team effort and get all hands on deck  – quite literally.  You have already surrounded yourself with a team you trust – now test them regularly.  When they are successful – notice, affirm and give thanks.  It’s that simple.  Lastly, have an action plan for dealing with mayhem.  Remember that no matter what we do or what precautions we take, there will always be failures in the system.  Have a plan that all are rehearsed on and standing by the ready to implement should things go wrong.  In the end and no matter what, it takes a sharp eye to recognize mayhem in the making and strong leadership to know that we must learn from our failures – any degree of failure.  Failure is not always fatal, but failure to change eventually will be.
16
Aug
13

a good man

The chairman capped-off his year as our leader last week by suggesting something during his membership address that was rather poignant.  I bring it up, not because it bears repeating, but rather it should be swallowed whole and digested slowly.  You see the Texas Trucking Association closed the largest annual gathering of it’s membership last Thursday night.  Thus bringing to an end what is virtually a whole week of educational, inspirational and social programming.  And trust me, it is exhausting for both staff and attendees alike.  But Chairman Richard Minnix not only took the liberty during his farewell to remind us of that fact, but pointed out that in addition – it’s just as taxing on those left to mind the stables back home at the ranch.  In that one same breath he also reminded us of how a vibrant community of peers can recharge one’s soul just when it needs it most.  Funny how your friends have a way of doing that.
You see he’s absolutely right.  The daily grind can be exhausting to the point that we often lose perspective and even get cranky with those we love and respect the most – through no fault of their own.   We’ve all done it.  However – that brand of exhaustion, plus a new one can equal rejuvenation?  Well, yes actually it sure can.  Chairman Minnix points out that it is so infectious, that he himself has returned to the annual conference 18 straight years with his lovely wife Xan and his son Chase to ensure it’s an elixir he doesn’t do without.  Sometimes it may just simply be the reminder that we are not alone in our mutual struggles, just when we feel they are ours alone to bear.
Guest speaker Aaron Thomas, the Athletic and Student Services Director from a small high school in Parkersburg, Iowa described it best when sharing his inspirational story with attendees on Wednesday.  He gave us all an unforgettable account of his own community’s tragic struggle with adversity, first in rebuilding after the devastating direct strike of a EF-5 tornado on his hometown with a population of 2,000.
Yet far more devastating was the loss of the leader who motivated the entire community to rebuild in time for the start of the high school football season that fall – just some 100 days later.  Parkersburg, Iowa USA ceased becoming a town and was reborn a community in that moment.  And from it emerged a true leader who had already distinguished himself by the name of Coach Ed Thomas – Aaron’s father.  Coach Thomas was murdered a short time later by a former player with diagnosed mental issues. Their struggle earned the family the Arthur Ashe Award for Courage presented at the 2010 ESPN ESPY Awards.  Image
Aaron shared his story of this incredibly selfless journey, while capturing our spirits by describing to us all that his father did not have a job – he had a passion.  And he fed that passion every minute of every day as a coach and athletic director who simply loved each and every one of his students.  Never did he measure success in wins or losses but instead it was with an inspiration that only leaders who mentor can awaken.  Whether you were a four-year letterman or a 95 pound freshman tackling dummy, Coach Thomas treated all with the respect and dignity they deserved and all in the order that they came to him in.  No one was preferential – all are individually special.
That perhaps gets lost far too often in this fast-pace world.  Ever the more reason to stop and recharge as Chairman Minnix suggests.  Or as I often share – soar high periodically and hover.  Just see for yourself what it is you have created below for exactly what it is.  Aaron Thomas focuses on where you spend your time and money.  Words are what we share and often times those come at no cost – and others times at the greatest of costs.  But our time and money?  Invite yourselves to recharge and re-evaluate as often as you can afford to.  Look around when you get home tonight, I would suggest to you what you see and feel is an investment you cannot afford to pass up on.  If Coach Ed Thomas were alive today I think he would agree.  Actually, I met his son – I know for a fact he does.
12
Aug
13

goodbye mister graves

Last week, Texas lost an impossibly talented author with an unmatched writing style and wit.  He was 92.  A book that began as a magazine article became a Texas classic and an all time favorite of mine.  John Graves wrote Goodbye to a River in 1960 after completing a three-week canoe trip down the Brazos River, which he feared would forever be changed by the dams that were being proposed at the time.  It was his farewell to youth and an acknowledgment of the innocence lost therin whilst making way for progress.  Graves was the author who awoke a love in me for the streams and tributaries that span this great state, not to mention the history of the people who converged on these life-giving byways.  As it turns out, the first roads of Texas were traversed with a paddle.  He was the one author who showed me and so many like me – that a river does indeed have a soul.

At home at Hard Scrabble - photo by Michael O'Brien

At home at Hard Scrabble – photo by Michael O’Brien

Graves was an environmentalist by association and I can assure you that those who shared his love for this great land we call Texas would be destined to become fast friends.  I had the opportunity to meet him about five years ago and will forever lament that I did not bring my first run copy of this classic for his signature.
I was like a kid in candy store,  just hearing him discuss his work much less be introduced to the man.  As we say our goodbyes, we also play taps for yet another veteran of WWII.
Graves was injured on the island of Saipan and his experience as a Marine could often be found infused in his work.  William D. Wittliff, the screen writer who helped bring Larry McMurtry’s novel Lonesome Dove to television perhaps put it best in a recent interview with the New York Times.  “He cared about things that were worthwhile caring about, and he wrote about them in a way that made you care about them.”
Whether it’s  trucking, writing or running an association,  you had better feed the soul in order to be successful.  Graves understood that like no other and wrote about it with emotion, authenticity and authority.  Although he spent time abroad in the Marine Corps and began his work in New York City, he came home to Texas to find his true voice – expressed in so many essays and so many literary works.  He will truly be missed.
“Neither a land nor a people ever starts over clean. Country is compact of all its past disasters and strokes of luck–of flood and drouth, of the caprices of glaciers and sea winds, of misuse and disuse and greed and ignorance and wisdom–and though you may doze away the cedar and coax back the bluestem and mesquite grass and side-oats grama, you’re not going to manhandle it into anything entirely new. It’s limited by what it has been, by what’s happened to it. And a people, until that time when it’s uprooted and scattered and so mixed with other peoples that it has in fact perished, is much the same in this as land. It inherits.”  – John Graves, Goodbye to a River: A Narrative 



Archives

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 276 other followers

Follow me on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 276 other followers