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The dramatic desert landscapes of the Big Bend country along the Texas-Mexico border reminded historian Walter Prescott Webb of "an earth-wreck in which a great section of country was shaken down, turned over, blown up, and set on fire." By contrast, naturalist Aldo Leopold considered the region a mountainous paradise in which even the wild Mexican parrots had no greater concern than "whether this new day which creeps slowly over the canyons is bluer or golder than its predecessors, or less so." Whether it impresses people as GodOs country or as the devilOs playground, the Big Bend typically evokes strong responses from almost everyone who lives or visits there. In this anthology of nature writing, Barney Nelson gathers nearly sixty literary perspectives on the landscape and life of the Big Bend region, broadly defined as Trans-Pecos Texas and northern Chihuahua, Mexico. In addition to Leopold and Webb, the collection includes such well-known writers as Edward Abbey, Mary Austin, Roy Bedichek, and Frederick Olmsted, as well as a wide range of voices that includes explorers, trappers, cowboys, ranch wives, curanderos, college presidents, scientists, locals, tourists, historians, avisadores, and waitresses. Following a personal introduction by Barney Nelson, the pieces are grouped thematically to highlight the distinctive ways in which writers have responded to the Big Bend.
Acknowledgments Introduction: Monolingual in Two Languages; Chapter One: Paradise Found and Lost; Robert T. Hill: Running the Canyons of the Rio Grande - Antonio de Espejo: Exploring the Rios - Charles L. Baker: Geologist's Heaven - Richard Phelan: God's Country - Aldo Leopold: Guacamaja - Roland H. Wauer: Maderas del Carmen - Mary Lasswell: Coloraturas in the Canyon - Martin Dreyer: A Mountain for Suzy and for You - Barton H. Warnock: Capote Falls - David Alloway: Where Rainbows Wait for Rain; Chapter Two: Nature as Devil's Advocate; Walter Prescott Webb: Wrecked Earth; John C. Duval: Mr. Cooper Was a Humbug; O. W. Williams: The Honca Accursed; Mary Austin: Jornada del Muerto; Eugene Manlove Rhodes: Crossing to Safety; Edward Abbey: Sierra Madre; Michael Jenkinson: River of Ghosts; Chapter Three: The Wild and Domestic Border; Bob Burleson and David H. Riskind: Rural Housing; Kathryn Williams Walker: Tarantula; J. P. S. Brown: The Brown-and-White Spotted Aristocratic Corriente; Frederick Olmsted: The Mustangs; William H. Echols: The Camel March; Ralph A. Selle: Opal Fields of Shimmering Blue; Evelyn Mellard: They Live Here Too-Our Quail; Roy Bedichek: The Wing of the Swallow; Kirby F. Warnock: Ghost Lights; Kenneth Baxter Ragsdale: Cinnabar; Chapter Four: Nature as Antagonist or Protagonist; Richard Meade (Ben Haas): Den of Thieves; Alice Jack Shipman: Savage and Successful; William Langewiesche: The River Is Not a Ditch; John R. Bartlett: Horse-Head Crossing to Delaware Creek; O. W. Williams: The Lobo; Roy McBride: Las Margaritas; A. Ray Williams: The Golden Eagle; Frederick R. Gehlbach: Poison, Poison; Keith Elliott: The Marvelous Maligned Mesquite; Lisa Beaumont: Autumn; Chapter Five: The Devil's Playground; Ludwig Bemelmans: Tinkling Spurs; Horace W. Morelock: Kokernot Springs; Edward Abbey: Disorder and Early Sorrow; Virginia Madison: Pronghorn; Louis Agassiz Fuertes: A Letter from the Chisos Mountains; Herbert Brandt: Birding at Boot Spring; Vernon Bailey: Mexican Bighorn; Mary S. Young: Livermore Journal; Mary E. Humphrey: R'o Bravo del Norte; Dudley Dobie: Firearms, Exploding Rocks, and a Centipede in Bed; Fred McCarty: My Final Trip; Chapter Six: A Big Bend Sense of Place; Will F. Evans: Davis Mountain Stories; John Klingemann: Sublime; Carl V. Jarrell: A Wasp Called the Mud-Dauber; Ross A. Maxwell: Cueva de Alsate and Native Homes; Alice Jack Shipman: Primitive Man's Food; J. O. Langford: Homesteader's Bedroom; Joe S. Graham: Candelilla Wax; Sam Richardson: River Guides and Big Water, Good Water; Ted Gray: Yellow Slicker; W. D. Smithers: Sun Messages; Sources Index