Dancing Naked: Memorable Encounters with Unforgettable Texans
by Mary Rogers

TCU Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-87565-374-7.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 01/05/2009

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Biography

When she was nine, Mary Rogers wrote a short story. By the time she was nineteen, she knew that she wanted to be a storyteller, not of stories she made up, but those of real, living, breathing, hurting, happy people.

She did. As a columnist and later feature writer for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, for almost two decades Rogers learned and shared the stories of Texans. She honed her skills at getting people to tell her their stories by showing her their hearts, their deepest insides. She calls it "dancing naked." And she's good, mighty good, at getting people to dance that dance.

This collection of her feature stories and column reveals a great deal about her subjects and even more about life in Texas.

There is the Texas two-step from up in the Panhandle where Gary Gardner took on the Swisher County justice system when forty-six of his neighbors (thirty-nine African-American) landed in prison on trumped-up drug charges. He didn't stop until he had gained the nation's eye and his neighbors' freedom.

Over in Burleson, near Fort Worth, Dashelle Murrin didn't let a nearly fatal run-in with an eighteen-wheeler slow down her dance. She had an extra quarter inch tapped onto one of her cowgirl boots, grabbed her make-up bag and went right back to the horses and husband she loves.

And in the Highland Park neighborhood in Dallas, Howard Cobb, who is over ninety, has spent the last sixty years in a slow but steady routine with his son Freddie who faces both mental and physical challenges, a "forever child." Send a flower to Howard every Father's Day!

Rogers also calls up the exotic tango between the once-notorious Priscilla and Cullen Davis. Davis was accused of murdering Priscilla's daughter and wounding his ex-wife's lover. He walked away. Fifteen years later (in 1991) Rogers found them, Priscilla raising a granddaughter and Cullen active in a Christian men's organization. Their stories are fascinating, both the before and the after, and Rogers manages to make them both somewhat sympathetic characters. These are but a few of the characters who waltz, fox trot, schottische through the chapters.

For me, the most graceful and most revealing dance is in the last section of the book, "Something About Me." It is a brief memoir. Rogers is intensely honest and open while she recounts, among other memories, her thirsty growing-up in arid West Texas without knowing rain, the deep pain of losing her brother, and the joys of owning a cat. Her candor makes it easy to understand how others can trust her with their stories.

Born in San Angelo, Texas, Mary Rogers has lived most of her life in Ft. Worth where she taught and was in business before becoming a columnist for the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. She continues her life in Ft. Worth with her husband and two dogs. Learn more about her on her website.

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