West Texas is big; West Texas is huge. Lots of land, lots of wind, lots of sky, and not very many people. Joyce Gibson Roach's stories tell of this country which she describes as land that "stretches between and beyond the Brazos and the Rio Grande, from the Panhandle through the Big Bend, from the Red River to the Gulf of Mexico." The stories draw us into this land and those lonely ones who inhabit it across the twentieth century.
I'm a second-generation West Texan, I lived through some these years and spent happy hours under the windmill of one grandmother or on the city porch swing of the other, listening to their Texas-rich voices tell tales of the earlier times. The folks in and around Roach's fictional Horn Toad sound like my grandmothers and many of the stories echo the stories they told.
The earliest story takes place in 1902, when the range is alive with arguments as barbed wire ("bob war") divides land and friendships. We gallop through the century, from small town church squabbles right into women's lib and going braless (the candidate for sheriff is agin it!) and take a look at Saddam Hussein and how our guys would "give it to him good." The Land of the Rain Shadow gives us a fine look at Texas and at life.
These stories haven't floated right out of the wild, blue west Texas sky. Roach postscripts each tale with a note on how the story relates, sometimes closely, sometimes less so, to actual events in history thus making them even more real, more in their own moment. This adds to the pleasure for the casual reader, but for a true student of history is an outstanding addition.
Raised in Jacksboro, a small Texas town not unlike Horn Toad, Joyce Gibson Roach knows her territory. A graduate of TCU, she taught both high school and college. While teaching at TCU she specialized in southwestern literature. She is a prolific, and prize-winning, writer, having published short fiction and non-fiction and juvenile fiction. She styles herself "a folklorist, grassroots historian, rancher and naturalist." A Member of the Texas State Historical Association, the Texas Folklore Society, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the West Texas Historical Association, she lives, writes and ranches in Wise County, Texas. Visit her website.
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