Dear Bedi: `You left my life richer as I am sure you did the lives of many others.’ \(At the suggestion of the editor Dr. Webb extracted. from his file of Bedichek letters the one that follows. It shows how Bedichek’s mind worked, how a literary suggestion nagged him, and maybe something of his sardonic Dear Webb: The lines you quote are impressive: “But at my back I always hear Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” Your comment is deeply philosophic. Instead of being an historian, you should have been a philosopher. You have genuine philosophic insight, but not a professionally cultivated one. But maybe the professional philosophers would have sealed up the outlets of your intuitive wisdom. I have always contended that you are somewhat of a psychic. A couplet you quote started me digging into my capacious memory for a couplet or two from a poem by some early American rhymster, maybe Bret Harte, Maybe John Hay, maybe someone elseno matter. My digging, as usual, exhumed only the concluding lines which run “A few swift years and who can show Which dust was Bill and which was Joe.” A few more days of digging and the digger brought up another fragment, “… Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame?” This, you see, is a query and must have an answer. So search Whether or not this book is any good, I am already compensated by having regained a sense of the flow of time. There are now few moments mutilated with flurried haste. The incubus of some neglected task has loosened its hold, and I feel no longer the internal disquietude of something hanging fire which it was my duty to straighten out a week or two ago. Rhythm comes of timing the items of one’s routine to conform to those of the natural day. Whence comes the deliberation and aplomb of out-of-door people the world over, savage as well as civilized? The American Indian. is recorded as grave, slow, measured in speech and manner. The frontier Texan figures in fiction and in factual descriptions with a “drawl” and as a man of few words. Of course, now, with a generation of urbanization, as ing the cubby-holes of deposits jumbled and overlaid with dust I uncovered the title of a poem, “Lines to a Dying Athlete” but nothing came of it for a day or two, and then while I was taking a bath and thinking of what a mess of a winter-garden I have, this couplet popped up uncalled: “Silence sounds no worse than cheers After the earth has stopped his ears.” Do you notice that the rime of this is almost identical with the rime of your couplet. What strange alchemy goes on in the memory! Still I knew this was a wrong scenttrue it is in the same vein, but I knew that it didn’t answer, except by indirection, the query, “Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame?” Then I decided to give it up and write to the “memory” column of the NY Times’ and get the answer. But I was busy and put off writing. It kept dingdonging in my memory: “what is the rime for fame?” Finally “flame” came. It must be flame, but get the line, I could not, so I decided to build up a line of my own, but with the figure the poet used clearly before me, that is a comparison of “fame” to “flame.” “A sudden lift of leaping flame” and I repeated it aloud with dissatisfaction: Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame? A sudden lift of leaping flame. much chatter falls from the composite mouth of Texas as from that of any other state, excluding only those of disproportionate metropolitan populations. Outdoor living not only softens speech but slows its tempo, reflecting quieter nerves and mental reactions surer if somewhat slower on the trigger. It is because Nature herself is deliberate. Ninety-nine per cent of her performance is gradual. To take a single instance out of those hundreds ready at hand: what a large percentage of urbanized populations miss beginning the day under the spell of the silent, pervasive, leisurely preparations of the heavens to receive the sun! Roy Bedichek in the Introduction to Adventures with a Texas Naturalist Mighty sorry! No poet of any tunefulness would use it, but I knew the comparison was right. Then since the last couplet of the poem first dug up mentions “dust” another comparison of fame to dust must be next, and it came without much trouble: “A giddy whirlwind’s fickle gust That lifts a pinch of mortal dust.” So I think I have it, that is the concluding three couplets. There is leading up to these three couplets a short life history of Bill and one of Joe. One a “pensive scholar” and the other a hail fellow well-met who takes life and life’s joys and sorrows in his healthy stride. Ah, pensive scholar, what is fame? A slender tongue of leaping flame, A giddy whirlwind’s fickle gust That lifts a pinch of mortal dus t A few swift years and who can show Which dust was Bill and which was Joe. You can see what a burden and what superhuman exertion your suggestion put upon me that we are no longer friendly in the mails, or even neighborly, because Always at our backs we hear “Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” I am afraid Toynbee is too much for me. I have read your review in the Dallas News. It makes a stimulating introduction to the great man’s work, but I hear “Time’s winged chariot.” I must stick to my humble knitting, and try to understand simpler things than the reasons for the fall, rise, endurances and diseases of twenty-five or thirty civilizations since they began recording themselves in enduring and legible form. What does Toynbee say of the Minoan civilization whose record recently discovered has not yet been deciphered? Don’t give yourself any more concern over my arrogance. It is definitely on its way out. As ever, affectionately Bedi. December 6, 1954. The first time I remember seeing you was during the impeachment trial of a Texas governor when I as a student was in the gallery of the House of Representatives and you as a reporter for the San Antonio Express were on the floor. You were supposed to be making impartial reports, but I suspect you may have slanted them just a little in the direction of your sentiment, which is exactly what I would have done had I been in your place. Incidentally that trial is the most dramatic event I have ever witnessed. Later you became an editor on the Express and held this position when I decided to quit teaching in the San Antonio schools because I had had a row with the superintendent. I applied to you for a job as a reporter. You not only turned me down, but you gave me a lengthy and not wholly I convincing lecture as to why should not take this step. I didn’t take it because nobody would give me a job. My memory is not very clear as to when or how our friendship developed at the University of Texas. I spent a five-year stretch on your Interscholastic League Council and was struck by the savage intensity with which you enforced the rules made \(by you, serve some morality in school athletics. Saint Helena Canyon, camped in a sandbed with a one-armed real silk stocking salesman who was trying to get away from civilization and had darn near done it. We cleaned up his camp, fed him good food, and paid him $3.00 for showing us the canyon which was right there for all to see. He was a salesman. It was from him that you learned about a special breed of rabbits, which he called knee rabbits, found only, according to our informant, in the Rio Grande Valley. I’ll never forget the expression on your face when, in response to your question, our host told you the origin of knee rabbits. Coming back from the Big Bend we decided that what we had done was foolish and that we liked it; we entered into an agreement to do at least one foolish thing each year. I think I have lived up to that agreement, but I am not sure that you did. Your innate paution seemed to get in the way. In 1942 I did what turned out to be a wise thing. I bought the Old Johnson Institute in the hills southwest of Austin and changed its name to Friday Mountain Ranch because a hill there is named . Friday Mountain and I liked the name. You used the old stone building as a hideout to write your first book, Adventures with a Texas Naturalist. You spent a year and a day there, but you came out with the finished manuscript. Your picture hangs in the room upstairs where you did your writing, sleeping and eating. You cooked your own food in the open fireplace or on a hot plate; occasionally you insisted on my eating things you had cooked in the ashes. The potatoes and. eggs were all right, but I drew the line on brussel sprouts and spinach, which I don’t care for when cooked proper. There was not even running water in the house, but you made out. We still have the big round table you used, one that Captain Ernest Best of the Texas Rangers took out of a gambling house. Another thing you did was to suggest that Rodney Kidd and I should set up a boys’ camp at Friday Mountain. In response to your suggestion we met one rainy day and set up Friday Mountain Boys’ Camp, now in its thirteenth year. You had a chapter in your book entitled “The Tree and the Rock.” It was the story of how a hackberry tree found root in a giant rock, broke the rock into several pieces and became a big tree. You were explaining how soil is made. The tree died during the drought, only the stump and the broken rocks are left. It is possible that you have conferred immortality on Friday Mountain and that in the future ‘students and curious tourists in search of culture will make pilgrimages there to see where the Texas Naturalist wrote his first book. Ah well, Bedi, this could go on for a long time if I recounted all the memories of a long association. Perhaps I can sum it up by saying that you made my life richer as I am sure you did the lives of many others. You left Texas a better place than you found it and no Texan should wish for more. Yours, Walter Prescott Webb Mr. Roy Bedichek Dear Bedi: Ronnie Dugger asked me to send him something to include in his special edition of The Observer, which I understand he is making into a sort of Bedichek symposium to commemorate your departure on. a long journey. Those of us who knew you would just as soon have had you postpone it, though we all know that such a journey is inevitable. You will be interested, and perhaps amused, to learn that you took a good deal of the sting out of your going by the manner of it. Those of us who had listened to your vociferous comments on this subject know that you went exactly the way you wanted, as if you had designed it with the skill and determination you used in designing your own life. Few people are able to call their own shots as you did, right up to the end. After the service by Dr. Heinsohn, which I thought very appropriate for you, three of us went out for lunch where we had a pretty good time retelling the delightful stories which our total association of not less than 100 years had provided us. \(Frank Dobie and I knew you for forty years, and Glen Evans must have known you for twenty or more, and that makes the 100 been pleased to be the subject of such animated conversation, and the center of so many good stories. We were particularly delighted that you had finished your fourth book, all of them written after you were seventy, and that you had got your publisher’s signature on the line, and maybe even a nice advance, only a week earlier. `A sense of the flow of time’ Neal Douglass Photo UT Press Director Frank Wardlaw, Bedichek, Dobie, and Webb A Texas Naturalist Tells a Story to Some Friends in an Austin Evening `I hear “Time’s winged chariot” ‘ We really got acquainted, I think, when we went to the Big Bend during the Christmas holidays and camped at the mouth of THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 12 June 27, 1959
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