Page 16


A Note About This Special Issue Walter Prescott Webb was born in Panola county, Texas, on April 3, 1888, and died on March 8, 1963. His four major books are The Great Plains The Texas Rangers, A C6ntury of Frontier Defense Divided We Stand, The Crisis of a Frontierless Democracy \(Farrar and The Great Frontier He was editor-in-chief of the twovolume Handbook of Texas \(Texas principal essays include “How the Republican Party Lost Its Future,” Southwest Review, autumn, 1949; “The American West, Perpetual Mirage,” Harper’s Magazine, May 1957 ; and “The Search for William E. Hinds,” Harper’s Magazine, July 1961. He also had published a book of essays, An Honest Preface and Other Essays A distinguished professor of history at the University of Texas, he served as Harmsworth professor of American history at Queens College, Oxford, gave the Harkness lectures in American history at the University of London, and addressed the international conference of historians in Paris. He was president of the American historical association. This special issue on Dr. Webb is the second of three such issues on the triumvirate of Texas letters. The first issue, on Roy Bedichek, appeared in 1959 ; the third one, on J. Frank Dobie, will be published soon, we hope by the end of the year. For Years We Three Sat Together J. Frank Dobie Walter Prescott Webb and I were born in the same year, 1888. He belonged to one drouth-scarred part of Texas, I to another. His father was a country school teacher who homesteaded a quarter-section of poor land; mine was a. rancher who rather expected that education would lead his sons to a better occupation. Webb came to the University of Texas as instructor in history in 1918, while I was a soldier in France, four years after I had come as instructor in English. We advanced concurrently, along divergent ways, as underlings at the University. Our friendship developed more after about 1930, it seems to me, but I was never close to him as I was with Roy Bedichek, the dearest comrade of my life. Webb had sides never revealed directly to me. Bedichek died shortly before noon of May 21, 1959, while sitting in a chair waiting for his wife’s cornbread to cook so that he could eat an early lunch and then drive me and Wilson Hudson in his pickup out to Paisano, my place on Barton Creek in the hills west of Austin. When he drove to where cedar stumps were available he liked to haul some in for his fireplace. As writers and men, Bedichek, Webb, and Dobie have been linked togethermostly by Texas peoplemany times in speech and in print. On the evening of March 8, 1963, two other men and I sat down as guests with Frank Wardlaw in his home. He said, “Walter Webb thought he would join us, but he will be late.” After conversation and “the better adjuncts of water,” we went to a Mexican restaurant. Nobody knew where we were. Before we got back to our homes a number of people had tried to telephone Wardlaw and me. About 6:30 o’clock Webb and his wife had been found on the ground near their over-turned car, he dead and she so severely injured that she had to remain in a hospital for three months. Bedichek was a kind of peg on which my happiest associations with Webb hung. For years we three sat together, with other men, at the same table during fortnightly dinners, “papers,” and discussions of the Town and Gown club of Austin, but talk at our table was seldom so free and personal as it always was at prolonged picnic suppers in the country. Bedichek was the habitual planner of these supper parties, also cooker of the steaks. A vegetarian by philosophy in the later years of his life, he never threw off on his own steaks. The earliest of these picnic suppers that I remember were not far beyond the Rob Roy ranch, some distance off the Bee Caves road in the hills west of Austin. Bedi liked to camp high up. At one hilltop camp we booming as they dived for insects. After Webb, in 1942, acquired Friday Mountain ranch, a location there on Bear creek became our supping and conversation grounds, though in the ’50’s we went several times to a place I then owned in Burnet county named Cherry Springson account of wild cherry trees growing by Fall creek. I got so that I took along potato salad prepared by Bertha Dobie as nobody else could prepare it. Someone might take something else, but Bedichek brought steaks, bread, tomatoes, lettuce, beer, and so on, and. then saw that each man paid his share. Nobody was host and the drinking was moderateone can of beer for Bedi. Webb did not really care for any. When he took whiskey, on other occasions, a jigger without water would do him all evening. He had not drunk at all until he was about fifty. Sitting with the dons after dinner at his college in Oxford, he had developed a mild taste for wine. He craved coffee, which Bedichek was particular in boiling and which he furnished, along with pot, tin plates, knives and forks. Mody Boatright and Wilson Hudson, both of the University of Texas English department, were regulars at these campfire suppers. After Frank Wardlaw came as director of the University Press, he added to talk and geniality. Any time that John Henry Faulk or Glen Evans was in town, he was there. One time, during World War II, Faulk brought an Englishman along, and in capping limericks with each other both proved themselves bottomless artesian wells. I remember Coke Stevenson, then governor, saying at one supperthe only one he attendedthat the American frontiersman carried a rifle, an axe, and a Bible. This was at Friday Mountain. We were by the same water when Homer Price Rainey, president of the university, told us that the regents were out to gut him. Ours was no club in any organized way, and we never had regular gatherings, but