THE BIG THICKET This is the 35,000-acre plan proposed by the US Dept. of the Interior for preservation of the Big Thicken in southeast Texas. Sen. Ralph Yarborough has a counter-proposal that would set aside 75,000 acres. jection by arguing that a National Monument can be designed to protect widely separated wilderness areas within the Thicket, and that by connecting these areas with a series of scenic roads it will be possible both to open the area to the public and to preserve the truly unique features of the region. The nine areas provisionally suggested for inclusion in a Big Thicket National Monument are: 1.Big Thicket Profile Unit …18,180 acres 2.Beech Creek Unit 6,100 acres 3.Neches Bottom Unit 3,040 acres 4.Tanner Bayou Unit 4,800 acres 5.Beaumont Unit 1,700 acres 6.Little Cypress Creek Unit 860 acres 7.Hickory Creek Savannah 220 acres 8.Loblolly Unit 550 acres 9.Clear Fork Bog 50 acres Each unit has been selected for a specific reason. The loblolly unit contains the largpine in Texas; the Hickory Creek Savannah contains an unusually lush growth of insect-eating plants; the Beech Creek Unit contains a virgin beech forest, the Beaumont unit an entirely untouched cypress swamp; the Big Thicket Profile Unit, in the heart of the original Thicket, contains a representative selection of almost every kind of land’ and vegetation that can be found in the area. Again, one might object that the area taken in is too small, that many important features have been left out, and that, after all, the purpose of a Big Thicket park should be not merely to save what natural beauty is left but to allow parts of the area to be reforested. Unfortunately, there is little time for theoretical discussion. Action, if it is to be taken at all, must be taken quickly. The Beech Creek Unit has already been cut by one lumber company, fully aware of what it was doing, while the Champion Pulp Company has plans to bulldoze the Loblolly Unit and plant it in pulp cottonwoods. I have yet to talk to a member of the Big Thicket Association who is not convinced that the Kirby Lum ber Company will level every acre of ground in its possession that falls within the suggested boundaries of the Big Thicket Monument. “The Big Thicket?” snaps one well-known lumber executive, “In four years there won’t be any Big Thicket!” Tales from the Big Thicket Tales From The Big Thicket: F. E. Abernethy, ed. The University of Texas Press. $6.75. Commerce To Texans who are tempted to confuse plastic trees and manicured St. Augustine grass with nature’s own, F. E. Abernethy presents a refreshing view of an authentic, unspoiled wilderness which has yet to be desecrated by houiing projects and gasoline stations. Tales of the Big Thicket should encourage Texans to visit this area of “unspoiled nature” before it is destroyed; and it should create an awareness of the need to support Sen. Ralph Yarborough’s proposal to protect it from further commercialization by setting aside 75,000 acres for a national park. In capturing the “personality” of the Big Thicket, Abernqthy has included essays by a variety of writers who treat diverse subjectssoil types in the thicket, histories of Indian tribes, bear hunts, and thicket cattle drivesalong with amusing anecdotes and folk tales. There is a revela 4 The Texas Observer tion of a thicket Civil War battle and of General Houston’s plan to hide his troops in the Big Thicket in the event of defeat at San Jacinto. The liveliest essay in the collection is Lois Williams Parker’s “Tales from Uncle Owen.” Uncle Owen Williams ran for state representative on the single plank that he would change the dates of the squirrel season in the Big Thicket. Winning the race and getting his bill passed, he refused to run again. Not all sections are as enjoyable as Lois Parker’s anecdotes. While Saul Aronow’s sketch of the geology and soils of the Big Thicket and Howard N. Martin’s stories of the Alabama-Coushatta Indians should interest students in these fields, they may drag for many readers. However, names such as William Owens \(author of and Archer Fullingim \(editor of the Kountze will attract readers to some of the most memorable chapters. The book ends with the editor’s account of the mysterious Saratoga Light on the Old Bragg Road. Although the story is an excellent example of how an expert folklorist accurately collects folk tales which develop around an inexplicable phenomenon, it ends with an incongruous statement describing the people who come to see the light: “If they can believe in the supernatural of a Big Thicket Ghost, then they can more easily accept the mystery of the Holy Ghostand life will add another dimension.” Although it cannot be questioned that man seeks supernatural of his religion, ending a ghost story with even a sincere allusion to man’s religious needs strikes a false note. Such incongruities are few, and Abernethy’s characterization of an important part of Texas heritage must be reckoned a success. The Texas Folklore Society chose it as its book of the year for 1967. It will doubtless give a boost to what Senator Yarborough calls “the number one item on my conservation agendaa Big Thicket National Park as a refuge for rare types of animals and plants.” DON HATLEY Don Harley is from Hopkins county and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from East Texas State University. He is membership chairman of the Texas Folklore Society.
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