Cool, clear water because this isn’t bonafide criticism, but because these aren’t literary works. In order to read Laughing to Keep from Crying, you have to do just that. June Benefield is a suburban housewife \(not by-line for the Houston Chronicle. Laughing is a collection of her clever columns that take up space regularly in that newspaper. In one particularly interesting essay on the trials of a housewife dealing with her VistaCruiser, she says, “Just so the car goes pftty-pat when I turn the key, that’s all that matters to me . . . except that all doors be locked.” And to a service station attendant, “Buster, you just get yourself busy with your little old syringe. Squirt whatever it is that you squirt into my battery and forget about the oil.” See, the cute thing about June is that she appreciates and supports ignorance and incompetence. But how else can it be in the suburbs? Life is so hard there. “There are certain chains of events which a suburbanite knows will follow one after the other, regardless of how hard she tries to combat the forces that be,” June says. “If she makes a careful grocery list, she will leave it on the drainboa . rd. If she even touches the bleach bottle she will, despite every precaution, manage to take a spot of color out of something navy. The list is endless. Is it any wonder that some of us hate to get up on Monday morning?” No, actually, it isn’t. I spent three Mondays in bed and wrecked the VistaCruiser after Laughing to Keep from Crying. The Trip Beyond, by Brian Ruud, I with Walter Wagner \(Prentice-Hall, This book is an invitation to confused and unhappy persons to take God into their lives and step from a bum trip into the trip beyond. Brian Ruud was a dope fiend, convicted robber and general punk. Now he is a dynamic young minister. He found God in solitary confinement. Brian used to sneer at the efforts of his minister father; by now he really “knows where it’s at with LSD, ‘speed’, and marijuana.” His “chemically enslaved body was instantly transformed by the redeeming power of Jesus Christ.” Mine would too if it got me out of the pen. This book is the triumphant testimony of the day-to-day miracles of healing, conversion and faith. Oral Roberts has been out-miracled. I’d like to introduce you to other Texas books high on my list this year, like The Lucky Moores, Marvin Jones Memorial, and Head for the High Country, \(a Boy Scout saga that oddly resembles Brian’s schlock, just more of the mediocre. You may think my view pitiless or even cruel, but the least we can do for beauty is discourage banality. By Thomas R. de Gregori Land of the Underground Rain: Irrigation on the Texas High Plains, 1910-1970 Donald E. Green University of Texas Press $9.50 Austin Land of the Underground Rain is in the finest tradition of writing on land, resources and development. It’s the story of dry land farming and irrigation agriculture of the Texas high plains, a tale of self-delusion and environmental exploitation. In structure and development, the book is similar to W. P. Webb’s Great Plains. Green opens with a chapter on “The Barrier to Settlement” and follows with sections devoted to the westward movement of irrigation agriculture and the adaptation of pump technology to the high plains. The story begins when the Lanno EStacado was populated by a handful of local boosters and land speculators who sold a few acres and more than a few promises to the unwary. Aided by abnormally heavy rains in the 1890’s, the land hucksters used free trips, free meals and lodging much like developers do today to lure novice farmers into areas that should never have seen the plow. Once there, a man’s ingenuity and technology found ways for many to stay, usually at a high cost to the environment. Green points out that the settlers got considerable financial aid from the federal government, but, unlike Webb, Osgood and some other Western writers, he does not fault distant Washington bureaucrats for “legislative rainmaking” and for mislocating those agricultural projects. On the contrary, Green believes the delusions about the area were held by the settlers and propagated by the land promoters. It was popularly believed that rain followed the plough and, later, that there was an inexhaustible underground river that flowed from the Rockies to the Gulf. By the 1940’s it became apparent to some West Texas farmers that the water table was falling and that some control over pump irrigation would have to be exercised. But, for the most part, the farmers’ rugged individualist fervor had not been diminished by federal subsidies. They would brook no interference from the government. Some farmers refused to believe that their water was running out. To them, conservation was Nazism, socialism or, at the very least, unconstitutional. Local writers predicted that outside controls would “reduce” farmers “to spiritless De Gregori teaches economics at the University of Houston. peasants just one degree above the insensitive clod.” They said conservation districts “should be met with 30-30’s” and their bureaucrat sponsors should be driven “into the Gulf of Mexico where they can get their fill of water.” Still, few such cries of outrage were heard when these same bureaucrats sought to bring water to the high plains from other areas. As Sam Rayburn used to say, it all depends on “whose socialism” you’re talking about. The staunch West Texans described by Green are not going to succumb to the pessimism of effete snobs and nabobs of negativism. They are confident the water will appear as it has in the past. Green quotes a poignant statement of faith by the Lubbock mayor in 1967: “The history of this country is that as the need arose for anything, somebody was there with the right tool to take care of it. This is the way this country was built.” A realist must accept the fact that the outlook is bleak in the high plains. The water table probably will continue to decline, forcing a continued population decline. Have West Texans learned from the experience described by Green? Not likely. High Plains farmers and civic boosters and businessmen are still proposing multi-billion-dollar schemes to pump water from the Mississippi watershed to West Texas. Donald E. Green has written an excellent local history of the high plains. The book has good maps of the area, illustrations of the agricultural technology and an interesting collection of pictures. It provides a microcosm of man’s capacity for self-delusion and his failure to understand the limits of environmental exploitation. Carl Becker said of eigthteenth-century thinkers that they “had only given another form and a new name to the object of worship: having denatured God, they deified nature.” In our own time we have deified technology and in so doing have transformed technology from a way of solving human problems to an excuse for not doing so. November 2, 1973 23 Bookkeeping & Tax Service ,tA 503 WEST 15TH, AUSTIN 78701 C. O a_ AFTER YOU’ve read everything else, read THE TEXAS NEWSLETTER and find out what they said. Enjoy it for the first four months at absolutely no risk. For FREE SAMPLE COPY and details, send narn#, address and zip code to: THE TEXAS NEWSLETTER, Desk 10, P.O. Box 64390, Dallas, Texas 75206. OFFICE HOURS: 9 A.M. TO 5 P.M. AND BY APPOINTMENT ANYTIME
You May Also Like
The documentary in Falfurrias is sinister and spiritual.