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A JOURNAL OF FREE VOICES We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of human-kind as the foundation of democracy: we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. Writers are responsible for their own work, but not for anything they have not themselves written, and in publishing them we do not necessarily imply that we agree with them, because this is a journal of free voices. SINCE 1954 Founding Editor: Ronnie Dugger Publisher: Geoff Rips Editor: Louis Dubose Associate Editor: Michael King Production: Harrison Saunders Editorial Intern: Amanda Toering Contributing Writers: Bill Adler, Barbara Belejack, Betty Brink, Warren Burnett, Brett Campbell, Peter Cassidy, Jo Clifton, Carol Countryman, Terry FitzPatrick, Richard L. Fricker, James Harrington, Bill Helmer, Jim Hightower, Ellen Hosmer, Molly Ivins, Steven Kellman, Deborah Lutterbeck, Tom McClellan, Bryce Milligan, Debbie Nathan, Brad Tyer, James McCarty Yeager. Editorial Advisory Board: David Anderson, Austin; Frances Barton, Austin; Elroy Bode, El Paso; Chandler Davidson, Houston; Dave Denison, Cambridge, Mass; Bob Eckhardt, Austin; Sissy Farenthold, Houston; Ruperto Garcia, Austin; John Kenneth Galbraith, Cambridge, Mass.; Lawrence Goodwyn, Durham, N.C.; George Hendrick, Urbana, Ill.; Molly Ivins, Austin; Larry L. King, Washington, D.C.; Maury Maverick, Jr., San Antonio; Willie Morris, Jackson, Miss.; Kaye Northcott, Fort Worth; James Presley, Texarkana; Schwartz, Galveston; Fred Schmidt, Fredericksburg. Poetry Editor: Naomi Shihab Nye Poetry Consultant: Thomas B. Whitbread Contributing Photographers: Bill Albrecht, Vic Hinterlang, Alan Pogue. Contributing Artists: Michael Alexander, Eric Avery, Tom Ballenger, Richard Bartholomew, Jeff Danziger, Beth Epstein, Valerie Fowler, Dan Hubig, Pat Johnson, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Carlos Lowry, Gary Oliver, Ben Sargent, Dan Thibodeau, Gail Woods, Matt Wuerker. Business Manager: Cliff Olofson Subscription and Office Manager: Douglas Falls Development Consultant: Frances Barton SUBSCRIPTIONS: One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm editions available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Any current subscriber who finds the price a burden should say so at renewal time; no one need forgo reading the Observer simply because of the cost. INDEXES: The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 198 1,The Texas Observer Index. entire contents copyrighted, C7 1995, is published biweekly except for a three-week interval 477-0746. E-mail: [email protected] Second-class postage paid at Austin, Texas. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to THE TEXAS OBSERVER, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Woman Made the West In my review of Larry McMurtry’s new novel, Dead Man’s Walk, I wondered, in a lit-crit sort of way, why the prostitute was named the Great Western. My historian friends have telegraphed, telephoned, faxed, and otherwise set me straight about what is a rather simple point, and one about which I was completely uninformed: the Great Western was a real person, a prostitute who led a very colorful life indeed. For those interested in knowing more about this frontier personage, I pass along these citations from my historian mentors: Nancy Hamilton’s article in The Women Who Made the West 186-197; and Brian Sandwich’s book, The Great Western: Legendary Lady of the Southwest. Don Graham Austin StricHy Cro-Magnon Could Don Graham, the iconoclastic professor who dares to poke fun at McMurtry and other literary saints, be the same Don Graham who once led a band of Hays County political rebels against the forces of darkness and George Wallace wannabees? Despite a brilliant campaign slogan, “Vote for Graham, he ain’t no cracker,” he went down to defeat, handicapped by his failure to clearly enunciate a Neanderthaloid viewpoint on the nation’s Cambodian policy. Give us more. This Graham writes like Larry L. King. Bob Barton Hays County Editor’s note: Don Graham does indeed confess to having mounted a brilliant but losing campaign for Chairman of the Hays County Democratic Party, back in 1968 or Anti-McCarthyism? I have not yet read Larry McMurtry’s Dead Man’s Walk, but Don Graham’s review certainly makes it sound like a comic McCarthy’s incredible Blood Meridian. This would explain the presence of a twohundred-pound whore named “the Great Western,” Lady Carey’s naked ride singing a Verdi aria, andperhaps–even the premature exit of Big Foot Wallace. As always, I remain a sincere fan of Austin and The Texas Observer. Jane W. Elioseff Houston Editor’s Note: The following letter was received a few days before the recent death of J. Evetts Haley, October 9, 1995. Midland, Midge, and McMurtry At least two reports in your September 15 issue particularly caught my attention in their relation to my adopted hometown of Midland. The suggestion that Midge Erskine and husband Wood are being attacked because of their trees and protection of wildlife and because Midland is a Republican stronghold just doesn’t ring true to me. There is also a relation of Larry McMurtry to Midland, insofar as original western history is concerned. I would refer you to the literary writings and publications of nonagenarian J. Evetts Haley of Midland for information on both counts. The Erskine family is highly respected in West Texas. The Haley Library and Museum in 1979 published The Diary of Michael Erskine, pioneer trailblazer, with an introduction by Evetts Haley. I am an admirer of Midge Erskine’s work with wildlife, and am sure that my friend, Mayor Bobby Bums, likewise admires what she and her husband have done. Incidentally, the Erskines patented a ceramic water purification systemwhich should be supported by everyone interested in clean water. Continued on p.13. DIALOGUE 2 OCTOBER 27, 1995