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BOOKS & THE CULTURE From Kickapoo to Kappa Dispatches from the Quaint and Curious World of the Junior League BY BETSY BERRY JUST AS WE WERE: A Narrow Slice Of Texas Womanhood. By Prudence Mackintosh. University of Texas Press. 184 pages. $19.95. good number of the essays in Just As We Were: A Narrow Slice of Texas Womanhood were written in the mid to late-seventies, when Prudence Mackintosh was establishing herself as a regular contributor to the Southwest’s new “it” magazine, Texas Monthly. A decade later, after most of the other essays in this collection had appeared, the magazine Mackintosh remembers as “fresh and sassy” could list her as one of its Old Guard. In Just As We Were, she looks back to a precious past that today, in the mid-nineties, will to many readers have the feel of an archaeological dig. On the other hand, the women she writes about are still getting regular manicures, arranging their children’s marriages, reassessing their own marriages to doctors and lawyers, and looking forward to the next U.T. Homecoming or Christmas Affair. If, for Texas, you were to split the dreaded category “regional writers” into two groups, the one I belong to would run kicking and screaming from land rich with cattle, scrub brush, and Texas mythology. This is a long and hard run, especially with a typewriter under your arm, and I’ve always been envious of the other kind comfortably Texanlike Prudence Mackintosh. Mackintosh faithfully writes about what she knows, wrapping a certain Texas sociological aura about her like a good winter coat. She acknowledges her own particular brand of Texas in her first essay from the collection; “The Soul of East Texas,” reminding us that a Lone Star upbringing is as myriad as it is embraceable: The cherished myths of Texas had little to do with my part of the state. I knew dogwood, chinaberry, crape myrtle, and mimosa, but not bluebonnets or Indian . paintbrush. Although the Four States Fair and Rodeo was held in my town, I never really learned to ride a horse. I never knew anyone who wore cowboy boots as anything other than a costume. I knew farmers whose fences were bois d’art and “bob wire” and whose property was known as Old Man So-and-So’s place, not ranches with their cattle brands arched over the entrance gates to their spreads. I knew ponds, not tanks. Streets in my town were called. Wood, Pine, Olive, and Boulevard, not Guadalupe and Lavaca. Mexico was so remote that we called it Old Mexico. Mackintosh’ s east-of-I-35 orientation places her squarely in a recognizable Texas literary tradition whose authors include, among others, Katherine Anne Porter, William Humphrey, and more recently and much less genteelly, Mary Karr. West of 1-35, of course, is Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy countrythe fabled land of shitkickers and waitresses named Brenda. For those unfamiliar with her biography, Mackintosh was born and raised “two blocks inside the Texas state line” in Texarkana, the daughter of a Democrat and the town newspaper’s editor. \(Question: name the most famous contemporary Texan from Texarkana. Answer: Henry that she belonged to the country club, but couldn’t order food “by the pool” because of its expense, and that her debutante gown was a hand-me-down from her sister. But the privileges life afforded her form the foundation garments of her private and public life. In “The Greatest Experience of Your Life,” Mackintosh writes of Texas Hill Country girls’ camps, of Kiowa and Tonkawa tribes, of 14-carat gold camp charms and many splendored things. The affluent mothers of the campers are, as ever, micromanagers of bloodlines and future game plans. They are attuned, for example, to which sorority doors a Kiowa tribal affiliation might later openall in the family, as generation after generation of camp-goers raft down the Guadalupe or, squealing, thump spiders crawling across THE AFFLUENT MOTHERS OF THE. CAMPERS ARE, AS EVER, MICRO-MANAGERS OF BLOODLINES AND FUTURE GAME PLANS. their bunks. The girls themselves have no idea of the rite-of-passage dimensions of such camps as Longhorn, Waldemar, Mystic, and Kickapoo, and busy themselves instead with making what not infrequently turn out to be lifelong friends. As Mackintosh nicely observes, “Take little girls away from boys for four weeks and they fall in love with each other.” The wrangling of the parentsmany of whom pay their daughter’s camp deposit during the mother’s first trimester of pregnancysuggests a social calculation not wholly unlike the Houston “cheerleader mom” who hired a hit-man so her daughter could make the squad. Mackintosh’s wry observation and facility for cultural analysis are targeted and timeless, even as she participates fully in the idea that selected Hill Country camps function as pre-prep schoolsalthough camp prices listed in this 1975 essay are glaringly outdated. \(On a personal note: my camp was Kickapoo, and I’m still waiting for the benefits to kick in. All I gained from that camp was a water-ski patch, a crush on the bronzed swim instructor, and a deep understanding of reel one of Shane. The film was screened eight times in four weeks, and I was always too exhausted from sun and surf to make it to reel two. I still don’t know how Shane “Sisterhood is Powerful” is a narrative not about the women’s movement \(which she addresses in “The Good Old Girls,” a 24 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 20, 1996 .1!