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While Texas writing may have become more urbane and less stereotypically regional, the Dobie fellowship pulled me back into an earlier tradition, one I suspect even Larry McMurtry is starting to appreciate, in hindsight, in a way his younger self, desperate to escape the tradition’s shadow, couldn’t. and finches skirmished over the feeders and drank at the blue ceramic birdbath, dipping forward with little Japanese bows. There were hummingbirds and robins, tufted titmice, a pair of painted buntings and even one rose-breasted grosbeak, which according to the books on the shelf should not have been in Texas that time of year. At dusk, the whippoorwills raised their voices, calling back and forth across the yard. Any frustrations over how to move forward with the book I was writing seemed to dissipate in the face of Paisano’s wonder, its reminders that life goes on, how the small picture is really the big picture, too. Before going to bed I stepped onto the porch, out to where the moon illuminated the stone edge where the overhang didn’t reach. The light was a milky picture frame encasing the house and me. I never wanted to leave. I was the 79th Dobie Paisano Fellow to enjoy custodianship of what was once J. Frank Dobie’s 250-acre ranch. I lived and worked there during the spring and summer of 2008, finishing a collection of short stories set in Texas and working on a book about my experiences in Nigeria. At a time when many people worry that regional distinctions in the U.S. are dwindling in the face of media conglomeration and rootless mobility, the Dobie Paisano seems like a quaint throwback. Only Texans can apply writer lives there at a time; it’s on a ranch, for Christ’s sake. I was lucky in that the week before my tenure began, the fellowshipsponsored by the Texas Institute of Letters and administered by the University of Texasheld its first-ever reunion, complete with food and bands and returning fellows from as far back as 1967. As the greenhorn, I was regaled with warnings, mostly having to do with snakes and scorpions, but also with what seemed at the time like melodramatic gushing and heehawing over the place. Vince Lozano told me about being flooded in more than a dozen times when Barton Creek swelled over the low-water crossing. Gary Cartwright pointed out the corner of the kitchen where Dennis Hopper lay passed out for two days after a party. And there were darker stories too, like how one Very Famous Writer, teaching in San Marcos at the time, was asked to stop by the ranch and check on a fellow who hadn’t been responding to phone calls. The Very Famous Writer supposedly 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 10, 2009 found the poor fellow stark raving mad, bunkered down with a loaded shotgun and claiming his in-laws were on the property to kill him. The best advice I received that weekend was the following: On your first day at the ranch, buy a nice steak and a decent bottle of wine. Grill up the steak, pour yourself a glass, and then sit down and read The Reports, a special binder full of pages written by past fellows, beginning organically with random notes left behind in the ‘7os and eventually morphing into officially requested entries. The reports tell of changes in the land, the creeks, the surrounding development, of longhorns running wild and foxes chasing fireflies, of children. They also betray the inner lives of the fellows themselves, the good writing and the no writing and the awe and the loneliness. Reading these missives from the past, I felt welcomed into the house. These words of men and women into whose footsteps I was literally stepping made me feel connected, not just to Paisano, but also to a kind of tradition. Yet I wondered if this wasn’t more illusion than anything else. Unlike the Deep South, with its gothic Faulknerian glamour, Texas’ literary history has always been marred by a lack of respect from the outside and an inferiority complex expressed from within. Texas’ own sons and daughters have often been its literature’s harshest critics, from Katherine Anne Porter’s declaration that she was “the first and only serious writer that Texas has produced” to Larry McMurtry’s famous salvo in “Ever a Bridegroom: Reflections on the Failure of Texas Literature in which he famously claims that the state’s writers “paid too much attention to nature, not enough to human nature” \(Both statements first appeared in the pages of the As recently as 2004, Benjamin Moser wrote in The New York Review of Books that “For a place of its size and importance, Texas has a remarkably thin literary resume.” Texas the myth, all cowboys and wildcatters, may not have a public relations problem, but Texas literature sure does. In a state that requires its students to take at least a year of Texas history, it’s shocking how little we Texans know about our own literary traditions. Recently, I met a friend, a very funny published writer and recent transplant from Houston, at Barton Springs to swim and do the crossword and, as it