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PREVIEW Highway 190 between Richland Springs and Rochelle, TX, as featured in Ranch Gates of the Southwest, by Daniel M. Olsen and Henk van Assen, published by Trinity University Press in April. Image courtesy Trinity University Press. the kitchen shelves built by Dagoberto Gilb, the newspaper article in which Billy Porterfield wrote, ‘After Genesis, Paisano Ranch was at the bottom of a shallow, steaming sea, slimy with slugs and algae…. Millions of years later, as sun worshippers dreamily count, its progeny crept up a pipe in a toilet in a house on Barton Creek and bit a man named Dobie, who swore like a heathen and squashed the bejesus out of it.” It was strange, in a way, to be writing a book about Nigeria while living at this Texas ranch, but by connecting or reconnecting with these traditions and these writers, I saw that my experience of Texas shined through the subject matter. The place and culture I came from ended up having so much to do with the writer I am and was, even in Africa. Not all Texas writers will feel this way. Not all Texas writers write about Texas in any sense of the word. And not all Texas writers can abide this particular topic without rolling their eyes. That’s OK, too. Oral storytelling in the traditional sense may be dead, and most young people may not know J. Frank Dobie from a Diamondback rattler, but I’ve learned that it’s at least possible to thread the new Texas I see in front of my eyes, like the housing developments springing up over the bluff, with the old Texas I know only by the paw tracks it leaves in the road after a soaking rain. Once I caught actual sight of an animal I’d only heard before, howling at night like a ghost with its brethren. On a morning walk during my last week at the ranch there was a sudden rustle in the trees to my left. It was not unusual to startle a deer and, sure enough, a doe came bounding out of the brush, crossing my path at high speed with something hanging from her mouth. Following on her heels was a coyote, grimacing and big. When he saw me he stopped, six feet away, and our eyes met. Then he rushed on. Mary Helen Specht lives in Austin. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in numerous publications. Her Web site is JULY 10, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9