The Whole Damn Cheese: Character Interview

THE WHOLE
DAMN CHEESE
MAGGIE SMITH BORDER LEGEND
by
BILL WRIGHT
Genre: Biography / Texana 
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press 
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Publication Date: October 12, 2018
Number of Pages: 160 pages with B&W photos
Anecdotes about Maggie Smith abound, but Bill Wright’s The Whole Damn Cheese is the first book devoted entirely to the woman whose life in Big Bend country has become the stuff of legend. For more than twenty years, Maggie Smith served folks on both sides of the border as doctor, lawyer, midwife, herbalist, banker, self-appointed justice of the peace, and coroner. As she put it, she was “the whole damn cheese” in Hot Springs, Texas. A beloved figure serving the needs of scores of people in Big Bend country, she was also an accomplished smuggler with a touch of romance as well as larceny in her heart. Maggie’s family history is a history of the Texas frontier, and her story outlines the beginnings and early development of Big Bend National Park. Her travels between Boquillas, San Vincente, Alpine, and Hot Springs define Maggie’s career and illustrate her unique relationships with the people of the border. Vividly capturing the rough individualism and warm character of Maggie Smith, author Bill Wright demonstrates why this remarkable frontier woman has become an indelible figure in the history of Texas.
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Character Interview

Inside Maggie Smith’s Mind:

An Imaginary Interview with the Whole Damn Cheese

PART 2 OF 2

Click to read part one featured 10/18/18 with Lone Star Book Blog Tours

Q: Now tell us about one of the weddings you attended and how you conducted that wedding.

A: Well here’s a story that combines a wedding and birth. I was invited to a wedding in Mexico. I was asked to be the “madrina” which is like a best man, except in Mexico, they have a best woman. And well, when we got to the little ranch for the wedding we were told that there was a woman who was real sick. She had rode twelve miles to come to the wedding, and she was expectin’ a child. So I went into this room where they had her and they had her tied up into the ceiling with a goat hide underneath her.

Q: Standing up?!

A: Yes. That’s some belief—I don’t know what—in Mexico. So, I had ‘em cut her down and I delivered a baby boy they named Henry after our 12-year-old Henry who was there that night. Well, the family took the baby home after the party that night. The woman rode the horse twelve miles home with that baby, back to Mexico!

Q: There’s a story about some cattle you saved. Tell us about that.

A: That was at Paisano Pass—a gap in the mountains in Presidio County. I stopped there during a blizzard while moving cattle. It was real bad weather and it took us five months to move the cattle from a ranch below Sierra Blanca, down on the river, to a ranch at Carrizo Springs. I was in my early 20s when I made that trip.

Q: You believe that you have the BEST treatment for a rattlesnake bite because it saved the life of your son-in-law, Madge’s husband, twice. Tell us how that story goes.

A: Well he and my younger daughter, Leila, were getting’ a boat out of the river and he stepped on a cottonmouth water moccasin that bit him twice on the foot—he was barefooted. There was no car—we had taken a part of our cart and sent it to town to have it replaced. So I took powdered alum and kerosene and put it in a five gallon can and packed his foot in that. I kept the mixture ‘til it would turn green, and then emptied it and put more in there. Of course, I had a LARGE sack of powdered alum! It was three days before the pickup came from town and we could git help. He went to the doctor in Alpine and the doctor said that it was perfect—that his foot was all right! He took a blood sample and most of the blood was clear. I guess that saved his life, because they said cottonmouth water moccasins have a deadly bite.

Another time I didn’t have anything like that, and they brought this Mexican in—he had been bitten by a rattlesnake on the back of the leg. They brought him from across the river at Boquillas. That time I took a live chicken and slit it down through the breast—I don’t have a queasy stomach—and wrapped this chicken around his leg. I believe the beating heart pulled the poison out. Anyhow, it worked!

Q: As you said yourself, you were “the whole damn cheese” in Hot Springs, Texas. You were also known to be an accomplished smuggler. What did you smuggle?

A: I prefer not to answer. And by the way, I really don’t like talking about myself. Can’t we talk about the country instead?

For thirty-five years Bill Wright owned and managed a wholesale and retail petroleum marketing company. In 1987 he sold his company to his employees and since then has carved out a remarkable career as an author, fine art photographer, and ethnologist. He has written or contributed to seven books, and his photographs appear in Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
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The Encouragement Letters: Excerpt

THE ENCOURAGEMENT
LETTERS
by
SHANNA SPENCE
Sub-genre: Middle Grade / Historical Fiction
Publisher: Book Liftoff
Date of Publication: November 22, 2017
Number of Pages: 180
Scroll down for the giveaway!
 
WILLIAM CROMWELL, at age eleven, knew what it was like living with new changes. In 1865, Manchester, England a new textile factory moved into town and after a tragedy that befell him and his mum, they struggled to live. With so many things going on in his young life he wanted to be the encouragement that his father was to him.
As everything changes along with terrible hardships, just maybe the hope he gives to the growing town will find its way to Will…
PRAISE FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT LETTERS: 
This was such an uplifting wholesome book! It was so nice to read something positive about a time when people were so willing to step in and help someone in need without expecting anything in return! I couldn’t put it down!– 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

Excellent read!! This story speaks to people in all walks of life. It is encouraging, sweet, and funny at the same time. I would recommend this book to anyone needing to see what it means to “treat others as you want to be treated.” — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

A very inspiring book from a great new author! — 5 Stars, Kindle verified purchase reviewer

A charming tale of a simpler time. Yet, the message is ageless. I congratulate Ms. Spence on this her first effort and look forward to more entertaining reads from her in the future.— 5 Stars, Kindle reviewer
Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER TWO

OF THE ENCOURAGEMENT LETTERS

BY SHANNA SPENCE

          Mrs. Cromwell was home cutting up a few vegetables that she managed to get that day. She had a couple of good days of work, repairing some work trousers for an older gentleman and made a few aprons that she sold. Work was getting harder to find. Most days, he thought she would skip eating just to make sure he could get enough to eat. After all, he was a growing boy!

          As she prepared a small meal, Will studied his mother for a moment. She had grown paler and thinner. She had dark circles under her eyes and hollowed cheeks.  Her dress hung from her thin shoulders. He felt a pang of desperation. I just don’t know what to do for her, he thought. Suddenly, a coughing spell hit his mother after she cleared her throat and had a sip of water.

          “Tell me what you are thinking, my son,” Mrs. Cromwell said.

          Will wasn’t good at hiding his emotions. Mrs. Cromwell looked at him and saw what she thought was fear. William’s father died with a cough; not his mother too!

          “Nothing at all, Mum. Why do you ask?”

          “Well, the look on your face is troublesome to me. I know you must be worrying again.”

          “I won’t lie, Mum, you look thinner to me. Have you been eating?”

          “Now, William, you know I do!”

          “You must not be eating much. You look like you have lost some weight.”

          “Tsk, stop worrying about me. I’m fine! Now, go wash up for dinner.”

          With that, he went to the wash basin and washed his hands, still feeling uncomfortable with his mother’s response. I will keep an eye on her.

          As the days passed, Will noticed that his mother took her tea and ate nothing for the mornings. He could not tell if she ate anything for lunch while he helped Uncle Henry. For the evening meal, she ate, but he was unsure if it was enough.

          He had to do something to get more food for them. He could not allow them to starve. It was one thing for his mother to have no work, but not to be able to eat was another thing.

          I know what I can do! I’m going to plant a garden! Will thought. At least we will have vegetables to eat. Let’s see, I have to figure out where to get some seeds.

          Will lay down after reading some of his father’s letters that evening. He knew he had to get another letter out and was wondering to whom he could write a letter. What I will do tomorrow is go to town to scout out some seeds for the new garden and I will look around for inspiration to write a letter. With that as his last thought, he fell fast asleep.

          The morning came early for Will. He jumped out of bed, dressed, and was out the door before the morning tea.

          “Have a good day, William. Don’t forget to pick up your school work for the day!”

          “I won’t, Mum. See you this afternoon!” Will said as the door was closing behind him. Will ran most of the way to town. Again, he stopped from time to time to get the pebbles out of his shoes. The holes in his shoes were getting bigger.

          I’m going to have to try and patch those holes soon.

Shanna Spence is a wife, mother, and registered nurse of over twenty years. She has written poetry since the age of thirteen and always dreamed of writing books. Raised in a small East Texas town, she pursued a career of nursing in Dallas, Texas but eventually went back to East Texas to settle down and raise a family.
Now she finally has found the time to fulfill her dream of writing stories that will hopefully bring out the imagination in others — as well as inspiration. She is currently living in Longview, Texas. 
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Old Buildings in North Texas: Excerpt

OLD BUILDINGS
IN NORTH TEXAS
by
JEN WALDO
  Sub-genre: Literary Fiction / Dramedy
Publisher: Arcadia Books
Date of Publication: April 1, 2018
Number of Pages: 213
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After rehab, Olivia, a 32-year-old cocaine addict, is required to move back in with her mother and pregnant sister. Having left a promising career in journalism in New York, she’s now working as a sales assistant for a family friend in her home town in North Texas. 
Under pressure from her court-mandated counselor – an old high school friend – to take up a hobby, Olivia decides on “urbexing.” Soon she’s breaking into derelict homes, ex-prisons, and old drive-ins across North Texas, and it’s not long before she’s looting state property and making money off the possessions, fixtures, and fittings that have been left behind.
 
Old Buildings in North Texas is about a modern woman’s search for personal equilibrium and wild adventure — the attempt to find stability in existence without losing sight of what makes life worth living. Jen Waldo’s style modulates effortlessly from domestic nuance to taut adventure, tackling social and moral transgressions with incisive observation and vivid humor.
PRAISE FOR OLD BUILDINGS IN NORTH TEXAS
“A lot of Jen Waldo’s debut novel takes place out on the porch of Olivia’s mother’s house. […] With its casual, confidential tone, Old Buildings in North Texas puts the reader in one of those porch chairs, reclining on a warm evening with a cool drink.” — The Skinny
Old Buildings in North Texas is an amusingly written and well worked book” — Trip Fiction
 
“This novel is an absolute blast. There are serious moments of course, but Jen Waldo looks for the comedy in everything to create a memorable scenario that reminded me very much of the style of Six Feet Under.” — Shiny New Books
 
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Excerpt

EXCERPT FROM

OLD BUILDINGS IN NORTH TEXAS

BY JEN WALDO

“What are the twelve steps?” my sister asks.

“Six steps. One, accept that you’re out of control; two, lean on a higher power; three, confide in a sponsor; four, make amends; five, replace the old life with a new one; and six, help others though their addiction recovery.”

“Are you doing all that stuff?” she asks.  “Is it working?”

An honest answer would disappoint her. The stripped-down truth is, I’m a broken-down truck in a country driveway. I doubt my sincerity as regards the recovery steps. I try to communicate with a higher power, but it seems hypocritical when I’m not even sure I believe in one. I’m in debt and I’m stashing secret money. I’m keeping secrets from my mother and my therapist. I’m disingenuous with my parole officer. I’m sneaking and stealing.

Am I making progress? Yes, in my recovery, I am; and it’s slow and it’s difficult.  But my goal is to get better, not to be better. Maybe in the future I’ll be wise, generous, and productive; but at this point, I am what I am—a self-absorbed addict with murky morals. Chloe was right when she said I’ve traded one addiction for another. Slipping into buildings, taking things and selling them, watching my bank account grow—these aren’t things a good person does. But they’re things I do.

Jen Waldo lived in seven countries over a thirty-year period and has now settled, along with her husband, in Marble Falls, Texas. She first started writing over twenty years ago when, while living in Cairo, she had difficulty locating reading material and realized she’d have to make her own fun. She has since earned an MFA and written a number of novels. Her work has been published in The European and was shortlisted in a competition by Traveler magazine. Old Buildings in North Texas and Why Stuff Matters have been published in the UK by Arcadia Books. Jen’s fiction is set in Northwest Texas and she’s grateful to her hometown of Amarillo for providing colorful characters and a background of relentless whistling wind. 

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Texas Legends

Charles Goodnight, Cynthia Ann Parker, and Quanah Parker are legendary figures in the history of Texas and their stories have been the subject of numerous books and movies to include my own novel, Palo Duro.

On September 26th, Cowboys & Indians Magazine and Legacy of Texas the official store of the Texas State Historical Association both carried articles that once again showcased their amazing inter-related lives.

C&I Magazine focused its piece on an art exhibit by Lee Cable entitled “The Life and Times of Charles Goodnight” that is currently on display at the Bryan Museum in Galveston, Texas and runs through October 14th. The exhibit contains twelve historical paintings and twelve associated pencil sketches depicting important moments or achievements in Charles Goodnight’s life. “The paintings portray everything from Goodnight’s evolution into one of the most prosperous cattlemen in the West to his relationship to bison (first removing them from his land, then preserving them) to his close relationship with Quanah Parker.” The exhibit will also be on view November 16, 2018 – April 22, 2019 at the Cattle Raisers Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

TSHA provided background information on Cynthia Ann Parker, one of five captives taken by the Comanche during a raid on Fort Parker May 19, 1836. She would remain with the tribe for almost twenty-five years during which she married a Comanche war chief, Peta Nocona, and gave birth to three children, boys Quanah and Pecos, and a daughter, Topsannah. “She never returned voluntarily to Anglo society.”

On December 18, 1860 a Texas Ranger Company under the command of Lawrence Sullivan Ross attacked a Comanche hunting camp capturing three Native American prisoners. They were subsequently surprised to find that one of the captives had blue eyes. Colonel Isaac Parker would later identify this person as his long-lost niece.

Among the Texas Rangers that day was Charles Goodnight. He and Quanah Parker would be bitter enemies following the raid but would eventually overcome  their enmity and forge a close and lasting friendship.

For earlier posts related to these three individuals refer to my blog entries A Fate Worse than Death, October 12, 2017; Historical Figures & Fictional Characters, July 4, 2017; The Last Comanche War Chief, June 27, 2017; and Saving the Buffalo, March 7, 2017. Better yet, pick up a copy of Palo Duro!

 

 

100 Things To Do In Dallas Fort Worth Before You Die: Excerpt


100 THINGS TO DO 
IN DALLAS FORT WORTH
BEFORE YOU DIE
2ND EDITION

by
TUI SNIDER
Genre: Non-Fiction / Texas Travel
Publisher: Reedy PressTwitter   ⎸  Facebook
Date of Publication: September 15, 2018
Number of Pages: 160 with black & white images
Scroll down for Giveaway!
Have you ever drawn a blank when a friend or family member asks, “What do you want to do today?” Maybe you have visitors to show around the Dallas – Fort Worth Metroplex, or perhaps you’ve lived here for years but feel like you’re in a rut rather than experiencing anything new.
If so, Tui Snider’s new book is for you! If you live in, or are visiting, the DFW region, this list will inspire you to start exploring. If you’re hungry, flip through the Food & Drink section. Looking for entertainment or want to get outdoors? Dig into the Music & Entertainment or the Sports & Recreation sections. Want to barter for antiques or see a museum? Check out the Culture & History or the Shopping & Fashion sections.
This book is a playful bucket list of suggestions meant to spark ideas: everything from family outings, date nights, and solo excursions, to simply hanging out with friends on your day off.

Excerpt

 

Discover regional glassware and a unique saying from Decatur, Texas

From 100 Things to Do in Dallas Fort Worth Before You Die

By Tui Snider

0921 MAX image 01 decatur courthouse

Historic courthouse in Decatur, TX (c) Tui Snider

Look for Decatur Glass in Wise County Courthouse Square

Decatur’s Romanesque Revival style courthouse was completed in 1896 and features pink granite with terra cotta accents. There is more to its design, however, than just good looks; the corner entrances keep air circulating and help cool the building. A variety of Mom and Pop shops surrounding the courthouse will keep you entertained for an afternoon.

0921 MAX image 02 decatur glassware

Example of Decatur Glass, a regional specialty (c) Tui Snider

Keep an eye out for Decatur Glass in the antique stores. This hand- blown glass was produced in Decatur in the 1950’s and 1960’s at Tex Glass, Inc. a glass company started by husband and wife team, Bertha and Hermann Rosenzweig. Mr. Rosenzweig fled to the states after being persecuted by the Nazis. He eventually settled in Decatur and began producing a crinkle style glassware. It’s now a collectible unique to this region.

213 W. Main Street, Decatur, TX

940-704-7212

decaturtownsquare.com

decaturmainstreet.com

0921 MAX image 03 decatur mural

Mural celebrating the “Eighter from Decatur” saying (c) Tui Snider

Tip: Famous Saying – Eighter From Decatur

If you gamble, you probably know the saying, “Eighter from Decatur, county seat of Wise.” If you’re not a gambler, you will definitely notice banners with “Eighter from Decatur” all over this little North Texas town.

In the late 1800’s, a Decatur resident named Will Cooper fell in love with a gal named Ada. Every time he played craps, Mr. Cooper would chant, “Ada from Decatur, County Seat of Wise.” Before long, his catchy rhyme became popular and spread throughout the nation. Over time, “Ada” morphed into “Eighter,” and in 1949, Decatur mayor Sly Hardwick added the phrase, “Eighter from Decatur” to the city’s welcome signs, thereby securing its place in the local identity.

0921 MAX image 04 Vintage Sign

Vintage sign from Decatur, TX (c) Tui Snider

 

Tui Snider is an author, speaker, and photographer who specializes in hometown travel. As she puts it, “I used to write fiction – but then, I moved to Texas!” Snider’s work has been featured by a variety of outlets, including Coast to Coast AM, LifeHackeasyJet and Authentic Texas. Snider’s award-winning books include Unexpected Texas, Paranormal Texas, Understanding Cemetery Symbols, and more. Tui enjoys connecting with readers all over the globe through her WEBSITE.
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Pacific Northwest

The ending to any vacation is always bittersweet; the desire for one more day conflicts with the yearning to return home. For the past ten days my wife and I have been travelling in and around the state of Oregon visiting the vibrant city of Portland, the rugged coastal shoreline around Newport, and the spectacular views along the Columbia River Gorge in Hood River. We’re heading back to Texas today but I wanted to get this post published before falling even further behind in my goal of reaching out to readers at least weekly.

Literature and history always play a major part in anything that I do, and this trip was no exception. In Portland I visited Powell’s City of Books, one of the world’s largest independent bookstores. Four stories high, taking up an entire city block, the building houses over one million books. I normally avoid large bookstores in favor of smaller more customer friendly venues, but Powell’s was a must stop and I wasn’t disappointed. A book enthusiast could meander the site forever browsing the latest publications as well as the oldest classics. I was happy to be directed to a specific aisle, on a specific floor, in a specific room to find a specific stack that held the book I was interested in obtaining. As soon as I finish reading the historical novel Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen by Sarah Bird I’ll post my review.

A visit to Yaquina Head Lighthouse near Newport (also known as the Cape Foulweather Lighthouse) offered views of tide pools teeming with wildlife as well as information on the search for the Northwest Passage. As a boy I had read and re-read the novel Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts which was in part the detailed account of Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian Wars, but also follows Robert Rogers’ later life and exploits as he attempts to mount an expedition to find the route that had long eluded other European explorers.

This quest to find a route linking North America and East Asia has captured the imagination of explorers since the 15th century. At Yaquina there are informational panels on Captain James Cook’s expeditions to the Pacific Ocean; his third (1776-1780) aboard the ships Resolution and Discovery searched for a sea route around Canada and Alaska. No such passage was found at the time and Cook’s scientific explorations ended with this voyage when he was killed by Polynesians on a beach at Kealakekua.

Treacherous ocean conditions and sea ice made the route impossible for decades. Ships’ hulls could be crushed by submerged icebergs or vessels could find themselves trapped for months at a time by surface ice resulting in death from extreme cold, starvation, and disease.

Only recently has climate change opened the passage to maritime shipping. While the first successful navigation occurred in 1906, in the summer of 2007 the route was  entirely free of ice for the first time in recorded history, and in 2016 the Crystal Serenity became the first cruise ship to navigate the passage.

Of course, I’ve only managed to crack the surface of all that awaits in the Pacific Northwest. There is so much more of Oregon yet to be discovered, as well as the U.S. states of Idaho and Washington, and the Canadian province of British Columbia. But, there’s a flight to catch and those discoveries will have to wait for another day.

 

A Cherished Tradition

Silver TapsA recent post on Twitter announcing the first Silver Taps ceremony of the semester at Texas A&M University brought back vivid memories of my first exposure to this cherished tradition. It was fifty years ago and I can still recall every detail of that night.

I was a freshman in the Corps of Cadets at the time just learning what it means to be an Aggie. I was frankly overwhelmed by the solemnity of fellow students gathering in silence to honor and remember other Aggies who had passed away the previous month. It impressed upon me that I was a part of something enduring, a spirit of fellowship and family that would last a lifetime.

A&M alumni reading this will understand exactly what I’m talking about. Others, those of you who read my posts but have no reference to go by, may appreciate a brief summary of the event.

On the morning of the ceremony the names of the dead are posted at the base of the flagpole outside the Academic building. The flag is then flown at half-mast throughout the day, and at 10:15 PM the lights on campus are extinguished. It is eerily dark and quiet. The firing squad from an elite unit known as the Ross Volunteers marches into position. They fire a 21-gun salute at 10:30 PM – the discharge of the guns is accompanied by the collective intake of breath throughout the student body as the sound of the guns pierces the silence. Six buglers atop the dome of the Academic building sound the mournful notes of a special orchestration of taps that has been passed down from bugler to bugler since 1898. These are the only sounds you hear. Taps is played three times; once to the North, once to the South, and once to the West. It is never played toward the East… the sun will never rise again on the departed. When the last note has been played no words are spoken. The students disperse returning to their dorms, apartments or homes to remember, to reflect, and to pray. – Excerpt from my memoir, Silver Taps.