I have a secret. When I need a reading break I jump into Non-fiction. It is my rescue reading and gets me back into the real world. This book was my rescue from the holidays. It took me about two weeks to read it – not because of the length – but because with the holidays I was picking it up and putting it down a lot. The book has chapters but each chapter is divided into small segments on specific people, places, events etc. Hence it was the perfect fit for my holiday reading. I learned a bunch of interesting facts and stories about Texas. Like, did you know that Texas had the only all-female Air Force base – in 1943! Even stories I knew from Texas History were enhanced by the obvious wonderful research done by the author. This is a slim volume that packs a lot of information and great reading.
I had the pleasure of briefly meeting this Austin author at the Texas Book Festival. She was standing and greeting everyone that came by. Her welcoming smile pulled me in but her great books will keep me coming back.
These tales trace the Texas story, from Cabeza de Vaca who trekked barefoot across the country recording the first accounts of Indian life, to impresarios like Stephen F. Austin and Don Martín DeLeón who brought settlers into Mexican Texas. There are visionaries like Padre José Nicolás Ballí, the Singer family, and Sam Robertson, who tried and failed to develop Padre Island into the wonderland that it is today. There are legendary characters like Sally Skull who had five husbands and may have killed some of them, and Josiah Wilbarger who was scalped and lived another ten years to tell about it. Also included are the stories of Shanghai Pierce, cattleman extraordinaire, who had no qualms about rounding up other folks’ calves, and Tol Barret who drilled Texas’ first oil well over thirty years before Spindletop changed the world. The Sanctified Sisters got rich running a commune for women, and millionaire oilman Edgar B. Davis gave away his money as fast as he made it. Sam Houston, Jean Lafitte, Antonio López de Santa Anna, Lucy Kidd-Key, Minnie Fisher Cunningham, all these characters and many more—early-day adventurers, Civil War heroes, and latter-day artists and musicians—created the patchwork called Texas.
Storytelling, especially Texas stories, is part of Myra Hargrave McIlvain’s heritage from the time of her birth in the family’s hundred-year-old log house in Northeast Texas, to the family’s move to Houston where Myra grew up. Her writing career began with the publication of a family humor column that spanned the years she raised her children.
A move to Austin offered the opportunity to write Texas historical markers and articles about Texas that appeared in US, Mexican, and Canadian newspapers and in magazines such as TEXAS HIGHWAYS.
Four of her books direct travelers to Texas’ most famous and infamous historic sites, and an anthology published by the Texas Historical Commission shares more of the Texas historical marker stories. She loves Texas historical fiction and has published three award-winning books. Her latest nonfiction, TEXAS TALES, STORIES THAT SHAPED A LANDSCAPE AND A PEOPLE is her ninth book. She is currently working on a sequel to THE DOCTOR’S WIFE and STEIN HOUSE.
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2 thoughts on “Texas Tales: Stories that Shaped a Landscape and a People by Myra Hargrave McIlvain”
Thank you, Jennie, for that review. You made my day!
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