Monday, October 06, 2014

Lonn Taylor's Texas People, Texas Places

Ever since I first came upon Lonn Taylor's column for the Big Bend Sentinel, "The Rambling Boy," I've been a big fan. I devoured his collection of columns, Texas, My Texas: Musings of the Rambling Boy and added it to my list of top 10 books read in 2012. My mini-review:

"[T]his is far from the usual mashed potatoes newspaper fare.  Taylor is a wise and lyrical writer with a background as a professional historian and his mammoth love for Texas is infectious. This is a book to savor in a rocking chair on a hot day with a tall glass of spiked lemonade at your side. Get ready to howl with the one about the in-law aunts's oodles of poodles."

And lo, out of the blue (I don't think he knew I'd blogged about his book), Taylor writes to me that he wants to do a column about Agustín de Iturbide y Green, an historical figure he had known about since his days in Washington DC
 having found me via my webpage for my novel, The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire. I was happy to supply what I'd gleaned from my research, which included what I dug out of the archives in Iturbide y Green's personal archive in Catholic University, another archive in Georgetown University, the Iturbide collections in the Library of Congress, the Historical Society of Washington DC, and whew, yeah, I did a heap of research Mexico City and Vienna (more about all that here). I can count on one hand, with plenty of fingers leftover, the number of people who had even the basic outline of the story of Agustin de Iturbide y Green straight before I did; the published literature on Mexico's Second Empire is full of bizarre misunderstandings and mistakes and even some of his own family members in Mexico had some very strange ideas (for example, that Iturbide y Green had never married, but in fact, he had, in Washington DC in 1915, and happily, until his death in 1925). So! Now! Read Lonn Taylor's column, "The Royal Family of Mexico."

More Lonn Taylor news: his latest collection is Texas People, Texas Places: More Musings of the Rambling Boy, and I loved this one just as much as the first
 I devoured it, chuckling over every other page. Just to give an idea, this is the sort of thing that kept me laughing out loud from "The Jacksons of Blue and Other Texas Chairmakers":

"... most respectable people considered chairmakers somewhat marginal and looked down on them as not being totally respectable. This attitude probably originated in England, where chairmakers lived in the woods, close to their close materials, and did not farm or mix much with ordinary folk. In England chairmakers are called bodgers. Folklorist Geriant Jenkins once asked an informant where the word came from, and the answer was, "Because they be always bodgin' about in the woods."

Of special interest for me, since I am work on a book about Far West Texas, was his column "Albert Alvarez, Secret Historian," about a Mexican-American of Pecos, Texas. In Mexico, where every city and town seems to have one, Alvarez would be addressed with great respect as El crónista. In Texas as it is, alas, Spanish speaking historians and their contributions to Texas history remain marginalized. And that's something I'll be writing about, too.

More anon.


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