When you open W.F. Strong's book of Stories from Texas: Some of Them Are True, right there on the title page is my succinct review: "Ever' Texan oughta read this book."
The publisher (Beverley Place Books) sent me an advance copy and asked for a blurb. It didn't take me long to realize that Strong has put together a remarkable collection that will inform and entertain readers about Texas history, culture, folklore and literature. I figured every Texan -- or "ever' Texan" as we tend to pronounce it -- would enjoy the 75 stories in the 144-page paperback ($11.99).
For seven years the author, a professor of communication at the University of Texas Brownsville, has been telling Texas stories on public radio stations statewide, and the book evolved from that series of four-minute tales and observations.
Despite the subtitle -- "some of them are true" -- most of the stories are true, but Strong doesn't hesitate to mix in a few legends and tall tales from time to time.
One of my favorites concerned "The Texas Rancher and the New York Banker." The rancher from a little ranch near Abilene walks into a New York bank and asks for a $5,000 loan for one month, some "walkin'-around money." He leaves his loaded $70,000 Ford F-250 as collateral. A month later he comes in to pay off the $5,000 loan and $28.22 in interest and reveals the real reason he applied for the loan. (Of course, I'm not going to tell you how the story ends.)
The book is divided into a dozen or so sections, beginning with several pieces on the Texas dialect, such as letters we don't need (the g on words ending in ing, for example) and Texas contractions (especially the word y'all).
Another section deals with larger than life Texans, including Judge Roy Bean, coach Tom Landry, oilman Eddie Chiles, rancher/philanthropist Henrietta King, cattleman Charles Goodnight, pianist Van Cliburn and the "bass boat heroes" from Hurricane Harvey.
Strong offers his suggestions for a year's worth of Texas reading -- one book a month beginning with The Tacos of Texas and ending with The Big Rich. Yes, Lonesome Dove, Empire of the Summer Moon and Elmer Kelton's The Time It Never Rained make the list.
The section on Texas icons includes pieces about rattlesnakes, pickups, Blue Bell Ice Cream, Dr Pepper and Southwest Airlines. The author is especially passionate about Whataburger.
A chapter on immigrants takes a little different tact than you might expect, noting that the new immigrants in Texas (who didn't speak the native language and practiced a different religion) were becoming quite a problem -- in the 1820s and 1830s. Anglo Americans were streaming over the border from Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and other Southern states, and the government (Mexico) passed new laws to deal with the influx. Strong also includes a couple of pieces on "Spanish for Gringos" and "Lingo for Gringos: Ten Words All Texans Should Know."