Friday, May 31, 2013

Texas Task Force 1

Rescuing two dogs and carrying
them down the pile to safety.
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
As the recent events in Moore, Oklahoma and West, Texas remain fresh in our minds, we must remember the brave responders and volunteers who came to the aid of those affected. One such group deployed shortly after the fertilizer explosion in West and the tornado in Moore was Texas Task Force 1 (TX-TF1).
Justin Todd of the Killeen Fire Department and Disaster Medical Specialist for TX-TF1 told KBTX that “Just the damage that I had to witness down there I will never forget. I've lived through two tornadoes before in Central Texas but nothing, nothing, compares to what I saw and experienced in Oklahoma.”

Returning back home from
Moore, Oklahoma
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
TX-TF1 is sponsored by the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) and has deployed more than 90 times since 1997, including the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy, September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attack, and Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. TX-TF1 can be activated by the Texas Division of Emergency Management or as one of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) 28 sanctioned urban search and rescue teams.

Sifting through the rubble after the fertilizer
explosion in West, Texas
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
Members of TX-TF1 range from firefighters and medical personnel, to structural engineers, and come from all areas capable of reporting to College Station within a five-hour window. The task force consists of three separate units of approximately 80 members each. The teams rotate on a monthly standby, stand down or on call status.

Brian Blake, Communications Director for the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service, said “Texas Task Force 1 is the most deployed of the FEMA search and rescue teams all across the United States. These really are the best of the best.”

Bud Force captured the spirit of these remarkable responders in his book Texas Task Force 1: Urban Search and Rescue.

Surveying the damage after the fertilizer
explosion in West, Texas
(Texas Task Force 1 Facebook page)
Responder Susann Brown stated “There's a feeling in the room when I walk in and I see the faces of the other responders I work with. My stress level drops because I know that whatever happens, we'll figure it out and do what we need to do to get the job done. I know that because I know the people in that room can do it.”
Responder Matthew Minson followed by saying “The principle of helping others is as fundamental to the search and rescue members I know as is breathing.”

For more on this remarkable search and rescue team, check out Bud Force’s new book on shelves now or order your own copy here.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Learning About Food and Much More from Chef Jesse Griffiths

Posted by Pam Walker on on May 30, 2013

Chefs have long been leaders in seeking out local food and enlightening people about what grows locally and when, proving plate by plate the difference that freshness and thoughtful preparation make in flavor and nutrition.  Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due Austin, however, goes much farther than most chefs go, and leads people beyond the locally farmed to the locally feral and wild.

“Go out and get it” appears in big letters on a T-shirt that Griffiths, tall and tattooed, red-haired and red-bearded, sometimes wears.  And indeed, Griffiths is a very “out there” sort of guy.  He hunts deer, feral hogs, and game birds in the central Texas Hill Country, fishes in local rivers, lakes, and along the Texas gulf coast, and he forages at local farms for fruit, vegetables, dairy products, and eggs.  But you won’t find him or his charcuterie and fruit and vegetable preserves in a restaurant.


Too “out there” to own a restaurant or work in one, Griffiths does his butchering, cooking, and preserving in a rented commercial kitchen, and sets up shop every Saturday and Sunday morning at two of Austin’s busiest farmers’ markets.  There, he sells his kielbasas, wild boar chorizos, and longanisas, his kimchis and chutneys and pepper sauces, and on a portable grill and stove, he makes biscuits, hashes, pan sausages, and tacos for breakfast and beef burgers and wild boar bangers for lunch.

Each Monday, Griffiths and his small staff send an email to a list of about 6,500 people, listing all items available for pre-order by Thursday, to be picked up either at the kitchen on Friday or at the farmers’ markets on the weekend.  The ingredients, provenance, and general preparation methods for the items are described in each email, and so these messages are short primers on how to enjoy what local farmers are currently producing, as well as ways to enjoy charcuterie from wild-caught local fish and overly abundant and environmentally destructive deer and feral hogs.

For the past three years, Griffiths has offered several hunting schools in the late fall and early winter at Madrono Ranch, a large property in the rugged hill country southwest of Austin.  Its perennial spring-fed creek, canyons, and wooded terrain provide habitat for marauding herds of feral hogs and for many wildlife species, including whitetail deer.  Griffiths describes the three-day schools as “a focused environment aimed at teaching both novice and seasoned hunters how to utilize their game to the fullest, from the field to butchering to cooking, and to enjoy the harvest in a celebratory, respectful and frugal way.”

As of last September, you no longer have to travel to one of his hunting schools to learn how to make the most of fish and game. You can buy his beautiful book Afield: A Chef’s Guide to Preparing and Cooking Wild Game and Fish, with photographs by Jody Horton. A finalist for the James Beard award for a single subject book, Afield is a collection of stories and recipes based on Griffiths’ frequent forays into the countryside and along the coast, and includes step-by-step instructions in cleaning fish and fowl and in field dressing and butchering deer and hogs.  As Griffiths notes in the introduction, “Afield is germane to any place game or fish are found.  We emphatically encourage experimentation and substitution with these recipes depending on the geography and seasons.”
To eat Griffiths’ food, though, you do have to go to Austin or to one of his hunting schools, and it’s well worth the trip.

Pamela Walker lives in Houston and is the author of Growing Good Things to Eat in Texas:  Profiles of Organic Farmers and Ranchers across the State, published by Texas A&M University Press, 2009. She is currently working on a book about local farm and food communities in Texas, under contract with TAMU Press.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Walking Tour of Sculptor Lawrence M. Ludtke Artwork on TAMU Campus

TAMU Press recently published a biography entitled Life in Bronze: Lawrence M. Ludtke, Sculptor by Amy L. Bacon, featuring the works and artistry of Lawrence M. Ludtke (1929-2007) of Houston, Texas. A disciple of Classical sculpture and former Texas A&M student, Lawrence M. Ludtke created several sculptures that can be found on campus today. A few of the other places Ludtke’s works  can be found include the United States Air Force Academy, John Hopkins Medical School, Rice University, the CIA Headquarters, and the Pentagon.

In conjunction with Muster, Life in Bronze was launched and in April 2013 a Muster Day campus Walking Tour was held on campus, featuring the sculptures of Lawrence M. Ludtke. The Texas A&M University sculptures created by Ludtke include the following:

1.      Probably the most recognizable and popular sculpture on campus, James Earl Rudder is located next to the Rudder Building in the center of campus. Rudder was the sixteenth president of Texas A&M University, and helped to usher in the university's acceptance of women into the College. With a distinguished military career as well, he is known for leading the charge up the cliffs of Normandy during WWII.

2.      Located next to the Langford Architecture Building on the south side of campus, Arch 406 is a sculpture depicting a boy and his dog. Shaded by nearby trees, it was presented to the University by Mr. and Mrs. Joe Hiram Moore in memory of their son. Arch 406 is an academic class listing in the College of Architecture.

3.      Danger 79er, 1999 is a life-sized sculpture of Lt. Gen James F Hollingsworth, the most decorated general officer of Texas A&M University history, shown in his Vietnam-era uniform. This famous Ludtke sculpture can be found in the Corps center, close to Duncan Dining Hall.

 --Madeline Loving

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Lonely Road Home

Janis Joplin's Love-Hate Relationship with Port Arthur

January 19, 2008, was a cold, drizzly day in Port Arthur, Texas. A large crowd gathered that morning in a Baptist church fellowship hall on 32nd Street and sat reverently listening to recordings of a couple of Janis Joplin songs—“Mercedes Benz” and “Me and Bobby McGee”—and many began singing along as they warmed to the familiar tunes from their past.

It was a diverse crowd—children, old-timers, local politicians, curious neighbors, and visitors—some wearing leather motorcycle garb and the beads, tie-dyed clothing, and feather boas favored by Joplin, a local girl.

It was not a typical gathering in a church fellowship hall, but then that somehow seemed appropriate. The occasion was the dedication of an Official Texas Historical Marker on what would have been Joplin’s sixty-fifth birthday.

Few in attendance could picture her as a senior citizen. In their minds she would forever be in her twenties—the queen of rock and roll, flamboyantly performing on stages around the world, her wild hair, colorful costumes, and feather boas flying as she belted out song after song in front of cheering audiences.

The event’s celebratory mood represented a marked contrast from the town’s attitude toward its most famous native daughter just a few decades earlier. Janis Joplin’s relationship with her hometown was complicated.

By most accounts, she enjoyed a normal, happy early childhood in a middle-class family in the blue-collar refinery town, but her experiences as an outcast—some would say of her own making—in her high school years set the stage for rebellion and outrageous behavior that colored both her own memories and her legacy.

As her fame in the 1960s hippie counterculture movement grew, she simultaneously wrote sentimental letters to her family and made disparaging remarks about her hometown to reporters covering her meteoric rise in the music business.

In an oft-repeated quote, she told television talk show host Dick Cavett, “They laughed me out of class, out of town, and out of the state, man.” She also spoke about her hometown, and in one of the many harsh statements that later complicated her legacy in Port Arthur, said, “I always wanted to be an artist. Port Arthur people thought I was a beatnik, and they didn’t like beatniks, though they’d never seen one and neither had I. I read, I painted, I thought. There was nobody like me in Port Arthur. It was lonely, those feelings welling up and nobody to talk to. I was just ‘silly crazy Janis.’ Man, those people hurt me. It makes me happy to know I’m making it and they’re back there, plumbers just like they were.”

Lyrics written by her friend, lover, and fellow musician Kris Kristofferson in 1971, a year after her death (although not written for her, and paraphrased here), convey a sense of the complex journey toward her evolving legacy in Port Arthur: “[She’s] a walkin’ contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, takin’ every wrong direction on [her] lonely way back home.”

For a number of years after the 1988 event, Port Arthur hosted an annual Janis Joplin Birthday Bash, which evolved into the Gulf Coast Music Hall of Fame and the Music Legends Exhibit Hall in the acclaimed Museum of the Gulf Coast. Over the years, the Janis Joplin exhibit, anchored by a replica of her psychedelic-painted Porsche convertible, has remained a major attraction. People still come from around the world to pay homage to the queen of rock and roll who finally gained respect in her hometown.

By the twenty-first century, billboards advertising the museum could be seen along major highways in Southeast Texas, touting the area’s history “from Jurassic to Joplin.” A museum brochure offers a map and driving tour of local places associated with her life in Port Arthur, including the house in Griffing Park—across the road from Trinity Baptist Church—where an Official Texas Historical Marker honors the meteoric life of a simple local girl who took every wrong direction on her lonely way back home.

Marker Location: 4330 32nd St., Port Arthur

For more on Janis Joplin’s tumultuous journey with her hometown of Port Arthur, order your copy of Dan Utley and Cynthia Beeman’s new book History along the Way (TAMU Press, 2013).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Silver Kings

Long gone are the days when the waters of Port Aransas and Corpus Christi would see hundreds of thousands of silver-scaled tarpon swimming along its shores. Known by fisherman as the silver king, or titled by nineteenth-century writer Henry Wellington Wack as “the wild glory of the sea,” these once-popular fish could easily be six feet long and 200 pounds.

In the late nineteenth century, a barren settlement of one hundred or so people on the northern end of Texas’ Mustang Island changed its name from Ropesville to Tarpon, due to the massive abundance of these beautiful fish. In 1910, the town changed its name again to Port Aransas, in hopes of becoming a major seaport and destination for sportsmen. It was Corpus Christi that became the major seaport, and Port Aransas dubbed itself the Tarpon Capital of the World.

In the 1930s and 40s, Tarpon fishermen used little Farley boats, only 22-26 feet long, and built out of mahogany or cypress. These boats contained inboard motors and high fluted bows designed to surge through the choppy waves.  Businesses named themselves after the Tarpons, billboards were decorated with the fish, and the tarpons were proudly displayed in restaurants or bait shops.

But nowadays, all that remains of the glory days of the silver kings can be found in the memories of its fishermen and in the lobby of the Tarpon Inn. Here contains more than 7,000 huge silver scales, all dated and signed by proud anglers.

How and why did these massive beauties disappear? The Texas Monthly attributes it to a combination of things; from the great Texas drought of the fifties, to the increasing boat traffic along the Texas coast, and from overfishing in general.

You can read more about the silver king fishing days in Glory of the Silver King: The Golden Age of Tarpon Fishing (TAMU Press, 2011) by Hart Stilwell and edited by Brandon Shuler. Fishing guide and journalist Shuler unearthed multiple drafts of a nearly finished manuscript by Hart Stilwell, a Texas sports writer. The Glory of the Silver King captures the story of tarpon fishing in Texas and the Mexico Gulf Coast from the 1930s to the 1970s.
--Madeline Loving

Monday, May 13, 2013

TAMU Press Book Figure Featured in PBS Documentary

Dr. Felix D. Almaraz, Jr. should be used to being a feature story by now. Although an author of his own two books Knight Without Honor and Tragic Cavalier, Dr. Almaraz was the focus of Arnoldo De Leon’s book Tejano Epic which features essays in his honor. Now, Dr. Almaraz, the Peter T. Flawn Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Borderlands and Texas History at UTSA is currently serving as the narrator, consultant, and re-enactor in the PBS film “Texas Before the Alamo.” In the documentary, Dr. Almaraz portrays three pioneer Franciscan missionaries from different eras.
Texas Before the Alamo” is scheduled to be released this spring.
For the full article, please see the December 28, 2012, printing of Today’s Catholic.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Educational Garden Tour to Washington, D.C., Monticello, Mount Vernon, Williamsburg, and more…

June 3-10, 2013

Gardens with heritage, beauty, new and old world techniques, and back to the future inspiration await you in the nation’s Capital and surrounding regions.

Join horticulturist Doug Welsh for an eight day educational trip to Washington, D.C. and neighboring counties. You will tour the gardens of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Colonial Williamsburg, the Smithsonian Institution, the United States Botanic Gardens, the United States National Arboretum, and Dumbarton Oaks.

For more information, call Earthbound Expeditions at 800-723-8454, email at , or visit

Monday, May 6, 2013

Historical Perspective on US/Mexico Relations

The massive influx of Mexican migrants into the United States over the past two decades has ignited fiery debate regarding immigration reform and citizenship.

Here Miguel Levario, author of Militarizing the Border: When Mexicans Became the Enemy (Texas A&M University Press, 2013), explains the historical precedent for the lens through which American policymakers view immigration – rooted in the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution more than a century ago.

TAMU Press:

In your book you posit that current tensions and controversy over immigration and law enforcement issues on the US-Mexico border are historically rooted. Can you tell us more about that?

Miguel Levario:

If we look back to the early decades of the twentieth century we can see that the concerns and issues plaguing the two countries are very similar to what we are seeing today.  The outbreak of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 ignited a series of concerns for the United States that I argue serve as parallel examples to some of the issues today. 

First, the movement of over a million refugees and migrants into the United States filled labor pools, overwhelmed local resources, and dramatically altered the social demographics along the U.S. side of the border.  

Secondly, the invasion by Francisco Villa of Columbus, New Mexico threatened national security, and xenophobic nativists were concerned of ethnic Mexicans residing in the United States that resulted in ethnic tensions and rioting, especially in major cities like El Paso, Texas. Today, we cannot ignore the subsequent stereotyping and racial profiling of people of Middle Eastern decent and Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11. 

Lastly, the smuggling of illicit alcohol and the consequential violence that often occurred during Prohibition reminds us of the dangers of today’s so-called “War on Drugs” and its violent context. 

In other words, a historical precedent exists when dealing with today’s “hot topics” of national security, mass migration, and smuggling.  Our approach to today’s border concerns should consider the shortcomings of interventionist and militarized methods, as well as, the subsequent criminalization of a community of people regardless of their innocence or guilt but simply marked by their ethnicity or religious faith. For example, the failure of Prohibition curbing alcohol use and the Punitive Expedition’s inability to capture Francisco Villa serve as stark examples of how perhaps we should and should not approach today’s “War on Drugs” and border security.

TAMUP: In a recent interview with Texas Tribune, Shannon K. O'Neil, a senior fellow for Latin American Studies with the Council on Foreign Relations, said the U.S.-Mexico relationship has changed dramatically from even 30 years ago. Do you agree? Why or why not?

ML: Naturally, things have changed in Mexico in the past 30 years with increased access to technology for many, a growing economy, and stable economic and diplomatic relations with the United States.  However, I wouldn’t say its relationship has changed dramatically. 

NAFTA continues to shortchange Mexican farmers and is a major factor in contributing to out-migration.  Mexico’s manufacturing sector, which served as a major economic stimulant for much of the border cities, is disappearing. 

Lastly, the binational anti-organized crime program known as the  “Mérida Initiative” fails to curb much of the drug violence plaguing Mexico today and is considered by some to be a dismal failure.  It is my contention that relations between the two countries have changed superficially but true and equal bilateralism remains largely absent. 

TAMUP: Can you tell us about "Mexicanization" in El Paso and the racial tensions to which it contributed?

ML: "Mexicanization" references the demographic shifts that occurred in the mid 1910s along the border, especially in El Paso.  Thousands of Mexican refugees were migrating to the U.S.-Mexico border for safety, work, and general well-being.  

The influx of refugees changed the demographic landscape of El Paso and prompted federal authorities to quantify this influx.  In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson called for a special census to quantify the number of ethnic Mexicans living in El Paso. This was the first time ethnic Mexicans were separated as a different race in the Census.

Prior to the 1930 Census (with the exception of 1916), ethnic Mexicans were categorized as "white."  The substantial increase in the ethnic Mexican population in El Paso triggered fear and xenophobia from many of the Anglos living in the city. Many believed that ethnic Mexicans would take up arms and overrun the city and Fort Bliss if Mexican revolutionary general Francisco Villa issued the command.  

Local, state, and federal authorities in El Paso felt that punitive measures such as unwarranted neighborhood sweeps for firearms were needed to keep ethnic Mexicans "in check" and the Anglo population safe from suspected subversive activity. 

TAMUP: What lessons might current policy makers take from your historical perspective on US-Mexico relations? 

ML: I think there are many lessons to take away from the events of the early twentieth century because all of the same issues such as national security, mass migration, smuggling of illicit goods, and political subversiveness were present then as they are now.  

Intense militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border by the U.S. Army and Texas Rangers greatly antagonized ethnic Mexicans living in the U.S. and led to racial tensions and violence.  Much of this antagonism can be seen today in places like Arizona and along the southern international boundary as ethnic Mexicans are treated as second-class citizens or what immigration scholar Mae Ngai calls “alien citizens” despite their innocence or length of citizenship in the United States. 

In addition, as policy makers wrestle with the complexity and violence of the so-called “War on Drugs” we could look back to Prohibition and its utter failure and perhaps pursue more unorthodox approaches like legalizing marijuana, which continues to be the main cash crop for drug cartels. 

Lastly, militarization of the United States’ southern boundary in the early decades of the twentieth century proved that complete border security was difficult if not impossible despite the massive presence of soldiers along the border. Instead their massive presence resulted largely in antagonizing a community of people in the United States who despite their innocence in a large majority of cases were seen as criminals, outsiders, and second-class citizens. 

In my research of the past 100 years, the United States’ policy towards border security and migration has changed little if at all, thus yielding the same results over and over again.  Why? In part, the United States federal government and its people fail to acknowledge the complexity and interdependence of the two countries. 

Immigration and border security are NOT one in the same but separate issues.  Joining the two issues with a proposed singular solution exposes its inherent contradiction: immigration translates to open borders, and border security suggests closed borders. 

The vast majority of immigrants migrating to the United States want to improve the country not destroy it.  Those that wish to do the United States harm do not want to stay or be an active part of its future.

Therefore, the historical evidence suggests that the United States’ treatment of immigrants as a national security threat is misguided and contrary to our historical roots since the United States was founded and developed by immigrants.    

Friday, May 3, 2013

Menil Collection Artist Exhibit Inspired by Jungian Psychology

The Menil Collection in Houston, Texas will be putting on a display entitled, “Forrest Bess: Seeing Things Invisible” through August 18. The display features approximately forty paintings by the American artist Forrest Bess (1911-77).  
Bess’s paintings have apparent abstract expressionist tones which were greatly influenced by Jungian psychology and its emphasis on dreams, archetypes and the collective consciousness. Teaching himself to paint, Bess incorporated the intense hallucinations he experienced as a child into his art work. It was through fueling his dreams into artwork that Bess really became interested in Jungian psychology.
 Interested in learning more about Jungian psychology? TAMU Press book, Finding Jung: Frank N. McMillan Jr., a Life in Quest of the Lion (TAMU Press, 2012) by Frank N. McMillan III, features the story of Texas country boy and Texas Aggie, Frank McMillan Jr., and his life-long quest for meaning inspired by a dream lion. McMillan followed the lead of Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, and eventually established the world’s first professorship to advance the study of that field. Bess's story also figures into the story.
--Madeline Loving