Best Texas books: What the German Texans left us

Face facts, it’s still summer, weather-wise in Austin. So let’s look back at some recent Texas titles before rummaging through the fall books.


“The Material Culture of German Texans.” Kenneth Hafertepe. Texas A&M Press. This is a big, beautiful book on a subject that will delight antiquarians and collectors as well as the just plain curious. Heftertepe, who chairs the department of museum studies at Baylor University, has already provided two volumes essential to understanding our region, “Abner Cook: Master Builder on the Texas Frontier” and “A Guide to the Historic Buildings of Fredericksburg and Gillespie County.” Here, he delves into a rich variety of vernacular architecture, as well as covering cabinetmakers, interiors, public buildings, houses of worship and — smart to include — graveyards and grave markers. Hafertepe speaks on his book’s subject at the Neill-Cochran House, designed by Abner Cook, on Sept. 25.


“Haiku Austin: Vol 1.” Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz. Haiku Empire Press. Small gift books are all the rage. And we approve. Not every opus should double as a weapon. Stankiewicz’s slender volume brandishes its bright, quirky images and light, quirky words quite effectively. Don’t seek profundities here. Instead enjoy page after page of knowing smiles inspired by our town’s beloved singularities. Sample “Lucy in Disguise,” based on the costume shop on South Congress: “sequins and Spandex/drag queens flirt with evil clowns/grown-ups play dress-up.”


“We Come to Our Senses.” Odie Lindsey. Norton. I look forward to reading this book more carefully and interviewing the Nashville-based author, who has lived in Austin and sets some of his stories here. Lindsey will appear at the Texas Book Festival Nov. 5-6. I can tell you from what I’ve read so far: His dialogue and scene-setting ring absolutely true. His prose reminds me, to some extent, of the plays and the novel, “Rules for Werewolves,” by Austinite Kirk Lynn, which I understand is being considered for movie or TV treatment. Lindsey’s vets are characters of natural interest, given the generational involvement in what seem like endless wars fought for an American public that doesn’t much care.


“Finding Dorothy Scott: Letters of a WASP Pilot.” Sarah Byrn Rickman. Texas Tech University Press. The author is one of the key keepers of the flame regarding the nearly lost history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, who trained in West Texas and ferried planes from base to base during World War II. (We recently wrote about one of the WASP flier, Susie Winston Bain, pegged to an excellent exhibit at the Bullock Texas History Museum.) Here, Rickman presents the letters of Scott, preserved by her twin brother, which reveal the flier’s inner life, but also the day-to-day routines of the WASP forces. Incredibly ambitious, Scott died in a mid-air crash at age 23.


“The Mammals of Texas.” (Seventh Edition). David J. Schimdly and Robert D. Bradley. University of Texas Press. I love this book. And I’ve used it in the field for years. I can’t tell you what has been improved in this, the Seventh Edition, but what will likely open the eyes of first-timers are the number of whales, porpoises and dolphins that live just off our coast, as well as the numerous introduced species, such as eastern Thompson’s gazelles, Barbary sheep and Sika deer. There are even Japanese macaques loose in Central Texas. The authors have not left out domesticated mammals, which fewer Texans could identify these days as the state urbanizes and suburbanizes. One thing: The range maps, organized by county reports, seem pretty primitive for such a image-conscious publisher like UT Press.91pymvgiw7l

“A Kineñero’s Journey: On Family, Learning and Public Service.” Lauro F. Cavazos and Gene B. Preuss. Texas Tech University Press. A Kineñero is a descendant of Mexicans who worked on the King Ranch in the 1800s. Former Secretary of Education Lauro Cavazos — appointed by President Ronald Reagan — counts himself as one. His father served as ranch foreman. A longtime educator, Cavazos also was president of Texas Tech University. He is assisted here in recalling his journey by Preuss, a professor of history at University of Houston-Downtown. The father of 10 children with Peggy Ann Murdoch, Cavazos was blessed with a wide-ranging interest in learning and, especially in interactions among cultures.


“Texas Land Grants, 1750-1900: A Documentary History.” John Martin Davis, Jr. McFarland. Despite the cover art, this is a serious book about serious history. What could be more important to a country than the claim to the land and its resources? Especially in Texas, where, until the modern era, much of what happened here happened because of land grants. Davis, a retired tax attorney who lives in Fort Davis, is an authority on maps. He patiently takes the reader through the history of Spanish and Mexican grants, military and emigrant headrights, Republic of Texas practices, grants among disputed territories in the Trans-Nueces and Trans-Pecos regions, as well as homestead, education and internal improvement grants. He also provides lots of images of sample grants.

UPDATES: References to Lauro Cavazos, Kenneth Hafertepe and Sarah Byrn Rickman have been corrected.



Rodeo Austin picks new leader

Rob Golding, new CEO of Rodeo Austin.

Rodeo Austin,  one of Austin’s signature events, has a new leader. Rob Golding, who has served in the past decade as founding principal, chairman and CEO of Live Oak Gottesman, a commercial real estate development and services company, takes over the venerable group that emphasizes entertainment and education, as well as preserving the culture of the West.

“(Golding) brings a strong background and expertise in executive leadership roles and community engagement,” said Laura Estes, director of marketing & merchandising for H-E-B said. “Rob will continue the vision and lasting impact Rodeo Austin delivers in empowering the youth of Greater Austin with entertaining and meaningful hands-on learning opportunities.”

Golding is no stranger to public service. He has been involved at the board level with numerous local organizations including the Urban Land Institute, Capitol Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Salvation Army, Austin Economic Development Corporation, Greater Austin Crime Commission, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

“It is an honor to step into this role with Rodeo Austin,” Golding said. “The board, staff and incredible base of volunteers have built a terrific organization and I look forward to working with them on innovative ways to grow the presence and impact of the organization. I found the mission and professional challenge at Rodeo Austin irresistible.”

First envisioned in the 1930s, Rodeo Austin started as a livestock show staged across the street from the State Capitol. It later moved to the City Market at Seventh Street and East Avenue, then the City Coliseum near the Palmer Auditorium on the south riverfront. The first two utilitarian structures were demolished, the third was recycled as the Long Center for the Performing Arts.

After the rodeo moved to its current facility, the Travis County Expo Center on Decker Lane, it grew in size, but grew away from core Austin culture. No more parades down Congress Avenue. No more office closures or class cancellations. A breakdown of attendance is usually not made available, but it appeared for years that the group’s carnival far outstripped the rodeo sports, concerts or the nearby livestock show in popularity.

For decades, the rodeo’s powerful board of directors remained resolutely the province of a few loyal families.

Longtime CEO, Bucky Lamb, parted amicably with the group several months ago, according to rodeo spokeswoman Jennifer Stevens.

21 sizzling Austin parties for late September

Here’s a mid-September update on Austin parties that I prophesy will please.


Sept. 14: Liz Carpenter Lecture featuring Gloria Steinem. LBJ Presidential Library.

Sept. 14. A Night with the Stars (Dancing with the Stars Austin). Dine.

Sept. 14: Chef’s Table Austin for Water to Thrive. Brodie Homestead.

Sept. 16: Imaginarium for the Thinkery. JW Marriott.

Sept. 16: Authentic Mexico for the Hispanic Alliance. Long Center.

One of the historical treasures from the Briscoe Center.

Sept. 16: Briscoe Center’s “25 Years/25 Treasures” opening reception. LBJ Presidential Library.

Sept. 17: Little Black Dress Soirée for Dress for Success. Palazzo Lavaca.

Sept. 18:Voting Rights in Texas and Beyond.” LBJ School.

Sept. 17: Ballet Austin Fête and fête*ish. JW Marriott.

Sept. 17: Opening of the Austin Opera season, “The Manchurian Candidate.” Long Center.

Sept. 17: Moonlight in the Gorge GalaCanyon Lake.

Tara Doolittle is among the journalists honored at the Mike Quinn Awards.


Sept. 17: Mike Quinn Awards Luncheon. Headliners Club. DATE CHANGED.

Sept 19: Upbring Golf. Avery Ranch Golf Club.

Sept. 23: Hill Country Nights for Hill Country Conservancy. Fair Market.

Sept. 23: Tribeza Style Week Kick-Off Party. ACL Live.

Sept. 23: Grand Opening. Sheraton Georgetown Texas Hotel and Conference Center.

Sept. 24: Trash Makeover Challenge for Texas Campaign for the Environment. Scottish Rite Theater.

Sept. 25: Inherit Austin’s Somewhere in Time. Huston-Tillotson University. DATE CHANGED.

Sept. 25: Ken Hafertepe signs “The Material Culture of German Texans.” Neill-Cochran House.


Sept. 28: Austin City Social. Nordstrom Domain.

Sept. 29: Tribeza Style Week Fashion Show. Brazos Hall. DATE CHANGED.


Three Austin parties that closed out the summer

Kathy Blackwell and Becky Beaver at Fourth and Goal for DKR Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease.

It took three celebrities to deliver the news. Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, golfing great Ben Crenshaw and prominent University of Texas backer Mike Myers announced that a $500,000 trust would be named for Edith Royal, widow of football coaching giant Darrell Royal and the smiling public face of the DKR Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease. That’s big. But so was the Fourth and Goal affair at the AT&T Center, guided jovially by emcee Ed Clements, who seemed to know everybody in the room, including former players from Coach Royal’s teams (1957-1976). Also on hand to raise extra cash was ace auctioneer Heath Hale and his merry band of seasoned “callers.” So where does all these bucks go? Two of the grant winners, Adriana Haley of UT Austin and Lenora Volk of UT Southwestern in Dallas, rose to speak about their research into dementia, some of it running counter to the mainstream studies. Promising stuff.

Don’t know the names of these guests, but the inimitable Miguel Angel took this and a number of other cool shots at the SHED party.
Helpful Torie Gehrig sent us this recap of this event, which we couldn’t make:
Hosted by SHED Barbershop & Supply to bookend Austin’s hottest season, SHED’s Summer Parties bring a new tradition to the Austin community. Held at Cheer Up Charlie’s with no cover, these shindigs are a chance to let loose with friends and celebrate the season. The most recent End of Summer Party cemented it’s spot as one of the essential things to do over Labor Day Weekend. The event kicked off with free drink tickets to early arrivers followed by DJ sets from Stone Cold Snugglas and DICK WOLF and culminated with the inflation of a giant (water slide).”
Mayor Steve Adler and Joah Spearman at ADL True Colors.

One event that I was especially sorry to miss was ADL True Colors, staged by the young leaders of the Anti-Defamation League AustinLast year, it was one of the most exciting parties of the season, supporting the group that fights hate at all levels. But I’ve decided to attend only one social event a night whenever possible, so that I can spend more time with the guests and learn more about Austin, and another group, previously reported, got to me first. Get those Save-the-Date invitations out as early as possible!

John Legend will sing at Andy Roddick Foundation Gala

John Legend will sing at the Andy Roddick affair.

The date has been set: Nov. 18.

The place is ready: ACL Live.

The occasion? The Andy Roddick Foundation Gala. One of the social season’s biggest events. Over the years, the tennis great’s Austin parties have raised more than $20 million for children’s causes, including current after-school programs for needy Austin students.

And now the picture is complete: The entertainer will be Grammy- and Oscar-winning singer John Legend. 

Want to attend the cocktail reception, dinner, program and live auction and sit at a table near the stage for the whole star-studded evening? Email for table details.

Concert-only tickets will go on sale 10 a.m. Oct. 7 and will be available at the ACL Live box office.

Tiny personal note: My editor and I sat on the front row when Legend sang for the grand reopening of Bass Concert Hall. As you might already know, concert lighting forces musicians or speakers to connect visually only with folks up front. So Legend sang directly into our eyes for the whole evening.

Same thing happened to us with Tony Bennett at ACL Live. Two of my all-time favorite concerts, in part because they felt so personal. One reason to opt for those tables if you can.

Ethan Hawke among presenters at upcoming First Edition Literary Gala


Every season, the First Edition Literary Gala for the Texas Book Festival is one of Austin’s headiest social affairs.

The presenters are sharp and funny. The guests are cool and literary. You won’t find better table-side repartee anywhere in town.

Among the slated speakers for the Nov. 4 party at the Four Seasons Hotel are actor-author Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood,” “Before Midnight”); actress-novelist Diane Guerrero (“Orange is the New Black,” “In the Country We Love”) and columnist-author Carl Hiaasen (“Bad Monkey,” “Dance of the Reptiles”)

You’ll recognize Ethiopian-born, Swedish-raised chef Marcus Samuelsson from his frequent appearances on food shows and, of course, his multiple cookbooks (“New American Table,” “Make It Messy”). Often the funniest of the night’s speakers fills the young people’s lit slot. This year it’s Jon Scieszka (“Frank Einstein,” “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales”).

You can’t stop me from going!

Internet instantly rewards World War II hero

wrightNow how is this for a modern wonder: A man calls me from Houston. He’s in his 90s and served in World War II. Would I call him back?

Of course I did. He had grown up in Austin. He told me a bit about a particular battle and that he’d recently received an honor on the deck of Battleship Texas from the French government.

Also, there had been a story in the Statesman in 1945 about him.

I asked where he lived in Houston: It’s the same Brookdale facility where my parents lived for years! At Brookdale, he’s known as the “Lammes Kid” because he passes out pralines as gifts.

Then he said he couldn’t track down the Statesman article from 1945.

Thanks to the free, searchable ProQuest digital database that anyone can access through the Austin Public Library, two minutes later I had a PDF of the story about his commission headed to B.M. Wright by email.