One of our readers recently ran across her copy of Doodle Bugs & Cactus Berries, by Betty Elliott Hanna, who was a Feature Editor at the Breckenridge American in the 1970s and wife of Texas Representative Joe Hanna. They were both very active leaders in the Breckenridge community during their lifetime. Her book is an excellent collection of short stories that took place in Stephens County history and I often refer to my own copy to clarify information when I am researching a story for my Historically Speaking column.
If your interested in reading more of Stephens County history, this is a good read on short stories about events and personalities in county history. Hanna, who was chairman of the Bicentennial committee, developed the book in time for the Bicentennial celebration in July 1976. This book may not be available and you might have to check. There is a copy in the locked cabinet at the Breckenridge Library but not for check-out.
Another former resident of Stephens County, Walter Prescott Webb, who lived in Breckenridge from age four to 21 years, also has written about life on the frontier in The Great Plains, in 1931, Divided We Stand, in 1936 and The Great Frontier in the 1950s. He also wrote a good book, The Texas Rangers.
Mike Kingston, also a former resident of Stephens County, wrote a book about Webb's life in Stephens County, Walter Scott Webb, in 1985, which tells more of the young Webb's life in the county. Kingston tells what it was like with the 43 public schools scattered around the county in 1904, with most located near farms and ranches and students often rode their horse to school. There was a reported 1,500 students in the county schools, at that time, and the school term ranged from four to eight months, depending on the needs of the farm or ranch for harvest or planting time, when all hands were needed to help.
An interesting account to read, if interested in the days before Stephens County was organized, is the Diary of Sam Newcomb, who was the first Stephens County clerk when it was organized on July 4, 1876. His diary entries are from Jan. 1,1865 to April 1866, while they were ‘forted up' at Fort Davis, located in northwestern Stephens County. The book relates how the civilians survived against the Indian raids, when the military pulled out to fight in the Civil War. His wife also kept a diary which is interesting to read as well.
Another reader is finally reading The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, which has been on her list of books to read for a while. After reading about the book and the author, I have put it on my own list to read. Maybe my friend will loan me her copy when she's finished.
This is a debut novel for the author, who tackles the story of an unforgettable young woman in a mesmerizing, moving and elegantly written novel. The author beautifully weaves the past and present, creating a vivid portrait of a young woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
A review by Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter Sweet, is quoted as saying, “A deftly powerful story of finding your way home, even after you've burned every bridge behind you. The Language of Flowers took my heart apart, chapter by chapter, then reassembled the broken pieces in better working condition.”
The author, who was born in San Francisco, taught writing and art to youth in low income communities and has founded the ‘Camellia Network,' which will create a nationwide movement to support youth transitioning from foster care. The network's name emphasizes the belief in the inter-connectedness of humanity: each gift a young person receives will be accompanied by a Camellia, which means, ‘My Destiny is in Your Hands' and a reminder that the destiny of our nation lies in the hands of our youngest citizens.
Now I can't wait to read the book and am sure we will be hearing more from this author in years to come.
I finally finished The Source by James Michener and am contemplating whether to start the Tom Clancy book I received at Christmas, Command Authority or to savor it a while longer and slip in another book on my stack of reading material. I think I shall peruse through my shelf of old classics and devour one of them for a time. I'll let you know what I came up with next time.
Then I remembered that an old set of William H. Faulkner's books literally fell off a shelf yesterday and as I was placing them back on the shelf I decided I would either re-read The Sound and The Fury or one of the other two books in the boxed set, As I Lay Dying or Light in August. After thinking it over, I decided to read As I Lay Dying, which I don't remember ever reading. Faulkner was an accomplished American writer who wrote in the 1920s and 1930s and on up to 1962 but didn't really get recognized as a serious writer until he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949. His novel, The Sound and The Fury is ranked sixth on a list of 100 of the best English language novels of the 20th century.
One of my readers is plowing through the first book of The Cousins O'Dwyer Trilogy, The Dark Witch by Nora Roberts. This is not something I would normally read because I avoid the supernatural and witches in particular but a Nora Roberts book is worthy of a look see. I was hooked on Roberts' debut novel Irish Thoroughbred in 1981, which she followed with two sequels, Irish Rebel and Irish Rose. Being part Irish myself, I enjoyed reading about the quaint Irish countryside that Roberts described so vividly.
This novel, The Dark Witch, takes the reader to County Mayo in 2013, where Iona Sheehan has moved to Ireland to find work and to connect with cousins, Connor and Branna O'Dwyer. She is aware of the story about Sorcha, from 1263, who was the Dark Witch and was relentlessly pursued by the evil sorcerer, Cabhan. Iona knows that she has certain magic within her but has no idea how to harness it and hopes to find a connection with the two cousins in Ireland, who will complete the Dark Witch trio and enable her to learn how to control the power within her.
Unfortunately, Iona's coming to Ireland revitalizes Cabhan, who wants her power and considers her a weak link of the Three. She is invited to live with the two cousins and quickly finds a job in the stables and becomes acquainted with Alastair, the horse, who becomes her animal guide in her adventure.
Roberts is well known for the development of her characters, and the setting in Ireland is picturesque, with the interesting backstory of Sorcha and hopefully readers will follow the projected trilogy in the other two books by Roberts.
My friends have been very helpful in getting this new column started but now it is time for other readers to let me know what they are reading or maybe recommend something they have read that possibly other readers might enjoy. It doesn't have to be a classic, a romance novel or an historic novel but can be from any genre you find interesting.
Send your book information to Jean Hayworth at the Breckenridge American at: firstname.lastname@example.org or check me out on facebook and let me know what you are reading, a brief summary of the book and in what genre it is categorized.
Always remember to take time out to read or re-read an old classic once in a while, just for the sheer joy of discovering what passed as real literature in another era and stretch your minds a bit. The vocabulary used should invoke some new thinking and the reader can re-discover the language of words.
Everyone enjoy reading.