Tuesday, April 11, 2017

UT Tyler Longview University Center

During my years as Texas State Historian I've been asked to present an annual public address at the Longview University Center. Dr. Van Patterson, Executive Director of the LUC, was a colleague of mine at Panola College. Van has invited me to the Longview University Center for the past four years. Van provides excellent publicity, and the yearly State Historian evening has become a popular event at the LUC. Van placed flyers all over Longview, and he sent  PR pieces to area newspapers. He arranged a 30-minute interview for me with Mark McLain of KWRD Radio in Henderson, and I recorded a news cut that ran for several days over KGAS Radio in Carthage.

With Van Patterson

A nice crowd gathered at the LUC on Tuesday evening, March 21. The program we advertised was about Texas cowboys, longhorn cattle, trail drives, vast Texas ranches, and cattle towns of the Lone Star State. I use a lot of props when talking about this subject - branding irons, spurs, sombreros, felt hats, vests, bandanas, vintage photos blown up to poster size. Earlier that day, at two o'clock in the afternoon, I was at Center to present a program on the Alamo to the Shelby County Historical Society. Following that presentation I drove home 30 miles, changed to cowboy garb, loaded my cowboy props, and drove 35 miles to Longview. Van Patterson thoughtfully had a supper waiting, and after unloading Van and I ate together.

Next I went out to mingle with early arrivals. There were friends from Carthage, as well as Longview residents who come every year to the LUC lecture.

The cowboy is a Texas icon. I talked about the Spanish and Mexican origins of the cattle culture. In describing the ranching frontier I spoke about colorful ranchers - Richard King, Charles Goodnight, John Chisum, Shanghai Pierce - as well as range wars and the troubles between cattlemen and sheepherders. The cowboy became the world's number one folk hero, thanks to rodeos and Wild West shows, western movies and music. Bill Pickett, a young cowboy from Taylor, invented the bulldogging event and became the first African American performer inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame. Gene Autry from Tioga and Tex Ritter from Panola were two of the top three Singing Cowboys, and Dale Evans from Uvalde and Italy was married to the third (Roy Rogers from Ohio). Red River, starring John Wayne, was the greatest trail driving movie, while The Unforgiven, depicting the conflict between frontier cattlemen and horseback warriors, starred Burt Lancaster and Texas WWII hero Audie Murphy. Giant long was known as the "National Movie of Texas," until Texas author Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Lonesome Dove, co-starring Texan Tommy Lee Jones. I also spoke about Cowboy Churches - there are more than 400 in Texas - which feature riding arenas instead of fellowship halls.    

It was a fun hour for me, and afterward I had a busy time socializing and signing books.      

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