Thursday, October 29, 2015

Finding the Great Western Trail


Susan Gann Mahoney

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The Great Western Trail (GWT) is a nineteenth-century cattle trail that originated in northern Mexico, ran west parallel to the Chisholm Trail, traversed the United States for some two thousand miles, and terminated after crossing the Canadian border. Yet through time, misinformation, and the perpetuation of error, the historic path of this once-crucial cattle trail has been lost. Finding the Great Western Trail documents the first multi-community effort made to recover evidence and verify the route of the Great Western Trail.

GRWSTRNTRL.jpgThe GWT had long been celebrated in two neighboring communities: Vernon, Texas, and Altus, Oklahoma. Separated by the Red River, a natural border that cattle trail drovers forded with their herds, both Vernon and Altus maintained a living trail history with exhibits at local museums, annual trail-related events, ongoing narratives from local descendants of drovers, and historical monuments and structures. So when Western Trail Historical Society members in Altus challenged the Vernon Rotary Club to mark the trail across Texas every six miles, the effort soon spread along the trail in part through Rotary networks from Mexico, across nine US states, and into Saskatchewan, Canada.

This book is the story of finding and marking the trail, and it stands as a record of each community’s efforts to uncover their own GWT history. What began as local bravado transformed into a grass-roots project that, one hopes, will bring the previously obscured history of the Great Western Trail to light.


Sylvia Gann Mahoney was an educator for thirty-three years at community colleges in Texas and New Mexico as an administrator, teacher, and rodeo team coach. She became involved with the Great Western Trail project through her involvement in the Rotary Club of Vernon. She now lives in Fort Worth

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Texas is Chili Country

Lone Star Literary Life Blog Tours 


Judy Alter

Texans love to eat, and one dish they can’t get enough of is chili—so much so that chili con carne is Texas’s state meal. This seemingly simple staple of Texan identity proves to be anything but, however. Beans or no beans? Beef, pork, or turkey? From a can or from scratch?

Texas Is Chili Country is a brief look at the favored fare—its colorful history, its many incarnations, and the ways it has spread both across the country and the world. The history includes chuckwagon chili, the chili queens of San Antonio, the first attempts at canned chili, the development of chili societies and the subsequent rivalries between them, and the rise of chili cook-offs.

And what would a book about chili be without recipes? There are no-fat recipes, vegan recipes, and recipes from Mexican-American cooks who have adapted this purely American food. Some have been tried, but many are taken on faith. Recipes are included from state celebrities such as Ladybird Johnson, Governor Ma Ferguson, and chili king Frank Tolbert.


Judy Alter retired from Texas Christian University Press after thirty years, twenty of them as director. At the same time she developed her own writing career, focusing primarily on women of the American West. Now she writes fiction and nonfiction for all ages. She lives in Fort Worth.

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