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Gulf Coast Books Series

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Birdlife of Houston, Galveston, and the Upper Texas Coast

By Ted L. Eubanks Jr., Robert A. Behrstock, and Ron J. Weeks; Foreword by Victor Emanuel

In the last thirty years, the Upper Texas Coast has become a “must go” destination for birders around the globe. This book will serve as an essential companion to the customary field guide and pair of binoculars for all visitors to Houston, High Island, Galveston, Freeport, or any of the area’s other exciting birding spots. It also places the birdlife of the region, a seven-county area with a larger bird list than forty-three states, into historical and ecological contexts. Authors Eubanks, Behrstock, and Weeks—all recognized authorities on the migrant and resident birds of this region—present a thorough introduction to the area’s history, physiography, and avifauna. Then, in generous discussions of bird families and species, they synthesize years of records, tracking the comings and goings of more than 480 birds and incorporating their own lifetimes of experience to create an “ornithological mosaic” of lasting significance.

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The Book of Texas Bays

By Jim Blackburn; Photography by Jim Olive

In a dazzling tribute to the Texas coast, conservationist and lawyer Jim Blackburn has teamed with photographer Jim Olive to give us the most intimate and important portrait yet of Texas bays and of those who work for their wise use and preservation. While giving life and sustenance to plants, animals, and people, the bays and estuaries of Texas have other stories to tell—about freshwater inflows, deep port construction, disappearing oyster beds, beach resorts, industrial pollution, and more. At a certain point, each story brings opposing forces into the courtroom for vigorous debates on the future of some of our most valuable and irreplaceable resources.

The Book of Texas Bays is a personal account of legal battles won and lost, but it is also a fine work of natural history by someone who has a deep spiritual connection to the Texas coast and all it has to offer. Jim Olive’s stunning photographs present us with a dramatic perspective of our relationship with the Gulf and remind us of both the grandness and the fragility of our coastal treasures.

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Crossing the Rio Grande

An Immigrant's Life in the 1880s

By Luis G. Gómez; Translated by Guadalupe Valdez Jr.

Although they are among the most important sources of the history of the American Southwest, the lives of ordinary immigrants from Mexico have rarely been recorded. Educated and hardworking, Luis G. Gómez came to Texas from Mexico as a young man in the mid-1880s. He made his way around much of South Texas, finding work on the railroad and in other businesses, observing the people and ways of the region and committing them to memory for later transcription. From the moment he crossed the Rio Grande at Matamoros-Brownsville, Gómez sought his fortune in a series of contracting operations that created the infrastructure to help develop the Texas economy—clearing land, cutting wood, building roads, laying track, constructing bridges, and quarrying rock. Gómez describes Mexican customs in the United States, such as courtship and marriage, relations with Anglo employers, religious practices, and the simple home gatherings that sustained those Mexican Texans who settled in urban areas like Houston, isolated from predominantly Mexican South Texas. Few of the 150,000 immigrants in the last half of the nineteenth century left written records of their experiences, but Gómez wrote his memoir and had it privately published in Spanish in 1935. Crossing the Rio Grande presents an English edition of that memoir, translated by the author’s grandson, Guadalupe Valdez Jr., with assistance from Javier Villarreal, a professor of Spanish at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi. An introduction by Thomas H. Kreneck explainss the book’s value to scholarship and describes what has been learned of the publication history of the original Spanish-language volume. Valdez’s comments provide a lucid and engaging picture of his grandfather’s later life and his gentlemanly character. This charming little volume provides a valuable account of a relatively undocumented period in Mexican Texans’ history. Almost unknown to those outside his family, this narrative has now been “recovered,” edited by Valdez and Kreneck, and made available to a wider, interested public.

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Del Pueblo

A History of Houston's Hispanic Community

Thomas H. Kreneck

Though relatively small in number until the latter decades of the nineteenth century, Houston'sHispanic population possesses a rich and varied history that has previously not been readily associated in the popular imagination with Houston. However, in 1989, the first edition of Thomas H. Kreneck’s Del Pueblo vividly captured the depth and breadth of Houston’s Hispanic people, illustrating both the obstacles and the triumphs that characterized this vital community’s rise to prominence during the twentieth century. This new, revised edition of Del Pueblo: A History of Houston’s Hispanic Community updates that vibrant history, incorporating research on trends and changes through the beginning of the new millennium. Especially important in this new edition are Kreneck’s historical contextualization of the 1980s as the “Decade of the Hispanic” and his documentation of other significant developments taking place since the publication of the original edition. Illustrated with seventy-five photographs of significant people, places, and events, this new edition of Del Pueblo: A History of Houston’s Hispanic Community updates the unfolding story of one of the nation’s most influential and dynamic ethnic groups. Students and scholars of Mexican American and Hispanic issues and culture, as well as general readers interested in this important aspect of Houston and regional history, will not want to be without this important book.

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Designing the Bayous

The Control of Water in the Atchafalaya Basin, 1800-1995

By Martin Reuss

Louisiana’s Atchafalaya River Basin is one of the most dynamic and critical environments in the country. It sustains the nation’s last cypress-tupelo wetland and provides a habitat for many species of animals. Endowed with natural gas and oil fields, the basin also supports a large commercial fisheries industry. Perhaps most crucial, it remains a primary component of the plan to control the Mississippi River and relieve flooding in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and other communities in the lower river valley. The continuing health of the basin is a reflection not of nature, but of the work of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. With levee building and clearing in the nineteenth century and damming, dredging, and floodway construction in the twentieth, the basin was converted from a vast forested swamp into a designer wetland, where human aspirations and nature maintained a precarious equilibrium. Originally published by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers primarily for internal distribution, this environmental and political history of the Atchafalaya Basin is an unflinching account of the transformation of an area that has endured perhaps more human manipulation than any other natural environment in the nation. Martin Reuss provides a new preface to bring us up-to-date on the state of the basin, which remains both an engineering contrivance and natural wonder.

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Fire in the Sea

Bioluminescence and Henry Compton's Art of the Deep

David A. McKee

The cold, stygian dark of the extreme sea depths is home to some of our planet’s strangest creatures. Even their names evoke a science fiction adventure: dragonfishes, greeneyes, viperfishes, mirrorbellies, lanternfishes. Marine biologist Henry “Hank” Compton (1928–2005) of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Rockport Marine Lab was present on some of the earliest Gulf of Mexico cruises on which these fishes were collected for the first time in Texas waters.

Upon returning, Compton would retire to the darkroom he had constructed beneath a stairwell at the lab and photograph the specimens. A talented artist, Compton then painted watercolors based on his photographs. He allowed free rein to both his scientific judgment and his artistic vision as he constructed representations of how the specimens might have appeared in the crushing pressure of their alien environment.

Compton dubbed the series of deep-water paintings “Fire in the Sea” because of the shimmering bioluminescence common to these deep-water species. Then, along with taxonomic descriptions, he drafted fanciful narratives to accompany the paintings: quirky, humorous, and sometimes cryptic stories of the fishes in their unreachable habitat.  
Professor, researcher, and author David A. McKee has taken Compton’s work, discovered in cardboard boxes following his death, and, along with others, provided chapters on bioluminescence, life in the deep, taxonomic arrangement, and life history information.

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Formation and Future of the Upper Texas Coast

A Geologist Answers Questions about Sand, Storms, and Living by the Sea

By John B. Anderson

With strong personal and professional ties to the Gulf of Mexico, marine geologist John B. Anderson has spent two decades studying the Texas coastline and continental shelf. In this book, he sets out to answer fundamental questions that are frequently asked about the coast—how it evolved; how it operates; how natural processes affect it and why it is ever changing; and, finally, how human development can be managed to help preserve it.   The book provides an amply illustrated look at ocean waves and currents, beach formation and erosion, barrier island evolution, hurricanes, and sea level changes. With an abundance of visual material—including aerial photos, historical maps, simple figures, and satellite images—the author presents a lively, interesting lesson in coastal geography that readers will remember and appreciate the next time they are at the beach and want to know:               What happens to the sand that erodes from our beaches?             Can beach erosion be stopped—and should we try?             How much sand will be needed to stabilize our beaches?             Does a hurricane have any positive impacts?             How much development can the coast withstand?   This entertaining and instructive book provides authoritative answers to these and other questions that are essential to our understanding of coastal change.  

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Glory of the Silver King

The Golden Age of Tarpon Fishing

Hart Stilwell; Edited and with an Introduction by Brandon Shuler

A tribute to a fish, a sport, and a time now past . . .   Through a series of chance encounters over several years, fishing guide and journalist Brandon Shuler unearthed multiple drafts of a nearly finished manuscript by an almost forgotten Texas sports writer, Hart Stilwell. Titled “Glory of the Silver King,”the manuscript vividly captured the history of tarpon and snook fishing on the Texas and Mexico Gulf Coast from the 1930s to the end of Stilwell’s life in the early 1970s.   Stilwell was a seasoned outdoors journalist with a passion for salt-water fishing. Now, with Shuler’s careful research, editing, and annotation, this lost manuscript has found new life as both an entertaining “fish tale” and a historical snapshot of a region’s natural heritage. It successfully conveys the thrill of fishing for these once abundant species at the same time it tracks—and laments—the rise, decline, and eventual fall of their fisheries in Texas (which Shuler is able to report are now experiencing a rebound).   In a personal and informative introduction, Shuler paints a portrait of Stilwell and tells the story of the discovery and evolution of the manuscript. He also provides a look into his own life as an angler and writer, creating a connection with Stilwell that gives the work authenticity and relevance.   Anglers will delight in Stilwell’s rollicking prose. Environmentalists will appreciate the book’s lesson in ocean conservation. For all who live on or near the Gulf Coast, Glory of the Silver King reintroduces a forgotten literary treasure and a magnificent fish that once filled the waters at our favorite coastal retreats. "Hart Stilwell was a world-class raconteur and storyteller. His unpublished manuscript on the glory days of coastal fishing became an underground legend, passed around like a sacred totem for decades. Editor Brandon Shuler has revived Stilwell’s folksy charm and penetrating insights, and the result is this engaging and important book."--Steven L. Davis, curator, The Wittliff Collections

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A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting

The Decoys, Guides, Clubs, and Places, 1870s to 1970s

R. K. Sawyer; Foreword by Matt Kaminski

The days are gone when seemingly limitless numbers of canvasbacks, mallards, and Canada geese filled the skies above the Texas coast. Gone too are the days when, in a single morning, hunters often harvested ducks, shorebirds, and other waterfowl by the hundreds. The hundred-year period from the mid-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries brought momentous changes in attitudes and game laws: changes initially prompted by sportsmen who witnessed the disappearance of both the birds and their spectacular habitat. These changes forever affected the state’s storied hunting culture. ?Yet, as R. K. Sawyer discovered, the rich lore and reminiscences of the era’s hunters and guides who plied the marshy haunts from Beaumont to Brownsville, though fading, remain a colorful and essential part of the Texas outdoor heritage.? Gleaned from interviews with sportsmen and guides of decades past as well as meticulous research in news archives, Sawyer’s vivid documentation of Texas’ deep-rooted waterfowl hunting tradition is accompanied by a superb collection of historical and modern photographs. He showcases the hunting clubs, the decoys, the duck and goose calls, the equipment, and the unique hunting practices of the period. By preserving this account of a way of life and a coastal environment that have both mostly vanished, A Hundred Years of Texas Waterfowl Hunting also pays tribute to the efforts of all those who fought to ensure that Texas’ waterfowl legacy would endure. This book will aid their efforts, along with those of coastal residents, birders, wildlife biologists, conservationists, and all who are interested in the state’s natural history and in championing the preservation of waterfowl and wetland resources for the benefit of future generations.

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Letters to Alice

Birth of the Kleberg-King Ranch Dynasty

Edited and Annotated by Jane Clements Monday and Frances Brannen Vick; Foreword by Thomas H. Kreneck

In the summer of 1881, Robert Justus Kleberg rode across the hot, dusty South Texas brush country to the palatial home of Capt. Richard King to consult with the cattle baron about attending to his legal affairs. On that same journey, the young lawyer also first laid eyes on Alice King, “Princess of the Wild Horse Desert.” Neither of their lives would ever be the same. Published for the first time in this book, the love letters written by Kleberg to Alice Gertrudis King provide a glimpse of the lives of two of the most influential people in Texas history. Editors Jane Clements Monday and Frances Brannen Vick have also provided generous documentation and annotation of these important primary documents from the Special Collections at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, affording historians and interested readers an insider’s view of one of the world’s greatest ranching empires as it transitioned from its founders to the next generation. Letters to Alice: Birth of the Kleberg-King-Ranch Dynasty represents the only existing collection of letters between any of the great Texas cattle barons and their wives. Although a great deal is already known about the ranch and its development, Monday and Vick present for the first time Robert Justus Kleberg’s personal perspective on his first meeting with Alice King, their early courtship, the difficulties obtaining her parents’ permission to marry, and the poignant time surrounding Captain King’s death.

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