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Foreword Wayne Franklin There was so much space. Joe C. Truett writes of the lost world of the Angelina valley in East Texas. He was born there in the early forties, of people themselves born there, and its life and his own intertwined the way place and being used to for most humans. It was not a matter of conscious identification - a kind of local patriotism - but rather a feeling ofbelonging, a sense of the land's contours and special places so ingrained in his experience that he could have followed them or found them in the dark. The place was mapped in his soul. It only looked like a landscape; in reality, that was his boyhood stretched out under the Texas sun. No wonder Angelina haunted him long after he had left it. No wonder he had to come back. What resulted is this portrait ofa place in time, its layers opened by Truett's care and love and curiosity. His going back for the funeral of his grandfather Corbett Graham in 1967 may have started his long meditation on the world Corbett had known and he himself had glimpsed, a world that now seems ancient as Truett sketches its features . Corbett's life spanned a good deal of this century and embraced many of the enormous changes that have swept over Angelina and the rest of America. He began his farming there with horses, kept cows and hogs in the open woods, used mostly the energy he could find or make locally, had neither plumbing nor electricity back then, and planted open-pollinated field corn; but even that early he had adopted fertilizers, and soon he turned toward hybrid corn, eventually fenced his animals in compliance with the new stock laws, and in the 1940S climbed on board a two-cylinder "Poppin' Johnny" Deere tractor rather than his sorrel horses, Dan and Stepper, to work the fields or gather timber or travel about the land. His son-in-law, Truett's father, moved farther from the past. He left the land when crop prices kept falling and made his living instead as a carpenter. In time, the Truetts bought a one-acre lot overlooking the lake that the federal government made where the Angelina used to flow. It was at Plum Ridge, the site of Corbett and Fannie Graham's first farm. Some of that farm had been sunk under the waters of Sam Rayburn Reservoir, but from the Truett home only a short walk led to the ghostly old house site. Today's Angelinos , passing nearby on the golf carts they drive around the leisure community of Plum Ridge, could hardly be farther away from their parents or grandparents. x Truett's eye for such changes is acute. He catches them nimbly and Foreword pins them like butterflies to the smooth fabric ofhis prose. But though he loves the old ways, most ofall he is an ironist for whom pure nostalgia has little value. He knows that Corbett's style offarming, inherited from his own ancestors, made the chemical fertilizers of our century necessary because the relentless cropping of land depleted its nutrientsand nobody did much to replace them. He reveals Corbett's fascination with the machinery that remade or indeed obliterated his world and, in fact, at last caused his death when the Deere went over and crushed him. People in this world conspire with the forces that undo them, out of appetite or need or just curiosity. Truett describes how Corbett, who helped clear the woods of Angelina for the timber, instructed him in the art of felling a single tree exactly where you want, and Corbett's grace and skill are evident and heroic. Only brute power - no grace or skill- is evident in the giant machine that, by the end of the book, we see grip and rip and cut off trees like sticks. The contrast is clear, and the loss is too, but so is the implication ofCorbett in the later chapters of the story. If the longleaf pines and the hardwoods native to the area have been replaced by the loblollies that to Truett simply do not fit into the landscape, cheapening it and expunging part ofits local signature and making everywhere seem the same, it is not the gargantuan apparatus oftoday's lumber companies that must bear all the responsibility. Big changes come by little cuts, and the tool or weapon is in everybody's hands. Truett's unflinching honesty...


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