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188 Western American Literature Like thousands upon thousands of his fellow “Californians,” he booked passage on a San Francisco steamer bound for Panama. Twenty months after leaving Youngstown, he was hiking east across the Isthmus, heading home. As this tale unfolds, something amazing happens. Through the diaries, through the abundant detail Holliday has orchestrated, he removes all the gloss and romance. What he gives us, in exchange, is a de-mystified pano­ rama and an exhilaratingly clear appreciation for the full magnitude of what occurred. Though Swain endured grim hardships and bitter disappointment, he believed he was a better man for it. Later, as memory wore down the hard edges, he came to see it as the great adventure of his life. This book is about that adventure — Swain’s and, through Holliday’s masterful weaving, the adventure of those hundred thousand others who acted out a communal expectation. It was much more than our first great thrust toward the Pacific. It was, in the national experience, a moment of opening, when something essentially American — some potent mix of vision and ambition and daring and self-righteousness and greed — was unleashed and made boldly visible. JAMES D. HOUSTON University of California, Santa Cruz Texas Rhapsody: Memories of a Native Son. By Bill Porterfield. (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1981. 266 pages, $13.95.) “Sometimes I hate the journalist in me that keeps me running around outside myself, witnessing the world but missing personal milestones. Slow down, Billy.” (259) And “slow down” is exactly what Bill Porterfield has done, only long enough to write Texas Rhapsody: Memories of aNative Son. The book is populated by people Porterfield has known. Texas Rhapsody’s population lives through Porterfield’s entertaining, evocative, perceptive and indigenously Texas reminiscences. The sketches have been arranged into six parts: Kith and Kin, Home­ town Neighbors and Rural Folk, Men and Women, Drifters and Nesters, City Folk, and Colleagues, closing with an Epilogue. “Kith and Kin” provides an accurate preview of the remainder of the book. Porterfield remembers his dad roughnecking in the oil fields; his mother, “Mrs. Per­ petual Motion;” his midget Uncle Eddie who annually traveled from Florida to the State Fair of Texas in search of his lost love; his Aunt Arbie, “. . . five-feet-four and fuming,” (19) a 1940’s version of the liberated woman or Aunt Earline “. . . maybe jawing with one of her good-ol’-boy roomers,” (39) in Evening Shade, Arkansas. Porterfield’s reflections focus on those significant every-day events so often overlooked. Reviews 189 A little alarm clock went off in us. We could gather on the porch and wait for Mother. She would come out in her bonnet, and, at our urging, remove her shoes. The challenge, the delicious pain of it, was to scamper through the blistering sand of the road all the way to the mailbox and back. It was maybe a mile each way, and the only relief to and fro was an occasional patch of shade from a tree. That poor woman. . . . How she stood it I’ll never know. . . . But it was worth it because of the sweet reward a bit of shade offered. We walked through heaven and hell to get the mail. (10) The tone has been set. Throughout the book, ordinary, yet extra­ ordinary, people appear. Characters like Sam Longmeyer, “The East Texas Icarus,” whose passion to flylike a bird demanded his and later his children’s constantly jumping from windmills, or Chester Garrison, whose obsession for Cracker Jacks won him blue ribbon after blue ribbon and permanently changed the FFA rules. “The Honey Lady,” Carrie Primm, ran the “ ‘Help Ur Self’ honey stand on the road between Zorn and Geronimo.” (152) Her customers never saw her, but her honey was always there along with the money crock. The stand disappeared. . . People got to where they’d cheat. They’d take my honey but wouldn’t leave me no money. Some days I’d go out there and they wouldn’t be a nickel in the pot. All the honey’d be gone but noth­ ing in its place. Here I was robbing the bees and now the public was robbing...


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pp. 188-189
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