Henry Chappell just emailed to tell me that John Graves, Texas writer and living legend, just died at (I think) 93. John was a true Texan with deep roots, a civilized man, a WWII vet who had lived in Europe but eventually preferred his roots, a conservationist and localist before such things were chic, and quite possibly one of the few great men I have ever known. We corresponded for over 20 years on just about everything.
He was one of the one hundred writers mentioned in my Book of books, and the only one of those I ever blurbed, for a late edition of his wonderful The Last Running. My fellow blurbers were the most various company I ever shared a dust jacket with– McGuane, Gordon Lish (who was then fiction editor at Esquire), Verlyn Klinkenborg, William Kittredge–!
The tale is told by an old man, who as a boy witnessed an ancient rancher, who had driven cattle to Montana and fought the Comanche on the Texas plains, allow a few temporarily renegade Comanches to run and kill one of his buffalos. As they ride away, leaving the carcass behind, he turns to the boy and utters the best last line in American literature…*
When I got my copies I lent one to old Leonard Parker, a grandson of Quanah Parker and something of an old renegade himself (search the blog for his whole story). He was so touched by the tale that he asked if I could get him a signed copy. Below, John’s reply and a recent pic of Leonard and me in Magdalena, where he had been visiting from Oklahoma. (Right or double click to enlarge).
* “Damn you boy”, he said. “Damn you for not ever getting to know anything worth knowing. Damn me, too. We had a world, once.”
UPDATE: Great long essay in Texas Monthly.