Monday, November 07, 2016

Texas Honors Its Own

The Texas Literary Hall of Fame (Fort Worth Public Library) inducted a class of five on Friday, November 4, at the Botanic Garden Conservatory. Inductees were George Sessions Perry and Dorothy Scarborough, both honored posthumously with James Ward Lee accepting for them and beginning his comments with, “I speak for the dead.” Novelist Rick Riordan sent a young girl to accept in his place. Living and present were H. W. Brand, UT, a historian who brings history alive through individual characters; award-winning western writer Jane Pattie best known for her classic work on spurs; award-winning Latina poet Carmen Tafolla, (who  will now always be Carmen Tortilla in my mind); and folklorist, novelist, historian, rancher, naturalist, former teacher—I could go on and on with accolades—Joyce Gibson Roach, who can give the funnies after-dinner speeches you’ve ever heard.

Okay I went a little overboard about Joyce—I know some of the other inductees but Joyce and I have been writing buddies and traveling companions for years. We’ve traveled the West together, hitting every writers meeting that would have us and some that shuddered when we walked in. We knew the road from Fort Worth to Amarillo and beyond like the proverbial back of our hands, and we once took eight hours to drive from Amarillo to Decatur because we stopped at every small town, every junque store that caught our fancy. We’ve done our dog-and-pony show—she a fifth-generation Texan (and a bit stuck on herself because of it) and me, a newcomer, interloper, she never lets me forget—in front of bleary-eyed writers at 8 a.m. and before the selects guests at one of the TCU Chancellor’s luncheons. We’ve worked on books together and rejoiced in each other’s awards and commiserated in failures.

I am indebted to Joyce for help on many books. Once as we settled for the Amarillo/Fort Worth run, I announced we could use the time to plan my next juvenile book—and I numbered from 1-10 on a legal pad. “That’s all?” she asked. “That’s all you do, and you’ve got a book?” I explained that we still had to figure out what happened in each chapter, so she began making suggestions. I finally snapped. “Joyce, it’s my book.”

Another time I was writing a book based on the life of trick roper Lucille Mulhall, and I wanted to know every tiny detail about roping, preparing ropes, etc. Finally it was Joyce’s turn to snap: “Enough with the ropng, Judith Ann. Get on with the story.” She was so right.

Joyce has been honored many times in many ways—Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, the Texas Historical Association and the Texas Historical Commission. But this hall of fame was a missing chunk in that awe-inspiring biography, and I am so glad to see it made right, even if belatedly. In her acceptance comments, Joyce said all she ever wanted was to stand tall enough for her hometown of Jacksboro and for the state of Texas. “I believe tonight,” she said, “I am tall enough.” Yes, Joyce. You are tall enough. You always have been, but we could never make you believe it.

Our traveling days are behind us now as aging reaches out and grabs us. But those days are forever in my memory, and Joyce is forever one of the special people my life. Hush, Joyce, or I’ll tell everything I know about you and cooking and recipes and your mom.



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