Authentic Texas

[ Texas ]

Authentic Texas

People of the Big Bend

By Marcia Hatfield Daudistel and Bill Wright

Photography by Bill Wright

Interviews with several dozen residents of the Big Bend offer the most complete, contemporary portrait of life in this remote region where authentic Texans still exemplify the state’s independence and community spirit.

October 2013


33% website discount price


8.5 x 9.5 | 272 pp.

ISBN: 978-0-292-75304-4

The Texas of vast open spaces inhabited by independent, self-reliant men and women may be more of a dream than a reality for the state’s largely urban population, but it still exists in the Big Bend. One of the most sparsely settled areas of the United States, the Big Bend attracts people who are willing to forego many modern conveniences for a lifestyle that proclaims “don’t fence me in.” Marcia Hatfield Daudistel and Bill Wright believe that the character traits exemplified by folks in the Big Bend—including self-sufficiency, friendliness, and neighborliness—go back to the founding of the state. In this book, they introduce us to several dozen Big Bend residents—old and young, long-settled and recently arrived, racially diverse—who show us what it means to be an authentic Texan.

Interviewing people in Marathon, Big Bend National Park, Terlingua, Redford, Presidio, Alpine, Marfa, Valentine, Balmorhea, Limpia Crossing, and Fort Davis, Daudistel and Wright discover the reasons why residents of the Big Bend make this remote area of Texas their permanent home. In talking to ranchers and writers, entrepreneurs and artists, people living off the grid and urban refugees, they find a common willingness to overcome difficulties through individual skill and initiative. As one interviewee remarks, you have to have a lot of “try” in you to make a life in the Big Bend. Bill Wright’s photographs of the people and landscapes are a perfect complement to the stories of these authentic Texans. Together, these voices and images offer the most complete, contemporary portrait of the Texas Big Bend.


J. P. Bryan


Marcia Hatfield Daudistel and Bill Wright


The Utopians: Clyde Curry and Kate Thayer

The Book Man of Marathon: Adam Muhlig

The Cowboy and the Au Pair: Ike and Sue Roberts

Big Bend National Park

The Long Trail to the Park: Mike Boren

Terlingua and Study Butte

Living in Simplicity: Dick and Bonnie Cain

Dreams Come True: India and William Wilson

Directing the Mental Health Clinic on the Porch: “Dr. Doug” Blackmon

A Life in the Cretaceous: Ken Barnes

The Healing Place: Robert and Elizabeth Hill


The Fervent Philosopher: Enrique Madrid

The Missionary Poet: Melvin Walker La Follette


A Proud Legacy: Delfina Franco Anderson

The Family Store: Edmundo and Mario Nieto


The Scotsman: Jim Glendinning

The Defender: Elizabeth Rogers

The Dean and the Dream: Jim Case

A Native Heritage: Manuel Payne

The Work Ethic: Talgar McCarty

An Adventure in Letters: Jean Hardy Pittman

The Visionary: George Covington

Back to the Future: Victor and Cristina Noriega

The Javelina Chronicles


Home to Stay: Johnny Calderon

Benefit for Fort Davis: Johnny and the Cadillacs

The Big Apple in the Rearview Mirror: Tom Rapp and Toshi Sakihara

Publishing Marfa: Robert Halpern

The Chinati Intern Who Stayed: Tim Johnson

The Swiss Alps to the Texas Alps: Verena Zbinden


Rock-and-Roll Artist: Boyd Elder

The Land Stewards: Clay and Jody Miller

Mayor for Life: Chuy Calderon


The Grassroots Historian: Alberto Alvarez

The Memory Keeper: Eduardo Alvarez

Turkish Dreams: Denise Dobyns

Limpia Crossing

The Great Escape: Residents of Limpia Crossing

The Survivor: Ruth Abel

The Reluctant Goodbye: Thomas Hobby

Fort Davis

Fleeing the Fire of April 9, 2011: Lucinda Tweedy

The Entrepreneurs: Joe and Lanna Duncan

The Rambling Boy: Lonn and Dedie Taylor

The Snake Man: Buzz Ross

One Step from Heaven: Greg and Myra Meads






Daudistel is the editor, most recently, of Grace and Gumption: The Women of El Paso and the award-winning Literary El Paso. She is the West Texas/Trans Pecos Regional Editor of Texas Books in Review. As the former Associate Director of Texas Western Press of the University of Texas at El Paso, she established the bilingual imprint, Frontera Books. She was inducted into the El Paso Commission for Women Hall of Fame in 2013.

Nationally known author and photographer Wright has published six previous books, including Portraits from the Desert: Bill Wright’s Big Bend, People’s Lives: A Celebration of the Human Spirit, The Tiguas: Pueblo Indians of Texas, and The Texas Kickapoo: Keepers of Tradition. He has exhibited his award-winning photographs internationally and in the United States in hundreds of solo and group exhibitions. He is a member and former president of the Philosophical Society of Texas.

"An awesome journey into the lives of families who live on the often brutal landscape of the Texas Big Bend. They live 'authentic' lives in one of the least populated regions of the United States, often existing outside of popular culture and the digital revolution, surviving and thriving in a landscape of heat and dust. We meet amazing people like Curry and Kate, owners of Eve's Garden, an ecologically progressive bed-and-breakfast in an isolated town of five hundred people, and the Nietos, a Mexican-American family that owns the oldest department store in the border town of Presidio, a store where in days past all the Mexican cowboys used to come and buy their hats and boots. Daudistel writes with clarity and a poet's sense of character and place, her words beautifully woven into descriptions as powerful as the photographs that accompany them. She brings to life these 'ordinary' extraordinary families, and she makes their stories resonate within. They are not just Texans, they are living proof of our past and a hopeful testimony of our future.

Wright's photographs are amazing, deserving to become classics in both documentary and landscape photography. His images of people are as beautiful and vivid as those of Dorothea Lange. His desert landscapes are breathtaking, and as we gaze into the vast space he presents to us, we can't help but to ask, 'Where are the people? Who lives out there?'"

Authentic Texas is the stunning answer to those questions."
—Daniel Chacón

"Once a country in its own right and settled by people with vision and strength of spirit, Texas has been a state that intrigues us since its birth. Authentic Texas celebrates this visionary spirit that still persists today in the people and places that make our history colorful and timeless."
—Wyman Meinzer

"I love the West, and what’s still left of its most raw beauty is in Big Bend. Heat as endlessly wide as an ocean, with mythic snakes, thorns, and insects of unsentimental enormity. Night is another faraway time and exotic land, and you do get drunk on the astronomy of heaven. I never lived there, only drove around, slept here and there, always wondering what it’d be like day-to-day. Authentic Texas lets me meet the neighbors I never got to have."
—Dagoberto Gilb 

“In incredibly beautiful color and black-and-white photographs and in many in-depth interviews, Bill Wright and Marcia Hatfield Daudistel have documented the West Texas landscape and the self-reliant people who have chosen to live in isolated desert communities. In the huge horseshoe curve that extends to the international border—from the Davis Mountains to Presidio on the Rio Grande—the artists, retirees, storekeepers, pastors, teachers, and many more individualists are all here in this fascinating, must-read book.”
—Elroy Bode

"In incredibly beautiful color and black-and-white photographs and in many in-depth interviews, Bill Wright and Marcia Hatfield Daudistel have documented the West Texas landscape and the self-reliant people who have chosen to live in isolated desert communities."
—Ramón Rentería, El Paso Times

"If you like to read good stories about interesting people, then you should check out Authentic Texas."
—Glenn Dromgoole, San Angelo Standard-Times

"If you have ever had any interest in the Big Bend region of Texas, this is the book for you. And if you think you do not want to know more about the Big Bend, this is also the book for you."
Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Southwest Book Award
Border Regional Library Association