Foreword by Roy Flukinger
Burton Pritzker has sojourned in the Texas of dreams and brought it all back in these evocative, black-and-white photographs.
Drive any highway from Austin to El Paso, and you'll find the Texas of the imagination. When the towns string out like barbs on a wire fence and the cattle outnumber the cowboys, stop and you're there. Squint in the sun's glare, rest your eyes in the shade of a mesquite. Feel the day's heat and the southwest wind that cools your skin. Breathe in the good smell of earth, and listen to the lowing of the drowsy cows. This is the Texas of dreams.
And when you can't go there, open this book. Burton Pritzker has sojourned in the Texas of dreams and brought it all back in these evocative, black-and-white photographs. In making pictures of those most Texan of icons—cows, bulls, and steers—Pritzker captures whole moments in time and place with all their play of forms, textures, and light. In his cattle, you'll find sweetness, fragility, bravado, strength, and monumentality—the underlying essence of Texas itself. Accompanying the photos is a running commentary that blends the voices of many Texans looking at the images into a single voice telling stories of ranch life, of working with cattle, and of learning to see the realm of dreams in the everyday world around us.
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The way people speak has always caught my ear. Maybe because I grew up around my grandmother and her eight siblings. She was a teenager when the family migrated in 1912 from Big Spring, Texas, to California. They never spoke of Texas. They just spoke in a way that sounded like poetry to me. When I moved to Texas several years ago, I sure was surprised to hear that everyone sounded just like my family.
Bill Bishel, our editor, asked me to take these photographs around and show them to a variety of people and get their responses. He encouraged me to "cast a wide net." Some of those I met with had college degrees, while others had never left the land.I proceeded like a water witcher with a V-shaped willow stick, moving carefully out into each person's heart until I felt the tug, the pull, that told me I'd found the source. I got more than just responses: stories began to flow. And the more people I talked with, the more that source became one voice—much the same way as several springs lead down to one river. To that, I added my own voice.
This is not hick. This is pure dialect that has retained its freedom from an undifferentiated homogeneous speech. There's a way of talking—steady, without commas, then perhaps a full round pause, followed by repetitions and run-on sentences, all at a pace that runs unchecked like a slow, sure spring. The voice here comes through as poetry: reflective, seasoned, timeless, and strong.
This, y'all, is Texas.
Renée Walker Pritzker
"If, upon completing your passage through this book, you believe that this work is solely about cattle, then you must go back and start seeing instead of just looking."
—from the Foreword