The Book of Texas Bays.
By Jim Blackburn and photos by Jim Olive. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2004. ISBN 1-58544-339-5 cloth $40.00 8 1/2x10. 304 pp. 116 color photos. 32 figs. 26 maps. Index.
Jim Blackburn and John Graves could have comfortably ridden canoes or kayaks together. Blackburn is an environmental lawyer, scholar, and expert, close to the coast. Graves was a literary man close to the earth and the Brazos River. They’d’ve mixed in the flat potholes, marshes, estuaries, and gulf waters of the Matagorda Bay, fed by the Brazos. Blackburn has lived most of his life along the coast, and that place is home in his heart, mind, and work. After years of legal wrangling, he and his “Team 11” crew recently boated along the coast and listened to folks. He heard a lot from regular folks,and he shares a lot here in his Book of Texas Bays. His 26 chapters, lushly illustrated with Olive’s photos and clearly documented with charts, pretty much cover the water front.
We have seven major bay complexes – the Sabine Lake, Galveston Bay, Matagorda Bay, San Antonio Bay, Aransas/Copano Bays, Corpus Christi/Nueces Bays, and the long, long Laguna Madre. Each is driven by a fresh water river on one side and the salty Gulf on the other.
It is so simple from one view. The fresh waters fed the bays, and Texas economic life is very heavily dependent on the future natural success of our coastal heritage. What was once viewed simply as an economic engine that needed no tending is undergoing rapid change. Our economy, politics, and our philosophic heritage and integrity will determine whether our grandchildren will enjoy their lives. Jim’s general natural philosophy come from Odom, Leopold, and Carson who realized that things need to work together to continue functioning.
Jim can write clearly and the reader can be pulled smoothly as if by the tide from page 1 to subsequent chapters. Although he pulls up a net-full of facts, events, farming, fishing, development, and government actions, he seasons them with convincing and contradicting human emotions and motivations, his own and the folks he met while with “Team 11.” Overall, Blackburn is cautiously optimistic, trusting people will do the right thing, with a little pushing.
The book is a pleasure to read and is likely being used in classrooms as well. I’ll leave my copy on the coffee table, next to Sand County Almanac.