By LARRY M. JONES
On July 31, Somerville County lost a longtime resident, and Texas lost what may be one of her most beloved and respected authors.
A literary icon and the revered “Dean of Texas Letters,” John Alexander Graves III passed away at his home near Glen Rose.
I was still in high school when I first heard of John Graves. In 1960, my parents purchased his first and most-acclaimed literary work, “Goodbye to a River,” an epic tale about a 175-mile canoe trip down the Brazos River. Excerpts of his award winning essay were first printed in Holiday magazine, and then later released as a book by Knopf Publishing in 1960.
Embarking Nov. 11, 1957, on his famous adventure, he put in just below Possum Kingdom Dam, with his route passing by the “Pore Farm” in late November or early December 1957. Plans were in place to build a series of dams along this stretch, and he wished to visit this beautiful part of the Brazos River one last time.
Having grown up on the beloved Brazos, I scrutinized every word in his book. Although I’d never paddled a canoe nor owned a dachshund puppy (his companion for the trip), I identified with every detail he described with his eloquent literary style. Mr. Graves’ unique writing is a bit difficult for the average person to appreciate. As my wife Helen, an English and speech major in college, remarked, “His writing raises the bar to a higher level of sophistication.”
Although “Goodbye to a River” was his first and most-acclaimed book, he wrote 12 others, along with innumerable magazine articles. I’ve read that John lamented that his productivity as a writer was hampered by his devotion to other interests and love for his 400-acre homestead near Glen Rose, where he and his wife of 54 years raised their two daughters.