Texas Reader: A Classic Revisited
Bedichek book still inspires readers today with its mix of common sense and good humor.
By E. Dan Klepper
"Whether or not this book is any good," Roy Bedichek wrote as he began the task of composing Adventures With a Texas Naturalist, "I am already compensated by having regained a sense of the flow of time." This would not be the only compensation for taking the time to write his personal observations of the state's natural world. Since its publication in 1947, Adventures With a Texas Naturalist has become one of Texas' literary treasures.
Bedichek was born in 1878 in Illinois but earned his Texas gravitas by growing up in Texas. In 1946, Bedichek was encouraged to take a year off by his friends J. Frank Dobie and Walter Prescott Webb in order to write. He moved to Friday Mountain Ranch, Webb's retreat in the southwestern Hill Country, where he penned Adventures With a Texas Naturalist. Bedichek captured the character of the state's natural world mid-century, ruminating on fences, fields, nature's rhythms, hunting, cedar cutters and roadrunners in a poet's voice but from a well-grounded perspective.
"A game warden on the Aransas Game Refuge near Austwell, Texas, killed a paisano [roadrunner] in my presence in order to protect, he said, nesting quail," Bedichek recalled. "I insisted on an autopsy, and we discovered that the bird's crop was packed with the remains of grasshoppers, and with nothing else. There was just then a pest of these insects destroying grass and weeds, which normally produce food for quail. It was clear, therefore – in this instance, at least – that a friend of quail, not an enemy, had been shot down."
Bedichek's observations are as universal as they are personal, recorded over a brief period when the unfortunate decline in the health and well-being of Texas' natural world began to weigh on the conscience of all but the most recalcitrant. With it came a rising call for conservation that many Texans have since heard and heeded over time.
But, as Bedichek wrote: "Nature herself is deliberate. Ninety-nine percent of her performance is gradual. To take a single instance out of those hundreds ready at hand; what a large percentage of urbanized populations miss beginning the day under the spell of the silent, pervasive, leisurely preparations of the heavens to receive the sun!"