Celebrating 70 Years
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine has inspired Texans to love the outdoors for seven decades.
By Louie Bond
Starting a magazine is never easy, so starting a magazine during World War II could be considered either incredibly foolish or incredibly courageous. Yet a group of visionaries decided that it was indeed the perfect time to step out on that limb and turn an in-house monthly bulletin into a publication that would spark enough public interest to pay for its printing during wartime shortages.
“There is not only a demand but a need for such information,” wrote Executive Secretary William J. Tucker in the foreword to that premiere issue of what was then called Texas Game and Fish in December 1942.
“This war shall change many of our concepts and habits,” Tucker continued. “After the harshness, brutalities and sacrifices of the present conflict, the Texas man and womanhood that has succeeded in winning the war should return to a pleasanter place in which to live, with the invigorating influence of the out-of-doors doing its full share to cleanse their spirits and temper their character.”
Even back then, interaction with nature was recognized as restorative to mind and body. We still preach that message at Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. While those early dog-eared pages, with yellowing black-and-white text and visuals, are a far cry from today’s modern design and color, the content is as familiar as Grandma’s pot roast. Eloquent outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) to share their expertise and philosophy; hardy photographers brave the pre-dawn chill to climb a mountain for an inspirational image. Then and now, the magazine spreads the agency’s mission to its readers: “We have been given a natural treasure, so go enjoy it and preserve it.”
One of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine’s crowning accomplishments has been the publication of 10 annual July issues dedicated to the state’s most important resource, water. The series (which includes five documentaries produced by the TPWD video department) culminated with a symposium in 2011. The content is available to the public at www.texasthestateofwater.org.
Another recent achievement is the publication of 36 editions of “Keep Texas Wild,” a resource for Texas schoolchildren that used imaginative imagery and fun facts to educate and entertain the future stewards of this state. These four-page lessons are available free online at www.tpwmagazine.com.
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine has grown with the times and can be found on social media and video-viewing sites. We create digital reproductions of each print issue, and we have started producing hunting and fishing digital-only editions for enthusiasts to access on electronic devices.
In seven decades, so much has changed. And yet, so much remains the same. To celebrate this rite of passage, we asked those who have helped shape the magazine in recent years to share their thoughts and memories with us. While the early publishing pioneers have passed, their legacy continues in these pages.
Carter Smith, TPWD executive director
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine was a fixture in our family well before I came into this world. I received my own subscription from my grandmother, who likely grew weary of me pilfering her copies before she had a chance to read through them. Who could blame her? If I didn’t run off with her copy each month, I’d rip out pictures of deer and bobcats and West Texas mountains and coastal sunrises.
My love affair with our wild things and wild places was in no small part shaped by that early exposure to the stunning wildlife photography and essays on all things outdoors. I still read it cover to cover, multiple times, cherishing every picture and hanging on every word. And, in carrying on an old family tradition, my wife and I still fight each month over who gets to read it first.
Lydia Saldaña, TPWD Communications Division director
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine has been a Texas treasure for 70 years. Through its pages, generations of Texans have been inspired to enjoy the natural and cultural riches of our state and become conservation advocates. As communications director since 1996, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of reading every single magazine manuscript and reviewing every layout before it goes to press. It’s one of the work tasks I enjoy the most! It is humbling to play even a small role in the history of a magazine that has meant so much to so many generations of Texans.
Larry Bozka, freelance photographer/writer, longtime contributor
In 1966, my fourth-grade teacher caught me committing a serious crime: Reading a magazine.
As she walked over, my classmates observed us with the morbid curiosity of a crowd about to witness a hanging. I was a dead man sitting.
“Give me that!” she commanded. “And see me after school.”
Two hours later, I faced the judge. She had already been informed — repeatedly — that I was going to be an outdoor writer.
“I’ve taken this publication for years,” she said. “It’s great that you read it. Just don’t do it in my classroom.”
Mrs. Casey was an excellent teacher. So was Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.
Today, 46 years later, it still is. If it wasn’t, there’s no way she would have handed that issue back to me.
Joe Nick Patoski, freelance writer, longtime contributor
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine has provided me the privilege of witnessing natural Texas at its best, while also allowing me to tackle environmental issues other publications would not. With opportunities to write about the Kinney County water wars, the world’s finest spring-fed pool in Balmorhea, adventures in Big Bend Ranch State Park, the pristine beauty of the Laguna Madre, the dazzling lure of Jacob’s Well or the wetlands of Southeast Texas, this magazine has been my entree to the finest places and finest people in this great state of ours.
Russell A. Graves, freelance writer/photographer/videographer, longtime contributor
When I was 18 and just getting interested in writing and photography, my dad showed me a Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine that he’d picked up and said, “When you can get stuff in this magazine, you are really doing something.”
My mom got me a subscription, and I studied the articles and photos. I wrote letters to contributors like Grady Allen, Wyman Meinzer and Steve Bentsen, asking for advice on getting started in the outdoor journalism business.
In 1993, when I was 23 years old, I had my first article and photo package published in the magazine. Since then, I’ve enjoyed a 20-year relationship with the publication and the great people who work there. The places I’ve been across Texas, on behalf of the magazine, have forever enriched my life and the lives of my wife and kids as they often travel with me.
I think Texas Parks & Wildlife is like our version of National Geographic. The magazine helps us all revel in the state’s beauty and diversity. It helps connect
us all as Texans.
Robert L. Cook, former TPWD executive director
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is “the” book on fish and wildlife of Texas, our state parks and on TPWD itself, past, present and future. This publication is an “open” book, honestly identifying and discussing the good, the bad and the ugly issues facing our state’s natural resources and TPWD. Some folks say they just enjoy looking at the pictures, but, in doing so, they see and learn about Texas’ fish, wildlife and state parks, and, as a result, become involved. Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine was the first statewide publication to identify water as the single most important natural resource conservation issue in Texas, and dedicated an entire issue to this topic every year for a decade. Keep up the good work.
David Sikes, outdoor columnist for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, longtime contributor
If this magazine’s intent was to be all things to all outdoor enthusiasts, then it has failed.
I don’t expect stories about bounty hunting for bobcats any more than I expect commentary that swings to the other extreme. Through Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine’s evolution, we’ve come to expect the beauty, dignity and sometimes the fragile nature of our state’s abundant and broad natural and cultural heritage. This spans endless possibilities for the inquisitive seeker of all things Texas.
Month after month, we experience glory and tragedy, struggle and defiance within these pages. We see nature uncovered and human nature revered through the lenses of gifted photographers and the imaginations of writers who care.
The features are smart, witty, sometimes sad or funny, always informative, well-researched and impeccably edited.
Center stage always belongs to the wildlife and the wild places and to history within the context of recreation and conservation, written, photographed and edited by people who participate in both.
Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, former TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division director
As my colleague and former TPWD executive director Robert Cook used to say, “The three most important resource issues facing Texas and TPWD are water, water and water.”
Hanging in my home are 10 years of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine covers dedicated to water. I continue to be amazed that it was even possible. I do not believe any other magazine would contemplate such a commitment. Each July issue throughout that decade was dedicated to a major aquatic ecosystem such as springs, rivers, estuaries and the Gulf of Mexico. The list of contributing authors reads like a who’s who of Texas’ best and brightest writers. The series launched PBS documentaries, books and symposiums and built a cadre of fellow travelers dedicated to making sure water for conservation and the environment was part of the water equation. I know from many discussions with political leaders and those who influence them that the water series was a powerful voice to push us all to just do the right thing. Thank you, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine, on behalf of all Texans, especially those yet to be born.
Wyman P. Meinzer, Texas state photographer, longtime contributor
I was reared in a rural environment in the Texas Rolling Plains, so hunting and fishing were a dearly loved way of life for me, even in the earliest recollections of my youth.
I recall seeing an issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine some four decades ago and thinking that this was a publication whose message aligned with my own, a love for our natural land resources and native fauna. I recognized that Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is a priceless visual aid, one that’s so important in celebrating the greatness of our wilder places. This publication is a conduit through which our youth can engage in a passion that has shaped the legacy that defines the Texas outdoor experience.
John Jefferson, former TPWD director of information and education, longtime contributor
In 1942, a terrible war was raging. A young boy growing up in Beaumont, whose father was serving in Africa, needed help to learn about the outdoors. Wild places were his heritage. His grandfather had headed the Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission; his grandmother lived along the Guadalupe River.
That grandmother sensed the boy’s needs, so when the agency her late husband had directed started a new magazine, she bought a subscription for her grandson.
Then called Texas Game and Fish, that magazine introduced him to a world beyond the Southeast Texas pines and marshes. It also launched a lifelong relationship with the outdoors. He is honored to have been published in it.
Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, former TPWD executive director
Everyone who loves the outdoors also loves the equipment, clothing and other paraphernalia that facilitate his or her passion for the natural world. For me, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine is an irreplaceable part of my gear. And the fact that it still comes in the mail, that you can touch it and keep it by the bedside or at the camp, is part of its value. Over the many years I have been associated with TPWD as an outdoorsman, an employee and a friend, countless men and women in conservation professions have told me that they got their start among the pages of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. That is certainly true for me.
Mike Cox, TPWD news team leader, longtime contributor
I have a lot of good memories of traveling Texas with my granddad, the late L.A. Wilke, when I was a youngster and he was editor of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. Of course, it wasn’t called that then.
Back then, the department did not furnish state vehicles, so Granddad used his own car, a 1957 white-over-gold Chevrolet, with a piece of gray cardboard with the Game and Fish logo on it to put in the car’s window when he was on official business.
By the time Granddad neared retirement age (which back then was 65 whether you wanted to retire or not), I was in the seventh grade and already interested in following in his boot steps as a writer. To help me along a bit, and to create the impression among his readers that he had more writers than he did (or had enough money to pay), he used my byline on several stories he wrote.
Despite this rather unseemly introduction into the profession, I did become a writer, and in a very satisfying way, I went to work in the Communications Division of TPWD in 2010, at about the same age Granddad was when he started at the department. Now that 65 no longer is a mandatory retirement age, I may stick around a little longer than he did.
Charles Lohrmann, publisher and executive editor, Texas Highways magazine, former assistant publisher of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine
The slice of bright light from a waxing crescent moon punctuating the deep blue, early evening sky over Palo Duro Canyon; the spine-tingling reaction to that deep-brush rustling at Ojito Adentro in Big Bend Ranch, knowing it’s probably a javelina but wondering if it’s a mountain lion; gliding along Village Creek and watching a belted kingfisher swoop across the water ahead of me. It’s those memories and dozens of others that I treasure, all a direct result of my experience with Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.
In day-to-day terms, the most impressive aspect of Texas Parks and Wildlife magazine — and an essential reason it holds a place in the crazy world of publishing after 70 years — is the sense of mission shared by everyone involved. This enduring dedication to the cause of conservation is vital, and that spirit is what guides the writers, photographers, editors and designers. No other publication would, or even could, put together a series of annual water issues, and be able to combine such lofty issues with fun, how-to articles about camping, hiking and fishing. It’s all that, plus the thrumming chorus of night sounds that take over a midnight wetland.
Earl Nottingham, Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine chief photographer
I was once told that I had an easy job because all I had to do was “go out and take pictures.” There is some truth to that. The mechanics of taking a photograph are actually very simple — just get the composition, focus and exposure accurate and you will have a technically good picture. The challenge, however, is to use the camera as a tool — and the photograph as a catalyst — to distill the mission of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department into the beautiful story-telling photographs that readers have come to love and expect for the past 70 years. It is the respect of that heritage that drives not only me, but other talented contributing photographers who follow in the shadows of the great artists who first graced the magazine’s pages.