It seems like ages ago: In 2008, I had the pleasure of editing Tom and Karen Fort’s story on the golden age of Rio Grande steamboating, which appeared in the July issue that year. Tom contributes another piece to Texas Highways this month (December 2013)—a piece on the Rio Grande Valley’s Civil War sites, and as I was chatting about the story with my colleague Matt Joyce, I remembered what a great resource historian Jerry Thompson was to us. A professor of history at Texas A &M University in Laredo, Thompson writes about the tumultuous pre-and post-Civil War decades along the Rio Grande with humor, compassion, and clarity. For anyone wishing to study the period, I highly recommend two of Thompson’s books, A Wild and Vivid Land: An Illustrated History of the South Texas Border and Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier: A Narrative and Photographic History (co-written with Lawrence T. Jones III).
I wish my history teachers had communicated this clearly and enthusiastically. For an overview that starts with the Coahuilticans and ends with the citrus industry, oil-and-gas endeavors, and the building of Falcon Dam, read Thompson’s book A Wild and Vivid Land: An Illustrated History of the South Texas Border, which was published in 1997 by the Texas State Historical Association. Several hundred photos, illustrations, and maps bring the periods to life, too.
And Thompson’s and Jones’ Civil War and Revolution on the Rio Grande Frontier: A Narrative and Photographic History is also a worthwhile addition to a Texas-history library. It was also published by the Texas State Historical Association. I found used, new, and collectible copies of both books on Amazon.