Deep in the heart

I am halfway through Texas. Not the state, the book.
I bought James Michener’s 615-page, 1985 novel last summer for two bucks (hardcover, too) at the annual Osterhout Library book sale, but every time I picked it up, the heft scared me off. You don’t enter a Michener book without a firm commitment and I just dreaded venturing in there for fear I might never come out.
Then my daughter moved to Austin.
Then she told me she is going to have a baby.
With the certainty that my first grandchild is going to be a native Texan, reading the book instantly went from a passing fancy to a mission. “So this is why I bought it,” I said to myself as I took a deep breath and began my journey.
As with his other novels, Michener’s “Texas” deserves the title “saga” and further deserves the adjective “monumental” saga. He takes us through four and a half centuries of history!
And, as usual, he deftly weaves historical facts and historical figures with his fictional characters. For example, when the name Jim Bowie and the tale of a impressive knife fight comes up in a bar conversation in New Orleans, I actually gasped. I well know what is going to become of Jim Bowie later on.
Right now, I am following the odyssey of fictional Scotsman Finlay McNab and his 8-year-old son Otto (his mother is German) as they set out to walk from Baltimore to Texas. They are currently, along with their collie Betsy, driving 30 head of cattle (on foot) from near St. Louis to this new promised land when they come upon the “big Kaintuck” (what they called anyone from Kentucky) Zave (short for Xavier) Campbell who agrees, at Otto’s urging, to join their party.
Michener writes:
“Come with us, Zave,” he (Otto) cried , and from then on, it was four who went down the Trace: Finlay McNab in command; Otto watching and listening; Zave Campbell, with a home at last; and the dog Betsy, terrified of the big man’s commands. Under his tutelage she became twice the shepherd’s companion she had been before, for when he told her to ‘Git!’ she got.
Ploughing through a hundred pages of Michener is worth the effort when you happen upon a paragraph such as this. I eagerly anticipate more.

Ed Ackerman