I just downloaded and listened to the first chapter of Goodbye to a River by John Graves with an available audio credit on our Audible account. Here is what Wikipedia says about this book about my closest river:
“Goodbye to a River is a book by John Graves, published in 1960. It is a “semi-historical” account of a canoe trip made by the author during the fall of 1957 down a stretch of the Brazos River in North Central Texas, between Possum Kingdom Damand Lake Whitney. The book presents both the author’s account of the trip itself and numerous stories about the history and settlement of the area around the river and of North Central Texas. The title refers to Graves’ childhood association with the river and the country surrounding it, and his fear of the “drowning” effect that a proposed series of flood-control dams (most notably, Lake Granbury) would have on the river.
Only three of the dams were built on the river, but at one time up to thirteen were proposed at various locations along its course to the Gulf of Mexico. The success ofGoodbye to a River is often cited as a major reason that the proposed dams were never built.
I did not spend my childhood on this river but did spend some time swimming in Lake Whitney proceeded by family campfires before heading back to the city. The only river in Texas I’ve canoed in before my recent Brazos excursions was the Guadelupe during my His Hill Ranch Camp summers from age 15 to 22. I don’t know why I feel at home in the Brazos, but I fell in love with it around 20 years ago when I would take scenic drives around my adopted home town of Weatherford, Texas. The first time was when my ex husband and I were having difficulties and I took our two very young children on a drive to Pecan Plantation in our old hand me down car. This is a gated community on the other side of De Cordova Dam that impounds Lake Granbury. The gatekeeper had pity on me and let me in to see the beautiful estates and stop by an undeveloped space where the river ran close to the road for the kids and I to wade a bit. That was a beautiful respite from my troubles.
Shortly after, I took another similar trip to Horseshoe Bend, a little non-gated community of stilted small homes that is not as well-off. I was very surprised how wide the river was because my previous experiences going over Texas rivers on bridges showed them little more than creeks. This is the drowning effect the dams have had I suppose. In Graves’ book, the Brazos has always had some pretty deep and wide pockets between narrow high spots and rapids. It was the largeness that I experienced that made me love this river in particular instead of rivers in general.
Still, the fact that it’s a Texas river makes it hold more fascination for me than any other river in any other state, whether it is similar or different. If it’s in Texas, it’s mine, if it’s not, it’s borrowed and foreign.
I feel almost as homey about the Guadelupe, Colorado, the Rio Grande, and all the other Texas rivers too. But not the other Texas cities. I don’t think I can call anywhere else but Weatherford home. The other Texas rivers are the waters I’m lead by where my soul is restored, but not the other towns. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.