Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings

By Paul Ruffin | Go to book overview

Travels with George
in Search of Ben Hur

When the late, great George Garrett came out to Texas one April a few years back to do a little reading tour, I got to go along, not because it had really been planned that way but because the benevolent deities assisted in arranging it. Originally the plan had been for George to come out for a roast of our dear friend Eddie Weems—a Texas writer who has a book on the devastating Galveston hurricane of 1900 and the great Waco tornado, books about Indians, etc.—but Eddie begged off because he said he had recently had an operation on his leg and just didn’t feel like standing before a crowd and making fools of a bunch of guys who were trying to make a fool of him. In a way I was glad that it didn’t work out, because Eddie was a force to be reckoned with, every bit as bad as a Galveston hurricane or a Waco tornado, and he would have pissed a lot of people off.

At any rate, Baylor was to be in on the roast, so the English Department there asked me whether, since George was willing to come out for a roast of Eddie Weems—whom they didn’t particularly like because he often laughed at the way they thought and did things—wouldn’t he be just as willing to come out and help them celebrate a new endowment for poetry, to the tune of right at half a million bucks: the amount of the endowment, not George’s fee. George agreed to come for slightly less than that. I set up a reading at Sam Houston State, of course, and since I already had invitations to read from my new book of stories at the University of Texas and SMU, they were delirious when I proposed that George and I read together. George liked coming out here anyway because he had Houston and Rice University connections and lots of friends at UT, and he just in general liked the state and its people, but that’s how George happened to be in Texas this particular time.

Now the fact is that I really enjoyed traveling with George. He was fun. He knew everybody in the Western world worth knowing and a few in the Eastern and lots in both arenas who aren’t worth knowing at all, and he had

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Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Things Literary, More or Less 1
  • Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur 3
  • The Mosquito 15
  • The Lady with the Quick Simile 19
  • Workshopping a Cowboy Poem 22
  • Was Emily Mad or Merely Angry? 28
  • On the Death of Edgar Allan Poe 31
  • Making Preparations for the Tour 34
  • The Girl in the Clean, Well-Lighted Place 37
  • Explaining a Poem to a Student 40
  • Some Rare and Unusual Books 43
  • Tales from Kentucky Lawyers 45
  • The Boy Who Spoke in Hymns 48
  • Making a Dam in Segovia 51
  • Just Thinking about Shit 54
  • To San Juan and Back 60
  • On Likker and Guns 81
  • Drinking 83
  • Rats! 100
  • The Bowhunter Asks for My Bladder 117
  • The Day the Sharpshooter Killed Something He Didn’t Intend to 120
  • Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, off to the Gun Show We Go … 128
  • From "Growing Up in Mississippi Poor and White but Not Quite Trash" (an as-Yet-Unpublished Memoir) 135
  • Trains 137
  • Learning about Sex 143
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