Kinky Friedman’s collection, Heroes of a Texas Childhood made me think about who my heroes are.
My heroes aren’t as famous as some of the people Kinky Friedman writes about, but the thing we have in common is that our heroes have done or are doing extraordinary things because it is the right thing to do.
23 people, some famous and some completely unknown get a small chapter each in this book, with an explanation of who they are or were, when they did whatever they did and why they matter. The ‘where’ is obviously the Texan connection. Not all of Kinky Friedman’s heroes are Texan, but all have done something for Texas.
One of these was Ace Reid, an artist best known for his Cowpokes cartoon series which looked at the funny side of life on a ranch, particularly during times of general poverty.
Another was Lottie Cotton, who worked for Kinky Friedman’s parents and became a loved friend of the family.
Tom Friedman is the author’s father and another of his heroes and in an ideal world, all fathers should be heroes to their children.
Molly Ivins was a politician who told people the truth as she saw it, with humour. Barbara Jordan was the first African-American woman elected to the Texas senate, an underdog who believed in herself and her country. Ann Richards was a governor of Texas who saved the state six billion dollars by reforming bureaucracy.
I had heard of Audie Murphy but thought he was just an actor in Westerns from the 1940s and 50s. Now I know that he was also a war hero whose bravery made him one of the most decorated American soldiers of World War 2.
Sam Rayburn was a politician who could not be bought, and Heman Sweatt was a black man who paved the way for would-be lawyers discriminated against because of their race. Lady Bird Johnson got her own chapter because she was an environmentalist long before there was a name for environmentalists.
Willie Nelson gets a chapter. He’s a hero to Kinky Friedman because of what he and his music mean to people.
Juan Seguin was the last man to leave the Alamo, riding out to round up people to fight with him against the Mexican army. Emily Morgan, also known as ‘The Yellow Rose of Texas’, was a slave who distracted a Mexican General, allowing the Texans to win the Battle of San Jacinto. James Bonham died at the Alamo alongside Davy Crockett, whose story I knew a little of from watching the Disney features starring Fess Parker.
Quanah Parker was the last chief of the Comanches, guiding the Comanche people in the white man’s world after they had been forced onto a reservation.
I would like to read more about some of these people, most of whom were unknown to me before picking up this book. There must already be countless books about some of them, but others will never have any more written about them than their chapter in this book.
I enjoyed Kinky Friedman’s writing style in Heroes of a Texas Childhood just as much as I have the humour in his fiction.