Chronicle of a Small Town
5.5 x 8.5, 192 pp.
27 line drawings.
Pub Date: 03/28/2012
Wardlaw Books
Price:        $19.95


Published by Texas A&M University Press

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Chronicle of a Small Town

By Jim W. Corder

"I want to hear about such folks as my father and how he knows how to make cement, not by recipe, but by something in his bones. I want to hear how my grandfather learned to plow a straight furrow and why even older men always called him Mister. I want to know all of the reasons why, those years ago, my mother cried when the tomatoes in her garden twisted and died."

Trying to find out such things, Jim Corder leads us through the ravines of the Croton Breaks, around to the back side of the Double Mountains, and through the streets of Jayton and Spur, as they are and as they used to be. He takes us right up to gaze at the Big Rock Candy Mountain, which, however, he can't tell us how to find since the day in 1937 when the State Highway Department made it into gravel. Fort Concho and Fort Phantom Hill, outhouses and feed mills, Col. Ranald Mackenzie and a lone Comanche brave, high school athletes and desperately lonely teachers, all come under his scrutiny and are hauntingly considered for their stories, their limitations, and the sense of place they afford.

Nostalgia, wonderment, and a healthy and imaginative provincialism color the pages of this book, which is well illustrated with the author's own pen-and-ink sketches of the places and things he remembers. The vibrantly concrete details of daily existence in a bygone time in a remote and desolate area of Texas are startlingly juxtaposed with philosophical musings about the limitations all of us face in comprehending even that little bit of life we live. "Can poetry, or water, be found in West Texas?" Corder asks at one point. His answer—if such it be—makes it worth our getting lost with him in this journey of the heart and mind.

JIM W. CORDER was a professor of English at Texas Christian University and the author of many articles and several books, including Lost in West Texas.

What Readers Are Saying:

"In a beautifully rendered essay, he amusingly, intriguingly juxtaposes his recollections of Jayton, Texas, back in the 1930s and 1940s with life as recorded during those decades in the issues of the now-defunct Jayton Chronicle, the local newspaper. What makes this remembrance of times past so beguiling is the fact that events as they existed in his memory were often proved misshapened if not inaccurate. 'I was,' he says, 'looking to find validation of my memory of those years--and, as I quickly began to see in the images of the Chronicle that my memory was wrong, that I had things all wrong, I began to look for surprise.' Any lover of good books will be captivated by this unusual treatment of the eternal problem of 'going home again.'"--Booklist

"It is one of the most satisfying reading experiences I've had this year, and it's a book I think most everyone who feels the burden of memory will love."--Dallas Morning News

"Corder's gleanings--leavened with his own pointillist illustrations--will appeal to nostalgic contemporaries and to curious younger readers."--Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"Written in a gentle, probing, and conversational style, it's hard to imagine anyone not being richer for having read this fine memoir. Corder's illustrations heighten the appeal."--Review of Texas Books

"Chronicle of a Small Town provides an anchor for those who are lost in the past, a direction for those who have discovered that memory is not a reliable compass. It is the ruminations of a gentle yet probing mind that has learned to fear knowledge and respect history and use both to form a sounder philosophy." --Texas Review of Books

"It is the search for . . . memories, along with Corder's lyrical style, which elevates his work beyond just another story of small town life." --West Texas Historical Association Year Book

" . . . should interest anyone who wants to retrieve his own history, especially from a small town in the West."--Journal of the West

"Corder's book echoes with questions about memory and reality and how we view ourselves in terms of our own pasts . . . [and] provides a treasured map of one man's search for past and an apt reminder to the importance of the search."--Southwestern Historical Quarterly

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