By Patti Parish-Kaminski, Publisher
Ten years ago on a sweltering Texas summer day, I met my hero. I had convinced Tim Kaminski that Archer City, Texas was on our way to the seemingly never-ending trek to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. And it was, somewhat, if you drove two and a half hours out of the way. Math was never – and still isn’t – Mr. Kaminski’s forte.
With both kids in tow, we descended upon Archer City, a population about 1,800 just south of Wichita Falls. If you’ve seen The Last Picture Show, you know exactly what Archer City looks like as the book and film were set in the childhood hometown of the author.
The North Texas town was literally a dust bowl, and main street was lined with old buildings filled to the brim with what I deemed treasures: books. Hundreds of thousands of books – nearly half a million titles at its peak. The buildings – amply named Booked Up – went on for days, and I meandered through each and everyone with a very patient family in tow. I’m relatively certain I squealed with joy on several occasions. I selected several tomes and had all family members loaded down like pack mules with my selections as we wandered from building to building – in 100-degree heat. I climbed up and down ladders, dug through piles and channeled my true Indiana Jones with the treasures I dug up.
As we came upon the last building where the cashier was located, it happened. There was an unassuming man in jeans, a t-shirt and suspenders sorting through some books on a large table. I nearly had a stroke. I have never been so star-struck in my life. Throughout my career, I have met actors, directors, politicians, authors, rock stars, presidents – heck I’ve even sat down with the head of the Comanche Nation in Lawton, Oklahoma – but I have never been so star-struck as when I saw Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry in the flesh. I read him first at The University of Texas in 1986 in a Southwest Literature class – his first novel Horseman, Pass By – and I have been a die-hard fan ever since. If he’s penned it, I’ve read it. I can quote him. I’ve attended his lectures at Rice University. I know the order of his books. I’ve read his essays and memoir. I’m a serious fangirl. I believe he’s a cowboy in the truest sense of the word – a trailblazer, smart, bold, independent, unwavering, brilliant in his convictions and talent – an individual who embraces who and what they are, unapologetically, and are usually extremely good at what they do.
Now I’m not typically a shy person, but it took me a minute to wrangle up every bit of my courage to go say hello to him. Of course, I did stalk him for a minute, and yes, he noticed. By the time I worked up the nerve to actually speak to him, he simply queried, “Did you find what you were looking for?” I replied, “Yes sir. I believe I was looking for you.” To which he replied, “Well, here I am.”
We had a nice visit. He was down-to-earth, sassy, witty and incredibly unassuming. I was literally talking to the man who wrote the greatest novel of modern times for which he won the Pulitzer Prize. The man who accepted his Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Brokeback Mountain with co-winner Diana Ossana in jeans, cowboy boots and a dinner jacket and used his speech to promote books and reading by reminding the worldwide audience that Brokeback Mountain was a short story before it was a movie. The cowboy who told me as I left Archer City on a sweltering July day, “Be careful out there – it’s awful hot.” The greatest literary cowboy – my hero – that we lost on March 25, 2021 at his home in Archer City at 84 years young. A two and a half hour detour that turned into the experience of a lifetime.
See y’all next week – on the porch!
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