Thursday, October 18, 2018

Book Blog Tour - The Whole Damn Cheese: Maggie Smith, Border Legend by Bill Wright

THE WHOLE
DAMN CHEESE
MAGGIE SMITH, BORDER LEGEND
by
BILL WRIGHT
Genre: Biography / Texana 
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press 
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Publication Date: October 12, 2018
Number of Pages: 160 pages with B&W photos
Anecdotes about Maggie Smith abound, but Bill Wright’s The Whole Damn Cheese is the first book devoted entirely to the woman whose life in Big Bend country has become the stuff of legend. For more than twenty years, Maggie Smith served folks on both sides of the border as doctor, lawyer, midwife, herbalist, banker, self-appointed justice of the peace, and coroner. As she put it, she was “the whole damn cheese” in Hot Springs, Texas. A beloved figure serving the needs of scores of people in Big Bend country, she was also an accomplished smuggler with a touch of romance as well as larceny in her heart. Maggie’s family history is a history of the Texas frontier, and her story outlines the beginnings and early development of Big Bend National Park. Her travels between Boquillas, San Vincente, Alpine, and Hot Springs define Maggie’s career and illustrate her unique relationships with the people of the border. Vividly capturing the rough individualism and warm character of Maggie Smith, author Bill Wright demonstrates why this remarkable frontier woman has become an indelible figure in the history of Texas.


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Inside Maggie Smith’s Mind:
An Imaginary Interview with the Whole Damn Cheese
PART 1 OF 2

Q: Maggie, author Mary Lasswell said in her book, I’ll Take Texas, that she learned that your “desolate, undeveloped area” didn’t have running water until your son rigged up a system for you. She then reported that you responded to a question about how it felt to have running water with “Lord, I bin seasick all day!” What other conveniences of the 1940s and 50s did you do without?
A: Oh, heavens…toaster, automatic washing machine, upright vacuum cleaner and an electric cooker range. Hearing aids were unheard of, too, as well as a portable sun lamp. What in tarnation would we do with a sun lamp anyway? We have plenty here in the Big Bend!

Q: According to sources, we know that from 1943 until 1965 you took care of people on both sides of the border as doctor, lawyer, midwife, herbalist, banker, self-appointed justice of the peace, and coroner. What made you feel qualified to fulfill these roles that in the broader world of that time were carried out by people with degrees and such?
A: Well, who was going to do it if I didn’t? Lawyers and bankers and doctors weren’t eager to come out here.

Q: You had a lot of people in financial debt to you—$22,000 worth that had been given to others through the years. But you told your family not to collect. Why?
A: Because they needed me and I did what I could. I don’t want ‘em in my estate or anything! I want them to go through my books and tear up those papers—all the bills that they owe me, and us, burn ‘em.

Q: Tell us about one of the times you delivered a baby.
A: One time, we were on the river, and this man came over from Mexico and he told us that his wife was very ill and that she was expectin’ a baby, and he didn’t know what was wrong. So I got in the pickup and went to Boquillas and went across the river there. You can just drive across the river. And we went over there. This woman’s name was “Luna” —I remember that—and she was about 45 years old and she was expectin’ her FIRST baby. Sha had never had any children. And so, since I had experience on deliverin’ babies down there, I went ahead and delivered the baby, but the woman died in about two hours. I wrapped the baby in blankets and took her home with me after we buried the mother. After it was doing well—about a month old—we took the baby back to the father.


For thirty-five years Bill Wright owned and managed a wholesale and retail petroleum marketing company. In 1987 he sold his company to his employees and since then has carved out a remarkable career as an author, fine art photographer, and ethnologist. He has written or contributed to seven books, and his photographs appear in Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
10/17/18
Excerpt
10/18/18
Character Interview
10/19/18
Character Interview
10/20/18
Author Interview
10/21/18
Review
10/22/18
Scrapbook Page
10/23/18
Review
10/24/18
Excerpt
10/25/18
Review
10/26/18
Review


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