Lately I find peace in nostalgia. Maybe it’s the shift in the way we look at the world as a result of the pandemic that’s causing me to focus on what’s most important — family, friends and community. Or it could be watching so many of my friends prepare to send their children off to college, knowing that will be me just one short year from now.
Texas Monthly, in 2005, produced an issue they called “We’re from here,” which featured essays from several notable Texans, among them Willie Nelson. I came across it a year ago and knew I wanted to recreate it here.
Now, while we’re spending a lot of time contemplating, seemed like a great time. It has been fun to dive back into the journalism side of what I do here to take over the magazine this month.
The people in this issue have stories that inspire me. Some I knew before I set out on this journey, and some were delightful surprises. I had read about Col. Stephen Ruth in the newspaper before, and had met his father, World War II veteran George Ruth. But it wasn’t until I talked to Col. Ruth for this issue that I understood the true depth of his commitment to community.
Dr. Joy Paul LeBlanc isn’t the member of the Paul family who generally grabs headlines. Her brother, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, probably is the most well-known of Congressman Ron Paul and Carol Paul’s children. That’s why it has been great to get to know her story, beyond the way I know her at the ballpark as John David’s mom.
I didn’t grow up in Brazoria County, not in the sense the people whose essays you’ll find in this issue did. But in many ways Brazoria County did raise me. I landed here fresh out of the University of Texas and started a career at The Facts, not knowing how much this place and these people would impact me.
I figured I would spend a year or two here, then move on to be the big-city reporter I had envisioned myself to become. That was before Bill Yenne taught me about an effective tax rate and before Judge J. Ray Gayle III happened upon me wiping away tears in a courtroom hallway after particularly tragic testimony. It was before I had ridden in a Rosharon fire truck to witness flood rescues and before I drove a race car at MSR or touched a gator’s tail at Crocodile Encounter.
Had I followed my first dream into the big city, I wouldn’t have known Mary Ruth Rhodenbaugh or Emma Jean Tanner or Juan Longoria or George Kidwell, or any of the dozens of other people who modeled public service and kindness to a young reporter seeking knowledge on a million topics of importance to our readers. I wouldn’t have watched Jeri Yenne balance responsibility to the people of Brazoria County with motherhood.
These people, and this community, helped to raise me from a cub reporter to a woman with audacity enough to think she could run the whole newspaper.
I first met Clarence Sasser, who gifted us with his words in this issue, when assigned to write a profile of him for The Facts. I was 24. Photographer Natalee Hall and I drove to what looked like the middle nowhere, to the country home of this unassuming hero. He had survived much, beyond the heroics that earned him the Medal of Honor, and his story left me speechless. I remember telling him I was lost. I didn’t know how to find my way home. Little did I know that just a few years later Ryan and I would build our own country home in Rosharon, just a few miles from his.
It’s our own patch of land, in a place where I grew into the person I am today, and where I hope my children will always call home.
Brazos Monthly publisher