Texas Rivers: On the Road with John Graves

During the course of our lives we sometimes meet a person or people who are “somebody”, and will make a lasting impression on careers if not the direction and or longevity of a life. That impression may take many forms, two of which might be financial or from the standpoint of enlightenment or simple friendship. From both a professional and personal standpoint I have been over blessed with this phenomenon and have lead a much richer life because of it.

Gentleman and iconic author John Graves

Many years ago I had the blessing of meeting Bill Shearer of Shearer Publishing in Fredricksburg, Texas. Bill was a energetic and intelligent man in his early 40’s who wanted to publish a book with me on the rivers of Texas. With this idea in mind he suggested that I get to know an author and personal friend of his by the name of John Graves, a fellow outdoor aficionado, history buff and author of the Texas classic read, “Goodbye to a River”. I agreed and on a summer evening on the banks of the James River near Mason, Texas I met Mr. Graves for the first time. Because of my own passion for history and adventure John and I hit it off in a big way and developed a lasting friendship that exists to this day. Before the “Rivers” concept could develop to fruition our friend Bill Shearer passed away at too early an age and planning on the rivers book ceased for several years to come.
Susan Ebert, former editor of Texas Parks and Wildlife and publisher of Texas Parks and Wildlife Publishing Partners approached me in the late 1990’s about a book project and we decided to revive the “Texas Rivers” concept for future publication. This began my memorable odyssey of crisscrossing our Texas and spending many weeks over a three year period with a Texas gentleman, dear friend and iconic author in John Graves.

John Graves, Wyman and rancher Jack Skiles on the Pecos River.

Our game plan was simple in that I would go first and explore the river of choice, finding contacts and locations of interest. John would then be summoned and we would rendezvous for another week or so of interviews and to finish up the images. We would continue this routine for the ensuing 3 years and I personally totaled a cumulative distance of 36,000 miles in the process of shooting photos.

John and I taking some down time while on the Sabinal River shoot

Once we had decided on the six target rivers I selected the Canadian as our first choice primarily because that river is one of my favorites in the entire state. From the zero degree winter weather along its meandering prairie course to the steamy Big Thicket along the Neches we walked, rode, flew and sometimes boated our way into the history and lifeway along each one. Crouched in the rocky grottos along the sinewy Pecos canyon lands we pondered the life and death of the ancient ones and

John and passenger paddles into the rising sun on the Llano River

then reveled in the quiet beauty of the Sabinal and Llano. And the history of the Clear Fork of the Brazos stimulated our imagination with facts about the Comanche Moon and the inevitable Indian raids that occurred in a lull of frontier settlement during the Civil War.
Mr. Graves no longer travels due to age issues but each time I pass through the regions visited in our past I think of him and our time crisscrossing the greatest state. Enjoy these images from a special time and in special places.

Paint Rock Rapids on the lower Pecos

Cypress lined bank of the Sabinal

Sunrise on the North Llano River

Canadian River meanders eastward across the Texas Panhandle

4 thoughts on “Texas Rivers: On the Road with John Graves

  1. Terry Ann Edington Dukes

    I am currently reading Goodbye To A River for the first time and am enchanted. I was raised on a ranch in West Texas and I appreciate the grit it took to settle the land. I’m glad you took Mr. Graves back out to the rivers.

  2. kevin michael anderson

    Timely post. I will do a public lecture on Wednesday about the Brazos and John’s book here in Austin. I will be mentioning the Texas Rivers book, and google led me here…thank you for your images and remembrances.


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