This week, my friends Sandy and Jon Wolfmueller, of Wolfmueller’s Books, gave me a remarkable booklet.
Its cover is marked with a brand, printed in red ink: The letter “E” on its side, its three bars facing up, lazily, over the numbers “342.”
If you’re a town kid like me, you might not know such a brand would be read as “Lazy E 342.”
The booklet is made of mimeographed pages stapled together; it’s printed on one side of letter-size sheets and has a manila cordwain cover on front and back. This issue, No. 2, has 50 pages.
The title page indicates J. Frank Dobie was the “Boss of the outfit.”
J. Frank Dobie was an American folklorist and university professor, probably best known for his books “Coronado’s Children” and “The Longhorns.”
A little bit of research tells me the booklet was a collection of students’ writing from Dobie’s class at the University of Texas at Austin: English 342, “Life and Literature of the Southwest.”
That class, English 342, can be abbreviated E342; that abbreviation is the source of the brand on the front cover of the booklet.
Dobie has a Kerrville connection. His sister, Martha Dobie, along with Mary Lucy Marberry, were early owners of the Main Book Shop, buying it in 1949 from the original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Zumpf.
Marberry taught Spanish at Tivy High School. The two ladies owned the bookstore for nearly two decades.
Having a sister in Kerrville, J. Frank Dobie was a frequent visitor here. Martha Dobie and her mother often were summer residents of a cottage in Methodist Encampment as early as the 1930s.
However, in looking at this copy of the “Lazy E 342,” the thing that interested me was an article by Kerrville’s Forrest Salter, written in the spring of 1941, when he was a student in J. Frank Dobie’s class.
Salter is one of my heroes. For many years, his family published the Kerrville Mountain Sun. When I was in high school, I asked the Salters if I could write a weekly column for them, and to my astonishment, they said yes.
Forrest Salter was a kind editor and often gave me suggestions about what might make an interesting topic for his readers. Those columns where I took his advice were much better than the others.
Salter’s story in Volume 2 of the “Lazy E 342” was titled “The Saga of a Shingle Camp,” and it tells the story of Kerrville’s earliest industry, making shingles from cypress trees.
“Living in the heart of the great Southwest section of Texas,” young Salter wrote, “one is prone to forget, or perhaps take for granted, the spirit and industry of the pioneers who settled the country, and who made the prosperous and thriving communities in which we live possible.”
Salter’s story includes first-person accounts of shingle making in the earliest days of Kerr County, and I wondered how he found the wonderful sources for his story. Salter was writing in 1941; the first shingle-making camps in Kerr County started in the late 1840s.
I should have guessed: He placed an ad in his family’s newspaper.
“WANTED: Information on shingle making and the names of any pioneer resident of this section who has seen shingles made in the camps along the Guadalupe River. Please send name or information to The Mountain Sun office.”
Over the next few weeks, I’ll share what Forrest Salter learned about those early shingle makers here. His research is quite fascinating, and I’ve never seen the information he found anywhere else.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who has been meeting newspaper deadlines for a long time.