Roger D. Hodge couldn’t get out of Texas fast enough. After a boyhood spent doing the things that a South Texas kid from a ranching family does—working with livestock, hell-raising in Mexico—he drove off to college at 18 and didn’t look back. He never planned to become what he calls a “professional Texan.”
But it’s not easy to extract your homeland from your heart. The legendary Texas borderland ranch culture is fading, and Hodge takes an unsparing look at how it developed, what it meant and how it’s dying in Texas Blood.
Texas Blood, a title that refers to the blood of Hodge’s ancestors and the blood of Southwestern violence, is a heady, sometimes humorous mélange of family history, memoir, research and travelogue. In the course of the book, Hodge retraces his forebears’ path south from Missouri, drives pretty much the entirety of the Rio Grande Valley, interviews border patrol agents and his grandma, hangs out with Mexican-American pilgrims at the Cristo Rey shrine and explains why Cormac McCarthy’s novels are more realistic than not.
Hodge’s first Texas ancestor, Perry Wilson, was a typical mid-19th-century roamer, making perilous journeys to California and Arizona as well as Texas. Wilson’s descendants stuck around the general vicinity of Del Rio, Texas. Hodge illustrates what their lives were like with contemporaneous books, letters and diaries, the most moving stories coming from ordinary settlers.
Border history is savage. Everyone was killing everyone: Spanish versus Native Americans, Comanches versus American settlers, scalp bounty hunters versus anyone they could pretend was a Native American. But people like the Wilson-Hodge clan worked incredibly hard and built a community worth remembering in a beautifully austere land.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our Q&A with Roger D. Hodge about Texas Blood.