Monday, December 19, 2011

The Spirit of Texas

The Spirit of Texas:
The Astonishing Story of a Pioneer Rancher’s Family and Their Mighty State

by Winston Menzies
Creative Publishing Company
ISBN: 978-0-9826143-2-7
November 2011/270 pages/Hardcover/$29.99

In June of 1876, a young carpenter arrived in Galveston with nothing more than a chest of tools and a desire to find work in the burgeoning seaport city. His name was William Menzies. He was 21 years old, fiercely independent and determined to make his way in the world. Galveston was clearly not where his future would lie, however, and a combination of storms, floods, a fire and a lack of work soon drove him inland. A decade later, having broken countless horses as a horse trader to earn his keep in the interim, the young man finally found himself on the banks of the San Saba River in Menard County. It was here he decided to buy a couple of sections of land to set roots and stay.

And there on the banks of the San Saba those roots reached deep and took hold. So deep, in fact, that in 1957, some 80 years after he’d first arrived in Galveston, the Texas State Legislature recognized William as one of the state’s pioneer ranchers and a leader in the area of progressive agriculture.

The Spirit of Texas: The Astonishing Story of a Pioneer Rancher’s Family and Their Mighty State (Creative Publishing Company) is William’s story as chronicled by his great-grandson, Winston Menzies, a pastor and writer now living in Georgia. Crafted from his own memories as well as those of friends and relatives, Menzies does not hesitate to weave local and state history, politics and culture into his family’s story. In so doing, he exposes the bones of Texas’ romance and lore, revealing the raw passion and determination of the men and women who went there seeking independence and reminding the reader of the indelible mark they left behind. “The Spirit of Texas is more than just the story of William Menzies; it’s the story of the pioneers who first settled the land and made Texas what it is today,” Winston says. “In researching for this book, I found no other book that tells the story of Texas through the stories of its people.”

In telling his great-grandfather’s story, the author throws open the door to the Menzies’ family home and welcomes us in. It is here we meet Letha Ann, the woman who became William’s wife and the matriarch of the Menzies clan. With love and care, the author introduces us to this remarkable woman who devoted her life to being William’s helpmate, bearing his eight children and instilling in each the same pioneering spirit and unshakeable faith that was the hallmark of the Menzies name. A living complement to her husband, Letha Ann’s own story is one of courage, faith and unflinching dedication.

Along with the Menzies’ sons and daughters, neighbors and friends, we are also introduced to a host of other ordinary folk who persisted in living extraordinary lives in order to forge a place for themselves in the raw Texas landscape. Folks like Willie Roberts, the first white child born in Menard County who, even though stricken with polio while still a toddler, managed to defy unimaginable odds to live a rich, full life on his own terms. Folks like Dr. Ed Knipling who grew up on his father’s Port Lavaca farm and experienced firsthand the devastation to livestock wrought by a deadly pest: the screwworm fly. It was Knipling who determined that through the release of sterilized male flies the problem might be eradicated. His ability to look past the problem to see the solution brought a successful end to the damage done by the screwworm fly and was, at the time, labeled the “greatest entomological achievement of the 20th century” by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

While The Spirit of Texas is clearly the story of William Menzies and his legacy, it is also the story of all the pioneers who settled throughout Texas, carving out their own legacies in an unforgiving land. It is a story that should be read by anyone wanting to know Texas and Texans better. It is also a story that those who already know and love the state and its people may thoroughly embrace and enjoy. Find out more at the book's website.


It was only after receiving copies of his great-grandparents’ obituaries from an elderly family member that Winston Menzies discovered the need to document his family’s history before it was lost to future generations. When he realized that if he didn’t do it, no one else would, he began the information gathering process in earnest. And even then, he never imagined a book like The Spirit of Texas would be the end result.

"I had no idea what I was getting into on this one," he admitted. "I thought it would be maybe fifteen or twenty pages of interesting facts about the family, but I just kept uncovering more and more information. It ended up taking me four years to write the book and became a real labor of love. Still I never dreamed The Spirit of Texas would be what it turned out to be."

Asked what he’d like his readers to take away from the book, Winston said he hopes they’ll be inspired. "I would like for them to recognize that God created them for a reason and that they have a genius to do something really great with their lives. That’s what I hope for. That they realize they can be independent and work for something meaningful in life—against great odds—just as my great-grandparents and all the men and women who settled Texas did. It’s still possible today."

Due to his father’s military career, Winston was born on a military base in Nevada and spent his childhood living all over the United States, including many times in Texas. After leaving high school, he returned to the family’s home state to attend college, graduating from Texas A&M where he received his pilot’s license and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Army.

While not officially born in Texas, Winston freely admits he still considers himself a full-fledged Texan because of his family ties and ranch there. "I’ve always been in Texas a lot. They say," he joked, "there are only two kinds of people in this world: Those who live in Texas and those who wish they could."

Following college, Winston became an Army Ranger, served as a platoon leader in the 82nd Airborne division and later was selected to be aide to the Commanding General. Volunteering twice to command rifle companies in Vietnam, he finally served as a Brigade Adjutant before resigning his commission to pursue a career in business. After founding several businesses in the real estate field, he was called into the ministry at the age of 44.

Today Winston oversees an evangelical ministry serving a number of prisons, jails and youth development centers in the Atlanta, Georgia area and serves as pastor of Greater Grace Church, a non-denominational church in Covington, Georgia. Additionally, he is the director of the Shepherd’s House, a residential recovery ministry. He has also written a number of books and seminars. Winston believes he has about the most exciting time in life anyone could ever hope for. He and his wife, Donna, and their horses live in Conyers. They have two grown sons, Ron and John. Visit his website to learn more.


Those who live outside the Lone Star State may dismiss the title and premise of this book as another Texas tall tale, but one only has to read a few pages to recognize that William and Letha Ann were an amazing couple and represent the determination, work ethic, backbone, and faith that settled and tamed this state. Letha Ann makes the Proverbs 31 woman look like an absolute slacker! This book is a history-lover's delight with its detailed account of life in Texas in the late 1800's and its many photographs chronicling the lives and events of this family. You will have a new appreciation for the pioneers who settled this great state, as well as others who faced similar challenges across the fledgling USA.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from The B&B Media Group as part of their Blogger Review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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