The Whole Damn Cheese – My Book Review

THE WHOLE
DAMN CHEESE
MAGGIE SMITH BORDER LEGEND
by
BILL WRIGHT
Genre: Biography / Texana 
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press
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Publication Date: October 12, 2018
Number of Pages: 160 pages with B&W photos
Anecdotes about Maggie Smith abound, but Bill Wright’s The Whole Damn Cheese is the first book devoted entirely to the woman whose life in Big Bend country has become the stuff of legend. For more than twenty years, Maggie Smith served folks on both sides of the border as doctor, lawyer, midwife, herbalist, banker, self-appointed justice of the peace, and coroner. As she put it, she was “the whole damn cheese” in Hot Springs, Texas. A beloved figure serving the needs of scores of people in Big Bend country, she was also an accomplished smuggler with a touch of romance as well as larceny in her heart. Maggie’s family history is a history of the Texas frontier, and her story outlines the beginnings and early development of Big Bend National Park. Her travels between Boquillas, San Vincente, Alpine, and Hot Springs define Maggie’s career and illustrate her unique relationships with the people of the border. Vividly capturing the rough individualism and warm character of Maggie Smith, author Bill Wright demonstrates why this remarkable frontier woman has become an indelible figure in the history of Texas.
 
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My

The Whole Damn Cheese – My Book Review

 

“After being invited to dinner with his wife and new husband to sort things out, Levi shot the man dead. Problem solved-frontier style.”

First – this book has high recommendations from my one of my mentors, Dr. Paul Carlson and a new favorite author, Ben English.

Second – there is a mountain lion in this story.

Third – The book has lots of historical photos.

 

The Whole Damn Cheese is so much more than just a biographical, memoir of Maggie Smith. I read the history of how Big Bend National Park came into being with the scary side of how much history was destroyed because of lack of Federal funds on the National Park side. By reading this book I now know a more intense history on the candelilla wax trade. Plus, I learned something about blocking when it comes to cattle brands, along with typhus.

At first, I thought the story was a tad slow in going over so much history, but at the end, without that detailed background, I would’ve not completely understood Maggie’s life or the roots of where she came from.

Maggie was a woman after my own heart. She gave where she could, always did the right by people whether along the Texas border or in Mexico, and she saved a mountain lion cub. Bill Wright told her story so convincingly at times that I found myself either laughing or crying. How many people can say they met the actual Pancho Villa?

“We called their melons ‘mush melons’ because they were big like watermelons but real yellow.”

My one major complaint about history books is jamming of all the photos into the middle of the book. That never does a history book justice. Thankfully, the old historical photos in this book were nicely distributed throughout and as a bonus, they each look like they had been restored.

 

“I don’t go to church. There’s no church to go to.”

I’d like to interpret with this quote that Maggie indeed did not have to attend church. The outside world was her church and she did more for her fellow man than most people going to church every Sunday. The testament to her influence and kindness was the Mexican people were buying flowers for her funeral. We all should be so lucky to have that kind of love and respect. By reading this book you’ll find out how Maggie earned that kind of admiration.

“…it’s what’s inside the person that counts. It’s not the blood, or skin, or anything.”

 

 

 

For thirty-five years Bill Wright owned and managed a wholesale and retail petroleum marketing company. In 1987 he sold his company to his employees and since then has carved out a remarkable career as an author, fine art photographer, and ethnologist. He has written or contributed to seven books, and his photographs appear in Fort Worth’s Amon Carter Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center of the University of Texas at Austin, and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
VISIT THE OTHER GREAT BLOGS ON THE TOUR:
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10/18/18
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10/19/18
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10/20/18
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10/22/18
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10/23/18
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10/24/18
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10/25/18
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