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.
“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.
Reeling from a negotiation gone wrong, FBI Special Agent April Ramos is caught off guard when a frazzled young woman shoves a crying baby into her arms, then disappears. Worry for the child’s safety quickly turns to fear when a man claiming to be the girl’s father abducts them at gunpoint. April puts her hostage negotiation skills to use to learn more about who she’s dealing with: Jason Snyder, a fugitive accused of murder.
As Jason spins a tall tale about being framed for the killing of his business partner, April must sort through his claims to find the truth. A truth that becomes all the more evident after April overhears a conversation between Jason and the local sheriff and realizes something more sinister may be happening in their small town of Sweet Briar, Texas. But aligning herself with a known fugitive to uncover the burden of proof could cost April her job . . . or worse, her life and the lives of other innocent people.
PRAISE FOR DiANN MILLS: “The tension level rises as layers of lies are peeled away in multiple plot twists.” —Library Journal “DiAnn Mills is a master of fast-paced and intricately plotted romantic suspense.” —Colleen Coble, Bestselling author “[A] fast-moving, intricately plotted thriller.” —Publishers Weekly
“April hugged Isabella close to her. In her catharsis, she realized Jason trusted her. “Your daddy is a brave man,” she whispered. “I’m ready to help him find the proof of his innocence.”
First – flying squirrels do exist in Texas and feral hogs are numero uno bad.
Second – this is a livewire authoritative a story.
Third – you’ll walk away with more than you realize if you read this book.
Burden of Proof is an unpredictable, livewire story written with commanding prose. From the first few sentences to the very, very last words this story took me on a moving journey that deals with a murder and a couple of kidnappings. The story revolves around Jason and April. Jason’s daughter has been kidnapped and FBI Agent, April finds herself caught up in the middle of Jason’s problems. The story becomes complicated right from the start and it evolves into a love story.
“How spiritual.” Those who professed to be Christian while living hypocritical lives cemented her dissatisfaction with faith. “Looks like a solid front to the citizens.”
Mills weaves a story that makes you believe miracles can happen in real life. Character dialogue carries this story with resounding authenticity. Yes – life can be weird. Yes – life can take you down unexpected paths. Yes – life can bring people your world that can literally change the course you are on. Sadly, corruption does exist. What makes Burden of Proof so believable is that it’s a story written so real that it could be a true-life account of all the characters.
“Dad’s words resounded in his head. “A wild hog is the fourth most intelligent animal in the world.”
Yes – wild hogs are bad and intelligent. Yes –flying squirrels do exist in East Texas. I did have to look up the flying squirrel reference and see indeed these mammals are distributed in east Texas. Just wish I’d seen one or two during my time there.
In closing with the book Mills offers great discussion questions. But the most important takeaway from reading Burden of Proof comes in the author’s note. Mills states it eloquently, “Life is unpredictable. We aren’t guaranteed tomorrow and we don’t know what sorts of mountains and valleys we’ll experience along our journeys. The age-old question of why do bad things happen to good people can become our mantra. Or we can choose to ignore our bruises and travel the road of good and prioritize truth and justice above all things.”
Words for us to live by… Thank you, Diann for that beautiful reminder.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.
Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian fiction books of 2014.
DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.
DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers.