It’s difficult to say what draws a man to the woods. No doubt the reasons lie deeply embedded in those long helical strands of DNA that through a miracle of combinations and fusions creates the person. Perhaps this is where the soul resides. As such the soul never dies but simply becomes infused once again in the genetic matrix from which life blooms anew and passions grow once again. I cannot recall a day of my life where anything other than the woods ruled my emotions; it was the very fever that drove me. Society wanted to school me according to its standards; the object of course conformity. But the woodsman seeks other forms of knowledge. The woodsman yearns for quiet and solitude in hidden places. The woodsman (or woman) hears music and poetry of a different sort; and reads a language that cannot be uttered by the tongue but only by the heart. So please allow me to introduce you to The Sand Sheet, my latest book. It’s about my life at the edge of a world known intimately by only a few. In my world nature is kept close, surrounded as I am by thick woods and silence. Yes, the text includes bushcraft from bows and knives and secret camps to long treks along meandering trails. But there are also stories of the people who cross this waterless land every year only to succumb to the heat and eventually die of dehydration. There are stories of the Indians who lived here thousands of years ago; and stories about my search to learn what hardwoods they used to make their hunting implements. From the occasional wanderer I might encounter lost and frightened and near death to Central American gang members’ intent on thievery or worse. Then there are the coyotes (people smugglers) who ply their trade beneath the eyes of the US Border Patrol. The occasional Homeland Security helicopter hovering in the distance, a beam of light shooting from heaven to earth in search of smugglers and wanderers. Most nights, however, the only sounds are the whistles of pauraques and hoots of owls. Yes, there are the times when giant rattlesnakes come to break hearts and steal lives. But above it all are the woods, that world that I belong to and that belongs to me.
THE SAND SHEET
Forward by M. Jimmie Killingsworth
More than two million acres of sand, born and blown from an ancient sea beginning about ten thousand years ago, stretch across eight counties in deep South Texas. Known as the Coastal Sand Plain, the Texas Coastal Sand Sheet, or the Sand Sheet, it is a region of few people, little rainfall, and no water. Among the dunes and dry, brown flats, only the hardiest scrubs and grasses provide habitat for coyotes, quail that live here.
Arturo Longoria, whose cabin sits amid the sand scrub and desert motts of granjeno, brasil, and mesquite, knows this land intimately. A student of bushcraft and natural history, Longoria found refuge in this remote and hostile country as he recovered from a rare illness. He weaves a story as the backdrop for a steady migration of long distance “travelers,” who cross the border and into el desierto at great peril.
This book is about a harsh and dangerous landscape that has nonetheless given sustenance and solace to a writer for whom the Sand Sheet became both his home and his inspiration.
ARTURO LONGORIA is a writer and former journalist and teacher. He is the author of two award-winning books of non-fiction, Adios to the Brushlands and Keepers of the Wilderness.
What Readers Are Saying:
“For those of us who treasure the natives and nature of Deep South Texas, it is a blessing to have Arturo Longoria as our own Aldo Leopold meets James Michener. The Sand Sheet provides personal, and factual, insights into the nature and natural history just north of the Rio Grande.” –Colleen Hook, Director of Quinta Mazatlan-McAllen, Texas
“His book is a warning that “Destroy the plants and you ultimately destroy yourself.” But he offers hope that if a visitor can listen and wait for nature, it reveals the truth. The book is as prosaic in its rendering of a kaleidoscope of nature as it is wise in his quest for truth. But his special gift is the journey that he takes the reader into an experience of beauty that cannot be imagined. His message is that unless a person accepts this nature on its own terms, he will never recognize it when nature reveals itself in the quiet retreat of a gray fox into the dusk. He is anxious to warn us about losing our earth, and he wants finally to know truth. The author has found himself deep in the Sand Sheet, and he is dying to share it with us.” –Andres Tijerina, author of Tejano Empire
“I knew Arturo Longoria first through his book Adios to the Brushlands followed by Keepers of the Wilderness and more recently The Trail. Spellbound, I wanted to meet this author, but I was told that he didn’t spend time in the public. Years went by before I finally met him by coincidence at a native plant project where I learned that I also live in the Texas Sand Sheet. Our love for the South Texas native land, native plants, and all things old and natural quickly bonded us as fast friends. Arturo Longoria articulates what I know and love through his eloquent writing, especially in The Sand Sheet, and I always look forward to our next contact with eager anticipation, whether phone call, text message, or in-person visit. –Ruth Hoyt, Photographer, Friend, Colleague.
The Sand Sheet is poignant proof that Longoria’s first book, Adios to the Brushlands was a misnomer. He could no longer say goodbye to the South Texas brushland than he could still his beating heart. The harsh yet beautiful brushland is part of his very being, a powerful p art of who he is. It explains why he chooses to live and write about the inhospitable yet beautiful edge of the desolate South Texas sand sheet. Though most of us would never choose to live there, to see it through his eyes and in his words, is a revelation and a treasure. Longoria sees more keenly and feels more deeply.” –Jim Chapman, Chair of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Sierra Club.