Longform

Howard's End

Page 8 of 8

Briefly, Billie Ruth Loving's tour had taken me back to another time and place.

Later, we drove downtown, where librarian Cherry Schults showed me the collection of Howard books that now fills a corner shelf and brought from the safe the original manuscripts of short stories and poems he'd written. "We've got a number of kids in town who come in to check out his books," Schults says. "Robert E. Howard now has a whole new generation of fans here in Cross Plains."

And so, in a few hours' time, I had seen all there was to see.

As I drove through the West Texas dusk, leaving the newly flickering lights of Cross Plains behind, it occurred to me there really had been no great truths to find there, no hidden magic that had inspired and given rise to the legend of the late Robert E. Howard. I saw nothing in the vast countryside of endless droughts, mesquite, and tumbleweeds that might have suggested the mythical lands wherein his most popular fiction was set; learned of no local mores or history of troublesome social climate that would have bred the anger and bloody vengeance of the barbaric warriors Howard created. It was, I decided, not even the big-sky isolation and rural loneliness that had fueled such a rich and vivid imagination.

All those secrets I'd hoped to learn, it occurred to me, were forever locked away in the mind of a man who, depending on one's viewpoint, was either madman or genius, horribly tormented or remarkably blessed--or, just maybe, a little of each.

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers

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