I just finished reading Where the West Begins. I think it is a terrific, eye-opening book.
The part on the civil war was very strong and just the opposite of what I learned in the state mandated 6th grade course in 1968. There was real dissent in Texas about whether to secede from the Union and this dissent translated to violent skirmishes on a line from Gainesville, Texas, south. This has been dealt with some in other specialty Texas histories such as Richard McCaslin's "Tainted Breeze" and David Smith's "Frontier Defense in the Civil War", but Mr. Ely provides a wholistic view of the conflict. He documents that the dissenters and the Native Americans were able to drive the effective border of West Texas 100 east during the civil war. Very interesting and enlightening.
The environmental chapter was very interesting. It documents the effect of industrial farming and ranching west of the 100th Meridian. The 2010 census results which show the resulting population losses in the panhandle and south of it. The loss of these west Texas communities is an on-going tragedy. This is history as it happens and the issue will have long term effects in Texas.
There is a fascinating page in the conclusion which ties the history of part of West Texas to the history of the Plains to the north. I wanted to see more on that topic.
The point that resounded with me the strongest is that Texans have used myths instead of history to respond to various image issues that the State has had from time to time. This is best documented in the chapter on race relations. Where the image of the cowboy is used to obscure the Southern roots of the largest part of Texas and the story of the Alamo, Goliad and San Jacinto is reworked to leave out the Tejano contribution.
This book should be a great start to a rethinking of the complex true history of this great state.