The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

South Campus honors female author during presentation

By Gregory Hoeft

South Campus students heard the history of Breaking Barriers: The Life of Elithe Kirkland, Texas’ First Great Female Author March 17.

Michael H. Price, long-time collaborator, gave the presentation, which was a reminiscent retelling of the circumstances that brought a then 80-ish novelist, columnist and Texas folklore enthusiast together with a musician, author and composer in the late 1980s.

Elithe Kirkland will be celebrated at Wildcatter Exchange.
Elithe Kirkland will be celebrated at Wildcatter Exchange.

Price described Kirkland’s writing career as pioneering. He said women writers in Texas didn’t happen then.

“I mean, Texas authors at the time, and this is the 1950s for the most part, were big, tough rancher guys,” he said. “You didn’t find a lot of diversity on the list, and yet, two of the first Texas authors to break out to best-seller status, that is, New York Times Best Seller rank were women from Texas: Elithe Kirkland from down state and Patricia Highsmith from Fort Worth [The Talented Mr. Ripley].”

Kirkland was just about as diverse as it got for a woman author. Her first achievement was high school valedictorian. She was later a journalist, schoolteacher, librarian, publicist on radio at KRLD in Dallas/Fort Worth, novelist and, in collaboration with the Saltlick Foundation, an East Texas string band, a playwright and poet.

Price said his exposure to Kirkland went way back and was tied to a book he had read at the age of 10 with what was considered a “scandalous” title: Love Is a Wild Assault, written by Kirkland in 1959. He was drawn to the sensationalism of the book and found it a great read.

He described it as an “epic Texas historical novel with a lot of romance in it, very like Gone With the Wind, except set in Texas.”

When one of his Saltlick counterparts mentioned he had “stolen” a line from one of Kirkland’s novels to use as a lyric, things came full circle, Price said.

“That’s where it flashed,” he said. “‘Time’s just a record of losses and wins, and it will all even out in the end.’ Real country, down-home soul,” he said.

They had both grown up enjoying the novel.

Kirkland and Saltlick, “a group of grizzled bar-band veterans,” had begun collaborating on a prose, song and stage production based on Kirkland’s retelling of the tale of “Old Rip,” an unfortunate horned toad that was bricked up into the cornerstone of the Eastland County Courthouse. When a new courthouse was being built, workers found the toad still alive, hence his nickname (short for Rip Van Winkle). Such a celebrity was even taken to the Oval Office to be shown to President Calvin Coolidge while on tour.

“There are a lot of new things to find out about old things,” Price said, explaining that history is never old because there is a lot more to discover.

Price found Kirkland’s work an exceptional, if not eccentric, reflection of the Texas folklore in poetry, dance and song.

Kirkland will be one of the many wordsmiths celebrated at the Wildcatter Exchange March 27-29 in the Historic South Main Village in Fort Worth. This will be the event’s second year celebrating the written word in all its various forms.

Celebrating the written word

For more information about the Wildcatter Exchange, visit

http://www.wildcatterexchange.org

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