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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Lizards on the Mantel, Burros at the Door

I had to do a lot of preparatory research before writing my book, The Drive North: A Swing Down Memory Lane. A lot of it was rather tedious and boring historical reading, something I thought I was over when I graduated from college, but there was an occasional gem that I really enjoyed. One of the books that helped me along the way was Lizards on the Mantel, Burros at the Door: A Big Bend Memoir by Etta Koch with June Cooper Price.
Etta Koch moved her family to the newly created Big Bend National Park in Texas because her husband was hired to do some photography work. Peter, her husband, makes more than a few appearances in the story, but largely the memoir is about the family moving to the park and then the challenges and joys of Etta raising three young girls in what was an even more remote wilderness in the 1940s than it is now.
I had a really difficult time putting the Koch family story down. Etta and June did an excellent job writing it, and the story is quite fascinating. It didn’t hurt, either, that I read it shortly after my visit to what is now one of my favorite national parks in the United States. I felt a greater attachment to their story, since I had visited all of the sites referenced in the book.
So, while I would recommend this as a great read to anyone, I would like to go one step further and suggest to bring it along on a trip to the Big Bend. It’s not a long read – just under 200 pages – so it can easily be done on a long weekend away in the park. And it most certainly isn’t a difficult one, either, as the story is one of the most entertaining travel memoirs I’ve read in a long time.
Just looking at the cover of Lizards on the Mantel, Burros at the Door again makes me want to schedule a return trip to the Big Bend. After spending only a few days there, I have a strong attraction to the park. I have a lot of good memories, which I detail in my book, and saw some of the most impressive scenery in the United States. It truly is an amazing place, and one that Etta Koch did an excellent job of describing in her story during her life in the park.

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2 Comments on “Lizards on the Mantel, Burros at the Door”

  1. Nancy Ann Smith January 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    Does this book tell about Maggie Smith that ran the Hot Springs and store at the hot springs? I’ve heard rumor that it does and wanted to find out for sure before buying it. My husband grew up down there and he is the grandson of Maggie Smith. I am trying to find anything I can about her so it can be passed on to the younger generation of our family. My mother-in-law is getting old now and I don’t want our family’s history to be lost when she is gone. Thanks so much, Nancy Smith

    • Jason's Travels January 21, 2016 at 4:14 pm #

      It certainly does, Nancy. It’s been a number of years since I read it, so I don’t recall the specifics, but I know she was included.

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