Texas Originals: Roy Bedichek
February 21, 2014 12:02:00 am
June 27, 1878–May 21, 1959
According to J. Frank Dobie, the writer and naturalist Roy Bedichek “liked to cook outdoors, eat outdoors, sleep outdoors, look and listen outdoors, [and] be at one ... with the first bob-whiting at dawn.”
Bedichek was born in 1878 and raised on a farm south of Waco, where he absorbed the sights, sounds, and rhythms of the blackland prairie.
He spent the majority of his professional career as director of the state’s University Interscholastic League, which promotes academic and athletic competition in Texas public schools.
But Bedichek is best remembered for the books he wrote late in life. In 1946, at age sixty-eight, he spent nearly a year in seclusion at Friday Mountain Ranch, writing Adventures with a Texas Naturalist.
A classic of American nature writing, Bedichek’s book—like Thoreau’s Walden—mixes natural history with moral and philosophical speculation. The prose is crisp, unpretentious, and engaging. Bedichek views the world and the cosmos from his particular vantage point on the Edwards Plateau. In 1947, Dobie described the book as perhaps “the wisest and most civilized book that Texas has yet produced.”
A bronze statue of Bedichek, Dobie, and the historian Walter Prescott Webb now stands at Austin’s Barton Springs Pool, where the three friends spent many a hot summer afternoon. The statue is an especially fitting monument to Bedichek, who helped so many recognize the beauty and value of the state’s natural treasures.
The Philosophers' Rock sculpture at Barton Springs Pool. Photo by Barron Fujimoto.
Bedichek, Roy. Adventures with a Texas Naturalist. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994. First published 1947 by Doubleday.
Bedichek, Roy. Educational Competition: The Story of the University Interscholastic League of Texas. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1956.
Bedichek, Roy. Karánkaway Country. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1974. First published 1950 by Doubleday.
Bedichek, Roy. The Sense of Smell. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1960.
Davis, Steven L. J. Frank Dobie: A Liberated Mind. Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2009.
Dobie, J. Frank. “A Wise and Civilized Book on Nature.” Dallas Morning News, October 5, 1947.
Dugger, Ronnie, ed. Three Men in Texas: Bedichek, Webb, and Dobie. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.
Hudson, Wilson M. "Bedichek, Roy," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbe21), accessed May 26, 2012.
Owens, William. Three Friends: Roy Bedichek, J. Frank Dobie, Walter Prescott Webb. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1969.
The Roy Bedichek Family Letters. Selected by Jane Gracy Bedichek. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1998.
Douglass, Neal. [Roy Bedichek standing next to tomato plants with a house in the background], Photograph, June 20, 1958; digital image, (http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth19210/ : accessed September 21, 2012), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, http://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Austin, Texas.
This episode originally aired September 21, 2012.