Monday, May 30, 2011

Totally Texas -- Barbarian pride in the heart of Texas

Robert E. Howard Days
Cross Plains
Next week, June 10-11, marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of Robert E. Howard Days, the annual festival in the small West Texas town of Cross Plains, where the creator of Conan and other adventure characters lived most of his adult life. Although the date is the anniversary of Howard’s suicide, the event gives visitors a chance to see how Howard lived, in the little white house on the western edge of town with his parents from 1919 until his death in 1936, as well as the collection of his writings and publications during extended hours at the Cross Plains Library, 149 N. Main.

The Howard house at 625 SW 15th St. has been lovingly restored in ways recognizable to fans of the movie, The Whole Wide World, based on the memoir by Howard’s friend Novalyne Price Ellis. During a visit a few years ago, I found the room -- actually, an enclosed porch -- where Howard slept and wrote, fascinating. In that tiny space he launched characters whose adventures carried him in imagination to places far away from the Texas hills and prairies. A covered area near the house hosts an annual swap meet for fans.

Another favorite site for visitors is Brownwood, about forty miles south of Cross Plains, where Howard and his parents are buried in Greenleaf Cemetery, 2615 Highway 377 South.

Two long-time publishers of the works of Howard (or REH, as fans call him) will be guests of honor at this year's REH Days -- Damon Sasser and Dennis McHaney.  Sasser publishes the fanzine REH:  Two-Gun Raconteur.  McHaney has published REH's works for nearly forty years, including The Howard Review.

If you want to stay overnight, you'd better make your lodging reservations pronto.  One fan on the REH Forum's travel advice page said he'd called Cross Plains's only lodging place, the 36 West Motel, this past January, only to be told they were already out of rooms for the event.  A couple of hotel sites I checked couldn't even find Cross Plains, but if you're willing to look thirty to forty miles further away, rooms appeared available in neighboring towns as of this writing.  Cross Plains is located on Texas Highway 36, south of I-20, between Fort Worth and Abilene.

(Next Monday -- Longhorns and horses and cowboys, oh my!  Pioneer Plaza in Dallas.)

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