Graves, at Hard Scrabble in 1992. Robert Hart
Graves, at Hard Scrabble in 1992. Robert Hart

Editor’s note: Beloved Texas author John Graves, a native of Fort Worth, died July 31 at his home near Glen Rose. His books on the Brazos River, particularly “Goodbye to a River,” established him, as The New York Times said, as “a giant in Texas letters and one of the nation’s more elegant prose stylists.”

On a cold, nasty, wet day in February 1992, writer Bryan Woolley and I drove down to John Graves’ place on White Bluff Creek in Somervell County. We were both working for The Dallas Morning News, and we were about to meet one of Bryan’s old friends and one of my literary heroes.

When we drove through the gate at Hard Scrabble we were greeted by John’s sheepdog Hodge, who was 10 and a bit stove-up in the hindquarters. He checked us out when we stepped out of my Bronco and decided that we were neither coyotes nor skunks, merely journalists, and allowed us to pass.


John and his wife Jane met us on the porch of their home and invited us inside where it was warm and there was coffee. I spent the next few hours listening to John and Bryan talk. While they discussed literature and books, I shot pictures.

When John and I talked, it was mostly about rivers and fly-fishing and books about rivers and fly-fishing. He was friends with Nick Lyons, the noted author and publisher of fly-fishing books, and at that time, he and Jane were still making yearly trips down to Florida to fish for tarpon with Lyons and a batch of other literary luminaries.

As the day and our time with John and Jane waned, I asked if I could come back the next weekend to photograph John fishing on White Bluff Creek, the small limestone stream that runs through Hard Scrabble. He said, “Absolutely.”

A few days later I returned, made my photos, and then spent some time fishing John’s two-weight rod for perch in his creek.

For the past 30 years I have made dozens of canoe trips down John’s stretch of the Brazos, sometimes with writer friends and sometimes by myself. There, alone, thigh-deep in John’s river, I am my most serene.


Robert Hart is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer based in North Texas.

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