We offer the work of Texas photographer and writer, Blair Pittman of Fort Worth. An award-winning photojournalist, first at the Denton Record Chronicle and later at the Houston Chronicle, Blair has had a distinguished career.

His work for National Geographic focused his keen eye on the wonders of the Texas Big Thicket, which became the subject of his first book, The Natural World of the Texas Big Thicket. During his several years photographing and learning the wild variety of the Thicket, Blair was befriended by I. C. Eason. Blair's next book, I. C. Eason, King of the Dog People recounted Eason’s tales of his struggle for survival and to save his land. Texas Caves sprang naturally from Blair’s lifelong fascination with caving. His National Speleology Society membership dates back to the early 50s!

Blair lives in the remote region of the Big Bend of the Rio Grande, in Terlingua, Texas. Tales from the Terlingua Porch, Vol. 1  was published in 2005, and late in 2009, the sequel was published, More! Tales from the Terlingua Porch, Vol. 2.
Books by Blair Pittman

Texas Caves
The Natural World of the Texas Big Thicket
The Stories of  I. C. Eason, King of the Dog People
Tales From The Terlingua Porch, Vol. 1
More! Tales From The Terlingua Porch, Vol. 2

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More! Tales from the Terlingua Porch, Vol. 2
Wimberley, Texas Sun Country Publications 2009 098433730X / 9780984337309 First Edition Soft Cover Fine 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. 

More stories from Blair Pittman. Enjoy these glimpses of life in the remote, rugged and stunning beauty of the Big Bend area of Texas. 67 pages. Soft cover with drawings by Mark Kneeskern.

Price: $11.95

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Blair Pittman has turned his love of caving into a beautiful new book "Texas Caves."  Photo By Gerald E. McLeod
Member since 1952
National Speleology Society
Texas Caves by Blair Pittman
Lots of photography in this study of Texas caves by prize-winning photographer and life-long caver turned writer, Blair Pittman who has signed this copy on the half title page.

Many contributors make this a good reference with amazing cave photographs. 122 pp.  Price $40.00

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Texas Caves, explores the subterranean world with the affection of someone with a deep, abiding love and respect for the sanctity of the fragile environment below our feet.

Taking pictures of caves as a boy led Pittman to a career in photography with the Houston Chronicle, National Geographic, and Smithsonian. Over the years, the 62-year-old Pittman has visited thousands of caves and worked for several of the seven commercial caves in Texas. This 122-page book published by Texas A&M Press might be the masterpiece of a career that has included photographing LBJ, Nixon, and Elvis.

In addition to its beautiful photography, the book could also be school book for would-be cavers or those just intrigued by the amazing world below the surface. The pages cover a lot of ground from the critters and geology of Texas caves to a history of the exploration and development of the caverns.

"Doing the book was a trip back in time for me," Pittman said in an interview from his home in Jarrell. Until recently he was the manager of Cave Without a Name near Boerne, but his curiosity for exploring caves goes back to 1949. In one of the most enjoyable portions of the book, Pittman tells of a gut-wrenching descent 150 feet into the Devil's Sinkhole near Rocksprings, using fencing wire as a rope, underwater breathing equipment fashioned from instructions taken from a Popular Mechanics magazine, and a flashlight sealed in a Mason jar.

Probably the most special portion of the book is Pittman's interviews with three of the pioneers of Texas spelunking -- Orion Knox, Jack Burch, and Jim Brummett. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, these three men opened a new world to millions of visitors. Pittman was there with them exploring the muddy recesses, building trails, and documenting the progress.

Pittman calls the essays "verbal histories," and they read much like the subjects related the stories. Knox had never before told his story about how he and a group of students from St. Mary's University in San Antonio explored and named the rooms of Natural Bridge Caverns near New Braunfels.

Burch, an avid caver, helped develop the Caverns of Sonora and Natural Bridge Caverns. In the book, he says the caverns had to be commercialized to protect them from souvenir hunters and destructive explorers. Brummett, who was also Pittman's father-in-law, tells his story from the view point of a cave manager. Although it has fallen in severe disrepair in recent years, Brummett built Cascade Caverns near Boerne into a showplace with a campground, dance hall, and barbecue pit. "Man, could he cook," Pittman says, "everything from brisket to potato salad and beans." The stories are priceless moments of Texas cave history.

"I don't consider myself a writer," Pittman says, even though he has authored three other books and has six more in the works. "I'm a storyteller. I'm a photographer who couldn't find a writer to say what I wanted to say. I'm a photographer forced into it." The book includes a section on taking photographs in the inky underground darkness. Pittman's next book will be a travel guide on Texas caves.

Texas Caves is much too pretty of a book to use in the traditional travel guide sense, but it will inspire an appreciation for the amazing beauty of the underground formations. "I write like I'm giving a tour," the former tour guide says. "I want to simulate and get [the visitors] excited about caves."
continued in next column...
The Stories of I. C. Eason,
King of the Dog People

Few people lived in the Neches River bottom as late as 1970. Humans were noticeable only in the occasional cabin or lean-to hunting camps built on the higher river bank ground.

Some of these camps belonged to locals known as the Dog People because of their hunting methods - handed down by their ancestors who had found this wilderness shortly before the Civil War - using a local-bred dog called a cur. This type of hunting was a method of survival that often prevented starvation for families during the Depression years.

I. C. Eason grew up in those lean times. His oral stories of generations of Dog People come from around the campfire, from the fishing boat, in front of a potbellied stove.

In the 1970s, I.C. Eason made the decision to prove ownership to his land, which, along with most river bottom land, had never had a deed filed on it. With a lawyer, he took on the big companies that wanted to cut the timber, drill for oil, lay pipelines, and put up miles of power lines. All of a sudden he was in the middle of a big battle, and he soon became known as "The King of the Dog People."

University of North Texas Press, 129 pages
Available in hardcover


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Tales from the Terlingua Porch

Porches in the desert offer shade in a sun-scoured landscape, they offer nice views, usually, and with any luck, you can purchase a cold drink somewhere nearby and consume it in good company. The porch in the Terlingua Ghostown may be the greatest porch anywhere. An ever-changing cast of regulars and passers-through share shade and stories, like as not.

These stories, collected by writer and photographer Blair Pittman, have been told and retold on the porch of the Terlingua Trading Company, which served as the porch of the Chisos Mining Company until the mercury mines closed in the 1940s.

2005  Sun Country Publications, 49 pages
Available in softcover


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Natural World of the Texas Big Thicket

Nature has ben astonishingly prodigal in Texas' Big Thicket. The teeming variety of its plant and animal life makes it a naturalist's paradise, an ecological system unique in the United States. In its woodlands, sloughs, and swamps, norther beaches and pine minle with magnolias; tough cactus and yucca intrude in a world of mosses, fragile fern, rare orchids, and carpets of wildflowers. Here bald eagles soar, and one hears of sightings of the ivor-billed woodpecker, perhaps extinct. Feral hogs and white-tail deer, bobcats and tiny shrews, armadillos and alligators thrive in the Thicket's wilderness. many species are not elsewhere seen together; some are seldom seen at all.

In the ninety-eight breathtaking color photographs included here, Blair Pittman presents a magnificent visual record of the natural world of the Big Thicket. The delicate hues and riotous color of its flora, the stillness of its swamps, the towering majesty of ancient trees, dense foliage that thwarts the midday sun, the mystery of an early-morning fog - such scenes reveal the Thicket's timeless beauty. The patterns of its life emerge in vivid shots of a pitcher plant awaiting a curious insect, a snake feeding on a frog, nesting egrests, an alligator waiting and watching, a shy fawn's hiding place. Whether one knows the Thicket well or sees it here for the first time, this book will delight and instruct for years to come.

Texas A&M University Press, 100 pages
Available in hard or softcover.
Hardcover  $24.95
Softcover  $17.95

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Texas Caves...continued

The new generation of cavers are not as concerned with exploring as they are in "CPR," Pittman says. That stands for conservation, preservation, and restoration. "They're having to clean up the mess that I helped make," he says. "We didn't know any better 40 years ago."

Texas has more than 3,000 known caves, but most are on private property and not open to the public. There are seven commercial or "show" caves listed in the book. All of the show caves have their unique attractions.

Natural Bridge Caverns, between New Braunfels and San Antonio, is one of the most spectacular underground formations in the state. As the largest commercial cave in Texas, some say it rivals Carlsbad Caverns. 830/651-6101.

Caverns of Sonora is the second spectacular Texas cave with an array of colorful formations. A long drive from Austin, it is outside of Sonora in West Texas, 915/387-3105.

Cave Without a Name outside of Boerne might be small, but as a local schoolboy said, "It's too pretty for a name." Managed by cavers and not heavily developed, Pittman called it "the cave with the worst location." It's well worth the effort to find it, 830/537-4212 or http://www.cavewithoutaname.com.

Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown was discovered during the construction of I-35. A cable car takes visitors down to the active limestone cave, 512/863-5545.

Wonder Cave in San Marcos is the oldest show cave in Texas and the only one formed by an earthquake. Attractions include a small amusement park and wildlife park, 800/782-7653.

Longhorn Cavern outside of Burnet is part of the state parks system and once was a dance hall among other things, 512/756-4680.

Cascade Caverns east of Boerne has fallen in disrepair, but features a 90-foot waterfall, 830/755-8080.

Texas Caves by Blair Pittman is available in hardcover and paperback at most local bookstores.

Hardcover  $34.95
Softcover   $19.95

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Blair Pittman
"If it Ain't the Truth, It Oughtta Be!"
Fifth Printing!