You might recognize W.F. Strong’s booming, theatrical voice from his Stories from Texas segment on public radio show Texas Standard. And as evidenced in his new book, Stories from Texas: Some of Them Are True, his signature storytelling style translates very well on paper.
In his collection of short stories and Texas trivia, published earlier this month by Great Texas Line Press, Strong writes about everything from Dr Pepper’s secret recipe (it’s not actually prune juice) to how the idea for Southwest Airlines began with a simple sketch on a bar napkin.
We spoke with the writer, University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley professor, and Texas Highways contributor about his favorite stories, why he wrote them all down, and how he came to be so passionate about the Lone Star State.
What was the main concept behind Stories from Texas?
I wanted to share these great stories about Texas that I think a lot of people didn’t know about, or had maybe a rudimentary understanding of. Texans, as you know, have a great deal of pride in their state, but I’m not sure a lot of people know why that pride is justified. Texas is a land of stories. A lot of contemporary Texans aren’t fully familiar with our great literature and our stories, so I wanted to tell them.
How did you find out about all of these stories?
My father was a great lover of Texas, and he’s the one who first got me inspired about the literature and history of Texas. He told me the first Texas pride joke I’d ever heard, where a Kentuckian says to a Texan, “We have enough gold in Fort Knox to build a wall of solid gold 6-feet-high all the way around Texas.” And the Texan says, “I’ll tell you what, you go ahead and build your wall and if we like it, we’ll buy it.” Sure, it’s not roll-off-the-couch funny, but I thought it was the greatest thing in the world—that wonderful “gotcha!” When I started working on the book, I thought back to these things my father had told me and then searched them out to get the full story behind them.
How long did it take you to do the research?
I didn’t plan to write a book, I was just doing these stories for radio. Every two weeks, I’d do a new story for Texas Standard, and I realized after a while I was getting quite a body of work. So I kept thinking, Maybe I should try to publish this.
Reading the book, so many of the things you write about seem so far-fetched. Are all of the stories actually true?
The subtitle “Some of Them Are True” is there just because I’m being playful with the Texas image of tall tales and stretched stories, but I really tried to make them as accurate as possible. I’m telling the truth, and the truth is magnificent as it is. It doesn’t need to be stretched much. Anything you read that surprised you, it was most likely true.