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Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014

Gray Matter : Another Texas story

Monday, October 8, 2007

(Photo)
It's been a while since I brought you a Texas story so I was pleased to be reminded of one I thought you might enjoy.

I still subscribe to the weekly newspaper from Fredericksburg where we spent so many delightful winters. A recent issue carried the obituary of Julia Magdalene "Maggie" Lentz, age 88. I met Maggie when a friend and I enrolled in a local writing class. She was the strikingly attractive, but very quiet, class member whose infrequent contributions to the discussion were often more valuable than the advice from our instructor.

Ms. Lentz, the unmarried daughter of a Lutheran pastor, had been born in Nebraska, and had spent her growing-up years in various Texas locations. For a good many years she worked as a bank teller in the town of Sinton where she and a brother, Gotthold, shared a home with their aged mother. During those years she commuted to a college in Corpus Christi to earn her BA degree.

Gotthold and another brother, Rev. Rudy Lentz, had become painters of some repute in that part of the world before she found time to develop her talents, both as a writer and an artist. By the time I met her, the parents were deceased and Maggie and her brother had moved to a rural residence on Ranch Road One at Stonewall, just east of Fredericksburg. As you may (or may not) know, the only other residence on Ranch Road One was that of Lyndon Baines and Lady Bird Johnson. So my new friend had some distinguished neighbors!

Her assignments shared in the writing class were remarkably well done. In time, she told me of a book she had written, and then loaned me the manuscript so I could read it. Her intriguing story was based on an amorphous rumor that had circulated for years to the effect that John Wilkes Booth had, somehow, escaped execution and found anonymous sanctuary as a rural schoolmaster in the Texas Hill Country.

It was a great piece of work - in my humble opinion far superior to much that has made it into print. I didn't know her intimately enough to learn why she'd not found a publisher. Whatever the reason, it was the book world's Then, to my delight, I learned that she also painted and was offering some pieces for sale in an annual charity art show that spring. I made certain to be at the show when the door opened and was lucky enough to be able to purchase one of her precious little water colors. It depicts three youngsters picking wildflowers under a Hill Country live oak, which Maggie, in her inimitable creativity, had titled, "Harvesting Spring."

Still one of my most treasured possessions, it reminds me daily of that remarkable woman. Though she was next-door neighbor to the "rich and famous," she was as gracious to me as I'm sure she was to them -- the mark of a real lady. It was a privilege to call her my friend.