A Kilgore, Texas, native is out with a book that unlocks the mystery of the murky Sabine River that snakes through the Piney Woods of East Texas.
“Running the River: Secrets of the Sabine” is an outgrowth of a newspaper series penned by then-reporter Wes Ferguson of the Longview News Journal. Ferguson, and photographer Jacob Croft Botter, traveled the river in a loaner boat, apprehensive of logjams and intrigued by the people who live on the water.
Ferguson landed a book deal with Texas A&M University Press in 2010 and spent weeks living the lifestyle of one “river rat” Danny Tidwell. Ferguson dedicated his book to him, and says Tidwell reveled in being dubbed the outlaw of the Sabine River.
“In some ways their lifestyle really appealed to me because I don’t really like working an office job 9-to-5. These people seemed to have their lives figured out. They really enjoyed their freedom and their ability to move around through the woods and on the water, and to get by," Ferguson said.
Author Jack Kerouac called the Sabine an “evil old river.” It’s one of the longest in the nation, more than 500 miles. But its reputation is more haunting. An occasional body is pulled from it. Alligators, water moccasins and mosquito swarms rule.
Ferguson writes in his introduction: A man shot at us our first day on the river. But that didn’t derail the duo. Ferguson says he’s acquired a new respect for the river.
“It’s not that there are just all these horrific crimes going on on the Sabine all the time. It’s just that when they do happen, people notice because it kind of verifies what they already thought about the river," Ferguson said.
The book launch is set for Thursday, April 3, from 5 - 8 p.m. at the Longview Museum of Fine Arts. An exhibition of Botter’s photography will also be on display. Ferguson is working on his second book about the Blanco River in central Texas.