Q & A with Winston Menzies
Author of The Spirit of Texas

 

Q. As the biographer and great-grandson of William Menzies, what do you believe was the greatest secret of his success?

William had a zeal and zest for life few only dream of. He planned fearlessly, took risks carefully, worked hard and was not afraid to operate on a large scale. His personal fortitude, self-reliance, resourcefulness, creativity and courage were readily apparent in all that he put his hand to. In due time, the Lord added His blessing. Even so, he was always faithful in the small things, staying committed to and loving his wife, family and God in the face of tremendous obstacles, reversals and hardships, as well as in times of great success. He made his mark on Texas by carving out the American dream as a rancher preparing the way for civilization.

 

Q. Living conditions during William Menzies’ time were much harsher than most of us have ever experienced in this day and age. Do you think such harsh conditions hindered him in any way?

During the late 1800s, houses were primitive in the frontier lands of West Texas. It is easy for us in today’s push-button modern times to look back and see their lack of all the new inventions we enjoy as a hindrance. True enough, there were no screens on their windows. There was no electricity, no telephones, no refrigerators or washing machines and certainly no air conditioning. There is no doubt they lacked many of the things that even they and their relatives enjoyed back east, but it didn’t really matter to them. They had freedom and the thrill of forging out a new life with great opportunity, building ranches and growing their family in a new land.

 

Q. In the book, you refer to your great-grandmother, Letha Ann, as being William’s greatest asset. Could you please elaborate?

Letha Ann was truly one of the greatest reasons for William’s phenomenal success. As they have always said, "Behind every successful man there is a great woman" and in William’s case that was probably never more true.

Over 59 years of marriage life, their faithful love and devotion to one another and to God made their many victories possible. It would be an understatement to say they had many problems.

One of the biggest problems their family had to face was the Great Depression. The long arm of lack caused by it sprouted tentacles and reached all across America from the big cities to the most remote ranches in West Texas. During the Depression, when it was difficult to even buy school shoes for the kids in the family, Letha Ann made sure that, no matter what, her family was taken care of and well fed.

She also held the family to the high moral standard of the family name. Once she was heard reprimanding one of the children saying, "Now, a Menzies wouldn’t do that!" That may be the best advice she passed on to all the future generations who bear the name.

 

Q. Do you believe the same kind of spirit and fortitude that men like William Menzies possessed is still alive in men and women today?

Yes. The spirit of Texas is a thing deeply rooted in its people. It has been the driving force behind building great, bustling cities the likes of Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. However, you can still find it even in the smallest businesses and on the smallest ranches, farms and towns in the Lone Star state. It can even be found in the wide spots in the road like the one where my family comes from.

 

Q. Other than documenting your family’s history, did you have another purpose in writing The Spirit of Texas?

The spirit of Texas has rested over countless rugged pioneering men and women whose brave acts of courage and selfless duty won the West and raised future generations of stalwart citizens just like themselves. Their individual acts of courage and devotion have often gone unnoticed or have, regrettably, been long since lost in the sands of time. Remembering and learning from our heritage keeps future generations from having to start over from scratch. The men and women who settled there and made the great state of Texas what it is today deserve our tribute. Maybe through recognizing their contributions we can, with God’s help, leave the state as we found it or hopefully, by His grace, a little better.