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In the 1950s, a series of dams was proposed along the Brazos River in north-central Texas. For John Graves, this project meant that if the stream’s regimen was thus changed, the beautiful and sometimes brutal surrounding countryside would also change, as would the lives of the people whose rugged ancestors had eked out an existence there. Graves therefore decided to visit that stretch of the river, which he had known intimately as a youth.

Goodbye to a River is his account of that farewell canoe voyage. As he braves rapids and fatigue and the fickle autumn weather, he muses upon old blood feuds of the region and violent skirmishes with native tribes, and retells wild stories of courage and cowardice and deceit that shaped both the river’s people and the land during frontier times and later. Nearly half a century after its initial publication, Goodbye to a River is a true American classic, a vivid narrative about an exciting journey and a powerful tribute to a vanishing way of life and its ever-changing natural environment.

Review

“John Graves’s writing is invaluable. . . . The reader who misses Graves will have missed much.” --Larry McMurtry

“As you read, you have the feeling that the whole colorful, brutal tapestry of the Lone Star State is being unrolled for you out of the biography of this one stream.” — The Atlantic Monthly

“Graves’ originality and flair turn this local scene and regional lore into an hoest and powerfully evocative picture of frontier life anywhere.” — The Chicago Sunday Tribune

“One of the most pleasing books I’ve ever read. I love the way it weaves together remote history, not so remote history, present events, and landscape.”—Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs

From the Inside Flap

, a series of dams was proposed along the Brazos River in north-central Texas. For John Graves, this project meant that if the stream’s regimen was thus changed, the beautiful and sometimes brutal surrounding countryside would also change, as would the lives of the people whose rugged ancestors had eked out an existence there. Graves therefore decided to visit that stretch of the river, which he had known intimately as a youth.

Goodbye to a River is his account of that farewell canoe voyage. As he braves rapids and fatigue and the fickle autumn weather, he muses upon old blood feuds of the region and violent skirmishes with native tribes, and retells wild stories of courage and cowardice and deceit that shaped both the river’s people and the land during frontier times and later. Nearly half a century after its initial publication, Goodbye to a River is a true American classic, a vivid narrative about an exciting journey and a powerful tr

From the Back Cover

In the 1950s, a series of dams was proposed along the Brazos River in north-central Texas. For John Graves, this project meant that if the stream''s regimen was thus changed, the beautiful and sometimes brutal surrounding countryside would also change, as would the lives of the people whose rugged ancestors had eked out an existence there. Graves therefore decided to visit that stretch of the river, which he had known intimately as a youth.
Goodbye to a River" is his account of that farewell canoe voyage. As he braves rapids and fatigue and the fickle autumn weather, he muses upon old blood feuds of the region and violent skirmishes with native tribes, and retells wild stories of courage and cowardice and deceit that shaped both the river''s people and the land during frontier times and later. Nearly half a century after its initial publication, Goodbye to a River is a true American classic, a vivid narrative about an exciting journey and a powerful tribute to a vanishing way of life and its ever-changing natural environment.

About the Author

John Graves was born in Texas and educated at Rice University and Columbia University. He published a number of books, chiefly concerned with his home region, including  Goodbye to a River, From a Limestone Ledge, Hard Scrabble, and Myself and Strangers. He died in 2013 in Glen Rose, Texas.

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4.6 out of 54.6 out of 5
375 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Dr. K. E. Patrick
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A River Runs through History of Texas
Reviewed in the United States on November 19, 2016
I love this book. It''s so lyrical and slow and meandering, like the river the author is traveling down. The first time I read it, I found the style a bit odd and jolty, but the second time, I get caught up in his language, his observations, and the way he intermixes his... See more
I love this book. It''s so lyrical and slow and meandering, like the river the author is traveling down. The first time I read it, I found the style a bit odd and jolty, but the second time, I get caught up in his language, his observations, and the way he intermixes his trip down the river with a trip down memory lane -- memories of the forefathers of those who settled in wild Texas in the mid-1800s amid the Comanches.

This is a no-holds-barred oral history of lives along the Brazos River northwest of Fort Worth in Texas. It''s no apology for savagery of the clash between Anglo settlers and the Indians who reigned supreme until killed off or relegated to reservations in Oklahoma.

Chapter 9 is especially brutal, but if you skip that one, the book is a fabulous addition to any high schooler''s Texas History study. It brought me to realize that most of what Texas History courses teach has failed to include the wildness and danger of northwest Texas, and that the state''s "six flags" is missing a seventh which lasted longer than all the others: that of the Comanche nation.
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Pithy Aphorism
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Farewell John Graves, you are missed.
Reviewed in the United States on December 3, 2019
I grew up seeing this book laying around for most of my life. My father and I completed several trips on the Brazos in my youth, and I’m familiar with many of the locations described, even vaguely. When my father passed away, I endeavored to read it, but couldn’t make it... See more
I grew up seeing this book laying around for most of my life. My father and I completed several trips on the Brazos in my youth, and I’m familiar with many of the locations described, even vaguely. When my father passed away, I endeavored to read it, but couldn’t make it far. It was too soon, and my longing for him was great in the pages I’d known without having yet read them. I picked my own copy up, signed by the author at Dinosaur Valley State Park’s gift shop, but still, it was too soon. When Mr. Graves passed, I knew it was time, to honor my father’s memories of him and of my father too. I’m really glad I did. It was like hearing my dad’s voice talking about his favorite place on earth. His remains reside in the river between Possum Kingdom Dam and Highway 4 outside Palo Pinto, so it''s said. Farewell, indeed.
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BlasterMaster
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Goodbye to a Lifestye
Reviewed in the United States on June 18, 2014
John Graves will eventually be remembered as a 20th century Mark Twain. A through and through Texan, but with an unusual sensitivity to nuance and nature, capable of capturing in words sentiments that move and inspire the reader. I once complained to... See more
John Graves will eventually be remembered as a 20th century Mark Twain. A through and
through Texan, but with an unusual sensitivity to nuance and nature, capable of capturing in
words sentiments that move and inspire the reader.

I once complained to Texas Monthly magazine that they were not publishing enough of his work and
much to my surprise, an assistant editor contacted me and arranged for me to meet Mr. Graves
at a book signing event. I was not disappointed as a some what wizened, sun burned gent eyed me
over while offering his gnarled hand. I related to him
how as a youngster I too had traveled down a favorite "creek" that was soon to be lost under the
flood waters of a new dam. He listened carefully and muttered about progress destroying nature.
I left with his signature and warm wishes, and have read everything he has published.
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Ruth Jones
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Good reading
Reviewed in the United States on May 15, 2017
Not the kind of book I usually read, but I''m soon going on the Brazos River and had heard about this book. The author writes in a conversational, sometimes cowboy sort of style, about his trip down the Brazos River and camping out of his canoe. He interjects a lot of... See more
Not the kind of book I usually read, but I''m soon going on the Brazos River and had heard about this book. The author writes in a conversational, sometimes cowboy sort of style, about his trip down the Brazos River and camping out of his canoe. He interjects a lot of stories from the days of the Comanches and pioneers. It''s very interesting to hear about a particular skirmish that occurred near the spot that you''re going to visit. Very colorful. Good reading.
4 people found this helpful
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C. M. Godfrey
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Goodbye? Maybe not.
Reviewed in the United States on September 26, 2018
This is a memoir of a man''s love of a stretch of the Brazos River in Texas that was destined to be lost to a series of dams. The author set out on a several week canoe trip to recall his enjoyment of the river. Ultimately, the dams were never built. In many portions of... See more
This is a memoir of a man''s love of a stretch of the Brazos River in Texas that was destined to be lost to a series of dams. The author set out on a several week canoe trip to recall his enjoyment of the river. Ultimately, the dams were never built. In many portions of the book, this reader wondered why anyone would take this trip. In other portions, the author provides a history of the region, anecdotes about the people he encountered, and legends about people and events that may or may not have been true. On the whole, it was an enjoyable read, and it will likely cause envy among confirmed outdoorsmen.
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gaosmer
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Not my usual fare, but excellent read
Reviewed in the United States on June 9, 2020
Found this ebook after completing Bill Sloan''s ebook on Saipan. The author was a veteran of WW2, who wrote this ebook in the late 1950s. Before they built five dams on the Brazos river in Texas. He is an observer of the long history of Texas mainly the pioneer during the... See more
Found this ebook after completing Bill Sloan''s ebook on Saipan. The author was a veteran of WW2, who wrote this ebook in the late 1950s. Before they built five dams on the Brazos river in Texas. He is an observer of the long history of Texas mainly the pioneer during the 1850s thru the 1890s. Since I have read Gynnes book on Quannah Parker,. I really liked this extended discussion of West Texas. Highly recommended for anyone.
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5050ranch
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A Must Read ! 5 Stars Is Not Enough !
Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2015
What an incredibly good read. John Graves narrative is an astounding lesson in history, ecology and philosophy, with a command of the English language that borders on meditative poetry. Astoundingly scholarly yet it''s easy, relaxing, serene, as well as entertaining and... See more
What an incredibly good read. John Graves narrative is an astounding lesson in history, ecology and philosophy, with a command of the English language that borders on meditative poetry. Astoundingly scholarly yet it''s easy, relaxing, serene, as well as entertaining and educational. You can see, feel and smell the river and environs as you "turn off your mind and float downstream" (apologies to the Beatles). You best be well read to catch all the off hand and subtlety casual literary references he makes at times, what a sheer delight and added spice to his prose. Shakespearean and Audubon like in nature at times Graves adds a strong dash of "cedar chopper/hunter/story teller" at others. There is an amazing array of characters past and present, chilling stories of Comanche''s and settlers and modern day inhabitants, peaceful days and dangerous stormy weather that instill action and fire into an otherwise serene trip downstream. Graves multifaceted personality and writing style is uncommonly literary and readable at the same. This is an amazing book, to be savored a few pages at time, read slowly and enjoyed, just like Graves'' lazy trip down the river in his canoe.
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John P. Jones III
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Meditations on the Brazos...
Reviewed in the United States on December 7, 2009
An astonishing book, by an extraordinary writer, and more importantly, an extraordinary human being. The book assumes the form of a narrative of the author''s three week solo canoe trip down the Brazos, a river about one hour by speeding car west of Ft. Worth, Texas; the... See more
An astonishing book, by an extraordinary writer, and more importantly, an extraordinary human being. The book assumes the form of a narrative of the author''s three week solo canoe trip down the Brazos, a river about one hour by speeding car west of Ft. Worth, Texas; the journey was taken "way down in the fall," in late November, 1959, when the northerners begin to howl, and bring snow. By most estimations, it is not much of a river, and even the author says: "...on a salty river unloved, unlovable except by a few loners and ranchers and cedar-hill misanthropes." Graves gives only glimpses into his background, and if you blink, you might miss them. But consider, here is a man who has read Joyce''s "Ulysses," and recalls that Leopold Bloom''s father had slept with his dog, Athos, in order to cure the father''s aches and pains, just as Graves was carrying a six-month-old dachshund he routinely refers to as "the passenger," for his own comfort. But Graves is equally well-grounded in the natural world, knows all the various types of trees, how they burn, and the appearance of the wood''s grain, and that: "the white oaks are prime...one of the finest of aromatic fuels is a twisted, wave-grained branch of live oak..." Graves was a Marine Captain during World War II, wounded on Saipan, but again the reader only gets the slightest glimpse of that in one passage in which that perspective is used to reflect on the casualties of this countryside during the frontier days: "I once saw 4,000 Japanese stacked like cordwood, the harvest of two days'' fighting, on one single islet on one single atoll awaiting bulldozer burial, more dead that the Brazos could show for its whole two or three decades of travail..." Graves has traveled as well, slight glimpses of which are permitted in "I''m familiar with the washed silent streets of Manhattan at five o''clock in the morning..." and "...did see dawn wash the top of the old wall at Avila..." and it was almost certainly there that he watched a man carve out a pair of wooden clogs with an ax, in fifteen minutes; a skill now permanently lost. An aspect of his life we are not afforded even the slightest glimpse are those that might be characterized, with a bit of leniency, as his "women problems," and thus why he might be alone. In anticipation of that conversational gamut, he rebukes us all: "Few people are willing to believe that a piece of country, hunted and fished and roamed over, felt and remembered, can be company enough."

Graves wrings so much meaning, and numerous stories, just like Faulkner has done before him, about a similarly "postage-stamp size" part of America; in the formers'' case it is the upper-middle Brazos river, maybe only a twentieth of its total length. He knows the history of the area well, particularly as it was settled during the frontier days, and one tectonic plate overwhelmed the one that had been there the longer, represented by "The People," the Comanche''s, the "Lords of the Plain," and the Kiowas. He weaves some beautiful vignettes from that period into his journey, with my favorite being the hanging of Cooney Mitchell; but there are numerous other memorable ones, including the smoking out of the recluse, Sam Sowell, from his shack. Graves teases the reader at the end, indicating that there is "No room..." for so many other tales that he has left untold.
The central theme is the river itself, and his farewell to it. At the beginning he describes his "enraged awe" when learning that it would shortly not exist, at least as he knew it, since it was being damned at several locations. Graves is one of the best naturalist writers extant, describing with love how the land lays "this way and that," and the wildlife along the way, some of which he kills for his food. He is inspired by Thoreau, whom he repeatedly calls "St. Henry." At the end, he questions whether it is all "a lament," but overall, you get the sense of acceptance; that things change, and this is one more, as so many residents flee to the factories of Fort Worth, Dallas, and Detroit. And how many nature writers, traveling down a river, sleeping in skewed tents, and eating squirrels, could wryly reflect on his existence through the prism of Veblen''s "The Theory of the Leisure Class"?

Grave''s book is chock full of philosophical takeaways, that should last me a long time, if not forever. I''ve traveled over the Brazos, about eight times in my life, each time I was going between 70, and hopefully 80 mph, trying to get out of Texas before nightfall. Thus, Graves rebuke stung: "The hard thing is to get slowed down." A more ironic thought recently resonated, when I was traveling with my wife to Death Valley. She said, of a road 30 miles to the east of DV: "We''ve been on this road before." And she was right: it was so like some other road we had previously traveled down in a desert landscape. I had to chuckle, because I assured her that it was quite impossible, but I shared with her one of Graves'' insights: "On the fringes of the middle age and after, the déja-vu is likely not to be illusory." Even less so, considerably beyond such a fringe!

Graves is one of the wonderful members of the exclusive 6-star read club.
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Top reviews from other countries

Michael Welsh
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Brilliantly descriptive and evocative writing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 24, 2017
An erudite writer who vividly describes the experience of travelling down a Texas river alone except for his dog and for the ever-present echoes of the colourful but savage Frontier history which is the context for this thoughtful man''s return there from the City. journey....See more
An erudite writer who vividly describes the experience of travelling down a Texas river alone except for his dog and for the ever-present echoes of the colourful but savage Frontier history which is the context for this thoughtful man''s return there from the City. journey. Brilliantly descriptive and evocative writing.
One person found this helpful
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Gary Power
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great Read
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 13, 2019
This is a wonderful book which I came across mentioned in Lawrence Wright''s also brilliant God Save Texas. The story is about a canoe journey on a part of the Brazos river in Texas before it was dammed. I get the felling it might have inspired Deliverance. The writing is...See more
This is a wonderful book which I came across mentioned in Lawrence Wright''s also brilliant God Save Texas. The story is about a canoe journey on a part of the Brazos river in Texas before it was dammed. I get the felling it might have inspired Deliverance. The writing is vivid, inciteful and occasionally very funny. It has wonderful nature descriptions and history of Texas plus a very astute take on life and man''s place in the world in general. I''ll read it again.
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N. Thomas
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Wonderful
Reviewed in Canada on March 28, 2021
Classic Texas novel. Great story!
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2021 popular Goodbye outlet sale to a River: outlet sale A Narrative online

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