A Rock between Two Rivers
Fracturing a Texas Family Ranch
The story of a man coming to terms with the environmental legacy of his family’s Texas ranch
A Rock between Two Rivers: Fracturing a Texas Family Ranch is the story of a man coming to terms with the environmental legacy of his family’s ranch in Dimmit County, Texas, and reckoning with the birthright he’ll leave for the generations who follow. What began for Hugh Fitzsimons as a mission to expose local ecological hazards from hydraulic fracking has turned into a lifelong effort to understand the more complicated story of how his family changed the land inherited from his grandfather, and deeper still, how the land irrevocably changed the family.
Water is the lens through which this fifth-generation rancher tells his story. While the discovery of oil in this part of Texas fueled the region's growth, water has the upper hand, determining where people live and how they make their living. Agriculture, ranching, drilling for oil, and now fracking all require water, with each pursuit requiring more and more but giving back less and less to the communities they’ve helped enrich. In A Rock between Two Rivers, Fitzsimons struggles with the inheritance he wants for his own children, one that considers the future consequences of our actions toward the land we are born to and owns the broader threats to our natural resources that loom in the near distance.
Interweaving a family narrative of a life built on the U.S.-Mexico border and the history of European colonization with its brutal consequences on the land and indigenous peoples, Fitzsimons explores how our attitudes toward this precious resource have changed alongside our relationship to the places we call home.
“The story of a third-generation Texas family rancher who is in tune with the natural world. He raises serious questions about the depletion and degradation of deep underground water supplies. ”
— Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior
“You can grab a fistful of South Texas scree and hold it in the palm of your hand, but you’ll never really feel the weight of it until it’s gone, blown off by the wind. That’s the message at the heart of Hugh Fitzsimons's touching A Rock between Two Rivers. It’s more than a story about the dangers of fracking; it’s an elegy for a vanishing land peopled by unforgettable characters, told with poetry and grace by a writer who was formed by that land.”
— Seamus McGraw, author of A Thirsty Land: The Making of an American Water Crisis and The End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone
“A Rock between Two Rivers is an elegy and a love song from a rancher with one boot in the sacred and one in the profane—a must-read account of the toll taken on Texas land by the mad dash to drain the Eagle Ford Shale. Atop a plundered aquifer and broken land, Hugh Fitzsimons traces the fracturing of the human spirit and asks us that most vital question: Will we learn to say ‘enough’ before it is too late? This is fracking understood in its full dimensions—a soul-shattering experience.”
— Adam Briggle, author of A Field Philosopher’s Guide to Fracking: How One Texas Town Stood Up to Oil and Gas
“With 'A Rock between Two Rivers', Hugh Fitzsimons has joined the ranks of Bernard DeVoto, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, and Larry McMurtry, writers who have shaped and given us our vision of the American West. Fitzsimons has woven a saga of the hardscrabble South Texas rangeland where he grew up, a timeless tale of ancient aquifers, Neolithic rock art, bloody tides of migration and displacement, a family history that reads like Chekhov scrawled on rawhide, and childhood memories that make you laugh, cry, gasp, or phone the nearest Hollywood agent looking for a surefire screenplay idea. It’s a classic love story, of boundless passion for one’s birthplace. And, sadly but inevitably, a tragedy, as greedy oilmen ravage the landscape, fracking away its life-giving waters and moving on. The same kind of story could be written about the entire American West today, of course. I’ve never read anything quite like A Rock between Two Rivers, but then books destined to endure through time and become classics are like that.”
— Rob Schultheis, author of Hunting Bin Laden and Waging Peace
“Dimmit County, Texas lives—Hugh Fitzsimons has found its pulse, stories the right color and depth to help him find truth in his ambivalence. Drawn into Hugh’s search, I have more proof of how we have changed the land but now must allow the land to change us.”
— Brooke Williams, author of Open Midnight: Where Ancestors and Wilderness Meet
“An evocative tale of life on the borderlands where humans and nature have wrestled for their daily survival for generations. As Fitzsimons warns us, we have come to a tipping point in the game.”
— Bryan Mealer, author of The Kings of Big Spring: God, Oil, and One Family’s Search for the American Dream
“Anyone who knows Sunny Fitzsimons as the great rancher, water conservationist, historian and statesman he is should not be surprised that that he is also capable of telling a breathtaking story. But with a topic as important as what he has chosen for his first book on the past and future of the West, he joins the ranks of John Graves, Larry McMurtry, Cormac McCarthy, and Mary Karr as one of the Lone Fractured State’s greatest writers.”
— Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Mesquite: An Arboreal Love Affair and Food from the Radical Center: Healing Our Lands and Communities
“A sensitively written volume, part memoir, part essay, a reflection on history and life over the millennia on the thorny, impassable brush country of Shape Ranch, and on the equally archaic water management and right of capture laws still at play in Texas." ”
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— Robert Rivard, The Rivard Report