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A Passion for Texas Literature and the Haley Library

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A Passion for Texas Literature and the Haley Library

  • Patrick Dearen and Pat McDaniel - tied together

As the author of 24 books, Patrick Dearen knows the importance of research.

Whether writing nonfiction or a novel, getting historical context right is key to telling a good story. And what better place for research than a library?

That’s where Pat McDaniel and Midland’s Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library & J. Evetts Haley History Center come in. McDaniel is director of the privately funded library that preserves the history, traditions and ideals of early Texas and the Southwest.

Says Dearen, “For anyone studying the history of the Southwest, particularly as it involves the cattle industry, the Haley library is a little-known gem.” Adds McDaniel, “A novelist could find inspiration for eternity.”

Library founder J. Evetts Haley was the son of pioneer Midland-area ranchers and himself a working rancher. Over his lifetime, he wrote more than 20 books on the West. His extensive collection of books, photos and artifacts is part of the library, which is named after his wife.

Here are some of Dearen and McDaniel’s thoughts about the library:

How did you get involved with the library?

Dearen: My involvement dates to the 1980s, when I set out to chase down the lore and legend of West Texas. I had been a regional reporter for both the San Angelo Standard-Times and the Midland Reporter-Telegram, and I heard many stories that intrigued me enough to do primary research in the remarkable holdings of the Haley.

McDaniel: I knew J. Evetts Haley before even considering going to work at the library.  A mutual friend of ours contacted me to apply for the position upon the departure of the previous director in the spring of 1995. After passing muster with the Board of Trustees, I officially was on the payroll on July 1, 1995. Mr. Haley died in October 1995.

What is your favorite book in the library?

Dearen: I think Charles Goodnight: Cowman and Plainsman by J. Evetts Haley is one of the greatest books ever written about the American Southwest. The library contains not only copies of all the interviews that Haley conducted with Goodnight, but every draft of the manuscript.  The material makes for fascinating insight into the remarkable figure of Goodnight.

McDaniel: How do you pick a favorite in a building with 25,000 books?  I find myself re-reading the Charles Goodnight book by Mr. Haley.  The historical events related in that book spawned the most popular historical fiction ever written, Lonesome Dove — still my favorite film of all time.

Where is your favorite place in the library?

Dearen: Just lock me inside the archives, and give me a little food and water, and I’ll be happy.  Even though I’ve researched at the Haley for more than three decades, there are still so many hidden treasures. Among those are audio interviews that Haley conducted with individuals beginning in 1945. These SoundScriber discs — 215 hours — have now been digitized, allowing a researcher to listen to the actual recollections of pioneers born as early as 1850.

McDaniel: When I can justify the time spent, usually when a research request comes in that I handle, I am very easily distracted in the files of Mr. Haley’s 600-plus transcribed interviews with the old traildrivers and lawmen.  The true stories told by those old-time westerners cannot be equaled. 

Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library & J. Evetts Haley Research Center
Learn about Texas and southwestern history including the cattle industry and those behind it. The library features more than 30,000 volumes covering western exploration, early railroads, and the development of ranching, mining, petroleum and politics. The library also features extensive information on New Mexico’s Lincoln County War and Billy the Kid, and a collection of bronze sculptures, paintings and artifacts.

Nita Stewart Haley Memorial Library & J. Evetts Haley Research Center
1805 W. Indiana Ave.
Midland, TX 79701
(432) 682-5785

Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday–Friday
Admission: Free

Patrick Dearen is an award-winning author. His books include his latest nonfiction work — Bitter Waters: The Struggles of the Pecos River, the first environmental history of the Pecos — and a novel, Apache Lament, based on the last military-Indian battle in Texas.

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