I study colonial Texas and am currently finishing my book, Wrangling Pelicans, which describes life as a presidial soldier in eighteenth-century Spanish Texas. Historians such as Odie B. Faulk, Max L. Moorhead, and Sidney B. Brinkerhoff have written extensively about frontier forts and the resilient troopers who manned them. Their work is invaluable but generally takes a top-down approach, examining how Bourbon reforms like the Regulations of 1772 impacted these strongholds on an institutional level. Their scholarship often revolves around equipment, salaries, and troop numbers. In contrast, my book examines the full spectrum of presidials’ everyday lives—tasks that ranged from watching horses to wrangling pelicans. In other words, I provide a more bottom-up look at presidial life.
Recently, I founded Conceptions Review with Andrew Joseph Pegoda, a website where experts address common misconceptions in their respective fields. CR grew out of a passion for public writing. As scholars, Andrew and I believe that scholarship should not be locked behind paywalls or written in dense jargon. If you’re interested in writing for us, send in a pitch.
When not reading stories about presidials failing to catch Native raiders or editing wonderful articles such as Kendall Dinniene’s “Eat a Salad, Sweetie,” I am likely working on yet another book project—a biography of Spanish Texas’s most independent governor, Rafael Martínez Pacheco. Historians usually depict Martínez Pacheco as abrasive and incredibly stubborn and leave it at that. I argue that through his policies of providing Indians tribute and ignoring his superiors’ commands he stabilized and secured Texas for the Spanish Crown.
By the time I receive my doctorate, I will complete my most ambitious piece of scholastic work—a general history of the Karankawa people entitled Persistent Peoples. Past histories of Karankawas label these Indians as “the meanest, greediest, laziest, most treacherous, lecherous, vicious, cowardly, insolent aborigines of the Southwest, the scourge of the frontier.” A fresh history is needed. My book, besides reorienting the Karankawas’ image, places a spotlight on the Karankawas who are today reclaiming their land and who are protecting their culture. Instead of being “extinct” as scholars previously claimed, the Karankawas persistently survive.
After spending my day sufficiently clanking on the computer, I go about clanking on rock. My sights are set on multi-pitching Enchanted Rock, a nasty, Elvis-leg-inducing slab jutting out of the Texas Hill Country.
Beyond climbing, I enjoy rebuilding and repurposing cheap vehicles. My auction-bought 2001 GMC Yukon with 175,000 miles is currently being ripped apart and recarpeted. The Yukon’s rear axle requires replacing next. Afterward, I will install a sleeping platform for camping trips.
Carpentry is a new hobby that I am slowly becoming more and more proficient. With all the books graduate students inevitably gather, the ability to put together a quick set of shelves has been a boon.
At the end of the day, when the Texas heat lowers to a frigid eighty degrees, I pull up a blanket and watch a film. Some of my favorites include Barry Lyndon, In Bruges, and Fargo — reflecting on the list, I suppose I am a fan of dark comedies.
I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email.