When talking or writing about Texas and its people, caricatures are inescapable; Porterfield knows this, and he works with it--with the myths engendered by gargantuanism and with such familiar tintypes as the oilman and the cowboy. Take a second-generation oilman like Loyd Powell, Jr., marooned in Environmental America. Not only are the heroic days of his father gone, but he must do business in a ""carpeted cubicle"" far removed from his beloved drilling rigs. On the old range, newly invaded by grass-fed ""beefalo,"" old cowpokes shake their heads, even though this strange crossbreed promises economic salvation. In a series of deft, appealing sketches, many of which have appeared in local periodicals, Porterfield captures some oddly plumed birds: Brother Nail, the itinerant preacher of his childhood, who ""wore shiny pointed shoes, a bow tie, and loud poolhall suspenders""--and later turned up as a Thom McAn salesman; Don Pedrito, a Mexican faith healer, dead more than half a century but still revered in south Texas; Amon Carter, the Fort Worth publisher and promoter who devoted his life to furthering the enmity between his home town and Dallas; and the Reverend Bobb, a Choctaw Indian ""on the Christian warpath"" fighting paganism in his reluctant flock of converts from the old nativist spirits. Porterfield even brings on H. L. Hunt, the fire-and-brimstone billionaire, unexpectedly benign in old age: ""at eighty-five he was munching dates and doing the full lotus and aiming at a century and more."" Easy to take, even for skeptical Yanks.