At some point in Dave's first years back in Austin, he met a Ph.D. student in the Spanish Department, a Peruvian named Luis Ramos-García. Dave and Luis worked together on several publications, including Washing the Cow's Skull, the bilingual anthology of Texas poets published under Dave's Prickly Pear imprint. Before that, Luis included one of Dave's "Cowtown Sketches," entitled "Palominos & Paradise," in his bilingual collection of Tales from Austin.
In the English Department at UT-Austin, Dave found a non-tenure-track position for up to two years. During his first year, he had the opportunity to teach Creative Writing classes. Once again, he used publications as teaching tools. Instead of having a textbook for his poetry-writing course, Dave told his class that they would create their own publication, an anthology of the students' own work. At the end of the semester, Dave invited the students to his and María's home to assemble the printed pages and staple the spines of the booklets. Dave drew the cover illustration and the students colored with crayons the rose in the mouse trap. The title of the collection was a phrase taken from a student's poem. The back cover reproduced a "found" poem by another student.
Dave's second creative writing course was on the short story, and again he had the class create the contents for their own publication, whose title was taken from one of the student stories. The cover design was also the work of a class member.
After two years as an assistant professor in the English Department, Dave returned to his occupation of shoe salesman that had supported him during his high school and college years, beginning in Beaumont in 1955. In Austin he found an opening at the uptown Dacy's Shoe Store, having previously worked at the campus location in 1965. To help with the family income, María applied for a library assistant position in the UT library system and was hired by the Engineering Library. She had worked at the University of Chile engineering library before she became a librarian at the Binational Institute in Santiago, Chile, where she and Dave had met. While the kids were growing up, María wanted to be at home to enjoy giving them her undivided attention. With both children in school in 1978, she could work half-time at the library and be home by the time they returned to the house. During her twenty-five years with the library system, she worked in various libraries, in addition to the engineering: Chemistry; the LBJ School of Public Affairs Library; the interlibrary loan service; and the Benson Latin American Collection, the last for thirteen years. She retired in 2003 and is shown in this photograph at her retirement party at the Benson Library.
In early 1979, María noticed in a UT library publication an opening for an editorial assistant at the Humanities Research Center, the University's rare book and manuscript collection. Dave applied for the position and was hired, and shortly afterwards he replaced the editor of the Center's publications, who had planned to retire. For seventeen years, Dave edited the Center's journal, The Library Chronicle, as well as other HRC publications. Three of the more than fifty issues of the Chronicle edited by Dave are shown above, including a special issue devoted to the Benson Latin American Collection, with an article by María about her research on Chile in the library's archives. The special Benson issue of the Chronicle (vol. 22, no. 3), along with a double issue of the journal (vol. 22, nos. 1/2), were winners of the 1992 award for best journal design from the Council of Editors of Learned Journals. Under Dave's editorship, the Chronicle also won two ASCAP-Deems Taylor awards for articles on music in the HRC collections written by composer-professor William Penn. Long before Dave had met and worked with Dr. Penn, he had heard on National Public Radio the performance of one of his own compositions, on which Dave had based his poem entitled "Of 'Guernica' for Solo Viola by William Penn," included in his Backtracking.
Dave with one of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor awards won by the Chronicle for articles on music by Professor William Penn.
At the same time that Dave was selling shoes, he began teaching one night class each semester at Austin Community College. This helped a bit with the family's income, and kept Dave active in his profession. Among his many students over the years was one named Fred Afflerbach, pictured above during his years as a truck driver. After Fred had begun to write for trucker magazines, he returned to school at age 50 and took two courses from Dave at ACC. On finishing the community college two-year degree, Fred studied creative writing and completed his B.A. at Texas State University, eventually writing two published novels, Roll On (2011) and The Bison and the Butterfly (2016). In Roll On, Fred's main character, a truck driver, reads poetry, and one poem that he reads is Whitman's "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer," which Fred knew from Dave's course. The novel also refers to jazz, a music that Fred learned about and enjoyed in Dave's class, which included references to it in Jack Kerouac's On the Road. For the last class meeting of one semester, Fred wrote a poem that touched on the various works studied in the course. Fred's poem begins "Follow the jumpin' jazz to room Ten-Forty-eight / Down the hallway, where 'Wild Nights' await." It was gratifying to Dave, on reading Fred's writings, to find that in his poem and in his novel his student had made good use of classroom materials from Dave's ACC courses.
Excerpt from Fred Afflerbach's novel, Roll On, published in 2011 by Academy Chicago Publishers.
We weaved through the South Dakota Black Hills inside a thirty-four ton tractor-trailer with an eight-track emitting Duke Ellington standards. We rode up and down with the tempo, pulling, pulling the grade; then at the top, working the stick shift in unison with the jazz piano . . ., he grabs the right gear, one out of thirteen, without using the clutch, and you feel and hear the engine purr as the rpms drop. . . . One night the gallant trucker slept in the half-empty trailer and surrendered to us his bunk. That's how we discovered his nighttime reading--poetry. He keeps an anthology of Whitman, Dickinson, and Frost, wrapped in brown paper, tucked into the corner of his sleeper.
. . . Before this trip, we believed truckers drove in long convoys town-to-town with their buddies, leering down from their cabs at women with low tops and high skirts. We thought they all had chrome silhouettes of naked ladies on their mud flaps. Before this trip, when we thought of truckers, we thought of potholes and potbellies.
Instead, we found a Renaissance man, someone who can shepherd a tractor-trailer rig across the continent, but also enjoys poetry and jazz. Now that's the spirit of the rugged American individual.
While Dave worked as an editor and taught a night class each semester at ACC, he also offered to teach, for no pay, several Humanities courses at UT. In one course on music criticism, he had a student named Elias Haslanger, who was a music major and later a popular Austin jazz tenor saxophonist. (See the Texan Jazz Jam poster in the All That Jazz section.) In another Humanities course on poetry, he had a student named Peter Streckfus, who in 2004 would win the Yale Younger Poets Award. Dave never felt that he deserved any credit for the success of students of his who did well as writers, but he was certainly proud of their achievements. As Texas poet Richard Sale has written, "[T]hose who apprenticed / to you . . . turn out to be journeymen and more, / taking braver steps than you had balls / or brains to take. It produces / pride with a dash of humility. Pride / with a dash of envy." (See Dave's book review, "Clowning Around With Junk Mail," in his Generations of Texas Poets.)
Peter Streckfus's prize-winning collection of poems, The Cuckoo, published by Yale University Press in 2004, with a Foreword by Louise Glück.
excerpt from the poem entitled
High winds do not last all morning.
Ruling the country is like cooking a small fish.
Inner light relumed. Or livestock sacrificed.
Not seeing desirable things. Or cowing.
Washed. Or unkempt and without hindrance.
The gold-hooped nature. Or this one now aims to kill!
Sky astray, the president's old foe evades his parry,
but using his lance with difficulty, he halts the monkey's rod.