How One Man in One Small Boat Feeds South Texas

This article was published as part of a cover feature story for THE BEND Magazine highlighting local farmers and fishermen in South Texas.

This piece is short but says so much about this good man and where our fish comes from–our real seafood from our own local waters. This photo by Rachel Benevides was later used in a state-wide marketing campaign to promote tourism to South Texas.

David Fanchier was born to fish.  You might say he has saltwater in his blood.

Clyde Fanchier, David’s father, started taking him fishing when he was just out of diapers.  As a boy, David stayed with his dad on a houseboat in Baffin Bay several days a week, just to be closer to the fish.  David has been fishing for forty-five years.  He is a master of his craft with many good years ahead of him.

David’s commercial drum business is one man and one small boat.  Still, this fisherman catches nearly 50,000 pounds of fish every year.

David sustains his astounding production by going out six days per week, every week of the year.  In the summer, he catches between 200 and 500 pounds of fish per day; in winter, it can be double that amount.

His income is based on the sheer tenacity of math, the slow addition of one fish at a time hauled heavily into the boat, day after day.  There is no sick leave for David, no paid vacation, no time off.  It’s an old-fashioned equation for earning a living. 

David delivers his catch each morning to Morgan Street Seafood.  He carries the black drum, still living, into the market to be weighed.  Charlie Alegria, the owner, sits at his workbench to gut, head, and filet the fish as customers stand in line and call out their orders.  It is as fresh and good as any fish, anywhere. 

David is a man of faith.  His faith drives him to work hard and it lifts him over the rough patches.  He is also, like Charlie, a man of integrity.  David can leave his catch at Morgan Street Seafood and never look at the scale, because he knows Charlie will mark the exact weight every time.  That type of handshake agreement, that type of trust, is rare in business these days.

David is hearing impaired.  He lost his hearing to a fever when he was just a year old.  He overcomes this disability each time he sets out to brave the ever-changing and sometimes wild conditions on the water. 

Weather can make his days a joy or a terror.  Rough winds can push the waves into his boat and capsize it.  Lightning on the water is deadly.  But David has developed an intuition about the elements earned through decades of painful experience. 

David Fanchier is the real-life embodiment of Ernest Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea.  David goes out into the dark water every morning in a tiny boat to take his chances, to grapple with the writhing and slippery weight of big fish, to make his living from the sun-drenched waves.  He brings home his catch, a few dollars each day.  He is simple, humble, faithful, and kind. 

This lone man, this artisan of a by-gone age, supplies the folks of The Bend with some of the best seafood in the world, though few people even know his name.  But he is out there for us, every day, out on the glittering water, living his faith through fish. 

How Agriculture Changed our DNA

A Beautiful Sweetheart in a Corn/Beans/Squash Field (no GMO’s involved) at Four String Farm in Rockport

Scientists have discovered that changes in agriculture can cause changes in human DNA.  A study published in the journal Nature reveals that various agricultural revolutions over time led to dramatic changes in skin color, height, digestion, and other traits.

Populations grew lighter or darker, shorter or taller, depending on the circumstances of their agriculture. 

For example, scientists long believed that people were lighter skinned in northern climates compared to southern climates because lighter skin allowed for greater absorption of vitamin D from the sun. However, Dr. Reich suggests in this study that prior to the agricultural revolution, the inhabitants of these northern climes were dark-skinned, just as people further south.

Dr. Reich claims that the shift to eating grains from crops and away from the meat-based diet they consumed as hunter-gatherers–and the resulting decrease in vitamin D in their diet–caused their skin to lighten over time.

Many of these genetic changes occurred relatively quickly, not slowly over eons as scientists once believed.  For example, soon after the first cities formed around milk-producing livestock, the LCT gene evolved to allow people to digest milk without getting sick. 

As another example, shortly after the domestication of wheat, the gene SLC224A changed to allow greater absorption of protein from wheat.  This gene that allowed humans to digest wheat is also responsible for irritable bowel syndrome.  Some genetic changes come with a price. 

This research opens a new and unsettling question:  How is modern agriculture changing the DNA of mankind?  Agricultural practices remained fairly static for thousands of years, from the Roman age until the 1950’s.  The modern rise of large-scale chemical agriculture is a new agricultural revolution.   

The concurrent rise of obesity is the clearest indicator that changes in agriculture can cause changes in our bodies.  Our bodies, our physical selves, are linked to farming practices through the food we eat.  But what is not so clear is how these changes will influence our DNA. 

We are now consuming a vast array of newly-invented chemicals applied as fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides to our produce, and as hormones, steroids, and antibiotics to our livestock.  On top of that, much of our diet is now GMO, or “genetically modified organisms”. 

We know that diet can change our DNA, and now the food itself has been genetically altered.

This massive social experiment we are conducting on ourselves sounds more like science fiction than science. Unfortunately, the unseen costs of our modern diet will remain a mystery until they are revealed decades from now in the genes of our children and grandchildren.

The Real Story behind Lady Bird and the Wildflowers

Liz Carpenter, telling it like it is

I wrote this article, “The Wildflowers of Lady Bird,” for the radio. I didn’t get this from a history book. This story was told to me by Liz Carpenter.

You can read about Liz Carpenter in this New York Times article or read one of her books: Ruffles and Flourishes (1970), Getting Better all the Time (1987), Unplanned Parenthood: The Confessions of a Seventysomething Surrogate Mother (1994), or Presidential Humor (2006).

Liz Carpenter was a pioneer feminist and a groundbreaking journalist in the 1950’s. She was press secretary to LBJ when he was vice-president and press secretary to Lady Bird Johnson when she was First Lady. Liz Carpenter was a seriously tough lady and was very funny.

I met her at a luncheon when I was student body president of Texas State University. It was called Southwest Texas back then. Carpenter had been invited to speak at the LBJ Distinguished Lecture Series (I had to look that up on the internet, because I forgot why she was there and the year). I was invited to a small luncheon in her honor the day of her speech.

There were seven of us at this lunch. Dr. Jerry Supple, the president of the university, sat at the head of a large, beautiful table in an upstairs room of the library. I sat to his left and Liz Carpenter sat next to me. A guy named Larry L. King was seated next to her. He was the author of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Liz Carpenter did not like him.

On the other side of the table were three high level college administrators. I can’t remember who they were. They were unmemorable in the first place and I don’t think a single one of them said a word throughout the lunch. Liz Carpenter and I were the only ones at the table who talked. We chatted with each other the entire time. I will never forget it.

I have to tell you this: I was “briefed” before the lunch. The woman who briefed me was from the administration, I think the assistant to the president or one of the VP’s. The only thing I remember her telling me about Liz Carpenter (who I didn’t know a thing about) was that she was best friends with Lady Bird Johnson, who lived in Austin and was one of the richest and most powerful women in Texas.

The important thing for me to know, she said, was that Larry L. King was there and Liz did not like Larry L. King.

Who is Larry L. King? I said.

He’s the guy who wrote The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, she said. 

You mean the movie with Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton? I said.

She said, Well, yes, but before that it was a play, and he wrote it.

Well, I said, I didn’t like the movie. So why doesn’t Liz Carpenter like Larry L. King?

The woman from the administration told me that Larry L. King had been a speechwriter for LBJ on his rise to the presidency and in the White House. He was one of the insiders. Then, at the height of the Vietnam War, Larry L. King turned on LBJ and wrote scathing anti-war articles attacking and disparaging the president. (I read some of these articles later in life, when I became more erudite. They were vicious.)

LBJ’s critics amplified King’s voice because he had been such a close confidante to the president. Liz Carpenter had never forgiven Larry L. King.

Back to the lunch, the woman from the administration told me it was very important that Liz and Larry get along. Larry wanted to pitch an idea for a project to Liz (I can’t remember anything about it because I didn’t care) and this project would be very good for the university. This lunch had been set up in part to facilitate that pitch. That was the end of my briefing.

Dr. Supple opened the lunch with some diplomatic words directed toward Liz. But Liz Carpenter was not a person to drone through boring discourse at some interminable bureaucratic luncheon. She said a few things, I don’t remember what, but it was very good and I realized there was more fire in this gray-haired little woman than the rest of the room combined.

I remember my first words to her: “They tell me, Ms. Carpenter, that you know a little bit about Lyndon Baines Johnson.”

“I know a little bit,” she said, turning slowly toward me with quite an amused expression on her face.

I told her that I was writing my honors thesis on LBJ. I told her how I had read more than a dozen books about his life and read countless interviews from his old college classmates and how endlessly fascinated I was with LBJ.

I remember that she lit up when she heard this. I remember this so well because she was one of the first great persons I had ever met. A great man or a great woman has a way of filling the space in the room. This was a huge room at the top of the Alkek library, but she filled the space with her presence. This is charisma, but also something more. She was a light and filled the room with her light.

Something else I remember: she was mischievous; I could see it in her eyes and read it in the subtext. No, not mischievous: irreverent. She said whatever she wanted to whoever she wanted. I was young and learning how I wanted to be and this woman was showing me.

I told her and the table, as a sort of pronouncement, that I had been elected the student body president with the highest GPA in the history of the university. (I don’t care if you know that I was a little bit arrogant back then.) Then I reminded her that LBJ had been student body president. So, I had beaten LBJ. You can’t imagine the kick Liz Carpenter got out this and how she laughed.

“You can ask Dr. Supple if you don’t believe me,” I said and looked at him.

“Well, I, er, um, I can’t really remember,” or whatever he said. He had no idea nor did he care. It was the dean of students who told me and made such a big deal out of it. I just thought it was funny to put him on the spot.

Then I asked if she knew about the Black Star fraternity that was formed by the athletes and cool kids at Southwest Texas State in the 1920’s. But they wouldn’t accept LBJ and his friends. And how LBJ formed a rival fraternity called the White Stars. And how LBJ filled this fraternity with the smartest and most capable students and then took over the campus.

I told her that when I started college, I was so intimidated and scared of flunking out that I didn’t say a single word my entire first semester. My nickname was Thumbs Up, because I couldn’t even say hello to anyone, I just gave them a thumbs up if they said hi to me.

But, in that first semester, I read those books about LBJ and how he formed the White Stars for the nerds. From this example, I founded (or rather reestablished, it had gone defunct) the Alpha Lambda Delta Freshman Honor Fraternity. I recruited and filled the fraternity with the smartest and most talented young students on campus and made it a powerhouse.

Now, two years later, I am student body president. And we are filling the student government and other positions across campus with nerds like myself. We are taking over the campus.

Liz Carpenter got such a kick out of this. She started really talking with me and the conversation went back and forth and into different places. I did not eat a single thing. I was turned to my left the entire time talking with her.

Then she told me about Lady Bird and the wildflowers. She told me about Lady Bird being so shy she could not even speak, which I would understand very well, she said, and Lady Bird sitting down with these ladies and so painfully shy that she could hardly utter a word, and then driving down the road throwing wildflower seeds out the window and then on to the next town.

But she wasn’t just telling me about flowers. Here is the most fascinating part. The idea of this type of campaign—a softer, more gentle, more humble campaign—informed the work that Lady Bird Johnson did to advance the candidacy of John F. Kennedy for president.

In the presidential race of 1960, Liz Carpenter led a campaign initiative through the Deep South that included Lady Bird and Jaquelyn Kennedy plus numerous other Kennedy ladies. Lady Bird and Jackie did not do the traditional barnstorming that their husbands were waging against Richard Nixon on the other side.

Instead, they visited Protestant churches. As hard as it is to believe today, the Catholicism of JFK and Jackie was a huge problem in the South. There had never been a Catholic president. The Baptists and other southern denominations believed that JFK, if elected, would take his orders from the Pope. Today, everyone thinks of JFK and “Jackie O” as so elegant and refined, but before that election, most people in the South thought they were just funny-talking little Yankee weirdos.

The mission of Lady Bird and Liz Carpenter was to introduce Jackie to the ladies of the South. They visited churches with Jackie so people could see her and meet her and pray with her and get to know her.

Lady Bird had clearly grown out of her shyness by this point. She was so smart, so eloquent, and so nice. She was a master at delivering speeches. People loved her. After going through a town with Lady Bird, Jackie became much more credible. She became accepted, even liked. Only Lady Bird Johnson, of all the people in the Kennedy/Johnson campaign, could have pulled this off. And Liz Carpenter put the whole thing together.

During the lunch, Liz Carpenter was talking about these things, this wonderful history that this woman had not just lived but had led, and finally Larry L. King interrupted her.

Liz paused for a moment in her story, and Larry L. King jumped in with something like, “Oh yeah, that reminds me of the time…” something or other. Then, without pause, he started giving his pitch for whatever this thing was they were trying to do. I am not joking. Even as green as I was, I knew he had not come close to setting the trap, and here he was trying to spring it.

I watched her closely. As he started speaking, she slowly turned her head till she was partly but not fully facing him. She said, “Mmm-mmm” and then when he stopped she said, “Uh huh!” The sounds were aggressive. Then she went right back into her story.

After the lunch was over, we were walking to the next area and it was the two of us walking. I leaned down and said, “You are not going to give that guy the thing he is asking for, are you?”

Man, she laughed at that one. She grabbed my arm and told me something, I can’t remember what, but I know it was good.

Of course not. I didn’t blame her. He was disloyal. Even then I knew that disloyalty was a cardinal sin.

I will stop here. This is more than you wanted to know, I am sure. I thought you would find this story more interesting than the piece about wildflowers for the radio.

One last thing: Following that lunch, Liz Carpenter invited me to a reunion in San Marcos later that year of LBJ’s inner circle, all the highest-ranking people still alive, the big names. It was some sort of anniversary celebration. She told me not to miss it, that some White Stars from LBJ’s time in college would be there and I would want to talk with them.

I did attend. I was the only student there and the youngest person by maybe 30 years. It definitely changed my mind about going into politics.

I will tell you about this another time.

Liz Carpenter, 1950’s

The Wildflowers of Lady Bird

Young Lady Bird Johnson

One of the prettiest drives in America is through the Texas Hill Country, in spring, when the wildflowers are blooming.  The person perhaps most responsible for these roadside wildflowers was a painfully shy woman named Lady Bird.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was president in the 1960’s.  LBJ was a complicated man.  He was a political genius, but he was abrasive, to put it mildly.  His wife, Lady Bird, was a model of courtesy and kindness.  Lyndon wanted to be king, but Lady Bird was the grace and good manners behind the throne.    

LBJ began his political career in 1937, when he ran for Congress from the Hill Country.  Lady Bird was expected to help, but she was terrified of speaking in public.  Instead of making speeches, Lady Bird initiated a more subtle campaign–a campaign of flowers. 

Lady Bird’s idea was to plant wildflowers along the new roads springing up across rural Texas.  Flowers were not political, but the members of the garden clubs were the leading ladies of their towns. By connecting with them, Lady Bird gently advanced her husband’s career.  

Lady Bird would drive to a small town to meet with the garden club.  In those days, ladies still wore hats and pastel-colored gloves.  They would visit over coffee or tea, then divide up their seeds, get into their cars, and drive in caravans down country roads throwing wildflower seeds out the windows.  Lady Bird would throw her seeds, wave to the ladies, and keep driving to the next town to do it all over again. 

This was the dawn of the roadside wildflower movement:  the women of garden clubs going out in their roadsters and convertibles tossing bluebonnet and Indian paintbrush seeds out the windows. 

When LBJ became president, he put the full weight of the federal government behind Lady Bird with the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. The grace of this shy woman helped beautiful the trackless roads of America. Today, more than one hundred thousand people per year visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center outside of Austin. 

Lady Bird left a legacy of wildflowers. Each spring her spirit blooms in rivers of yellow, red, and blue down the long gray highways of Texas.

Something Delicious, Coming Soon!

Friends, Kayla and I have so much good news to share, we can hardly stand it! We have not just one, but a series of announcements coming soon about new products and services that you are going to love!

We began to rebuild Four String Farm the day after Hurricane Harvey destroyed it. We started by cutting apart the trees that were blocking the road to the house.

Then we cut the downed the trees out of the driveway, then the trees that had fallen on the house. Many of you helped us. You cannot imagine how we appreciate you and how often we think of you. The barn, of course, was simply gone, blown to rubble for us to pick up, as well Dad’s house and everything else we had built over the years.

The forests that you once walked in, where we held such beautiful weddings and countless classes and events, were totally destroyed, including some of the biggest trees in our county. Within the graveyard of downed trees there was every type of trash, litter, and debris imaginable from our neighborhood, carried there by 135 mph winds.

Once the flooding receded, the sun penetrated the former forest, now naked without upright trees or a canopy. Brush, sticker vines, weeds, and grass grew up and over the fallen trees. Much of our property, that was not still flooded, became an impenetrable thicket of downed trees, wild hogs, raccoons, opossums, and countless cottonmouths and copperheads.

These were not even the worst of our challenges, not even close. We had to rebuild our business in the middle of a disaster zone, from scratch, with no government help and no money—no money in the bank and no money coming in.

Despite that, we have worked nearly every day since the hurricane to rebuild our company. We were able to continue some elements, like our writing and education programs, and that has led to some wonderful opportunities. Also, as we have rebuilt, we were able to start a modest farm operation, although at a much smaller scale.

It took me 17 years to pioneer Four String Farm out of the wilderness into the place that you loved. Kayla worked by my side every day for eight years of that time. And I have to admit, she worked me under the table every single one of those days!

But it won’t take us that long to rebuild it! We did it once, and now we know what the heck we’re doing! Kayla and I are so thrilled about what’s coming, we wake up every morning and fly out of bed to get our work done.

Stay tuned, friends, we have much good news coming soon! Thank you for your support, your patience, your loyalty, and your love! We look forward to connecting with you soon!

Sourdough Pancakes by Kayla


A Recipe and note from Kayla:

I have the sweetest childhood memories of my grandmother standing over her cast-iron skillet in her 80s-era pink chemise. I knew it was the weekend because the smell of pancakes flooded the kitchen.

My grandmother’s fluffy pancakes were piled high and ready for a generous slathering of butter and dusting of granulated sugar. She never put syrup on her pancakes. They didn’t have syrup growing up in her Great Depression-era childhood home, so she never acquired a taste for it.

This tradition of pancakes on Saturday morning holds such nostalgia for me that I’ve insisted on carrying it on with my babies. Saturdays, we huddle together in the kitchen and take turns adding flour and baking soda, whisking, stirring, laughing.

I hope the girls, when they are older, have similar feelings about our pancakes on the weekends and visions of me standing over a skillet Saturday morning. Now, if I could only find a fuchsia nylon moo moo.

Sourdough Pancakes

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

Inactive prep time: 8 hours


1 cup sourdough starter

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups water

1/4 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup butter

2 eggs

2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Combine starter, flour, and water in a large bowl until well combined. Cover with a tea towel and let ferment overnight.
  2. The following morning, combine regarding ingredients and mix until just combined.
  3. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium low heat. Add 1/2-1 tbsp butter once hot.
  4. Add 1/3 cup batter to preheated skillet and cook until bubbles form and the surface loses its sheen, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Flip pancake and cook on the other side for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  6. Continue preparing pancakes until all batter is used. Serve with butter and warm maple syrup or your favorite topping.

Waffle variation: Prepare batter as instructed in steps 1-3. Apply non-stick spray to a waffle maker and preheat to desired setting. Add enough batter to completely cover the waffle maker. Cook waffles according to your waffle maker directions, or until desired doneness has been reached.

Kayla to Host New Video Series!

Friends, Kayla has been asked to host the new video series Perfect Pairs from The Bend Magazine!

Each episode will feature top regional chefs and mixologists. Kayla will guide guest chefs through their recipes to showcase their skills, expertise, and wonderful creations.  This series is filmed and edited by Ryan Chipman, a fantastic local talent who is producing some really nice work.

Let the folks at The Bend Magazine know if you like this series by liking or sharing this video.  Thank you for supporting local in your food, art, and entertainment!


Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread with Kayla

a post from Kayla:

The dog days of summer are coming to an end. In our little corner of the world, that means the temperature drops a few degrees from hotter-than-Hades misery to sweat-in-the-shade unbearable. The last of the summer vegetables are barely holding on. And after this long year, so are we.

But there is a silver lining to those puffy white August clouds. Fall is around the corner and so is our resolve to enjoy the rest of 2020, despite its many, M-A-N-Y pitfalls! This decadent dark chocolate zucchini bread is the perfect intersection of summer and fall–and of looking back with relief that it’s over and ahead with a hopeful resiliency.

Why This One’s Better (And Better For You)

Let me be plain: this Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread is the business. Higher in antioxidants and lower in fat and sugar than your garden variety loaf, you can relish this melt-in-your-mouth goodness without remorse. Splurge on organic zucchini or better yet, squash from your chemical-conscious farmer down the lane, since you’ll be using the skin (and no one needs that pesticide nonsense when we’ve got COVID to worry about). Greek yogurt adds moisture and flavor without the fat. Olive oil is a heart-healthier alternative to vegetable oil. This bread uses a reduced amount of brown sugar, which adds a richness to the crumb.

Pleasant eating, my lovelies! Hugs and love, Kayla

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Prep time: 7 minutes

Cooking time: 45 minutes


2 medium zucchinis

¾ cup brown sugar

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup plain yogurt

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ cup dark cocoa/cacao powder

½ tsp salt

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

1 cup dark chocolate chips (at least 60% cacao)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a loaf pan (8” x 4” x 2”) with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Remove ends of zucchini and grate over a colander. Using the back of a large spoon or spatula, press zucchini against the colander to remove excess fluid.
  3. Transfer grated zucchini into a clean bowl. Add in brown sugar, olive oil, yogurt, eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  5. Mix wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in ½ cup chocolate chips.
  6. Transfer batter to prepared loaf pan. Top with reserved chocolate chips.
  7. Bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Here Comes the Sun

Arctic Sunrise

There has been plenty of news since Hurricane Harvey destroyed our farm, but none of it good.

I have written more than 150 magazine articles and radio programs since the hurricane, but nothing here.  This space was only meant for joy, for light; but there was no light.

Driving into the farm the morning after the storm, the world went dark.  It was not darkness like I had known before, what Abe Lincoln called his ‘melancholia’ and Winston Churchill called ‘the black dog’.  It was that particular shadow plus the darkness of witnessing your dream and life’s work of twenty years destroyed in a single night with no hope of recovery.

The darkness came down like an Arctic winter, which I now know something about.  In the winters of the far north, the days are black and the nights are black and even the snow falling out of the sky is black.  The snow is black because there is no light to illuminate it, but still you feel it pelting your face and stabbing like needles when the wind is up.

I worked in that darkness for years, walking through snow drifts and sheets of ocean-deep ice with chains on my boots, peering into the black for the aurora borealis, green and white and glimmering, the outline of the oil rig crystalline in the distance, the darkness always upon me.

The aurora borealis is not light but false light.  The particles are phantoms, ghosts of the sun.  The glowing green flow, usually not there at all, is simply a reminder that the sun is shining somewhere in the world—but it is not shining for you.

But now I know the truth–and this is my first good news to report–even the darkest winter ends.

The light has finally returned, slowly, slowly, like the first Arctic sunrise after a long winter, orange and yellow and red on the horizon.  Then the circle of the sun suddenly appears with flames around the edges.

This light comes to me like a thrilling surprise.  Every time I turn and look away and look back it is still there, another thrilling surprise.  Everywhere above me the sky is blue.  I keep playing the same song over and over on the truck radio, the only one I can turn up loud.

The sun is shining, at long last.  I can see again and it is glorious.

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