Water From Stone:

         The Story of Selah, Bamberger Ranch Reserve


Publisher: Texas A&M University Press, 2007 cloth; 2009 paper

Order:  Texas A & M University Press


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Learn more about Selah

Water from Stone:

The Story of Selah, Bamberger Ranch Reserve

Illustrations by Margaret Bamberger

Award-winning author Jeffrey Greene provides a portrait, by turns lyrical and provocative, of J. David Bamberger’s unlikely transformation from first, a vacuum cleaner salesman, then to co-founder and CEO of Church’s Fried Chicken, to an internationally recognized conservationist. In fact, Greene tells two integrally related stories: the evolution of one man’s business sense, applying profit incentives to land restoration and nature conservancy; and the creation of a Texas Hill Country preserve where he effectively demonstrates his own principles.

Growing up in rural Ohio during the Great Depression and World War II, Bamberger learned at an early age to shun waste, grow food productively, and admire the Amish for living in harmony with the land. His mother taught him to love the natural world and gave him a book that would set the course for his life: Pleasant Valley, by Louis Bromfield, a visionary American advocate for land restoration. Inspired by his new role model, Bamberger would say, “If I ever make money, I want to do what Bromfield did.”

After finding that financial success, Bamberger bought what he describes as “the sorriest piece of land in Blanco County” and entered upon his decades-long effort to restore the ecological balance of 5,500 acres that had been virtually destroyed by more than a century of misuse. Naming his preserve Selah—from the Old Testament term meaning “pause and reflect”—Bamberger dedicates himself and his resources to protecting species and educating school children, conservation groups, government officials, and everyone else who will listen to his central message, delivered with evangelical zeal: We must take care of the earth, and anyone can help.

Today, David and his wife, Margaret, have received many awards, and he has been featured in The New Yorker, in Audubon, and on CNN and network news. But until now, no one has fully told the story of how a man with vision transformed a place—and in doing so, transformed himself.

What Readers Are Saying:

“This is a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated portrait of what happened to ‘the sorriest piece of land in Blanco County’ after J. David Bamberger and his wife, Margaret, rescued an arid, 5,000-acre spread from more than a century of neglect and misuse. Mr. Bamberger, a former door-to-door salesman who co-founded and headed Church’s Fried Chicken, has demonstrated on his land that profit incentives can be applied successfully to land restoration and nature conservation.” --Si Dunn, Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News

“ . . . one of the Texas Hill Country’s greatest conservation success stories.” --Texas Parks & Wildlife

“Water from Stone is effective because it illustrates how a private citizen with no formal training in outdoor management can make a difference. Though Bamberger’s projects are on extremely large scales, his principles can be applied to any level of land ownership. . . . For idealistic boomers about to retire to small acreages across the state, Water from Stone, with its engaging stories and fine naturalist illustrations by Bamberger’s wife, provides an inspiring blueprint of how to cleanse one’s corporate soul with replenished waters.” --The Texas Observer,

“…well-written and compelling…Margaret’s own illustrations add such a special dimension to the volume…” --Lone Star Sierran

“An accomplished poet and memoirist, he weaves history, ecology, anecdote, statistical evidence and keen personal observation into a tapestry that’s richly textured but never heavy, a book that’s a pleasure to read and that might gently persuade – even inspire – a reader with little prior commitment to environmental causes to live more consciously on the earth.” --New Southerner

"But until now, no one has fully told the story of how a man with vision transformed a place-and in doing so, transformed himself. . . It would be a valuable addition to any public or college library." -Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas

“The story of J. David Bamberger is the Cinderella tale and the American dream wrapped together in a man who started as a door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman . . . and then devoted his golden years to environmental responsibility in the Texas Hill Country.” --The Permian Historical Annual

“…fast-paced, elegantly written, and provocative…a fine introduction to sustainability and land preservation that will appeal to everybody interested in land restoration, species preservation, survivability, land ethics, the problem of environmental issues in a private land state like Texas, Texas flora and fauna, environmental economics, and just a good story of how a man with an environmental conscience learns to live on the land.” --M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Texas A&M University

“In 1960 when my wife Jane and I bought the limestone hill acreage on which we still live southwest of Fort Worth, we had the intention of bringing the abused terrain—dried-out, cedar-infested, overgrazed and overfarmed long before—back to decent condition as much as possible. At that time in that area, the model for such restoration was oilman Charles Petit’s large Flat Top Ranch, where cedar had been bulldozed away, long-dry springs had started flowing, and rich prairie grasses had returned. In this work Mr. Petit’s chief inspirer and advisor was his firend Louis Bromfield, an Ohio-born farm boy who had become famous as a novelist and conservation writer, and who visited Flat Top often before his death in 1956. Thus it comes as no surprise that influence on another Ohio farm boy, J. David Bamberger, in the latter’s even more spectacular restoration of the ranch he calls Selah, in the extensive Texas Hill Country north and west of San Antonio. It is all here—Bamberger’s youth with an intelligent, capable, nature-minded mother, his awareness of Bromfield, his rise to prominence in the business world, and the long, knowledgeable, successful effort by himself, his wonderful wife Margaret, and their dedicated staff to bring their patch of the earth’s surface back to radiant health.” --John Graves, author

". . . interesting, well-written and insightful.”--David H. Riskind, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept., Austin