On the occasion of Texas Monthly‘s 50th anniversary, writer Stephen Harrigan looks back at his own milestone with the magazine, and in the process delivers a stirring reminder of what brought so many into the longform journalism fold. You report and write for the reader, yes, but every story is a crucial experience — and one that begets its own tributary.

The monthly editorial meetings represented, for me, a magic door opening to an unknown future. What story would I be assigned? Where would it take me? Who would I meet? There were stories that I reported by phone from inside my house, others that deposited me in the empty middle of the Chihuahuan Desert, or in the suffocating botanical abundance of the Big Thicket, or in the operating room with Denton Cooley, or a world away with a Dallas disaster consultant in the rain forests of Madagascar. Every magazine piece led to new interests, new expertise, ideas for more articles, and even sometimes a branching path to a new career. My first two novels were incubated in stories I wrote for Texas Monthly, and so was the first screenplay I sold.