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Notes Folklorists of Texas In characteristic modesty, Texas claims the richest lore of American folklore. It includes a Cajun overflow along the Louisiana border, Old South plantation and Negro lore in East Texas, sea­ faring stories of the Gulf coast, a wealth of Spanish-Mexican ma­ terials South and West. Its Indian lore includes the Coushattas of the Eastern woodlands, Karankaways along the coast, Comanches on the Brazos, and Apaches to the West; there were even Pueblos out toward New Mexico. Northeast, up toward Arkansas, we have authentic hillbillies. Houston boasts one of the biggest and black­ est ghettos in America, a treasureland of urban blight and black bitterness. Most popular, and most widely exploited, has been the cowboy. Other states may claim more than one of these varied elements; no other state possesses all. Yet in characteristic academic reluctance, the Texas Folk-Lore Society was not established at the University of Texas until 1909. On February 20, 1916, Stith Thompson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Society, mailed to members the first volume of its publications. In his accompanying letter the Secretary-Treasurer reminded mem­ bers that annual dues of fifty cents “had hardly accumulated suf­ ficiently to pay for the publication.” The issue opened with a Preface by George Lyman Kittredge, followed by a history of the Society by Robert Adger Law. Contents included articles on Texas play-party songs and games, religious beliefs of the Tejas Indians, wild horse stories of Southwest Texas, a Negro tale, and a Mexican border ballad. Contributors included Adina De Zavale, Leonidas W. Payne, W. Prescott Webb, and John A. Lomax. War intervened, Professor Thompson left Texas for Colorado, and volume two was not published until 1923, edited by J. Frank Dobie. He edited the next ten volumes before being joined in 1937 by Mody Boatright, who, sometimes alone, sometimes with others, edited eighteen volumes between 1937 and 1964. Dobie edited, or helped to edit, sixteen volumes. Beginning in 1951, Wilson Hudson edited or helped to edit succeeding volumes, nine of which were 222 Western American Literature done with Allen Maxwell. The thirty-six volumes published from 1916 to 1970 consist partly of papers presented at annual meetings, partly of papers contributed independently; exceptions are Volume XX (1945) Gib Morgan, Mintrel of the Oil Fields by Mody Boatright , and Volume XXIII (1950) Texas Folk Songs by William A. Owens. Another exception is the occasional substitution of an ap­ propriate book by a member in lieu of the annual numbered vol­ ume. Such exceptions include With His Pistol in His Hand by Americo Paredes, a study of “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez,” dis­ tributed for 1958; Tales from the Big Thicket, edited by Francis Abernathy, 1906; and Deep Like the Rivers: Stories of My Negro Friends, by Martha Emmons, 1968. Although Stith Thompson was in Texas for only four years (1914-18), he is indisputably a Founding Father of Texas Folklore. Along with him I include John A. Lomax, the greatest of our folk­ song collectors, patriarch of the Lomax clan, Secretary of the Society, 1909-14; Leonidas W. Payne, professor and scholar, first President of the Society; and J. Frank Dobie, whose influence has been per­ vasive. Referred to as “the pole holding up the tent under which three generations of Texas folklorists have gathered,” Dobie divided folklore into collecting, interpreting, and enjoying, and himself excelled in all three. No purist, he confessed to a “creative mem­ ory,” and never failed to improve a tale when he could. The books he edited, wrote, and inspired comprise the greatest body of Texas lore. After the Founding Fathers, a second generation includes Mabel Major, John Lee Brooks, C. L. Sonnichsen, and Mody Boatright, all professors. Major at Texas Christian University, Brooks at Southern Methodist University, Sonnichsen at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Boatright at the University of Texas at Austin, all col­ lected, interpreted, and enjoyed folklore; each created a circle of disciples who are walking in the footsteps of their mentors. Most of the Founding Fathers are dead; most of their immediate succes­ sors have recently retired. Mody Boatright was the first of this group to leave us; he died of a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 221-223
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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