Always for the Underdog
Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University of North Texas Press
List of Illustrations
Does America possess enough unity and shared history for large cultural values and myths to pervade all levels of society? Does the country possess enough similarity for a few key concepts to make a noticeable impact on the minds of the American population? If so, what concepts and values are broad enough to reach all Americans, yet powerful ...
Texas Folklore Society Statement
It’s early December 1998. My wife, Melanie, and I approach Merry-ville, Louisiana, from the south. We move north on Highway 27 past the turnoffs to small towns and then northwest on 110 through expanding pine flatwoods squared off in rows like the pristine cemeteries of soldiers. A few small creeks, more like large ditches, cut under ...
Chapter 1: The Sabine River Bottom Swamp
In 1803, when the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory, the American and Spanish governments contested the western boundary.1 Due to a treaty ratified after the Louisiana Purchase between Spain and the United States, this section of Louisiana experienced a brief period (about fifteen years) of military in occupation. During this time, the ...
Chapter 2: Meanness, Just across the River
A few days later, Melanie and I found ourselves with plans for another trip scheduled for the days between Christmas and New Year’s. Grand decided taking a trip to Newton, Texas, to see the Christmas lights was in order. During any typical Christmas season, some people in Merryville will decide to cross the Louisiana-Texas border, “the River” as ...
Chapter 3: No Man’s Land
In front of me, the area’s culture stands as dense, thick, and impenetrable as the underbrush sweeping up and out of the Sabine River bottom. Perhaps I should expect nothing less from a culture of clash, a culture built on isolation, independence, freedom, and confrontation. People migrated to No Man’s Land, for a time a border teeming with ...
Chapter 4: Shot a Chicken’s Head Clean Off
When my wife and I heard the news, we talked softly about the good times we had with her and what we remembered most. My wife knew her far better than I did, but we both had plenty to smile and laugh about. Still, when we heard that Ocelean Fuller had died, we mostly talked about our amazement. By all accounts, Ocelean Fuller walked ...
Chapter 5: Always for the Underdog
You see, Leather Britches always was for the underdog. Anywhere in the world he was, he was for the underdog,” Mrs. Terry told me that day in her home. Then, she offered one of the many narratives describing Smith’s mysterious past. Before he arrived in Merryville, the outlaw picked up work here and there as he made his way south from ...
Chapter 6: The Grabow War
When my wife, Grand, and I drove up to Mrs. Townsley’s home, her dogs sniffed my car’s tires and hounded my shoes and the legs of my pants. Mrs. Townsley raised up a little off her swing that sat on her front porch, a cement slab running along the front of her house. “Quit,” she said. The dogs moved on. A wire fence enclosed a yard that once ...
Chapter 7: They Didn’t Give the Man a Chance
I suppose some might call the situation ironic. It was December 1997, a few days after Christmas, and I was planning my first real interview about Leather Britches Smith. Up to that point, I had heard only a few brief conversations and some talk around the dinner table, but I hadn’t discussed Smith with a person outside my wife’s family. My ...
Chapter 8: The Outlaw Applied
Weeks, months, years, and even decades following the Grabow trial, the story still makes the papers. Months after the trial, rumors of a potential strike in a Merryville mill circulated. Tensions rose, but the fears proved to be unfounded. A year later, Charles Cline, a man arrested during the Grabow Trial, found himself arrested again. This ...