In All of Us, In All We Do
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of North Texas Press
History and folklore go hand in hand, and people frequently confuse the two in light conversation. There may be good reason, for in many ways the subjects are closely related. The study of folklore is often historical in its focus. Folklore is the traditional knowledge of a culture, and the word “traditional” carries with it the idea of things that are established, time-honored. We recognize things
I. FIRST COUSINS: FOLKLORE AND HISTORY
1. Is It Folklore or History? The Answer May Be Important
There is a great deal of history in folklore, and that’s good. There also is a great deal of folklore in history, and that’s not good. I suspect that many of you are either historians or folklorists. I am neither one. I am a lawyer, although I do have some friends in both camps. If you look around, you will be able to tell which people at this meeting are historians and which are folklorists. The folklorists are the ones who look smug and content. That is because they ...
2. The Roadrunner in Fact and Folk-Lore
Born and reared in Southwest Texas, I was grown before I knew that the bird had any other name than paisano (pronounced pie-sah'-no), by which Mexicans of Texas and northern Mexico know it. The word means fellow-countryman, compatriot, native. It is sometimes said to be a corruption of fais
3. Cavalry Traditions on the Texas Frontier
On the late show, John Ford’s dog-faced soldiers of the U.S. Cavalry ride forth against the Indians of the Texas frontier. Again and again, they cross the screen on campaigns of heroism and sacrifice in battle. Watching these films, it is easy to forget that duty on the frontier was more often a monotonous routine beginning when ...
4. Gathering at Bill’s: Maintaining the Folklore of Live Oak County
Every evening about 5:45, a white pickup turns onto a caliche street on the edge of town in George West, Texas. The pickup creeps down the secluded street, turns to the right toward the fence, then backs into its self-assigned parking spot on the caliche driveway, almost but never quite hitting the small barbecue pit with its back bumper. The driver leisurely opens his door, eases ...
II. A WOMAN’S TOUCH
5. The Cooking Extravaganza: Sequel to “Gathering at Bill’s”
The Lonely Hearts Supper Club, its original title, is a spin-off from the afternoon gathering at Bill’s. Like a TV sitcom spin-off, the club’s members are from the original group, with occasional guest appearances by members of the original cast.
6. Growing Up Female in Texas: The Importance of Beauty Pageants in Texas Communities
I am standing on stage in my high school auditorium wearing the most expensive dress I have ever bought from Foley’s, waiting for the announcer to call my name. Everyone told me I was a shoo-in to win the title. I was not even nervous as she called out the runners-up, still thinking my name would be next. “And the winner is . . .” What?! Not me? ...
7. Madame Blackley: Seer of South Texas
Madame Blackley could see things that other people couldn’t see. During her time, the Victoria, Texas, clairvoyant was the “Seer of South Texas” and was particularly adept at finding lost and stolen horses and other livestock. Ranchers and cowboys from throughout the region sought her services, and their stories have become legend.
8. La Llorona’s Ancestry: Crossing Cultural Boundaries
La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, is probably one of the most popular cultural icons in the Mexican-American culture. Myth, fantasy, and perhaps some history have merged into creating such a well-known archetypal character, whose appearance in Francis Edward Abernethy’s Legendary Ladies of Texas attests to her popularity.
9. Burning Brightly: The Easter Fires of Maternal Necessity
Imagine if you will that the season is late winter in the year 1847. The night air is cold outside a woman’s small cabin in a new settlement in the Pedernales valley in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin. She is alone in the dark with her young children; many women in her small German community are likewise alone, having fended for themselves since late January, when the men had gone ...
III. FOLKLORE AT WORK: OCCUPATIONAL LORE
10. Five Stands Off Bottom
We were five stands off bottom when it happened. The mud tanks started running over. The well started kicking over the bell nipple. It was the derrick man’s fault because he’s supposed to take care of the mud! Most of these stories that started with “five stands off bottom” went rapidly downhill from there.
11. Dispatches from the Electronic Front Lines
The reporter knocked on the door a little after 6:00 A.M. The tall, slightly stooped elderly man who answered the door had obviously just gotten up, and he was still dressed in a worn bathrobe. The reporter excitedly asked what he was going to do next. The man paused and thought about it, and then answered that he thought he’d make a pot of coffee. The reporter pressed on, until it became obvious the man had no idea what he was talking about, or why this should be any kind of a special day. Finally, the reporter broke ...
12. A Rural Mail Carrier
About February 1, 1954, Ben Mead, a former Texas Folklore Society member, rode with rural mailman Leroy McAfee on his last round of Route 5 in Navarro County, attempting to capture the essence of Leroy’s nearly fifty years of postal service. This is Ben’s story:
13. The Trials and Tribulations of a Dirt Road Country Doctor
Dr. J. D. Davis, an early Fisher County doctor, wrote for his family and friends a recollection of his experiences in the early part of the century. He finished his narrative in August of 1935, when he was seventy-four, and it has been passed through the generations to his great-grandson, Gaza Seabolt, who has kindly allowed me to use it as a basis for this paper. His family were unreconstructed ...
14. Joe Fitzgerald, Nurseryman and Philosopher
Joe Fitzgerald was born in Erath County in 1876, only three miles from where he lived the rest of his life and died. His family, Johnathan Clint and Sara Elizabeth (Nelson) Fitzgerald, settled near the head of Alarm Creek when the county was young. Writing for the local paper and many other publications, including Country Gentleman, Time, and The Rural New Yorker, became a hobby to ...
15. Water Woes and Water Ways: Tales of Texas Engineer John B. Hawley
In November 1891, there arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, a twenty-five- year-old engineer named John MacDonald Blackstock Hawley— or John B. Hawley, as he preferred to be known. He dropped the “MacDonald” from his eight-cylinder name as soon as he was old enough. John’s ancestors were Scots-English border folk and included a pair of baronets, Sir Henry and Sir Francis.
IV. COPS, POLITICIANS, AND OTHER SHADY CHARACTERS
16. The Long Arm of the Law
Since the first law, in the Garden of Eden, man has chosen to pit himself and his judgment against any regulation of his conduct. From the first, homo sapiens has been trying to circumvent, short-circuit, or else stretch out the law to suit his own purpose. Overlooking all thought of the original purpose of law, either of God or of man, which has always been for the well-being of those governed, man is still playing the old game: man versus the law.
17. The Police Language: The Lore of Law Enforcement Communicationin West Texas
I knew when I joined the Lubbock Police Department in 1990 that I would be learning many new things. Although I already had a degree in criminal justice, I was aware that the education I had received in my college courses was only the tip of the iceberg. As with any new job, there would be rules and departmental procedures that were unique to where I was working, as well as other knowledge that was not formally taught but merely “picked up.”
18. Cactus Jack Garner as Folk Hero, Vice-President of the United States1933–1940
Born on November 22, 1868, in a log cabin at Blossom Prairie, John Nance Garner IV, became Uvalde’s most famous citizen. His political career began as Uvalde County Judge in 1894 when he won out over three opponents. Garner said of a debate in Sabinal between Judge Fenley and himself, “Judge Fenley was the biggest man I thought I had ever seen, and I felt like a feist by the side of a St. Bernard. Yes he was a big man, big in more ways than one. But ...
19. And Lo to Vernon Came: The Con Man, the Bootlegger Man,and the Music Man
Strange that Vernon, a dusty little West Texas town would attract a world famous confidence man. But it did. Count Victor Lustig, one of the most skilled con artists in history, smelled out a rich lode of Wilbarger County money. It was the time of the Great Depression when precious little of the stuff was around anywhere, much less in Vernon. Lustig knew that few people in Vernon had any money, but also he learned that taxes were being paid. Presto!
20. Horsetrading and Ethics
A poor old horsetrader has the hardest time of anybody in this world. There’s nobody believes him. Everybody says, “Oh, he’s the biggest liar in the world.”1 That quote, from student researcher Myra Queen of the famed Foxfire series, represents fairly accurately how most of us have come to feel about that legendary beast, the horsetrader. Subject of thousands of sale barn stories and Sunday sermons, the horsetrader lives daily with the ...
V. ODDS AND ENDS
21. The Lore of Retirement and Extended Care Facilities
The evolution of terms used to describe what one informant called “warehouses for the old and infirm” introduces locations in which a significant body of lore is growing actively. Many Texans remember “poorhouse,” “county farm,” and “old folks’ home” as descriptors of residences for some elderly people. Now, thanks to mysterious processes of linguistic change brought about probably by different views of social welfare, there are fancy-Dan terms: Senior Retirement ...
22. Folksy, but Devout, Bookkeeping
When I recently looked back at the folklore textbooks I read a good many years ago, I realized that though some mentioned a little about folk materials in the text of the Bible, nothing was said about the folk attitudes toward the physical or material book itself. Yet, hardly a day goes by that I do not see or hear a reminder of some commonly accepted cultural (not religious) view involving this document.
23. Mi Fronteridad in the Classroom: The Power of Writing and Sharing Stories
The view from my office in the Department of English at the University of Texas at El Paso overlooks las colonias in Cd. Ju