Inside the Classroom (And Out)
How We Learn through Folklore
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of North Texas Press
Title Page / Content
Folklore’s place in academe was a natural subject for my first Publications of the Texas Folklore Society (PTFS). I love school. This statement would probably surprise many of my junior and senior high school teachers, some of whom that I be asked to leave school a time or two, but it’s true. I didn’t go to college immediately after high school, instead deciding to “discover myself” for a couple of years in the U. S. Air Force, but I couldn’t stay away from the classroom for long. Once...
Part 1a. The Early Years
Part 1b. The Early Years
Chapter 1. Folklore in a Literate Society
There will, I predict, be readers, particularly among those who teach English composition to college freshmen and have made the frustrating discovery that Johnny can’t read, who will maintain that this essay can have no reference to the United States. Yet, that is the reference intended. For even though Johnny can’t read as well as his teacher wishes, and even though Americans read fewer books than the British, the scripts they listen...
Chapter 2. Folklore 101
What is folklore? And how do we know it when we see it? These are not necessarily easy questions to answer. Sometimes adults even have trouble figuring out what folklore is; they may even disagree on whether something is or is not folklore. This, however, should not discourage any of us from trying to identify, study, understand, and repeat the folklore that we find around us. As many of us have heard or said, folklore is the study of folk....
Chapter 3. The Faultless Starch Library
An unusual collection of thirty-six little booklets called The Faultless Starch Library records an interesting era of history in a very different mode. Created in the early 1900s to advertise Faultless Starch, the contents of the library and the story of its creator give an interesting picture of “the folk” at the turn of the century in a unique and interesting manner. Located in the “west bottoms” of Kansas City...
Chapter 4. Day Care Oral Traditions and School Yard Games
Everyone remembers this song, but do you remember where you learned it? If you’re like me, it was probably at home. My younger brother and I both recall my mother constantly singing around the house, teaching us not only “Thumbkin” and “Patty Cake.” I remember learning how to do “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” which I eventually taught to each of my children. I have fond memories of when I was a young girl growing up...
Chapter 5. You Can Tell A Scout From Texas
People have many different images of Boy Scouts—a boy in a funny looking hat and knickers helping a little old lady across the street, youngsters in sharp uniforms marching in a parade, or perhaps a group of scruffy guys telling ghost stories around the campfire. Though scouting still encourages outdoor skills, patriotism, and service to others, the ghost stories have gone the way of knickers and helpless little old ladies, while...
Chapter 6. It All Depended on the Teacher: Classroom Resources in Texas Country Schools
When Carl Halsell suggested a debate defending or attacking that idea to the boys who had arrived early one fall morning in 1922 at their country school ground to practice basketball, most of them looked puzzled. Carl knew that the students, who seldom saw a newspaper and had no radios in their homes, would learn at least a few research techniques, as well as gain confidence from having to stand in front of their parents and friends...
Chapter 7. Folklore in Schools: Connections Between Folklore and Education
The relationship that I see between folklore and schooling has a great deal to do with my personal experience. I came to teaching by a rather circuitous route, beginning with the study of classical Chinese at universities in Taiwan and Kansas, through graduate study at the Folklore Institute at Indiana University, and after work in adult education and as a bilingual elementary certification, I intended to teach for one or two years...
Part 2a. High School Years
Part 2b. High School Years
Chapter 8. Knowledge About Folk Medicine Among Students in Alice High School
As part of a broad study of folk medicine and its use among all age groups in South Texas, during the fall of 1988, I conducted a survey of high school students in Alice, Texas. The purpose of the survey was to discover how many of the students were familiar with the different aspects of...
Chapter 9. School Yearbooks: Time Capsules of Texas Folklore
No one is surprised that yearbooks reflect history, but some people wonder how yearbooks reflect folklore. For many years, definitions of folklore strictly adhered to the idea that folklore included such things as the traditional beliefs, legends, customs, songs, and stories of a people and specified that folklore must be passed on orally from one generation to the next. More modern definitions, however, give broader meaning, emphasizing the importance...
Chapter 10. Two-Bits, Four-Bits, or High School Cheerleading as a Lay Folk Ritual
A few years ago the estimable Professor James Ward Lee regaled us with an account of the lore surrounding the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, but when I learned that those seeming voluptuaries are actually a bunch of Dallas housewives who parade their persons for reasons I shall leave to their shrinks, I lost interest. But Lee did a dangerous thing; he started me to thinking. The result is what follows. My purpose is to point...
Chapter 11. Seeing Red over Varsity Blues
Last year I had the occasion to speak to a group of students at Stephen F. Austin State University, in Nacogdoches. Having just written a social history of old-time Texas high school football coaches, I was curious to poll the students about the perceptions of their own head coaches back home. On my informal scale of 1 to 3—one being Fred Flintstone with a gimme hat and whistle and three being their...
Part 3a. A Tribute to Paul Patterson
Part 3b. A Tribute to Paul Patterson
Chapter 12. ’Jes Sir, Meester “Patternson”: The Legendry of a Master Teacher
It is possible for a Master Teacher to become a legend. Mr. Chips, for example, though he is out of fiction. Miss Dove. There are others. This paper undertakes to show how a potful of folklore attached itself to the Pecos River Pilgrim Paul Patterson, erstwhile cowboy, and how that folklore, given a little time, has made legendary his reputation in West Texas education. As a rule, we know a person first, by what he says about himself, second, by what others say about...
Chapter 13. Paul Patterson1
I am pleased to have a part in a well-justified tribute to Paul Patterson. My friendship with him goes back more than sixty years, to his arrival in my hometown, Crane, Texas. I grew up on the McElroy Ranch near Crane. My father, Buck Kelton, was the foreman, and Paul’s brother John was a cowboy there. Paul had been teaching school in Sanderson and signed up to teach in the Crane school system beginning...
Chapter 14. Paul Patterson, Master Teacher1
Soon after I retired from teaching, Paul Patterson gave me my first membership in the Texas Folklore Society, with the admonition that he wanted me to “write something” for the Society. He knows I love to write, and I love history and folklore. But, much as I like to do research and be around other writers, I seldom go much farther than a news story or a newspaper feature with those loves. But Paul, who has a wonderful...
Chapter 15. A Pecos Pilgrim’s Pilgrimage: The Prose Narratives of Paul Patterson1
The vast, rough stretches of the Pecos River region epitomize West Texas to many people. Despite its being sometimes labeled “the graveyard of many a cowman’s dreams” because of its droughts, it has produced a number of distinctive individuals. Paul Patterson is the son of this trans-Pecos region and knows its rough landscape, thorny flora, outlaw fauna, detailing life in West Texas from early days to the present. Some of...
Part 4a. College Years
Part 4b. College Years
Chapter 16. Small-Town Texas Wisdom
When I was old enough to drive legally, Mister Barney Ragland asked me to come and work in his store with him and his wife, Mis’ Mattie. They owned a Mom & Pop grocery at the east end of Main Street in my hometown of Junction, Texas. It was a small, rectangular, stucco, cinder block service station and grocery store painted white, with Raglands Grocery in black letters across the front. My folks bought most of their groceries and gasoline from Mis’ Mattie and...
Chapter 17. Aggie Incredibles
I don’t really know why I went to Texas A&M in 1912, but I enrolled with very high expectations. So, when I received my first scholastic schedule, I was shocked and mortified. Solid geometry and physics were the same texts I had finished in high school. I knew both thoroughly. Dean Puryear refused my strong plea for more advanced courses. He even laughed as he told me...
Chapter 18. Peas in the Family
The first noteworthy Texas New Year’s celebration was observed in 1851 at Fort McIntosh near the present location of Laredo. The menu consisted of black-eyed peas, corn dodgers and all the water you could drink. Only one discouraging word was heard, and the owner of the voice that said it went to bed hungry “We’re lucky to have black-eyed peas,” a burly celebrant responded. “So we’ll just split your helping amongst the rest.” That...
Chapter 19. College Rodeo Cowgirls: from Queen to Contestant to Coach
A little blond six-year-old cowgirl rode her stickhorse every morning from the ranch house down the dirt road to the little one-room schoolhouse. One afternoon the teacher heard her crying. Someone had taken the little girl’s stickhorse. The teacher explained that they would make another one tomorrow; however, she kept crying. The teacher...
Chapter 20. Ghosts, Goblins, Virgins, and Other Supernatural Creatures: Ghost Stories at Texas Tech University and South Plains College
We’re all familiar with those things that go bump in the night. Even my own fairly intelligent, usually level-headed wife refuses to go to sleep unless the closet doors are firmly closed. It was, however, her curious insistence on carrying all her textbooks to each exam that originally prompted me in 1986 and 1987 to survey my undergraduates at Texas Tech University about their own good-luck rituals. Of the...
Part 5a. Language and Study
Part 5b. Language and Study
Chapter 21. Popular English Usage in Texas, or How You're S’posed to Talk
Texas has a lot of colorful expressions in its everyday language, and it had many more a generation or two ago. When the folk don’t have the nuances of expression provided by a full, “proper” vocabulary, they make up words and expressions in an effort to convey precisely what they mean. The language of the common people is magnificent in its intricacies and texture. Its phrases and proverbs are often much more revealing,...
Chapter 22. Talking Fancy
When I was in the seventh grade, ‘Fessor Jones, who drove the school bus and taught general science, told me that only thirteen people in the world could understand Einstein’s theory of relativity. And I was not one of them. Nor would I ever be. And then Miss Pate, the English teacher who was widely thought to be a devil worshiper, introduced us to the works of two drunkard dope-fiend...
Chapter 23. Folk Use of Mnemonics
There is little argument that everyone has a desire to have a much better memory. After all, we make comments to the effect of, “I sure do wish I could remember that person’s name!” or, “I wish I could remember when that English paper is due.” Yes, we all have times when our memory seems to go out the window, and most of us seem to spend a portion of our life explaining our dilemma by using the expression, “It’s right on...
Chapter 24. Some Aspects of Language in Selected Cowboy Poetry
The popularity of cowboy poetry increases every year. The Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada, which debuted in 1985, has become an annual event, attracting world-wide media attention. Cowboy festivals have sprung up throughout the country, and recitations by cowboy poets have become a regular part of county fairs, folklore...
Chapter 25. Some Past Directions of Narrative-Folklore Study
Regardless of how we choose to define it, presumably folklore has existed for as long as human culture has existed. But while the collecting of folklore must also have its roots in prehistory—in the first bard’s notion of repertory— systematic collecting for the preservation of threatened species and for humanistic and scientific study belongs chiefly to the nineteenth century. Two related political trends in eighteenth-century Europe, toward nationalism and toward democracy, awakened...