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Both Sides of the Border

A Scattering of Texas Folklore

Edited by Francis Edward Abernethy and Kenneth L. Untiedt

Publication Year: 2004

Texas has a large population who has lived on both sides of the border and created a folkloric mix that makes Texas unique. Both Sides of the Border gets its name from its emphasis on recently researched Tex-Mex folklore. But we recognize that Texas has other borders besides the Rio Grande. We use that title with the folklorist’s knowledge that all of this state’s songs, tales, and traditions have lived and prospered on the other sides of Texas borders at one time or another before they crossed the rivers and became “ours.” Chapters are organized thematically, and include favorite storytellers like James Ward Lee, Thad Sitton, and Jerry Lincecum. Lee’s beloved “Hell is for He-Men” appears here, along with Sitton’s informative essay on Texas freedman’s settlements. Both Sides of the Border contains something to delight everyone interested in Texas folklore.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Publications of the Texas Folklore Society

Title Page

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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xi

Tell me honestly, have you ever cleaned out your files? I don’t mean picking through one pittance of a drawer of files while watching As the World Turns. I mean thoughtfully and meticulously going through cabinets and closets and garages filled with...


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Chapter 1. Letters from J. Frank Dobie to John Robert Craddock

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pp. 2-28

The Texas Folklore Society is forever indebted for its very existence to J. Frank Dobie, the Society’s Executive Secretary and the editor of its publications from 1922 to 1943. The Society, which had been founded in 1909 and was stabled at The University of...

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Chapter 2. Doc Sonnichsen Holds His Own

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pp. 30-39

On Sunday, June 2, 1931, a freshly-minted Harvard Ph.D. stepped off the train in the sunbaked border town of El Paso, prepared to assume responsibilities as an assistant professor of English at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy. The adjective “dapper”...


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Chapter 3. Growing Up on Both Sides of the Border

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pp. 42-54

My mother was born in Camargo, Chihuahua, a scant ten years after the turn of the twentieth century. She was only a few months old when the Mexican Revolution erupted and pushed her family north to Ciudad Ju

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Chapter 4. Welito: A Mexican-American Family in Southwest Texas

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pp. 56-64

[Bertha Dominguez (1941–1997) was a student of Elton Miles in his Southwestern Literature class at Sul Ross State College in 1972. She and Elton sent me her paper to consider for publication the following year. This was during my earliest spasm of activity with the idea of a...

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Chapter 5. Folklore of a San Antonio Midwife

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pp. 66-71

Gregoria Arispe Galv

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Chapter 6. Religion, Superstitions, and Remedios

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pp. 72-81

The saying “Sana, sana, colita de rana, / Si no te alivias hoy te aliviarás mañana” (Get well, get well, little frog’s tail, / If you don’t get well today, you’ll get well tomorrow.) or some variation of it was frequently heard in our Mexican-American community, ...

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Chapter 7. Pepe's Panaderia: Bread Folklore

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pp. 82-91

Years ago somewhere between Crystal City and McAllen in a small community, I saw a sign on a weathered adobe building: Pepe’s Panaderia: Bread of All Kinds. On a simple wooden table placed near the building’s only window were curiously shaped loaves of...

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Chapter 8. A Tortilla Is Never "Just" a Tortilla

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pp. 92-99

On my mother’s stove, there sat a comal, a flat, round, cast-iron griddle with a handle, always ready to heat tortillas for at least two meals out of the daily three that she would prepare. On days when she was not too harried, those tortillas came not out of a plastic...


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Chapter 9. The Evolution of a Legend: The Headless Horseman

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pp. 102-117

It is late at night. The meeting you attended in Cuero did not let out until nine p.m., and your drive towards San Antonio along Highway 87 starts out as a peaceful ride. The dark sky is full of twinkling stars and traffic is light. As you drive along, ...

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Chapter 10. Who is Buried in Jesse James' Grave?

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pp. 118-128

In Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri, visitors can find a gravestone bearing the name of Jesse James, the Old West’s most notorious outlaw. James, the story goes, was slain on April 3, 1882, in St. Joseph, Missouri. He had been living there with his...

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Chapter 11. A Note on the Pacing White Mustang Legend

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pp. 130-137

By 1832, the year Washington Irving reported him in his camp journal that became A Tour on the Prairies,1 stories of a remarkable wild stallion were making the rounds of western campfires. Mustangers had gone after the horse but without success. According to...

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Chapter 12. Hell is for He-Men!

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pp. 138-148

Back in Alabama in the 1930s—back when men were men and women were double breasted—our local hero was Fat Fullmer. Old Fat rode a milky blue Indian Chief Motocycle (Hey, that is the correct spelling for Indian motorcycles), and Fat rode it with style. ...

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Chapter 13. Clementine Hunter: Folk Artist

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pp. 150-160

.Folk artist Clementine Hunter lived for just over one hundred years, all of those years in Natchitoches parish in northwestern Louisiana, and most of them on the grounds of Melrose Plantation, where she worked as a field hand in her early years and as a...

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Chapter 14. Packaged Folklore: The Texas Folklife Festival

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pp. 162-174

Many are the definitions of folklore. From the professional side it’s what people create and do in terms of traditional beliefs, customs, language uses, survival skills, stories, music, tools, decorations, entertainments, foods, and so forth that informally move across...

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Chapter 15. Same Song, Second Verse

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pp. 175-205

In 1945 in Alice, Texas, my best friend’s twin brother drove his sister and me crazy singing this parody to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”: ...

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Chapter 16. Texas Kitsch and Other Collectibles

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pp. 206-214

A lot of people may not understand the importance of the State of Texas in the overall scheme of the universe—or why someone would choose to present a paper on collecting only Texas items. It is hard to conceive of a book explaining “How to Speak Iowan,” ...

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Chapter 17. Texas Freedman's Settlements in the New South

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pp. 216-230

For the last year, James H. Conrad and I have been engaged in research about Texas freedmen’s settlements. These were independent black rural communities usually established within twenty years after the end of slavery. We currently know of several hundred...

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Chapter 18. Toby's Hound

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pp. 232-235

One time we were ‘coon hunting with Mr. Rawlinson up on Beech Creek. His nephew Toby was along with us, and some country boys from Sacul had brought some dogs that we didn’t know very well. I could tell Mr. Rawlinson wasn’t too pleased with...


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Chapter 19. Passing the Light: How Family Stories Shape Our Lives

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pp. 238-251

Several short stories: What do they have in common?

1) A neighbor’s grandchild came over to play in the yard. Mark is a beautiful fair child with light blue eyes and pale blond hair. When Mark fell and skinned his knee, he began to cry piteously. I ...

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Chapter 20. Two Tales of My Family: Two Tales of Who I Am

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pp. 252-258

The wind can blow across West Texas at speeds of up to fifty miles per hour as it rushes across the empty space to wherever the wind must go. As it makes its hurried journey, the wind scatters dust, tumbleweeds, and the occasional traveler throughout the landscape...

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Chapter 21. Red Kelly's Grandmother

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pp. 260-262

On the other side of Red Kelly’s family were the Martins. His grandmother, Mary Martin, was left a widow with five daughters and a son on their plantation-like place in northern Tyler County’s Billum’s Creek area. She was quick to get a reputation, as...

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Chapter 22. A Family Full of Scars

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pp. 264-272

My mother’s poverty after her father died never wiped out her Old South aristocratic tastes, but when I was two or three, the meager evidence we had of this heritage was her one sterling silver baby spoon and a many-faceted sugar bowl. ...

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Chapter 23. The Day Grandpa Blew Up the Tractor

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pp. 273-274

In 1968 my grandfather bought a used John Deere, Model H tractor for the princely sum of $75.00. Actually the tractor was manufactured in 1939, and had spent its long life sitting out in the fields. While most people referred to a John Deere as a “popping...

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Chapter 24. Greater Love . . .

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pp. 276-279

We called him “Rabbi” ironically, probably because he could be so outrageously disorderly and unrabbinical. His name was George Oliver, and he was among the veterans who returned from World War II to the Stephen F. Austin State College campus on the G. I. ...

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Chapter 25. Family Saga vs. History: Hezekiah Lincecum and the Church

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pp. 281-290

Hezekiah Lincecum, my great-great-great-great grandfather, was born in 1770 in Warren County, Georgia, and died in 1839 in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Most of what we know about his life was recorded by his eldest son Gideon in an autobiography, which...

List of Contributors

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pp. 293-296


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pp. 297-304

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414134
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574411843

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 40 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Publications of the Texas Folklore Society