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First Timers and Old Timers

The Texas Folklore Society Fire Burns On

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt

Publication Year: 2012

The Texas Folklore Society has been alive and kicking for over one hundred years now, and I don’t really think there’s any mystery as to what keeps the organization going strong. The secret to our longevity is simply the constant replenishment of our body of contributors. We are especially fortunate in recent years to have had papers given at our annual meetings by new members—young members, many of whom are college or even high school students. These presentations are oftentimes given during sessions right alongside some of our oldest members. We’ve also had long-time members who’ve been around for years but had never yet given papers; thankfully, they finally took the opportunity to present their research, fulfilling the mission of the TFS: to collect, preserve, and present the lore of Texas and the Southwest. You’ll find in this book some of the best articles from those presentations. The first fruits of our youngest or newest members include Acayla Haile on the folklore of plants. Familiar and well-respected names like J. Rhett Rushing and Kenneth W. Davis discuss folklore about monsters and the classic “widow’s revenge” tale. These works—and the people who produced them—represent the secret behind the history of the Texas Folklore Society, as well as its future.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Series: Publications of the Texas Folklore Society

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix

The Texas Folklore Society has been around for over a hundred years now, and in terms of printed scholarship pertaining to the lore of Texas and the Southwest, we’ve produced more than any other organization in the..

I. “Back in the Day”: Reflections on Times Passed

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“Use It Up. Wear It Out. Make It Do. Do Without.”

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pp. 3-14

Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Do without. I heard these refrains day in and day out in my youth, primarily from my mother. I’m surprised she didn’t make me and my brother repeat the entire chorus each morning before we left for school. Later, I learned that...

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“Growing Up in the Goat Pen”

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pp. 15-22

We children—in my family—all grew up in the goat pen, which was our way of life and our livelihood. Our lives could no more be separated from the goats than our bodies could live without the food we ate. From daylight...

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“The Wheels of Our Lives”

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pp. 23-28

Apparently Gronk, the caveman, was inspired when he observed a round rock roll down a hill. This mystery man’s invention really, well, to use a bad pun, “started the ball rolling.” The wheel revolutionized the world of transportation and machines. It simplified the moving of materials...

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“Back Then”

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pp. 29-38

Some time ago management at Red River Radio, a National Public Radio-affiliated network with headquarters in Shreveport that broadcasts to Louisiana, East Texas, southern Arkansas, a smidgen of Oklahoma and Mississippi, and as the announcer says, “streams around the world”—which...

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“I’m Here to Tell You!: Family Vignettes from the Depression Era”

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pp. 39-50

was born in Pilot Point, in Denton County, Texas, on December 7, 1941, just a few hours before the Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor. Before 1941, more Texas babies were born at home than in hospitals; after 1941, more were...

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“A Czech Way of Business”

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pp. 51-58

In the early 1870s, Czech immigrants from the Moravian region of the Austro-Hungarian empire began settling on and cultivating the rich blacklands found throughout Central Texas. Years passed and many second-, third-, and...

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“Some Recollections of Defining Events”

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pp. 59-72

When I entered this world my parents were living on a Nueces County cotton farm south of Violet on the road to Petronila. It was the era when women gave themselves and each other home permanents, when green olives were stuffed with real pimiento, when toothpaste came in metal tubes...

II. Texas Music

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“‘Hell in Texas’: Crossing Between Sin and Salvation in Texas Folk Songs”

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pp. 75-84

Stories of development from childhood to adulthood or of journeying through a life-changing experience to gain new knowledge are replete in oral and written tradition, as exemplified by the Greek epic of Odysseus and countless other tales. The theme of travel, hardship, and eventual spiritual or...

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“Buddy Holly, Beethoven, and Lubbock in the 1950s”

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pp. 85-94

I love the music of Beethoven—Ludwig van Beethoven. I also like Buddy Holly’s high energy songs, Waylon Jennings’s rebel sounds, Virgil Johnson’s doo wop, and, in part because I grew up in Minneapolis, I love Sonny Curtis’s...

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“Waltz Across Texas: An Exploration of the Music in the German and Czech Dance Halls of South Central Texas and the Bands that Played the Music”

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pp. 95-106

“Waltz across Texas with you in my arms, waltz across Texas with you” goes the line from the Ernest Tubb country hit of 1965 that has become a standard at any dance hall in Texas.1 Growing up a good Southern Baptist...

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“The Music of Ruby Allmond”

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pp. 107-116

Like all good stories, the one of Fannin County musician Ruby Allmond’s career has three distinct parts. First was the struggle to gain recognition as a performer. Then came three decades as a songwriter, with several Nashville...

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“Songs of the Depression”

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pp. 117-134

There are several advantages to living a long time, one of which is that you become historical. You begin to find the commonplace times of your life in history books. The Depression was a distinct part of my life, and I talked...

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“‘July 4, 1976’: A Folktale from the Helotes Settlement”

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pp. 135-138

Instead of a sermon that day, Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Helotes had an organ recital by Marie Conley. Without preamble, Father Louis Trawalter introduced her. She was old, old—upper ’80s, maybe ’90s—but her fingers were agile. I can...

III. Legends in Their Time—and Ours Still

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“Frances Lane and Mattie Felker: Two Legendary Ladies of Texas”

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pp. 141-154

The rags-to-riches fable: Poor young person works hard, pulls himself up by his bootstraps, and becomes unbelievably successful. The stories wouldn’t exist if, every once in a while, they didn’t actually happen. As young girls helping their mother design and sew their clothes in the small farming...

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“The Evolution of a Family Epic”

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pp. 155-162

Family folklore is frequently passed down from one generation to the next through the oral tradition, but each generation of tellers must interpret events and motives from their own frame of reference. Such is the evolution of a story I heard about my paternal grandfather from my...

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“Lon Goldstein and the Gainesville Owls”

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pp. 163-172

The diamond is empty and the stands are vacant. Locke Field, located in Gainesville, Texas, is silent. However, there are those who still remember when the ballpark was filled with cheering fans and the sounds of long...

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“Russell Lee’s Texas Photographs”

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pp. 173-182

Russell Lee worked as a photographer for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) from 1936 through 1942, traveling all over America on assignment, and providing a visual history and survey of American life. He joined...

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“Américo Paredes, Border Anthropologist”

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pp. 183-192

His first name was Américo, like the explorer for which America was named. His last name was Paredes, which comes from the Latin word parietis, meaning walls. His life spanned over eight decades which included events that changed the world forever. Américo lived during some...

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“Sages, Pundits, and Spinners”

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pp. 193-202

That quotation from Yeats’s “Sailing to Byzantium” has nothing to do with what follows. I only preface my remarks with it to show that I went to college. My students never believed that I did. Now to the business at hand: Sages, Pundits, and Spinners. Kent Biffle once called...

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“James and John: Wild and Crazy Apostles of the TFS West”

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pp. 203-220

For some readers of this informal remembrance of the Texas Folklore Society’s deceased members James M. Day and John O. West, the names James and John of the title will bring images of the apostles of Christianity and...

IV. Everything But the Kitchen Sink: Ghosts, Legends, Language, and Other Lore

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“Ghost Stories and Legends of Old San Patricio”

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pp. 223-232

Last year as I walked into my Spanish class, I noticed pictures of big, creepy-looking houses, pictures that weren’t usually in that classroom. As my attention was drawn toward one particular picture of a house, I realized I had been there many times. I told my teacher, “Mrs. Cornejo,..

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“The Widow’s Revenge: The Genesis and Development of a Tale in Bell County”

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pp. 233-242

In a good year in Bell County, roasting ears are ready by June 19. Bulls don’t know that June ’Teenth has festive connotations. They do know that fresh roasting ears are good, along with a bit of a salad from the tender...

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“Tip to Tip—Legendary Texas Longhorns”

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pp. 243-254

I saw my first Texas longhorn steer when an animal show came to my hometown of Ballinger, Texas, sometime shortly after World War II. Even though the steer did not have a horn spread that would compare with some...

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“The Aurora Airship Crash of 1897”

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pp. 255-264

Sometimes, the draw of a legend is simply that we wish it were true. And sometimes that wishing muddies the water so thoroughly that it’s hard to separate fact from, well, from An Enticing Legend. But even a tale as bizarre as the Aurora Airship Crash of 1897 needs nuggets of truth...

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“The Hidfolk of Texas”

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pp. 265-272

Hearken to my tales of the hidfolk! Most of our folklore presentations describe places and things and people that we can see. I want to reveal a bit about the hidfolk of Texas: the “little people,” fairies and elves, brownies, trolls,..

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“CURSES! (“!?*#ZX?@”)”

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pp. 273-284

How things have changed! There was a time in Texas when people would not dare to say certain words or expressions. Nowadays, people seem to say whatever they want to—whenever and wherever they want to! If it...

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“Monsters in Texas”

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pp. 285-292

Are there monsters in Texas? In the interests of time and avoiding fistfights, this paper will not cover elected officials, high school math teachers, or the Houston Astros relief pitchers. It will cover a wide range of bogies and boogers, some real and some imagined, plus enough beasties, nasties, and ghoulies to keep you sleeping...

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“The Folklore of Plants: Growing Up in the Hill Country”

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pp. 293-304

I have long been interested in the plants of my Texas home. As a child, one of my favorite games involved gathering interesting looking plants and grinding them between two rocks and presenting them to my family as..

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“High Art versus the Oral Tradition”

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pp. 305-316

teach English—mostly American literature and Southwestern Literature, plus an annual installment of a course called “Texas Crossroads,” which examines the intersections between Texas history, literature, and various segments...

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“The Hispanic Shaman”

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pp. 317-324

The word “shaman,” especially in Asian countries, refers to a person or priest who tries to contact the good and evil spirits in the world to help solve people’s problems, which can be both physical and spiritual. Similar...

Contributors’ Vitas

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pp. 325-336


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pp. 337-353

E-ISBN-13: 9781574414837
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574414714

Page Count: 400
Illustrations: 90 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Publications of the Texas Folklore Society

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Folklore -- Texas.
  • Texas -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
  • Texas -- Social life and customs -- 21st century.
  • Texas -- Biography.
  • Texas Folklore Society.
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