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1. Judge Cecil Overstreet and his son Winston PREFACE TO NORTH TEXAS EDITION Tales from the Big Thicket is dedicated to the people of Kountze and of Hardin County and to Cecil Overstreet (1908-1997), who introduced me to these woods and who, to me, best represented the Thicket, past and present. The Overstreets came to the Big Thicket in 1852 and settled near Honey Island. Since then they have scattered their bones and blood all through this part of the country. Cecil's family has figured one way or another, good or bad, in everything that has happened in the Thicket. And Cecil was a hard runner and an allday hunter, a fit representative of a long line of fighters and hunters who have roamed the Big Thicket for over a hundred years. He has my greatest respect and admiration. Most of the tales that follow come straight out of the Thicket and are written by people who are part of it. They are kin to the Thicket and every old family that passed through it. The tuft grass and the white oak, the deer and the yellow hammers are their ancestors who have gone their subtle ways and have turned and are passing again. And the tall pines are the old settlers, still there looking over them, seeing how they are getting along. I thank the Lamar Tech Research Center for their assistance and encouragement, and I am grateful to Professor Wilson M. Hudson of The University of Texas and the Texas Folklore Society for getting this book started and for operating the tedious machinery that finally got it to the press. vii viii TALES FROM THE BIG THICKET Arden Hooks and Lance Rosier showed me much in the Thicket that my own city-dimmed eyes were not able to see. Maxine Johnson, Lois Parker, Ruth Scurlock, Aline House, Dempsie Henley, Thomas Sidney Hooks, and Ethel Osborn Hill are other students of Thicket lore who generously shared their holdings with me. Marion Springer typed and proofread ably and patiently. Luther Lowery furnished bed and board. I thank all of these, and I especially thank the contributors, whose experiences and lives in the Big Thicket have been just as interesting as those they write about. When I was working on Tales From the Big Thicket in 1964, the Big Thicket Association was being formed for the second time. R. E. Jackson had formed an East Texas Big Thicket Association in 1936 and had hoped to set aside 435,000 acres for a Big Thicket wildlife preserve. They made considerable progress but were hampered and ultimately aborted by the Depression and then World War II-and by the fact that the U. S. had just finished spending three million dollars to establish 1,700,000 acres of national forest land in East Texas. Then in 1962 Governor Price Daniel appointed a commission to establish a Big Thicket State Park, and in 1964 the second Big Thicket Association was founded to raise people's consciousness of the Thicket and to establish some means of preserving it. After a decade of arguing about what the Thicket was and where it was, the Big Thicket National Preserve was created in 1974, mainly under the gUidance of Senator Ralph Yarborough and the political manipulations of Congressman Charlie Wilson. The Preserve contained 84,500 acres, but its final form was a compromise. The Big Thicket National Preserve is not one large nature preserve; it is made up of fourteen units that were selected and set aside to illustrate the ecological diversity of the entire Big Thicket. Texas is indeed blessed with riches of the Big Thicket National Preserve. And Texas is blessed with the people of the Thicket, who have worked so diligently that others might enjoy these places of nature's beauty. And I am exceedingly blessed that for fifty years of my life I have known the Thicket and have fished its waters and hunted its woods. Its folks are my folks. FRANCIS EDWARD ABERNETHY Stephen F Austin State University Nacogdoches, Texas The second time around, May 1, 2001 ...


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