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22 FOLKLORE IN THE BIG THICKET BY ARCHER FULLINGIM Archer Fullingim is editor, printer, and publisher of THE KOUNTZE NEWS. He is also a fire-brand Democrat who can raise more Cain with Republicans and with Birchites in his one editorial column than all the rest of Texas' liberal newspapers combined. In the Thicket he is a controversial figure, sworn at as often and as vigorously as he is sworn by. Archer's writing style is his own, very personal and idiomatic rather than grammatically pure and iournalistically bland. His news stories, as well as his editorials, tumble along like the energetic and rapid-fire monologues which he sometimes delivers to his visitors. The Printer writes and talks about everything in the Thicket. Banner headlines will announce that a bear or panther has been spotted in the nearby woods; or a lead will pose the question, "Do Panthers Scream?" Several issues will be devoted to both sides of this problem. He can write an exciting front-page story about the size of watermelons or the shape of gourds raised in the Thicket. And he will top it all off with a front-page character sketch-and a three-column picture-of the Barefoot Man from Caney Head. Archer is one of the few iournalists who has had the courage to allow his own personality to be a part of his paper, and I wouldn't miss a single issue.-F.E.A. 14. Archer Fullingim. Ilive in Kountze, Hardin County, Texas, which advertises itself on billboards, on chamber-of-commerce literature, and in The Kountze News as "The Town with a Sense of Humor" and "The Big Light in the Big Thicket." Kountze consciously tries to live up to the first slogan, though, as a matter of fact, I often think there is less humor in Kountze than in any other place I know. The slogan did have a rich beginning and probably some basis in fact, even though nobody can prove it; but then to my way of thinking that is the ideal way for folklore to get started. When I moved to Hardin County twenty years ago, about the first thing I heard was that Kountze's slogan was "the town with a sense of humor," that this slogan had been decided on in the last century, and that it would be no use for the new newspaper to try to think up another slogan. "We are not the gateway to anything," people said. "Nor are we a queen city or any kind of a jewel of the forest." 23 24 TALES FROM THE BIG THICKET The son of the man who was supposed to have originated the slogan told me how many of the streets were named in "the town with the sense of humor." He said that his father, Ben Hooks, who owned a general store and was one of Kountze's two leading citizens , was a great fiddler, as was the other leading citizen. Often they would sit up all night and play the fiddle. They owned most of the town, especially along the railroad tracks. When it became necessary to name the streets, they named them after animals and trees and plants of the Big Thicket, in which Kountze was and still is a clearing. They gave the streets such names as Bear, Fox, Cherry, and Deer. The main street is Pine Street. Some of the names have been abandoned because they didn't look well in print, so you won't find street names like Skunk, Polecat, Shittim, Boar Coon, or Pisselm on the map today. Three other street names never did make the new map either. They were Panther Scream, Ima Hogg, and Vra Hogg. Periodically in Hardin County there rage in the columns of The Kountze News (which I publish) vitriolic word battles over whether or not a panther screams like a woman. Somebody will come in and say that he saw a panther in the Thicket (and it's always a black panther), and he will say that it screamed like a hysterical, frightened woman. As I say, this happens two or three times a year. Always it gets a rise out of panther experts in Dallas, Houston, Beaumont, Wyoming , and Arizona, who send in long letters-backed, of course, by the National GeographiC Magazine and encyclopedias-arguing that there is no such thing as a black panther, and that a panther never, never screams, especially like a fear-crazed...


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