[Sticky] Megathread of Texas Quotes ... This Will Take Some Time to Load
"If we had arrested all the naked and drunk people I saw, we'd have filled our jail and yours and all of the jails from here to Dallas..
----- a Williamson County deputy sheriff talking to a reporter from the Austin American Statesman after Willie's 1975 4th of July picnic, held in Williamson County, Texas
"Texas remains in my mind's eye that place to which I will eventually return to rake the dust for my formative tracks; that place where one hopes to grow introspective and wise as well as old. It is a romantic foolishness, of course: the opiate dream of a nostalgia junkie. When I go back to stay ---- and I fancy that I will ----- there doubtless will be opportunities to wonder at my plan's imperfections.
For already I have created in my mind, you see, an improbable corner of paradise: the rustic, rambling ranch house with the clear-singing creek nearby, the clumps of shade trees (under which, possibly, the Sons of the Pioneers will play perpetual string-band concerts), the big, cozy library where I will work and read and cogitate between issuing to the Dallas Times-Herald or the Houston Post those public pronouncements befitting an Elder Statesman of Life and Letters. I will become a late-blooming naturalist and outdoorsman: hiking and camping, and piddling in cattle; never mind that to date I have preferred the sidewalks of New York, and my beef not on the hoof but tricked up with mushroom sauces.
All this will occur about one easy hour out of Austin ---- my favorite Texas city ---- and exactly six miles from a tiny, unnamed town looking remarkably like what Walt Disney would have built for a cheery, heart-tugging Texas-based story happening about 1940. The nearest neighbor will live 3.7 miles away, have absolutely no children or dogs, but will have one beautiful young wife, who adores me; it is she who will permit me, by her periodic attentions, otherwise to live the hermit's uncluttered life. Politicians will come to my door hats in hand, and fledgling Poets and young Philosophers. Basically, they will want to know exactly what is Life's Purpose. Looking out across the gently blowing grasslands, past the grazing blooded cattle, toward a perfect sunset, with even the wind in my favor, and being the physical reincarnation of Hemingway with a dash of Twain in my mood, I shall ---- of course ----- be happy to tell them."
------- Larry L. King, "Playing Cowboy," 1975. This may be my favorite Texas quote of all time. It is part of a collection of essays entitled "Warning: Writer at Work: The Best Collectibles of Larry L. King. I should note that King actually DID come home to Texas: he passed away in 2012 and is buried in the state cemetery in Austin.
"While still in Natchitoches (Louisiana), I had decided to offer my services as an officer in the forthcoming war. I spoke about this to the Adjutant General of the Texas army, who happened to be there, and was informed that all of the government-appointed positions had been filled and that the officers of the volunteer companies were elected by members of those companies.
At the election of officers, the choice was not for the most worthy, but for the man who could buy the most whisky. It is no wonder, therefore, that orders were oftentimes not only ignored, but laughed at. The Captain commanded and the solder did as he pleased. I would have been glad to lead an armed group for the liberation of the land where I had sought to make my home, but under such conditions I would not and could not take up arms."
----- Friedrich W. von Wrede, a decorated Hessian officer and a veteran of the 1815 Battle of Waterloo against Napoleon and the French Army, passing up an opportunity to become a soldier in the Texas Revolution, 1836
"The site occupied by Schulenburg cannot be surpassed for beauty of natural scenery. The town corporation is one square mile and contains a population of one thousand souls most of whom are Germans who own most of the business houses of the place. The business transacted here is larger than any other town between Houston and San Antonio. Cotton, buffalo and cattle hides and cottonseed are shipped from this place daily. There are between 40 and 50 business houses and saloons in town, three hotels, the Masons and Odd Fellows Lodge in their recently built two-story lodge hall, the First Baptist Church, and St. James Missionary Baptist Church, one bakery, two meat markets, one livery stable, two blacksmith shops, three lumber yards, one cabinet shop, one grist mill, one planing mill, one cotton gin, one tobacco store, one musical instrument store, the Germania Hall, three physicians, daily train arrivals and departures and the telegraph. The population within a 20-mile radius is 3000 and the local farmland is the richest in the state. There is no drunkenness and do disturbances to mar the good feelings that pervade the community. Schulenburg should, in the near future, become one of the most desirable and attractive places in the state."
---- a glowing description of the new town of Schulenburg that appeared in The Schulenburg Argus in 1878. It reads as if it was written by the first Chamber of Commerce employee.
"Schulenberg (sic) is a small town on the railroad. Almost all the inhabitants are Germans,—thrifty, hard-working people, who attend to their own business with more enthusiasm than the native American can ever be accused of doing. They have a mayor and a board of aldermen in Schulenberg, and the aldermen make city ordinances,. Vagrant hogs, stray cows, and inebriated cowboys break those ordinances that are not vetoed by the mayor. There is a newspaper published in Schulenberg. Its columns are devoted to the mayor's proclamations, the railroad timetable, patent medicine advertisements, and reports of aldermanic discussions on municipal affairs. The absorbing topic at Schulenberg, when we were there, was, "Shall we continue to employ our present efficient police-force?
The "efficient police-force" consisted of a large man, whose clothes had apparently been made for a smaller policeman. He was armed with a very large revolver. His trousers did not quite reach his ankles; they had evidently been pulled before they were ripe."
----- Alexander Sweet, humorist, "On A Mexican Mustang Through Texas," 1882
"January 1 : For the past year Indians have been troublesome, coming into the section in such large bodies that a great many families have left the frontier .... and those who remain are "forted up." There are now 125 persons in the fort and others planning to move in.
January 23: This day was made memorable by the marriage of J.H. Browning and Miss Angelina McCarty. It was a grand occasion, being attended by a number of people from the lower fort, and all the visitors coming prepared to fight Indians along the way, if necessary.
March 13: Commenced school here today for a term of 14 weeks. I have only nineteen scholars at present and most of them are rude, wild and wholly unacquainted with school discipline.
July 8: A couple of the fort's leading ladies indulged in a fist fight this morning, the result of differences among their children.
November 29: A large buffalo was driven into the fort this morning, causing a great deal of commotion and excitement. The animal was immediately attacked by 40 dogs and killed in a very few minutes.
December 5: Cold and sleeting and several herds of buffalo drifted by during the day. I have stood in the school house and watched a herd no more than 100 yards away. I ave some home-made ink, but find it difficult to get it of the proper color and consistency, but it is a case of the best you can do or do without.
December 24: The first sermon ever preached in Fort Davis was preached here today by Parson Slaughter, and it was the first sermon that many of the people ever heard.
January 29 : My school is continually getting smaller. This is the second time a couple have quit school to get married."
----- entries in the diary of Sam Newcomb, who taught school at Fort Davis in 1865-1866, as uoted in "The Graham Leader" newspaper, January 29, 1922
"Farms are so big in Texas that on one of them a man starts out in the Spring and plows a straight furrow right on through until Fall and then he harvests back."
----- BOYCE HOUSE, Texas humorist extraordinaire
"One winter day the White family on Bear Creek in Sabine County killed a hog, cut it up, put the meat in a wooden tub, and set in in a corner of the cabin, to be salted down and smoked on the morrow. Then the man went off with his dogs to join the neighbor on a hunt. That night while Mrs. White was chunking up the fire in the fireplace, the children covered up in bed and a quilt wrapped around herself to shut out the cold norther blowing through the chinks in the log walls, she heard a panther scream.
She knew it had smelled the fresh meat. It prowled under the puncheon floor and then leaped up on the roof, every once in a while letting out a scream. Then it went to clawing on the logs and finally got a paw through a crack near the tub of meat and took out a piece. At this, Mrs. White threw her quilt over the tub, seized an axe standing just inside the door, and waited. In a little while the panther put its paw back through the crack for another piece of meat. She had the axe raised and now she came down with it, cutting the paw clean off. That panther did not bother around the cabin any more that night."
----- J. Frank Dobie, "Tales of Old-Time Texas," example # 4,321,745 of why not to mess with Texas women
"I thought that my eyes had deceived me. Could this small, boyish-looking youngster, not a particle of beard on his face, homely palefaced young man, be the venerable Jack Hays, the celebrated Indian fighter, the man whose name was sung by all the Texians? It could not be, I thought, but I soon found out that it was the venerable Captain Jack."
----- John W. Lockhart describes the physical appearance of legendary Texas ranger John Coffee Hays the first time he met Hays in a hotel in Washington-on-the-Brazos, "Jack Hays Visit to Washington, Texas"
"It was strange, leaving Texas. I had no plans to leave it, and didn't know how I felt... Then I really felt Texas. It was all behind me, north to south, not lying there, exactly, but more like looming over the car, not a state or a stretch of land but some giant, some genie, some god, towering over the road. I really felt it. Its vengeance might fall on me from behind. I had left without asking permission, or earning my freedom. Texas let me go, ominously quiet. But Texas hadn't gone away. It was always there behind me."
----- Larry McMurtry, author, "All My Friends are Going to be Strangers," 1972
"Cleanliness is next to Godliness. A man ought to take a bath every seven years whether he needs one or not. I do."
----- Big Bend recluse Bobcat Carter .... Note: Bobcat Carter was one of those figures who could only live in Texas and only in Big Bend. He was known for his lack of hygiene, among other things. One of his acquaintances, Guy Lee, said "I would just as soon of smelled a polecat as old Carter." But despite his lack of hygiene, Bobcat was in incredible health even into his 90s. He walked everywhere. He considered voting a sacred duty. He ordinarily went barefoot but, on election day, he would put on his voting clothes and his brogans and walk the 45 miles to Marathon and back. After voting, he did handsprings and sang and pranced down Main Street. He died in 1940 at the age of 97
"Mister, you can insult me, you can insult my friends and as a matter or fact, you can even insult my mother and my horse. But mister, don’t you EVER insult the great State of Texas!"
------ Pecos Bill, “Tall Tales"
"General Philip Sheridan is most famous for having said, in a moment of tired frustration back in 1866, 'If I owned Texas and all Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.' Here is Sheridan explaining how that quote came about:
'Speaking so kindly of Texas ---- and I speak from my heart ----- probably I ought to explain a remark I once made about the Lone Star state. I had just returned to San Antonio from Chihuahua on some Mexican business when I received an order to proceed at once to New Orleans.
I hired relays and coaches so that I had only to hitch on the wagon and go speedily to gt the boat from Galveston. I rode night and day. It was in August and, need I say, a tad warm. I arrived here covered with dust, my eyes and ears and throat filled with it. I went to a little hotel in that condition and had just gone up to the register when one of these newspaper men rushed up to me and said, "General, how do you like Texas?'"
I was mad and I said, 'If I owned Texas and all Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell.' Needless to say, that did not represent my true opinion of this magnificent state.'"
----- General Philip Sheridan, March 24, 1880, during a speech in Galveston at the Tremont Hotel. Now you know the rest of the story ..... and I feel a little bit like Paul Harvey
"To be sure, quite a few beasts of prey are found here. There are panthers (a kind of tiger the size of a dog but shaped like a cat), bears, wolves, foxes, opossums, skunks, several types of snakes, and alligators in the lakes and rivers. But there is enough food for all the animals so they do not need to attack human beings. Snakes can be a nuisance and they crawl clear up to the second story, especially a type called the chicken snake because it eats chickens and eggs which it swallows whole. The reason for its intrusion into houses is that the hens usually have their nests under the beds and up in in the lofts."
--------- Elise Woernskjold, who moved from Norway to Texas in 1847
"The people who live in the pine woods of Eastern Texas are very primitive in their habits. This this was the first part of Texas that was settled by the early pioneers, their descendants form the principal part of the population ..... You often find grown men and women that have never seen a prairie country, mountain or valley, railroad or steamboat. They grow to manhood and womanhood in the heart of the thick pine woods, and are contented and happy in their log cabins.
Their diets would by no means please the stomach of an epicure. Cornbread, bacon and potatoes, with an occasional treat of venison, give them perfect satisfaction. Nearly all the children born and reared in the pine woods have light hair; it is rare to see a back-haired family."
----- John A. Caplan, "The Sunny South," November 5, 1887
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! The following description is GRUESOME and NOT FIT FOR CHILDREN. OKAY? What follows is Rachel Parker Plummer's description of being abducted by the Comanches in 1836. Two years earlier, in 1834, the Parker clan of 30 Baptists settled into near what later became Groesbeck, Texas, in Limeestone county.
On the morning of May 19, 1836, the Comanches overtook them all, stabbed John Parker, scalped & cut off his private parts. Granny Parker was stripped, speared to the ground & raped. They left behind 5 dead men, & 2 women who would die from their injuries. Granny Parker pulled the spear from her flesh & lived. She was tough stock. Rachael Parker Plummer & her children were taken captive in the raid. The following is her story, written her own words.
Rachael Plummer's Narrative of Twenty One Months Servitude as a Prisoner Among the Commanchee Indians
"On the 19th of May, 1836, I was living in Fort Parker, on the head waters of the river Navasota. My father, (James W. Parker,) and my husband and brother-in-law were cultivating my father’s farm, which was about a mile from the fort. In the morning, say 9 o’clock, my father, brother-in-law, and brother, went to the farm to work. I do think they had left the fort more than an hour before some one of the fort cried out, “Indians!”
The inmates of the fort had retired to their farms in the neighborhood, and there were only six men in it viz: my grandfather, Elder John Parker, my two uncles, Benjamin and Silas Parker, Samuel Frost and his son Robert, and Frost’s son-in-law, G. B. Dwight. All appeared in a state of confusion, for the Indians (numbering something not far from eight hundred) had raised a white flag.
On the first sight of the Indians, my sister (Mrs. Nixon) started to alarm my father and his company at the farm, whilst the Indians were yet more than a quarter of a mile from the fort, and I saw her no more. I was in the act of starting to the farm, but I knew I was not able to take my little son, (James Pratt Plummer).
The women were all soon gone from the fort, whither I did not know; but I expected towards the farm. My old grandfather and grandmother, and several others, started through the farm, which was immediately joining the fort. Dwight started with his family and Mrs. Frost and her little children. As he started, Uncle Silas said, “Good Lord, Dwight, you are not going to run?” He said, “No, I am only going to try to hide the women and children in the woods.” Uncle said, “Stand and fight like a man, and if we have to die we will sell our lives as dearly as we can.”
The Indians halted; and two Indians came up to the fort to inform the inmates that they were friendly, and had come for the purpose of making a treaty with the Americans. This instantly threw the people off their guard, and Uncle Benjamin went to the Indians, who had now got within a few hundred yards of the fort. In a few minutes he returned, and told Frost and his son and Uncle Silas that he believed the Indians intended to fight, and told them to put everything in the best order for defense.
He said he would go back to the Indians and see if the fight could be avoided. Uncle Silas told him not to go, but to try to defend the place as well as they could; but he started off again to the Indians, and appeared to pay but little attention to what Silas said.
Uncle Silas said, “I know they will kill Benjamin”; and said to me, “Do you stand there and watch the Indians’ motion until I run into my house”—l think he said for his shot pouch. I suppose he had got a wrong shot pouch as he had four or five rifles. When Uncle Benjamin reached the body I was now satisfied they intended killing him. I took up my little James Pratt, and thought I would try to make my escape. As I ran across the fort, I met Silas returning to the place where he left me. He asked me if they had killed Benjamin.
I told him, “No; but they have surrounded him & I know they will kill him, but I will be good for one of them at least.” These were the last words I heard him utter. I ran out of the fort, and passing the corner I saw the Indians drive their spears into Benjamin. The work of death had already commenced. I shall not attempt to describe their terrific yells, their united voices that seemed to reach the very skies whilst they were dealing death to the inmates of the fort. It can scarcely be comprehended in the wide field of imagination. I know it is utterly impossible for me to give every particular in detail, for I was much alarmed.
I tried to make my escape, but alas, alas, it was too late, as a party of the Indians had got ahead of me. Oh! How vain were my feeble efforts to try to run to save myself and little James Pratt. A large sulky looking Indian picked up a hoe and knocked me down. I well recollect of their taking my child out of my arms, but whether they hit me any more I do not know, for I swooned away.
The first I recollect, they were dragging me along by the hair. I made several unsuccessful attempts to raise to my feet before I could do it. As they took me past the fort, I heard an awful screaming near the place where they had first seized me. I heard some shots. I then heard Uncle Silas shout a triumphant huzza!
I did, for one moment, hope the men had gathered from the neighboring farms, and might release me.I was soon dragged to the main body of the Indians, where they had killed Uncle Benjamin. His face was much mutilated, and many arrows were sticking in his body. As the savages passed by, they thrust their spears through him. I was covered with blood, for my wound was bleeding freely. I looked for my child but could not see him, and was convinced they had killed him, and every moment expected to share the same fate myself.
At length I saw him. An Indian had him on his horse; he was calling mother, oh, mother! He was just able to lisp the name of mother, being only about 18 months old. There were two Comanche women with them (their battles always brought on by a woman), one of whom came to me and struck me several times with a whip. I suppose it was to make me quit crying.
I now expected my father and husband, and all the rest of the men were killed. I soon saw a party of the Indians bringing my Aunt Elizabeth Kellogg and Uncle Silas’ two oldest children, Cynthia Ann, and John, also some bloody scalps; among them I could distinguish of my grandfather by the grey hairs, but could not discriminate the balance.
Most of the Indians were engaged in plundering the fort. They cut open our bed ticks and threw the feathers in the air, which was literally thick with them. They brought out a great number of my father’s books and medicines. Some of the books were torn up, most of the bottles of medicine were broken; though they took on some for several days.
I had a few minutes to reflect, for they soon started back the same way they came up. As I was leaving, I looked back at the place where I was one hour before, happy and free, and now in the hands of a ruthless, savage enemy.
They killed a great many of our cattle as they went along. They soon convinced me that I had no time to reflect upon the past, for they commenced whipping and beating me with clubs, etc., so that my flesh was never well from bruises and wounds during my captivity. To undertake to narrate their barbarous treatment would only add to my present distress, for it is with feelings of the deepest mortification that I think of it, much less to speak or write of it; for while I record this painful part of my narrative; I can almost feel the same heart-rending pains of body and mind that I then endured, my very soul becomes sick at the dreadful thought.
About midnight they stopped. They now tied a plaited thong around my arms, and drew my hands behind me. They tied them so tight that the scars can be easily seen to this day. They then tied a similar thong around my ankles, and drew my feet and hands together. They now turned me on my face and I was unable to turn over, when they commenced beating me over the head with their bows, and it was with great difficulty I could keep from smothering in my blood; for the wound they gave me with the hoe, and many others were bleeding freely.
I suppose it was to add to my misery that they brought my little James Pratt so near me that I could hear him cry. He would call for mother and often his voice was weakened by the blows they would give him. I could hear the blows. I could hear his cries; but oh, alas, could offer him no relief. The rest of the prisoners were brought near me, but we were not allowed to speak one word together. My aunt called me once, and I answered her; hut indeed, I thought she would never call or I answer again, for they jumped with their feet upon us, which nearly took our lives.
Often did the children cry, but were soon hushed by such blows that I had no idea they could survive. They commenced screaming and dancing around the scalps, kicking and stomping the prisoners.I now ask you, my Christian reader, to pause. You who are living secure from danger—you who have read the sacred scriptures of truth—who have been raised in a land boasting of Christian philanthropy—I say, I now ask you to form some idea of what my feelings were. Such dreadful savage yelling! Enough to terrify the bravest of hearts. Bleeding and weltering in my blood; and far worse, to think of my little darling Pratt! Will this scene ever be effaced from my memory? Not until my spirit is called to leave this tenement of clay; and may God grant me a heart to pray for them, for “they know not what they do.”
Next morning, they started in a northern direction. They tied me every night, as before stated, for five nights. During the first five days, I never ate one mouthful of food, and had but a very scanty allowance of water.
After we reached the Grand Prairie, we turned more to the east; that is, the party I belonged to. Aunt Elizabeth fell to the Kitchawas, and my nephew and niece to another portion of the Comanches.
I must again call my reader to bear with me in rehearsing the continued barbarous treatment of the Indians. My child kept crying, and almost continually calling for “Mother,” though I was not allowed even to speak to it. At the time they took off my fetters, they brought my child to me, supposing that I gave suck. As soon as it saw me, it, trembling with weakness, hastened to my embraces. Oh, with what feelings of love and sorrow did I embrace the mutilated body of my darling little James Pratt.
I now felt that my case was much bettered, as I thought they would let me have my child; but oh, mistaken, indeed, was I; for as soon as they found that I had weaned him, they, in spite of all my efforts, tor him from my embrace. He reached out his hands towards me, which were covered with blood, and cried, “Mother, Mother, oh, Mother!” I looked after him as he was borne away from me, and I sobbed aloud. This was the last I ever heard of my little Pratt. Where he is, I do not know.
Progressing farther and farther from my home, we crossed Big Red River, the head of Arkansas, and then turned more to the northwest. We now lost sight of timber entirely.For several hundred miles after we had left the Cross Timber country, and on the Red River, Arkansas, etc., there is a fine country. The timber is scarce and scrubby. Some streams as salt as brine; and others, fine water. The land, in part, is very rich, and game plenty.
We would travel for weeks and not see a riding switch. Buffalo dung is all the fuel. This is gathered into a round pile; and when set on fire, it does very well to cook by, and will keep a fire for several days. In July, and in part of August, we were on the Snow Mountains. There it is perpetual snow; and I suffered more from cold than I ever suffered in my life before. It was very seldom I had anything to put on my feet, but very little covering for my body.
I had to mind the horses every night, and had a certain number of buffalo skins to dress every moon. This kept me employed all the time in day light; and often would I have to take my buffalo skin with me, to finish it whilst I was minding the horses. My feet would be often frozen, even while I would be dressing skins, and I dared not complain; for my situation still grew more and more difficult.
In October, I gave birth to my second son. As to the months, etc., it was guess work with me, for I had no means of keeping the time. It was an interesting and beautiful babe. I had, as you may suppose, but a very poor chance to comfort myself with anything suitable to my situation, or that of my little infant. The Indians were not as hostile now as I had feared they would be. I was still fearful they would kill my child; and having now been with them some six months, I had learned their language. I would often expostulate with my mistress to advise me what to do to save my child; but all in vain.
My child was some six or seven weeks old, when I suppose my master thought it too much trouble, as I was not able to go through as much labor as before. One cold morning, five or six large Indians came where I was suckling my infant. As soon as they came in I felt my heart sick; my fears agitated my whole frame to a complete state of convulsion; my body shook with fear indeed. Nor were my fears ill-grounded.
One of them caught hold of the child by the throat; and with his whole strength, and like an enraged lion actuated by its devouring nature, held on like the hungry vulture, until my child was to all appearance entirely dead. I exerted my whole feeble strength to relieve it; but the other Indians held me.
They, by force, took it from me and threw it up in the air, and let it fall on the frozen ground, until it was apparently dead. They gave it back to me. The fountain of tears that had hitherto given vent to my grief, was now dried up. While I gazed upon the bruised cheeks of my darling infant, I discovered some symptoms of returning life. Oh, how vain was my hope that they would let me have it if I could revive it. I washed the blood from its face; and after some time, it began to breathe again; but a more heart-rending scene ensued. As soon as they found it had recovered a little, they again tore it from my embrace and knocked me down.
They tied a plaited rope round the child’s neck and drew its naked body into the large hedges of prickly pears, which were from eight to twelve feet high. They would then pull it through the pears. This they repeated several times. One of them then got on a horse, and tying the rope to his saddle, rode round a circuit of a few hundred yards, until my little innocent one was not only dead, but literally torn to pieces. I stood horror struck. One of them then took it up by the leg, brought it to me, and threw it into my lap.
But in praise to the Indians, I must say, that they gave me time to dig a hole in the earth and bury it. After having performed this last service to the lifeless remains of my dear babe, I sat down and gazed with joy on the resting place of my now happy infant; and I could, with old David, say “You cannot come to me, but I must go to you;” And then, and even now, whilst I record the awful tragedy, I rejoice that it passed from the sufferings and sorrows of this world. I shall hear its deathly cries no more; and fully and confidently believing, and solely relying on the imputed righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, I feel that my happy babe is now with its kindred spirits in that eternal world of Joys.
Oh my dear Savior, by his grace, keep me through life’s short journey, and bring me to dwell with my happy children in the sweet realms of endless bliss, where I shall meet the whole family of Heaven—those whose names are recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.
I would have been glad to have had the pleasure of laying my little James Pratt with this my happy infant. I do really believe I could have burried him without shedding a tear; for, indeed, they had ceased to (Low in relief of my grief) My heaving bosom could do no more than breathe deep sighs. Parents, you little know what you can bear, surely surely, my heart must break…
On one occasion, my young mistress & myself were out a short distance from town. She ordered me to go back to the town and get a kind of instrument with which they dig roots. Having lived as long, and indeed longer than life was desirable, I determined to aggravate them to kill me.
I told her I would not go back, She, in an enraged tone, bade me go. I told her I would not. She then with savage screams ran at me. I knocked, or, rather pushed her down, She, fighting and screaming like a desperado, tried to get up; but I kept her down; and in the fight I got hold of a large buffalo bone. I beat her over the head with it, although expecting at every moment to feel a spear reach my heart from one of the Indians; but I lost no time. I was determined if they killed me, to make a cripple of her.
Such yells as the Indians made around us— being nearly all collected a Christian mind cannot conceive. No one touched me. I had her past hurting me, and indeed, nearly past breathing, when she cried out for mercy, I let go my hold of her, and could but be amazed that not one of them attempted to arrest or kill me, or do the least thing for her. She was bleeding freely; for I had cut her head in several places to the skull. I raised her up and carried her to the camp. A new adventure this. I was yet undetermined what would grow out of it. All the Indians seemed as unconcerned as if nothing had taken place. I washed her face and gave her water. She appeared remarkably friendly.
One of the big chiefs came to me, and appeared to watch my movements with a great deal of attention. At length he observed— “You are brave to fight—good to a fallen enemy—you are directed by the Great Spirit. Indians do not have pity on a fallen enemy. By our law you are clear. It is contrary to our law to show you foul play. She began with you, and you had a right to kill her. Your noble spirit forbid you, When Indians fight, the conqueror gives or takes the life of his antagonist—and they seldom spare them.”
This was like a balm to my soul. But my old mistress was very mad. She ordered me to go and get a large bundle of straw. I soon Iearned it was to burn me to death. I did not fear that death; for I had prepared a knife, with which I Intended to defeat her object In putting me to death by burning, having determined to take my own life. She ordered me to cross my hands, I told her I would not do it, She asked me if I was willing for her to burn me to death without being tied. I told her that she should not tie me.
She caught up a bundle of straw, and setting it on fire, threw it on me. I was as good as my word. I pushed her into the fire, and as she raised, I knocked her down into the fire again, and kept her there until she was as badly burned as I was. She got hold of a club and hit me a time or two. I took it from her, and knocked her down with it. So we had a regular fight. I handled her with more ease than I did the young woman.
During the fight, we had broken down one side of the house, and had got fully out into the street. After I had fully overcome her, I discovered the same indifference on the part of the Indians as in the other fight. The whole of them were around us, screaming as before, and no one touched us. I, as in the former case, immediately administered to her. All was silent again, except now and then, a grunt from the old woman. The young woman refused to help me into the house with her. I got her in, and then fixed up the side of the house that we had broken.
Next morning, twelve of the chiefs assembled at the Council House. We were called for, and we attended; and with all the solemnity of a church service, went into the trial. The old lady told the story without the least embellishment. I was asked if these things were so. I answered, “Yes.” The young woman was asked, “Are these things true?” She said they were. We were asked if we had anything to say. Both of the others said “No.”
I said I had. I told the Court that they had mistreated me—they had not taken me honorably; that they had used the white flag to deceive us, by which they had killed my friends—that I had been faithful, and had served them from fear of death, and that I would rather die than be treated as I had been. I said that the Great Spirit would reward them for their treachery and their abuse to me.
The sentence was, that I should get a new pole for the one that we had broken in the fight. I agreed to it, provided the young woman helped me. This was made a part of the decree, and all was peace again.
This answered me a valuable purpose afterwards, in some other instances. I took my own part, and fared much the better by it.
One evening as I was at my work (being north of the Rocky Mountains), I discovered some Mexican traders. Hope instantly mounted the throne from whence it had long been banished. My tottering frame received fresh life and courage, as I saw them approaching the habitation of sorrow and grief where I dwelt. They asked for my master, and we were directly with him. They asked if he would sell me.
No music, no sound that ever reached my anxious ears was half so sweet as “Ce senure” (yes, sir). The trader made an offer for me. My owner refused. He offered more, but my owner still refused. Utter confusion hovers around my mind while I record this part of my history; and I can only ask my reader, if he can, to fancy himself in my situation; for language will fail to describe the anxious thoughts that revolved in my throbbing breast when I heard the trader say he could give no more.
Oh! had I the treasures of the universe, how freely I would have given it; yea, and then consented to have been a servant to my countrymen.
Would that my father could speak to him; but my father is no more, or one of my dear uncles; yes, they would say “stop not for price.”
Oh my good Lord, intercede for me. My eyes, despite my efforts, are swimming in tears at the very thought. I only have to appeal to the treasure of your hearts, my readers, to conceive the state of my desponding mind at this crisis.
At length, however, the trader made another offer for me, which my owner agreed to take. My whole feeble frame was now convulsed in an ecstasy of joy, as he delivered the first article as an earnest of the trade. MEMORABLE DAY!
Col. Nathaniel Parker, of Charleston, Illinois, burst into my mInd and although I knew he was about that time in the Illinois Senate, I knew he would reach his suffering niece, if he could only hear of her, Yes, I knew he would hasten to my relief, even at the sacrifice of a scat in that honorable body, if necessary.
Thousands of thoughts revolved through my mind as the trader was paying for me. My joy was full. Oh! shall I ever forget the time when my new master told me to go with him to his tent? As I turned from my prison, in my very soul I tried to return thanks to my God who always hears the cries of his saints:
My God was with me in distress,
My God was always there
Oh may I to my God address
Thankful and devoted prayer.
I was soon informed by my new master that he was going to take me to Santa Fe. That night, sleep departed from my eyes. In my fancy I surveyed the steps of my childhood, in company with my dear relations. It would, I suppose, be needless for me to say that I watched with eagerness the day to spring, and that the night was long filled with gratitude to the Living Conservator of the divine law of heaven and earth.
In the morning quite early, all things being ready, we started. We traveled very hard for seventeen days, when we reached Santa Fe. Then, my reader, I beheld some of my countrymen, and I leave you to conjecture the contrast in my feelings when I found myself surrounded by sympathizing Americans, clad in decent attire. I was soon conducted to Col. William Donoho’s residence. I found that it was him who had heard of the situation of myself and others, and being an American indeed, his manly and magnanimous bosom, heaved with sympathy characteristic of a Christian, had devised the plan for our release.
I have no language to express my gratitude to Mrs. Donoho. I found in her a mother, to direct me in that strange land, a sister to console with me in my misfortune, and offer new scenes of amusement to me to revive my mind. A friend? Yes, the best of friends; one who had been blessed with plenty, and was anxious to make me comfortable; and one who was continually pouring the sweet oil of consolation into my wounded and trembling soul, and was always comforting and admonishing me not to despond, and assured me that everything should be done to facilitate my return to my relatives; and though I am now separated far from her, I still owe her a debt of gratitude I shall never be able to repay but with my earnest prayers for the blessing of God to attend her through life.
The people of Santa Fe, by subscription, made up $150 to assist me to my friends. This was put into the hands of Rev. C——, who kept it and never let me have it; and but for the kindness of Mr. and Mrs. Donoho, I could not have got along.
Soon after I arrived in Santa Fe, a disturbance took place among the Mexicans. They killed several of their leading men. Mr. Donoho considered it unsafe for his family, and started with them to Missouri, and made me welcome as one of his family. The road led through a vast region of prairie, which is nearly one thousand miles across. This, to many, would have been a considerable undertaking, as it was all the way through an Indian country. But we arrived safely at Independence, in Missouri, where I received many single favors from many of the inhabitants, for which I shall ever feel grateful. I stayed at Mr. Donoho’s but I was impatient to learn something of my relatives.
My anxiety grew so great that I was often tempted to start on foot. I tried to pray, mingling my tears and prayers to Almighty God to intercede for me, and in his providence to devise some means by which I might get home to my friends. Despite of all the kind entreatiesof that benevolent woman, Mr, Donoho, I refused to be comforted and who, I ask, under these circumstances, could have been reconciled?
One evening I had been In my room trying to pray, and on stepping to the door, I saw my brother—In—law, Mr. Nixon. I tried to run to him, but was not able, I was so much overjoyed I scarcely knew what to say or how to act. I asked, ‘Are my husband and father alive?” He answered affirmatively. “Are mother and the children alive?” He said they were. Every moment seemed an hour. It was very cold weather, being now in dead of winter.
Mr. Donoho furnished me a horse, and in a few days we started, Mr. Donoho accompanying us. We had a long and cold journey of more than one thousand miles, the way we were compelled to travel, and that principally through a frontier country. But having been accustomed to hardships, together with my great anxiety, I thought I could stand anything, and the nearer I approached my people, the greater my anxiety grew.
Finally on the evening of the 19th day of February, 1838, I arrived at my father’s house in Montgomery County, Texas, Here united tears of joy flowed from the eyes of father, mother, brothers and sisters; while many strangers, unknown to me, (neighbor’s to my father) cordially united in this joyful interview.
I am now not only freed from my Indian captivity, enjoying the exquisite pleasure that my soul has long panted for.
Oh! God of Love, with pitying eye
Look on a wretch like me; That I may on thy name rely,
Oh, Lord! be pleased to see.
From my poor wounded heart, Yet thou my wishes did reward,
And sooth’d the painful smart.
How oft have sighs unuttered flowed."
Note: In her preface to this narrative, Rachel wrote: “With these remarks, I submit the following pages to the person of a generous public, feeling assured that before they are published, the hand that penned them will be cold in death.” She was right. On February 19, 1839, one year after her release from captivity, Rachel Plummer died of complications from childbirth, as did the child she gave birth to.
"In those days some of the north-bound cattle herds passed through Stephenville. It wasn't much of a village and a few fenced-in fields made going around it inconvenient. There were six or seven log cabins, with shed rooms of rawhide lumber, strung along the trail and out away from it. The central and largest structure served as a courthouse. It had a gallery covered with boards made of pin oak. The liveliest place in town was a saloon, where, for two-bits, a purchaser could get a 'fair-sized drink' of wagon-yard whiskey drawn from a 50 gallon barrel. Usually a group of cowboys were congregated there, but dogs far outnumbered people in the town, and dog fights were the chief entertainment. The sheriff owned a large parrot that habitually perched on the roof of the courthouse gallery. It had picked up a considerable vocabulary from the cowboys, including (naturally) profanities. Its favorite expression was "Ye-oh, sic 'em!" which usually started a dog fight.
On this particular day a herd was stringing through town, shying but keeping the middle of the road, when the parrot flapped his wings, gave a cowboy yell, and screeched "Ye-oh, sic em!" In a second all the dogs commenced to fighting. Some charged the herd, which stampeded. The cattle knocked down all the galleries, including the one the parrot was perched on, rammed through the sheds, and even demolished some of the cabins. Stephenville looked like a tornado hit it."
----- J. Frank Dobie remembers a cattle stampede through Stephenville, Texas, "The Longhorns"
"Pleasant it was on a warm, clear night to circle slowly around a herd of cattle that were bedded down quiet and breathing deep and out there to catch the strains of song or fiddle coming from camp, where the fire was like a dim star. But it was pleasanter to be in camp and, while just catching now and then a note from a singer or a fiddler on herd, to be dropping off to sleep. As long as a cowboy heard music, he knew that all was well."
--------- Veteran cowboy John Young recalling the delights of music on the Chisholm Trail in the 1870s
"THE STORY OF BONNIE AND CLYDE
Now you've heard the story of Jesse James
Of how he lived and died
If you're still in need
Of something to read
Here's the story of Bonnie and Clyde
Now Bonnie and Clyde are the Barrow Gang
I'm sure you all have read
How they rob and steal
And those who squeal
Are usually found dying or dead.
They call them cold-hearted killers
They say they are heartless and mean
But I say this with pride
That I once knew Clyde
When he was honest and upright and clean.
But the laws fooled around
Kept taking him down
And locking him up in a cell,
Till he said to me
"I'll never be free
So I'll meet a few of them in hell!"
The road was so dimly lighted
There was no highway signs to guide
But they made up their minds
If all roads were blind
They wouldn't give up till they died.
If a policeman is killed in Dallas
And they have no clue to guide
If they can't find a fiend
They just wipe their slate clean
And hang it on Bonnie and Clyde.
If they try to act like citizens
And rent them a nice little flat
About the third night
They're invited to fight
By a sub gun's rat-tat-tat.
Some day they'll go down together
They'll bury them side-by-side
To few it'll be grief
To the law a relief
But it's death to Bonnie and Clyde."
---- Bonnie Parker, bank robber, girlfriend of Clyde Barrow, 1934
"Those who there received us, after they had touched us, went running to their houses and directly returned, and did not stop running, going and coming, to bring us in this manner many things for support on the way. They fetched a man to me and stated that a long time since he had been wounded by an arrow in the right, shoulder, and that the point of the shaft was lodged above his heart, which, he said, gave him much pain, and in consequence, he was always sick. Probing the wound I felt the arrow-head, and found it had passed through the cartilage. With a knife I carried, I opened the breast to the place, and saw the point was aslant and troublesome to take out. I continued to cut, and, putting in the point of the knife, at last with great difficulty I drew the head forth. It was very large. With the bone of a deer, and by virtue of my calling, I made two stitches that threw the blood over me, and with hair from a skin I stanched the flow.
They asked me for the arrow-head after I had taken it out, which I gave, when the whole town came to look at it. They sent it into the back country that the people there might view it. In consequence of this operation they had many of their customary dances and festivities. The next day I cut the two stitches and the Indian was well. The wound I made appeared only like a seam in the palm of the hand. He said he felt no pain or sensitiveness in it whatsoever. This cure gave us control throughout the country in all that the inhabitants had power, or deemed of any value, or cherished. "
----- Cabeza de Vaca describes what may have been the very first surgery ever performed in Texas, "La Relacion," or "The Narrative of Alvar Nuñez Cabeça de Vaca," 1542
"Once the Kiowas were seated, Tatum [the Indian agent] inquired whether they knew anything about the destruction of a wagon train near Fort Richardson. After a silence the man who rose to reply was Satanta (White Bear), who of all the Kiowa leaders was best known to the whites. Satanta looked straight at Tatum and thumped his chest.
'I have heard that you have stolen a large portion of our annuity goods and given them to the Texans; I have repeatedly asked you for arms & ammunition, which you have not furnished, and made many other requests which have not been granted, You do not listen to my talk. The white people are preparing to build a railroad through our country, which will not be permitted. Some years ago we were taken by the hand & pulled here close to Texans where we have to fight. But we have cut that loose now and are all going with the Cheyennes to the Antelope Hills....
When Gen Custer was here two or three years ago, he arrested me & kept me in confinement several days. But arresting Indians is played out now & is never to be repeated. On account of these grievances, I took, a short time ago, about 100 of my warriors, with the Chiefs Satank, Eagle Heart, Big Tree, Big Bow, & Fast Bear, & went to Texas, where we captured a train not far from Ft Richardson, killed 7 of the men, & drove off about 41 mules. Three of my men were killed, but we are willing to call it even. If any other Indian come here & claims the honor of leading the party he will be lying to you, for I did it myself.'
-------- "Satanta and Big Tree," unpublished manuscript, Oklahoma Historical Society
"You go south from Fort DavisUntil you come to the place
Where rainbows wait for rain....
And the river is kept in a stone box
And water runs uphill.
And the mountains float in the air.
Except at night, when they run away to play
With other mountains."
----- a Mexican vaquero (cowboy) describing how to get to Big Bend from Fort Davis:, Texas, as told to Frank Tolbert, legendary Dallas newspaperman
"A dance hall is where you dance with your wife. A honkytonk is where you dance with somebody else's."
------ seen on a bumper sticker in Flatonia
"I was not completely without guile. West of Dallas, near Fort Worth, lies a small range known as "Chalk Hill." A major criterion of automotive excellence was the ability of a car to take Chalk Hill in high gear. Prospects naturally demanded that the demonstrations include this hill-climbing contest. We always made it but, one day, with a particularly heavy prospect aboard, I feared we wouldn't.
In an effort to give the buggy every chance, I made a running start and we approached Chalk Hill at 30 miles per hour. The little buggy bounced and skidded on the gravel road like a skittish colt learning to gallop. We started up the grade, with my potential customer and me both leaning forward and pushing with body English....
Halfway up it became all too clear to me that we were not going to make it in high gear. Quickly I slammed on the brakes, and we came to a dead stop.
The customer turned to me, but before he could say a word I beamed at him with a proud smile. "How do you like those brakes?" I asked. "See how they hold us tight, right here on Chalk Hill?"
He smiled back. "By God, they DO hold us, don't they? Holy gee, that's great."
He bought the car that afternoon for cash."
------- Future World War I fighter ace Eddie Rickenbacker, selling Firestone-Columbus automobiles in Dallas, 1909, in his autobiography "Rickenbacker," 1967
"It was like clockwork; every time I raised my Colt carbine, they stuck an arrow in me."
----- Texas Ranger Jean Carr after being wounded four times in a battle with the Comanches, 1851
“Republic of Texas
To all who shall see this present, greetings. Whereas I, Clerk of this County, having this morning unthoughtedly tied my office key as a clapper in my cow’s bell; and whereas the said cow has gone astray to parts unknown, bearing with her the said key; and therefore the said key is “non inventus est” —- that is, it can’t he had; And whereas one Abner Barnes has made application to me for marriage license, and the said Abner persists that he cannot wait until the cow comes back with the key, but is compelled by the violence of his feelings and the arrangements already made to get married: Therefore these presents are to command any person legally authorized to celebrate the rites of matrimony to join the said Abner Barnes to Rebecca Downs; and for so doing this shall be your sufficient authority.
Given under my hand and private seal, on the doorstep of my office —- the seal being locked up, and my cow having gone away with the key, this fourth day of October, A.D. 1838. Henry Osborne, Clerk”
—–a quickly improvised Republic of Texas marriage license, 1838
In 1997, when Hallie Stillwell died just shy of her 100th birthday in Alpine, she was a West Texas legend. She had married Big Bend Rancher Roy Stillwell nearly 80 years before, in 1918, and moved to his very small ranch house in the desert. Here, Hallie describes a mistake she made upon first arriving at the house:
“What I had in mind was to clean up the place, which I did in a big way. I swept, scrubbed, dusted, and worked on anything and everything, including the old black coffee pot. That particular coffee pot had never been cleaned before. The men had always just thrown out the coffee grounds, rinsed the pot with cold water, and considered it ready to set down on the fire at any given moment to brew a fresh pot of coffee.
I decided to take this pot to the sand pile, scrub it with sand first, scrub it with wood ashes, and then scrub it some more. I did not have any other kind of cleaning material except soap. I finally removed the crusts of black from the outside and most of the stains on the inside. I was more than proud of my accomplishment.
The next morning when I awakened I heard grumbling sounds coming from the kitchen. Four men were sitting in a torment as they sipped on the early morning coffee. It was obvious that they were trying to make the best of a bad situation. I heard Lee [one of the cowboys] moan, “It will be six months before this pot can make decent coffee again.”
I knew then that I had made another mistake. I would never be forgiven for washing that coffee pot. I covered my head with a pillow and sank down under the covers as Roy came into the bedroom. “Here, try to drink this coffee. Why the hell did you wash the coffee pot?”
I have always enjoyed lying in a comfortable bed and listening to the cowboys as they ground the Arbuckle coffee beans in the coffee grinder as they prepared the morning meal, but that particular morning I was not so comfortable. The grumbling about the clean coffee pot did not last the six months as predicted, and the men were thoughtful enough to keep the comments to themselves so that I would not feel so bad. But I never even attempted to wash that coffee pot again without first checking with Roy.
Even though I was somewhat embarrassed about my mistake, I felt that it was just a little one. Nevertheless, the story was told in Alpine and Marathon and it was years before I heard the end of it. Roy’s friends would casually ask if I had washed the coffee pot again and then let out a hearty laugh. Let a woman make one mistake and the cowboys will joke about it for years.”
----- Hallie Stillwell, legendary Big Bend rancher, journalist, Justice of the Peace, school teacher in “I’ll Gather My Geese,” 1991
“Here I am living on a soil that my people have been living and working and dying on for more than a hundred years—the soil, as it happens, of Texas. My roots go down into this soil as deep as mesquite roots go. This soil has nourished me as the banks of the lovely Guadalupe River nourish cypress trees, as the Brazos bottoms nourish the wild peach, as the gentle slopes of East Texas nourish the sweet-smelling pines, as the barren, rocky ridges along the Pecos nourish the daggered lechuguilla. I am at home here, and I want not only to know about my home land, I want to live intelligently on it. I want certain data that will enable me to accommodate myself to it. Knowledge helps sympathy to achieve harmony.”
------ J. Frank Dobie, historian and folklorist, "Guide to Life and Literature of the Southwest," 1958
"In about an hour, a faint murmuring came, as of wind sighing in pine trees ---- but there were none. Could it be a buzz of insects? He could see none near. The buzz became a drone, a roar that shook the earth. And then he saw a monstrous herd of buffalo charging down upon him, a surging black mass that would engulf him.
There was a cluster of trees not far away and he dashed over to it, tied his horse, and clambered into the branches. The center of that mass of animals struck the little grove.
'The width of that sea of buffalo as shown by their trail was more than half a mile," Gordon related. 'My terror was indescribably. Alone, as I feared, far from civilization, without a horse, in a hostile country, with my last bullet in my gun, a braver man than I might have despaired.
It was a spectacle which I fancied neither the white man nor Indian had ever seen ... I could have whipped the buffalo on each side of me with a buggy whip, and the heap itself was approaching me, with the buffalo on top of it higher than the fork of the tree where I was perched. It was a great relief when I observed that the roar was lessening, and after 55 minutes of alternate terror and pleasure for me, the mighty host had passed.'
It had been a great migration of buffalo, from their winter pastures in Texas to their northern haunts of the summer."
------ former trail cowboy George Andrew Gordon narrates what happened to him after he got separated from his companions out on the plains of Texas back in 1846, "Kansas City Star" newspaper, December 30th, 1925
" May your belly never grumble
May your heart sometimes ache
May your horse never stumble
And your bridle never break.
May sunshine waltz alongside you
May your pricklies mostly pear
May your friends find you true,
In your favorite rocking chair.
May your cattle always low
across the valley deep
may peace be all you know,
in the Texas of your sleep. "
----- Me, Traces of Texas, My Texas toast to every single reader of Traces of Texas (this is a work in progress, by the way; I am still not entirely satisfied)
"He neither built nor explored nor populated the West but moved ever so briefly across it, as capricious and lonely as the blowing dust. Dime novelists and penny dreadful authors scribbled magniloquent lies about the cowboy for rapt eastern readers but saw him only in town, often ending long cattle drives with a few desperate hours of extravagant carousel before returning to a life of social desolation. Like a cloistered monk of some distant forgotten monastery, the cowboy served his god, the rancher, and toiled at labors decidedly unglamorous. Moving often from ranch to ranch, the cowboy made few lasting friendships. He was untutored and often illiterate. For endless months he lived on the range, burned in summer, frozen in winter, as punished as the cattle he attended. He slept on the ground under "hen--skin" blankets. He arose at 4:00 a.m., or earlier, and often was not asleep again until midnight. He was fed a constant diet of beans, "Pecos strawberries," greasy stews, and Arbuckle's coffee. His aches and sprains were treated with heavy coats of axle grease or prickly pear poultices. To stay away during long nights of riding herd, he rubbed tobacco juice in his eyes. He lived in a society of men and made love to the only available women, the ubiquitous "soiled doves" and "Fallen Angels" on almost a seasonal basis..."
----- Jerry Flemmons, journalist and author, "Plowboys, Cowboys and Slanted Pigs"
"You get out in front -- you stay out in front."
----- A.J. Foyt, famed race car drive and native of Houston, on his theory of winning car races
"The XIT brand was conceived of by an an old Texas trail driver named Ab Blocker, who placed it upon the first cow. She was not an animal of high pedigree, but a Longhorn from South Texas. Her color, gauntness, and perversity were historic. Nearly two centuries before, with the initial Spanish expedition into the province for the purpose of founding a settlement in 1690, there came a similar Mexican cow. She walked steaming from the waters of the Rio Grande, cropped the first grass on the northern shore, switched her tail at a persistent fly, and felt at home. Long of horn and leg, variegated in color, and belligerent of disposition, she was prophetic of the millions and millions of others to fatten upon the grasses of the border state.
As she pushed north and east with the expedition of Governor Alonzo de Leon and Father Massanet, the tallow thickened over her ribs, a little bit, and she became smooth and glossy. She sprang of hardy and wily stock. As she fled to the nearest pool or mud hole to escape the attentions of the heel fly, as she fought off the wolves by night and outran the thieving Indians by day, she built up a spirit of independence and of resourcefulness that made her a companion of the wilderness and a fighter of the frontier.
By the time the East Texas missions were abandoned, in 1693, the Longhorn had broken the ties that bound her to her native range, and when the soldiers and missionaries returned home to Mexico, she stayed in Texas. The Mexican cows matched with the wilderness, met claw and fang with horn and cow-sense, and when the Spaniards came again, twenty-three years later, Longhorn cattle grazed the East Texas grasslands. Since that first memorable day Texas has never been without cattle. For more than two centuries livestock has formed one of its chief sources of wealth. Wherever "Texas" is heard, steers are thought of, and the head of the Longhorn is as emblematic of Texas as is the lone star. Texas and Longhorns are almost synonymous."
---- J. Evetts Haley, "The XIT Ranch of Texas," 1936
"Van Horn [Texas] is so healthy, we had to shoot a man to start a cemetery."
------ Augustus Sanders Goynes, who coined this civic slogan for the town of Van Horn, was subsequently gunned down during an argument and was the first man buried in the Van Horn cemetery in 1892
"WHILE visiting his sister Mrs. Currie in San Angelo, a few years ago , W. N. Nicholas kindly furnished the following partial sketch of his eventful life on the early frontiers of Texas:
When I was sixteen years old, I went to Stephenville, Erath County, and entered a school taught by a Mr. Allard. I had been in school only two weeks, when a runner brought word that the Indians were in the country and had murdered the Woods family and that of Mr. Brumley, and had burned their houses. Two of the Brumley girls and the two Woods girls had been carried off by the savages. At the time of this occurrence all the available men were out in pursuit of another gang of Indians that had raided another settlement, leaving no man to take, the trail but the teacher, Mr. Allard. In his school there were sixteen boys from 12 to 17 years of age.
He explained the situation to us and said: "Boys, I'm going after those Indians, who'll go with me?" Every boy in school, even to the small boys, lined up and told him to lead out and we'd follow him to the jumping off place. He chose sixteen of us and in less than an hour were mounted and off. For the benefit of the youth of this degenerate age, it may not be amiss to state here that the boys and girls on the frontier in those days, were taught to ride and shoot from the time they were large enough to sit on a pony or hold a gun and when a little older, boys as well as men carried their guns everywhere they went, at church, at school, or a frolic. Their horses were always handy and when the word came that Indians were in the country the boys and men were ready to respond to the call for help. That's why the boys of Mr. Allard's school fell in line so quickly; they were minute men and ready.
But in this instance some of the boys had no guns. A Mr. Carter, who owned a hardware store in Stephenville, threw open his store and told Mr. Allard to help himself to all the guns and ammunition we might need.
About 10 a .m. we started all armed with double-barreled shot-guns and six shooters and after striking the Indians trail we came upon the dead bodies of the Woods girls. We wrapped these bodies in blankets and laid them side by side and stretched between two bushes and over the bodies a white shirt as a fright to keep the buzzards away until they could be removed. This was on the divide between Stephenville and Dublin.
Here, I will digress in so far as to say that after being stripped of every thread of clothing the Brumley girls were liberated some time during the night or early that night, and made their way back to Stephenville. Having cared for the bodies of these poor murdered girls to the best of our limited ability, we pushed on with a firm resolve to avenge their brutal murder if we ever came up with the inhuman butchers.
When we reached Leon creek, about twenty miles from Stephenville, the water in the creek was still muddy and we knew by that we were close on their trail. We hurried forward until we reached a slope that led off clown to Copperas Creek. Here we came up with the, Indians and charged them. There were eighteen of them and seventeen of us but, being armed with six-shooters, we had all advantage.
In the fight that ensued Mr. Allard's horse was shot through the neck with an arrow and fell. Mr. Allard was thrown with great force against the ground, and an Indian rushed upon him to finish him with a lance. Recovering himself almost instantly and seeing his peril, Mr. Allard seized a stone with which he knocked the Indian down and before he could rise the teacher was on him and gave the finishing touch.
The action became a running fight for about four miles and only two of the eighteen got away. Six of us were wounded, myself of the number, having stopped two arrows in my thigh. We got all of their horses, about 75 head, which they had stolen. One of the Indians killed had on one of the captured girl's dress, which was riddled with bullets.
On our return we came by where we had found the murdered girls and strapped their bodies on horses and reached Stephenville sometime after midnight. very well pleased with our day's work .
I had no further desire to attend school. I decided to go a ranging, and that two weeks in Mr. Allard's school was all the schooling, in a literary sense, I ever received.
* Note: Incidents like the one described in this article, occurred fairly often in the Frontier Counties of Brown, Coleman, Comanche, Eastland, Erath and others. Life was hard and tragedy struck without warning. These brave individuals, youths, men and women, tamed the frontier for others to follow."
----- W.N. Nichols, Frontier Times Magazine, February 1926
"Three separate 'frogtowns' sprang into existence [frogtowns were camps that 'hopped along,' keeping up with construction]. Although these "towns" were only 300 feet apart they might as well have been 50 miles apart, for you had to go either up or down if you went visiting and it was dangerous climbing.
There were 13 saloons around the Pecos bridge while we were building it, some on the west rim of the canyon, some on the east rim and some down in the canyon. Blaine and Sinclair had a big tent saloon with boarded sides on the east rim and there was another operated by a man named Sikorski.
Supplies were let down from the west rim on a derrick. Torres, the justice of the peace who defeated Bean, had build a saloon and 'frontier amusement palace' down in the canyon. When he opened it up he let 13 women over the side on the derrick and was ready for business.
The saloon building and all of the smaller rooms were build of ocotillo stalks for walls, with brush roofs. There used to be some high old times in that place, I'll tell you, especially around pay day. Some of the boys who lost their money quickly at faro or monte could always sneak around and peak through the ocotillo stalks and see how the rest of the crew were spending their money."
----- James McMullen, one of the builders of the Pecos High Bridge in the 1890s, interviewed by Sam Woodford and quoted in the "San Antonio Light," 1955
"When the smoke of the incoming train was seen [Judge Roy] Bean would lead the bear around in front of the saloon and tie it to a post. With the arrival of the crowd of sightseers the old frontiersman, or one of the Mexican mozos, would hand a bottle of beer to the animal and it would quickly drain it to the last drop down its capacious throat.
"Does the bear ever get drunk!" was usually the natural question of some curious-minded passenger.
"Enough beer would make anybody drunk," Bean would reply.
Beer bought over the bar cost a dollar a bottle, but there were always enough interested passengers to make the experiment. The bear was a big source of revenue to Bean, and the bruin seemed to thrive on the beverage. One day a traveling salesman overstepped the bounds of Bean's severe restrictions and was heavily fined. He vowed he would get vengeance. A few weeks later the traveling salesman found himself again in Langtry and at a time when Bean was in San Antonio on one of his periodical visits. The bear was in its accustomed place. A bright thought occurred to the seeker for revenge. He went to the telegraph station, wrote a telegram and signed the name of the Mexican who was in temporary charge of the saloon to the message. It was addressed to "Judge" Bean at his stopping place in San Antonio, and read :
"Bear died last night. What shall I do?"
The telegram was a severe blow to Bean. He wired back:
"Skin bear and ship skin to me here!'"
The Mexican knew what would happen to him if he disobeyed orders. He went out and looked at the bear. The animal was dozing peacefully in the shade. The Mexican went inside, picked up a rifle and shot the bear square between the eyes. He skinned the carcass, and the pelt went to San Antonio by the next train. Bean received it and sent it to a furrier to have it dressed. He came back to Langtry depressed and suffering more or less from a "hang-over."
"What in hell was the matter with the bear?" was the first question he asked.
The explanations which followed were accompanied by a stirring scene in which the Mexican narrowly escaped with his life."
----- New York Herald-Tribune, October 18, 1925
"When I came to Tascosa (about 1880) there were only three other American women in the Panhandle country west of Fort Elliott. They were Mrs. Charles Goodnight (he was a big cattle man), Miss Lizzie Rinehart and Mrs. Tom Bugby, wife of another big ranchmen ... There was a Mexican girl here in Tascosa, Senorita Piedad Romero, the richest man around. She was called "The Belle of the Llano Estacado." She sure was pretty.
When I came here Tascosa was the only town in the western Panhandle of Texas. Where Amarillo is now there was a buffalo ranch then. The nearest town on the north was Dodge City, Kansas, 242 miles away ... Everything we used was freighted in from Dodge. That why needles cost 10 cents apiece, and it took a small fortune to buy enough material for a new dress. To the south there were only cattle trils that led down over the wild and unsettled plains to the cattle ranches along the Gulf Coast and to old Mexico. I've seen 10,000 cattle in one herd, all Longhorns, come driving up across the prairie to swim the Canadian River here, and go up to the railroad at Dodge Cty or up to summer in Montana. Ive seen a quarter million cattle swim the Canadian here in one year. Now look at it. The railroad came through; it missed Tascosa; towns sprang up along the line; people moves out from here and Tascosa died."
----- Ms. Frenchy McCormick, faro dealer and last resident of Old Tascosa, interviewed in the Kansas City Star, December 1930
"At the time we moved to Texas the rich black lands of Navarro and Hill counties were selling at 50 cents an acre. My father, raised on a creek where water and timber were plentiful, preferred to pay six dollars an acre for bottom land which had to be grubbed of thick trees before a plow could turn the soil. But his boys were numerous, and they did the job during a long period of back-breaking years. We went down into the soil around the trees with mattox and grubbing hoe and cut the tap-roots, sometimes two feet below the surface.
My first remembrance of Bosque County is centered around a visit of my great-uncle, Charlie, who lived on a large cotton plantation on the Brazos River near Independence, Texas. I can recall his bright blue eyes, his long, beautifully-kept beard, the black cord running around his neck and down over his white waistcoat, fastened to a heavy gold watch; but most clearly I remember the shine new Barlow knife that he gave to me.
Our home was on the big road north of Meridian, a sort of Broadway leading from Waco up the Bosque valley to the vast northwest sections of Texas. Along this road traveled settlers in covered wagons, herds of horses, cattle, sheep (in later years), and many men on horseback. Buggies and carriages were seldom seen. Frequently travelers spent the night in our home. I can feel yet the thrill at hearing some belated person, late at night, down at the big gate, shouting amid the barking of dogs, "Hello! Hello!"
The big outside world was knocking at my door. I had hunted and fished, went in swimming, and lived with my kind ----- Frank and Tom Gandy, Joe and Harvey Francis, Billy Dysart, Sherman Graves, John Hornsby. John Cochran, a relative by marriage, was the only "town boy" I was comfortable with. My brother, Richard, ran with an older crowd. I remember especially his friends Cy Dennis, Bob Hanna and Andy Jordan. One Saturday afternoon Andy Jordan, naked, stood on a sharp point of land around which swerved the clear deep water of Bosque River. His feet rested in soft, lush grass. Half a dozen companions, naked also, lay flat on the grass or squatted, cowboy fashion, idly watching. As Andy raised himself on the balls of his feet, dug in his toes, poised for a dive, he stopped, held up a finger, and spoke:
'I takes my text this evening, dearly beloved, from that portion of the Holy Scripture where the 'postle Paul pints his pistol to the 'Phesians. The thirty-third verse of the forty-second chapter reads: "Repent ye, for the Day of Judgement is at hand." Now these may not be the exact words or from the exact place, but you'll find something like that somewhere in the Bible.'
Some of the boys giggled and nudged each other. Andy ---- unpredictable Andy ----- was about to deliver one of his famous impromptu sermons. He went on:
'But first let me tell you why I am here instead of brother Gus. You know that brother Gus is studying to be a preacher in Baylor University; and some of you have heard him preach on a hot August Sunday until long past dinner time. You know and I know that Gus is a good boy but ain't much of a preacher. Somebody has made a mistake, my brethren, and I have come here to tell you how it happened: the Lord called me to preach but Gus answered.'
Shouts of merriment greeted this sally. Andy, both by looks and words, sternly rebuked this outburst and went on to describe the scoffer and his place of punishment:
'Hell is deep and Hell is wide
Hell ain't got no bottom or side ...
and you're on the way there,' Andy shouted: then he made his dive."
----- John A. Lomax, "Adventures of a Ballad Hunter, Boyhood in Bosque," Southwest Review, 1944
"I want free life and I want fresh air;
And I sigh for the canter after the cattle,
The crack of the whips like shots in a battle,
The medley of horns and hoofs and heads
That wars and wrangles and scatters and spreads;
The green beneath and the blue above,
And dash and danger, and life and love --
Lasca used to ride
On a mouse-gray mustang close by my side,
With blue serape and bright-belled spur;
I laughed with joy as I looked at her!
Little knew she of books or of creeds;
An Ave Maria sufficed her needs;
Little she cared, save to be by my side,
To ride with me, and ever to ride,
From San Saba's shore to LaVaca's tide.
She was as bold as the billows that beat,
She was as wild as the breezes that blow;
From her little head to her little feet
She was swayed in her suppleness to and fro
By each gust of passion; a sapling pine
That grows on the edge of a Kansas bluff
And wars with the wind when the weather is rough
Is like this Lasca, this love of mine.
She would hunger that I might eat,
Would take the bitter and leave me the sweet;
But once, when I made her jealous for fun,
At something I'd whispered, or looked, or done,
One Sunday, in San Antonio,
To a glorious girl in the Alamo,
She drew from her garter a dear little dagger,
And -- sting of a wasp! -- it made me stagger!
An inch to the left, or an inch to the right,
And I wouldn't be singing here tonight;
But she sobbed, and, sobbing, so swiftly bound
Her torn reboso about the wound,
That I quite forgave her. Scratches don't count
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.
Her eye was brown -- a deep, deep brown;
Her hair was darker than her eye;
And something in her smile and frown,
Curled crimson lip and instep high,
Showed that there ran in each blue vein,
Mixed with the milder Aztec strain,
The vigorous vintage of Old Spain.
She was alive in every limb
With feeling to the finger tips;
And when the sun is like a fire,
And sky one shining, soft sapphire,
One does not drink in little sips.
The air was heavy, and the night was hot,
I sat by her side, and forgot - forgot;
Forgot the herd that were taking their rest,
Forgot that the air was close opprest,
That the Texas norther comes sudden and soon,
In the dead of night or the blaze of noon;
That, once let the herd at its breath take fright,
Nothing on earth can stop the flight;
And woe to the rider, and woe to the steed,
Who falls in front of their mad stampede!
Was that thunder? I grasped the cord
Of my swift mustang without a word.
I sprang to the saddle, and she clung behind.
Away! On a hot chase down the wind!
But never was fox hunt half so hard,
And never was steed so little spared,
For we rode for our lives, You shall hear how we fared
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.
The mustang flew, and we urged him on;
There was one chance left, and you have but one;
Halt, jump to ground, and shoot your horse;
Crouch under his carcass and take your chance;
And, if the steers in their frantic course
Don't batter you both to pieces at once,
You may thank your star; if not, goodby
To the quickening kiss and the long-drawn sigh,
And the open air and the open sky,
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande.
The cattle gained on us, and just as I felt
For my old six-shooter behind in my belt,
Down came the mustang, and down came we,
Clinging together -- and, what was the rest?
A body that spread itself on my brest,
Two arms that shielded my dizzy head,
Two lips that hard on my lips were prest;
Then came thunder in my ears,
As over us surged the sea of steers,
Blows that beat blood into my eyes,
And when I could rise--
Lasca was dead!
I gouged out a grave a few feet deep,
And there in Earth's arms I laid her to sleep;
And there she is lying, and no one knows;
And the summer shines and the winter snows;
For many a day the flowers have spread
A pall of petals over her head;
And the little gray hawk hangs aloft in the air,
And the sly coyote trots here and there,
And the black snake glides and glitters and slides
Into a rift in a cottonwood tree;
And the buzzard sails on,
And comes and is gone,
Stately and still like a ship at sea.
And I wonder why I do not care
For the things that are like the things that were.
Does half my heart lie buried there
In Texas, down by the Rio Grande?"
----- by Frank Deprez (1882)
"Somewhere in America, 2007 ....
The sea of humanity swells and roils all the way to the horizon, thousands of eyes fixed on him, thousands of hands clapping, a chorus of voices cheering and yelling, lips whistle, feet stomping, smiles everywhere, all because of him. Lone Star flags and arms thrusting skyward, hands clutching cigarette lighters and cans of beer above heads bobbing like buoys because of the music. The old man with the wild white eyebrows and wrinkled skin, his long white hair pulled back into two braids, tries to make eye contact with as many eyes as he can in ten seconds before glancing off-handedly over his shoulder at the musicians standing and sitting behind him. He straps on his guitar and steps to the microphone with a casualness that betrays a lifetime of going through the same ritual night after night, year after year. He half sings, half talks five magic words that trigger a sonic roar: 'Whisk-key Riv-verrr take my miiiiind.'"
----- Joe Nick Patoski describes the beginning of a Willie Nelson concert in his wonderful biography of Willie, which is simply titled "Willie Nelson." A great book. Willie read it and had to ask his friends if all the stuff Joe Nick wrote about his life was true. They told him it was. All of it.
"He never killed a man that did not need killing."
------ inscription on the grave marker in Pecos, Texas of cattle rancher, cattle broker, and occasional gunfighter Clay Allison. For all his gunfighting, Allison died at the age of 46 when he was hauling a wagon load of supplies and the load shifted, causing a sack of grain to fall from the wagon. Allison fell from the wagon as he tried to catch it, and a wagon wheel rolled over him, breaking his neck. He was buried the next day in Pecos Cemetery.
"Like the rest of y'all, I have been reading back issues of Austin's Texas State Times newspaper, and I found this amusing notice in the January 13, 1855 edition:
'To Marriageable Young Ladies. A young gentleman of the city lately took the census of the bachelors of Austin. He counted all who are over twenty-one, both bachelors and widowers. The object was to find the number of those who ‘would like to marry.’ That number is at least one hundred! We are serious about this. Most of them are sober, industrious, good looking and sensible young men. They are not rich, but bid fair to be men of worth and independence. But few of them are able to lose the time and money to travel and hence the only chance to see them is to come to Austin.–Mahomet cannot go to the mountain, will not the mountain come to Mahomet? Young Ladies! We appeal to you in the name of suffering humanity–but we’ll preach no sermon on it. If you all throw away these chances, you deserve to drink tea with cold toast and backbite your neighbors the balance of your lives.”
----- Me, Traces of Texas .... here is a link to the notice: https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth235742/
On January 7, 1874, [Clay] Allison killed a gunman named Chunk Colbert, who was known to have already fought and killed seven men by this time. After first racing their horses, Colbert and Allison entered the Clifton House, an inn located in Colfax County, New Mexico, where they sat down together for dinner. Colbert had quarreled with Allison years earlier, as Allison had physically beaten Colbert's uncle, Zachary Colbert, when he tried to overcharge Allison for a ferry ride across the Brazos River. During their meal, Colbert suddenly drew his pistol and attempted to shoot Allison; however, the barrel of his gun struck the dinner table, allowing Allison to quickly draw his own revolver. He fired one shot, which struck Colbert in the head. Asked afterward why he had accepted a dinner invitation from a man likely to try to kill him, Allison replied, 'Because I didn't want to send a man to hell on an empty stomach."
----- Note: Allison later became a rancher and cattle broker in Pecos, Texas, where he was killed in a freak accident at the age of 46 and where he is buried
"There was a feller in Langtry who got to messin' around with one of 'those' women ---- the kind his mamma and papa told him to stay away from. Eventually, as tends to happen in cases like this, she let daylight through him with a six-shooter and the hole wasn't worth patching. The local justice of the peace,acting in his capacity as coroner, was called to make a ruling on the cause of death.
"This here feller," he announced, "went and committed suicide, that's what he done. That's my rulin'," the J.P. said.
There happened to be a lawyer in the crowd. "Judge,' he objected, "you can't rule suicide here! That woman shot him. This was murder."
"I kin and I did. I tole that damfool if he kept messin' around' with that chippy he'd be committing suicide and he kept messin' around with her and by God he committed suicide. That-air's my rulin', and that's the way she stands," the J.P. replied.
The J.P. in the story is, of course, the notorious Roy Bean, Law West of the Pecos."
------- C.F. Eckhardt, "Tales of Badmen, Bad Women, and Bad Places: Four Centuries of Texas Outlaws," 1999
"We had long hair in my band, and a couple of the guys got pulled over in a little town called Ralls. The cops kept them for three days, then shaved their heads. It was even that way around Austin. If you were driving in from Lubbock or Amarillo with long hair, you had to get down on the floorboard in places like Oak Hill because you’d get pulled over."
------ Alvin Crow, guitarist and fiddle virtuoso, describes the dangers inherent in being traveling hippie musicians in Texas during the 1960s
"Lorie darlin', life in San Francisco, you see, is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it's likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things, like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself."
------ Augustus McCrae, "Lonesome Dove," 1989
In 1863, a British officer named Arthur J.L. Fremantle toured the southern United States, including Texas, for three months and wrote an account of it. Here's one of his diary entrees:
"28th April (Tuesday).—We crossed the river Guadalupe at 5 a.m., and got a change of horses. We got a very fair breakfast at Seguin at 7 a.m., which was beginning to be a well-to-do little place before the [Civil] war dried it up. It commenced to rain at Seguin, which made the road very woolly, and annoyed the outsiders a good deal. We dined at a little wooden hamlet called Belmont, and changed horses again there. The country through which we had been traveling was a good deal cultivated, and there were numerous farms. I saw cotton-fields for the first time. We amused ourselves by taking shots with our revolvers at the enormous jack-rabbits which came to stare at the coach.
In the afternoon tobacco-chewing became universal, and the spitting was sometimes a little wild. It was the custom for the outsiders to sit round the top of the carriage, with their legs dangling over (like mutes on a hearse returning from a funeral). This practice rendered it dangerous to put one's head out of the window, for fear of a back kick from the heels, or of a shower of tobacco-juice from the mouths, of the Southern chivalry on the roof. In spite of their peculiar habits of hanging, shooting etc..., which seemed to be natural to people living in such a wild and thinly-populated country, there was much to like in my fellow-travelers. They all had a sort of bonhommie honesty and straightforwardness, a natural courtesy and extreme good-nature, which was very agreeable."
----- Lieutenant Col. Arthur J.L. Fremantle, "THREE MONTHS IN THE SOUTHERN STATES," 1863
"For two and one-half years I never went to the post-office ---- Colorado City, 115 miles away ----- nor looked upon the face of a woman. I allowed my beard to grow and never, never gave the matter a thought, must have become as tough looking a character as ever bestrode a horse in Texas. It is not strange that, when I did finally go to town and attend a "baile," Eliza Hudgins would not see fit to favor me, when I sought a dance. Late in the evening, the party broke up in a fight and it was several months before I saw the fair young lady again. But the memory of her drew me back to town and on to Plainview, where her family resided. The time I was shaved and slicked up like a city dude, or as nearly so as a sunburned, calloused cow-hand could be. She smiled upon me and I rushed the case as rapidly as her breadcrumbs of encouragement would justify. We were married in her father's home and I took her back to the Elwood ranch as a new top-hand. As she accustomed herself to the rigors of the open range, she gradually became as good a hand with cattle as many of the men we had. At the time, she was the only woman in four counties and very rarely did she see another of her sex, except on occasions when we could tear ourselves away from ranch duties to ride a hundred miles or so to a dance.
Later our savings enabled us to buy sixteen sections, which we fenced, the two of us, almost entirely by our own labor ... Then we got a windmill. I will never forget how happy we were, standing at the door of the little dugout, watching the flow of the first water the new windmill pumped for us. Then came the cattle, slowly. We'd buy a cow here and a cow there; then we got a good bull and a few young steers for fattening ... Our first baby, Mary, was born .... She died at seven years ... Then came little Bob Lee, who drowned when he was three years old. Later, after we had proudly built a new house with several rooms, Ruth was born and we were blissfully happy..
From this time on, it seemed like everything to which we placed our hands prospered and multiplied."
-------- Frank Norfleet, "Norfleet," 1924
"Although mountains are rare in Texas, hills abound. In most places the terrain offers to the eye irregular and picturesque undulations, which extend like solid waves on a troubled sea ...
The forests which Texas possesses are usually located on river banks. More than in any other part of American one finds there those secular giants precious for ship building when their timber has been hardened by the elements. Forests of future masts rise up to the sky as they await the ax of the Americans, who have so far left them untouched. The products of Texas will, as time goes on, become infinitely more varied. The fertility of the soil, which in all of North America, is perhaps unequaled except in the states of Indiana and Illinois; the mildness of the climate, Texas' heat being tempered by a steady cool breeze; these factors make it suitable for all types of agriculture, whether colonial or European."
-------- from an article by Theodore-Frederic Gaillardet in a French journal called "journal des Debats," Ocotber 26, 1839
In two weeks our leave was up, and we left for the Western frontier. We traveled two days, without incident or trouble, from San Antonio towards Fort Inge [near Uvalde]. Though the drive on the third day was long and tedious, we hoped to reach the post soon after dark. The roads were heavy from recent rains; any one at all familiar with the black and sticky Texas mud can understand the meaning of "heavy roads.'' Evening came upon us when we were still many miles from the fort The mules showed signs of giving out, and the prospect of reaching home that night was anything but bright.
Husband and the driver held a consultation on the situation; it was certain the mules could travel no farther. The driver thought there was a placee not far off the road, where we might be allowed to spend the night; so we turned into a dim path, following it until we came to the house. It was so dark by this time we could scarcely see where we were going; but the door was found at last, and, after thundering on it with tremendous force time and again, a voice called out, "What do you want ?" Husband answered, "To stay all night." "You can't do it." "But we must; there is a lady here, our mules are broken down, and we cannot go on." "That makes it worse; having a lady, you can't stay." More parleying followed, when finally a reluctant consent was given for me to go into the house, and the door was opened. As the driver turned the wagon into the corral, a voice called to him "to be careful, as there was a bit of a bank near," which in the morning we found to be a sheer descent of at least two hundred feet to the river below, and we had gone close to the edge in the night, never dreaming of its vicinity.
We were taken into a small room, where a fire of big logs burned brightly. By the light of it I studied the owner of the voice who had talked in the darkness to us. It was a superb-looking old man I saw, with snow-white beard to his waist His mild, benevolent gaze gave me confidence at once, and his manner was kind and gentle.
There were several awkward girls and young men in the room, who were his children, he told us. Without asking permission, the old man mixed me a drink of whiskey and honey, which I declined ; but he insisted so much on my tasting it, I did so, rather than hurt his feelings. One of the girls was preparing supper for us, of which we were much in need, and when ready we did full justice to it, simple as it was, — corn-bread, bacon, and coffee, but no butter nor milk.
In the course of the evening, one of the sons, recently married, came in, leading his bride by the hand. Her appearance was so ludicrous I could not repress a smile. Her frock came about to her knees, and below it appeared pantalettes to her heels. A large sun-bonnet, entirely concealing her face, completed her costume. When time came to retire, we found we were to share the common sleeping-room of the family, there being no other. Indeed, we were fortunate to have a bed to ourselves! Besides the one given to us were several others, which were filled by two old men, two young men, two girls, and two boys, ten people in one small room ; only three were women, of whom I was one! There was no sleep for me that night.
It turned out the old men had been to a horse-race the day before, and they were going over it in their dreams, shouting and swearing incessantly. My faith in the patriarchal-looking old man was destroyed as I listened to his loud and angry voice while he slept.
I lay watching for the dawn, and could plainly see the stars through the cracks in the roof. As they disappeared and morning broke, we got up and made hasty preparations for departure, and, after paying for our night's lodging, we left, very thankful to escape from such a place.
We heard, afterward, the true character of these people. They were outlaws of the worst description ; but while we were under their roof they treated us well. "
----- Lydia Spencer Lange describing a journey in the 1850s, "I Married a Soldier," 1893
"I'm from Texas, and one of the things I like about Texas is there's nobody in control."
----- Willie Nelson
"When that match popped, there was a roar like an earthquake and the herd was gone in the wink of an eyelid; just two minutes from the time Curley scratched his match, that wild, crazy avalanche of cattle was running over the camp outfit, two and three deep. But at that first roar, I was out of my blankets, running for my hoss and hollering, "Come on, boys." with a rising inflection on "boys." The old hands knew what was coming and were on their hosses soon as I was, but the tenderfeet stampeded their own hosses trying to get onto them, and their hosses all got away except two, and when their riders finally got on them, they took off across the hills as fast as they could go out the way of that hoard of oncoming wild-eyed demons. The men who lost their hosses crawled under the front end of the big heavy roundup wagon, and it is a wonder the herd didn't overturn the wagon, although lots of them broke their horns on it and some broke their legs."
----- trail cowboy Frank Benton describes how the slightest thing could set off a cattle stampede when cattle were being driven north to be shipped back east, "Cowboy Life on the Sidetrack," 1903
"Filming 'Giant' was essentially a dawn-to-dusk affair, with few breaks. But the one break all looked forward to was lunch. The company erected a large tent behind the "Reata" set where the Gillespie Catering Service served both cast and crew in that common area. Actress Carroll Baker remembered the repast with great enthusiasm: "We ate the catered noonday meal at long picnic tables, and that made every lunchtime a party. The buffet was sumptuous: caldrons of stews and curries; serving planks with roasts and fish and chicken, mashed, baked, boiled and fried potatoes; a wide variety of vegetables and salads, assorted cheese, freshly baked rolls, and bread; and dozens of yummy desserts. I had never seen such a quantity of delicious foods.'"
------- Kenneth B. Ragsdale describes the 1955 filming of "Giant," which starred Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean, in Marfa, Texas, "Big Bend Country: Land of the Unexpected," 1998.
"How To Cook Cornfield Peas: go to the pea-patch early in the morning and gather the peas, taking them home in a split basket. Take them in the left hand and gouge them out with your right thumb until it gets sore, then reverse hands. Look the pea well in the eye to see its color, but cook them anyway, as no color exempts the pea from domestic service, still the grey eye and white lips and cheeks are to be preferred. Throw the shelled peas mercilessly into hot water and boil them until they "cave in." When you see they are well subdued, take them out and fry them about ten minutes in gravy ----- a plenty of gravy, good fat meat gravy, and try to induce the gravy to marry and become social with the peas. When you see that the union is complete, so that no man can put them asunder, and would not wish to if he could, put them in a dish and eat them all."
------ The Hon. J.C. Hutcheson, "The First Texas Cookbook," 1883
"In bowing her acknowledgements, Miss Bloodgood had the misfortune to spill herself out of her corsage, upon which a fair debutante from Temple, with the naivete' of a little child, observed that "a bust of that kind should be carried in a bucket."
------ William Cowper Brann, "The Iconoclast," 1897
The typical Texan is a large-sized Jabberwock, a hairy kind of gorilla, who is supposed to reside on a horse. He is half alligator, half human, who eats raw buffalo, and sleeps out on a prairie. He is expected to carry four or five revolvers at his belt, as if he were a sort of perambulating gun- rack. He also carries a large assortment of cutlery in his boot. It is believed that a failure to invite him to ' drink is more dangerous than to kick a can of dynamite. The only time the typical Texan is supposed to be peaceable is after he has killed all his friends, and can find no fresh material to practice on. It is also the belief in the North that all the Texans are typical Texans, it being utterly impossible for a Texan to be anything except a desperado...
----- Alexander Sweet, "Texas Siftings," 1882
"We don't have a monopoly. Anybody who wants to drill an oil well without a Hughes drill bit is welcome to use a pick and shovel."
----- billionaire Howard Hughes
"I guess [my son will] be a cowboy, too," Glenda says. "I hate for him to do it, but that's what Bigun would want , and I know Banty (Bigun's daddy) is going to have it that way. Bigun was never allowed to be a little boy. Banty had him out breaking horses when he was old enough to ride. I mean breaking horses .... colts ... not riding old nags. Bigun and Banty and all their people, cowboying is all they've ever known or wanted. To be on a horse chasing a cow was what Bigun enjoyed. Kent has already turned that way. Unless I remarry and my husband is so different .... but I don't think I'd like any other life except cowboying."
------ Glenda Bradley, widow of Bigun Bradley (The Marlboro Man), quoted by Gary Cartwright in "Confessions of a Washed-up Sportswriter," 1982
The Texan Santa Fe Expedition was a commercial and military expedition to secure the Republic of Texas's claims to parts of Northern New Mexico for Texas in 1841. In response to the Santa Fe Expedition, the Mexicans made several raids into Texas. In September 1842, General Adrian Woll occupied San Antonio for nine days and carried off several prominent Texans when he withdrew. Angry Texans hurriedly answered President Houston's reluctant call for volunteers to punish the raiders. General Alexander Somervell led them as far as the Rio Grande but finding that the Mexicans had retired to the other side of the river, he ordered the expedition home. About three hundred of his men, however, refused to obey, choosing Colonel W. S. Fisher as their leader, and started down the river toward Matamoros.
On December 26 they lost a desperate battle at Mier to General Pedro Ampudia, and were started as prisoners toward Mexico City, but at Salado, south of Saltillo, they escaped. After nearly starving in the arid mountains, 176 of the 193 to escape were recaptured and returned to Salado. Only three reached Texas. Seventeen black and 159 white beans were placed in a vessel and each man required to draw one out. Those drawing black beans were summarily shot. Ewen Cameron, who had engineered the escape, drew a white bean but was afterwards executed by special order. The survivors were taken to Mexico City and imprisoned in Castle Perote with the prisoners of the Santa Fe Expedition and from San Antonio.
The following account of the drawing of the bean, is from the pen of General Thomas J. Green, a participant. It's harsh stuff:
"Soon after they arrived [at the Salado on March 25, 1843], our men received the melancholy intelligence that they were to be decimated, and each tenth man shot. It was now too late to resist the horrible order. Our men were closely ironed and drawn up in front of all their guards, with arms in readiness to fire. Could they have known it previously, they would have again charged their guards, and made them dearly pay for this last perfidious breach of national faith. It was now too late! A manly gloom and a proud defiance prevaded all countenances. They had but one alternative, and that was to invoke their country's vengeance upon their murderers, consign their souls to God, and die like men . . .
The decimator, Colonel Domingo Huerta, who was especially nominated to this black deed after Governor Mexier refused its execution, had arrived at Salado ahead of our men. The "Red-cap" company were to be their executioners; those men whose lives had been so humanely spared by our men at this place on the 11th of February.
The decimation took place by the drawing of black and white beans from a small earthen mug. The white ones signified exemption, and the black death. One hundred and fifty-nine white beans were placed in the bottom of the mug, and seventeen black ones placed upon the top of them. The beans were not stirred, and had so slight a shake that it was perfectly clear they had not been mixed together. Such was their anxiety to execute Captain Cameron, and perhaps the balance of the officers, that first Cameron, and afterward they, were made to draw a bean each from the mug in this condition.
He [Cameron] said, with his usual coolness, "Well, boys, we have to draw, let's be at it;" so saying, he thrust his hand into the mug, and drew out a white bean. Next came Colonel Wm. F. Wilson, who was chained to him; then Captain Wen. Ryan, and then Judge F. M. Gibson, all of whom drew white beans. Next came Captain Eastland, who drew the first black one, and then came the balance of the men. They all drew their beans with that manly dignity and firmness which showed them superior to their condition. Some of lighter temper jested over the bloody tragedy. One would say, "Boys, this beats raffling all to pieces;" another would say that "this is the tallest gambling scrape I ever was in," and such remarks.
Poor Major Cocke, when he first drew the fatal bean, held it up between his forefinger and thumb, and with a smile of contempt, said, "Boys, I told you so; I never failed in my life to draw a prize;"
Just previous to the firing they were bound together with cords, and their eyes being bandaged, they were set upon a log near the wall, with their backs to their executioners. They all begged the officer to shoot them in front, and at a short distance; that "they were not afraid to look death in the face." This he refused; and, to make his cruelty as refined as possible, fired at several paces, and continued the firing from ten to twelve minutes, lacerating and mangling these heroes in a manner too horrible for description . . .
During the martyrdom of these noble patriots, the main body of our men were separated from them by a stone wall of some fifteen feet high, and heard their last agonized groans with feelings of which it would be mockery to attempt the description. The next morning, as they were marched on the road to Mexico, they passed the mangled bodies of their dead comrades, whose bones now lie bleaching upon the plains of Salado."
----- General Thomas J. Green
"I had succeeded in transplanting myself from a state [Michigan, about 1875] where the people .... good citizens who loved God and nature ----- had accepted and, as a rule, lived up to the Ten Commandments; where, when trouble arose between men, it seldom was carried to a point beyoind a fist fight. But in the section of Texas I had now entered, different conditions and codes prevailed. The War of Rebellion [Civil War] then so recent, had caused numerous men who had survived it and who had committed all sorts of desperate crimes, to seek refuge in the wilds of the land of chapparal and cactus, where the strong arm of the law seldom entered, and where, when it did, the refugee would be apt to have the best of it. A majority of the ranchmen in the country preferred aiding a white refugee to helping bring him to justice. The preference sprang from a motive of self-protection, for the enmity of such characters was a most dangerous thing. As there was in that section but little employment other than working with stock, naturally these men took up the life of the cowboy ---- when their time was not occupied dodging State Rangers or robbing stages and small settlements. Almost every dispute had to be settled with a gun-or-knife fight or else assassination. Such people, added to thieving bands of Mexicans and Indians, wild beasts of many sorts, and other terrors such as centipedes, tarantulas, and rattlesnakes, were a help in making life interesting ...
I did not let anyone know where I hailed from. A 'blue-bellied Yankee,' even if he were but a boy, was about the most unpopular thing in Texas at that period. With many people, anyone who came from the country lying to the north of the Red River was a Yankee."
----- James H. Cook, "50 Years on the Old Frontier," 1923
"It was in that common area [on the set of the movie "Giant"] that Marfa got to know Hollywood, and vice versa. Most agreed movie people were "very fine people." Actor Robert Nichols, who played Pinky, emerged as one of the local favorites. :"With that first filmed sequence being the barbecue scene, which was so much fun, and we all got to know one another at that point," he later recalled. "And it was like a big party: it went on for a week .... It sort of opened things up." The "big party" continued during breaks. Cast members not involved in a particular scene headed for a big tent where the snacks and cool refreshments were always available. This was indeed a common area; stars and extras met and conversed on a casual basis. Rock Hudson and Jane Withers are remembered with special fondness. To extra Lee Bennett, Hudson was "just great. He was so casual, so charming. Just hung out with us and loved to talk." Jane Withers was "a great yakker, laughing and talking all of the time." And Mercedes McCambridge was "a lovely lady, sweet and charming. They all seemed to enjoy our company as much as we enjoyed theirs."
The one person who did not mix well with the locals was Elizabeth Taylor. Unlike other cast members, she is remembered as "spoiled," "demanding," "arrogant beyond belief," and "an exhibitionist." According to one extra, she seemed to relish flaunting her sexuality. On one occasion, the evocative star emerged from her air-conditioned trailer dressed in short shorts and, in lieu of a blouse and brassiere, had wrapped a loose fitting bandana around her breasts. To some of the women extras, it was an example of poor taste. The the men it was one of the more memorable days on the range."
----- Kenneth B. Ragsdale, "Big Bend Country: Land of the Unexpected," 1998
"Filming 'Giant' was essentially a dawn-to-dusk affair, with few breaks. But the one break all looked forward to was lunch. The company erected a large tent behind the "Reata" set where the Gillespie Catering Service served both cast and crew in that common area. Actress Carroll Baker remembered the repast with great enthusiasm: 'We ate the catered noonday meal at long picnic tables, and that made every lunchtime a party. The buffet was sumptuous: caldrons of stews and curries; serving planks with roasts and fish and chicken, mashed, baked, boiled and fried potatoes; a wide variety of vegetables and salads, assorted cheese, freshly baked rolls, and bread; and dozens of yummy desserts. I had never seen such a quantity of delicious foods.'”
------Kenneth B. Ragsdale "Big Bend Country: Land of the Unexpected," 1998. Ragsdale is referencing the 1955 filming of "Giant," which starred Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and James Dean, in Marfa, Texas
“I use heavy strings, tune low, play hard, and floor it. 'Floor it .....' That's technical talk.”
------ Stevie Ray Vaughan
"I believe musicians can run this state a lot better than politicians. We just won't get much done in the morning."
-----Kinky Friedman, musician, raconteur, and former candidate for governor of Texas
"The sun was fiery hot and the atmosphere like a blast from a hot air furnace, the water salt. Every branch and leaf in this country, nearly, are armed with a point and seem to poison the flesh. What a blessing the children are not here! They would be ruined."
----- Robert E. Lee in a letter to his wife from Fort Ringgold (near present day Rio Grand City), August 25th, 1856
It appears that some folks were glad when the second Texas State Capitol went up in flames in 1881. This following quote is a blurb from "Texas Siftings," a weekly satirical journal published in Austin. I just love the way they wrote back them ..... so adjectival. To wit:
"The architectural monstrosity [the state capitol building] that has so long disfigured the crown of the heaven-kissing hill at the head of Congress Avenue in Austin, is no more. The venerable edifice that bore such startling resemblance to a large sized corn crib, with a pumpkin for a dome, and whose halls have so often resounded with legislative eloquence, reminding the distant hearer of a dog barking up a hollow log, is gone [destroyed by fire].
It was a thrilling scene. The fire demon's cruel tongues licked the fair proportions of the historic pile, while huge volumes of black smoke poured from the doomed building, and settled over the fair city of Austin, like a sable funeral pall, enveloping in its somber folds the spires and domes that glitter on the seven hills of the Capital City of Texas, while the toot, too, toot of the fire engine and the hoarse profanity of the enthusiastic volunteer firemen, seemed a solemn and appropriate dirge as the old sarcophagus crumbled into etc... etc... But we are getting poetical and encroaching on the province of the local reporter. What we have written in the above paragraph will, however, demonstrate that we can be sentimental and pathetic when we want to. Those who imagine that the Sifters have no pathos or poetry inside them are requested to read the foregoing about the "doomed building" and the "funeral pall" over and over again.
When the alarm was given, it was supposed by a great many that the treasury, containing the million and a half cash balance, was in danger. The anxiety on the part of all classes to assist in removing the silver to a place of safety was touching. Wealthy men, who had failed in business, got up from champagne and oysters, and, bareheaded, distanced impecunious candidates and speedy journalists, who were also rushing to the front to remove the cash balance to a place of great safety ...."
------ from "Texas Siftings," a satirical weekly published in Austin, 1881. The editors apparently resented the fact that strong policemen turned back "even newspaper men" who offered to help save the Treasury's silver.
"Some big-footed long-legged galoot with more stomach than conscience stole Prof. J.E. Farrow's watermelon on Friday night. This was no ordinary melon. It was the pride of the Prof.'s heart. Farrow does not regret the loss of the melon as much as he does the loss of the seed. If some of the seed will be returned to the professor no questions will be asked."
----- Dalhart newspaper, 1907
"Whether traveling or at home, we had no peace. Not even the church was free of their antics. In many instances it might have been just horseplay, but it had serious effects on the victims. These cowboys entered the church during the services with their hats on and smoking cigarettes. They would come around the altar during the Mass and curiously examine the contents of the chalice. One of them wanted to ride into the church on horseback and see how many targets he could shoot on the walls. On the road they would shoot at the Polander's feet, in many instances wounding him. A woman, caught alone on the road, was found with a knife-stab in her back. These and many other calamities we endured. As a protection against such and against the snakes that crawled everywhere, I provided myself with a revolver. With a rosary in my pocket and the revolver hanging in a scabbard on my saddle, I went along that everyone who did not believe the word of God would believe the word of my revolver......"
-------- Father Adolf Bakanowski, the spiritual head of the Polish colony of Panna Maria, on relations with neighboring ranch hands, 1866
The following quote reminds us to let he who is without sin cast the first noose:
"It was right funny. [About 1871] I knew a fellow by the name of Denny Murphy, who drove off more cattle than anybody else ... He was just a better rustler. The cattlemen decided that Denny had better be killed. He had just left a few days before with a big herd of cattle for Denver, Colorado. The boys at Fort Griffin made up a posse, loaded up on whiskey, and started after Denny. They tried to get some of us to go, but we wouldn't go. They overtook Denny's outfit out on the Pecos about 12:00 o'clock one day. Denny had an idea they were up to something, but he had his cook prepare a good dinner for the boys. After dinner they told Murphy what they had come for. He just sort grinned and said, "Now, boys, I don't mind you fellows hanging me, but I have one request to make. I want an honest man to do it. If there is a single man in the crowd that hasn't done what I have, I want him to put the rope around my neck." The boys began to grin and look at each other. After a hearty laugh they all got back on their horses and rode back to Fort Griffin."
------- Ernesto Roberts, from an interview in the "The Anson Western Enterprise," 1923
"Did I ever tell you about Brother Foster's Thanksgiving prayer? Long ago, out in that West Cross Timbers country beyond Fort Worth, Brother Foster was famous for prayers that showed scope and style. I once heard him send up a thanksgiving prayer that was major league in all respects, and he did it standing in the kitchen door on Gramdma Hale's farm.
This old fellow was not really a preacher. But in rural regions at the time I am talking about, purebred and registered preachers were scarce and people made do with the nearest they had to the real article.
Brother Foster taught Sunday School, and did funerals, and went around comforting the sick and sorrowful, and generally made a satisfactory substitute for a preacher. My father used to say you could put a black hat on Brother Foster and hand him a Bible and a collection plate and he could pass for a preacher.
His specialty was prayers on special occasions, like at Fourth of July Picnics, ice cream suppers, Christmas gatherings, and other holiday affairs. It must have been in '31 or '32 that Brother Foster came to Gramdma Hale's farm for Thanksgiving dinner. All the women, especially, counted it a social victory to have Brother Foster for Thanksgiving. I don't know how we got him, as he was spread pretty thin over that region.
The meal was the occasion for the prayer, so it was delivered as the blessing. Or, asking the blessing, as we said, or returning thanks.
When the formal invitation was issued - "Brother Foster, will you return thanks for us?" - that luminary backed away from the table and took up a position in the doorway that led into Grandma's kitchen. Evidently he felt a need to be isolated from the general bunch.
He was a big, heavy-shouldered fellow with deep-set eyes and wavy white hair and a mighty voice. My father used to say that they ruined a first-rate preacher when they put Bro. Foster to following a mule across a cotton patch.
He waited for silence before he began. If silence took a full minute to arrive, still he waited. We were supposed to keep our heads bowed and our eyes closed but by that time I had perfected a system of looking around at things through eyes that seemed closed but really weren't.
Bro. Foster stood with his legs slightly apart and his hands behind him and his chin elevated and his eyes closed. Just when you thought he would begin, a foot would scuff or a throat would clear and he would hold off a while longer. Even a calf, bawling for its mama out at the barn, would delay his beginning.
He started out quietly, and built volume as he went along. He began with the food and the blessed hands that prepared it. He called Grandma by name, and I learned later that this was a high blessing, to get your name sent up in a prayer by Brother Foster, and on Thanksgiving Day, at that.
From the women he went to the men who tilled the land and brought forth its fruits. He went on to thank the Lord for the beasts that pulled the plows, and those that sacrificed their lives to give us sustenance.
Then he took up the children, and asked the Lord to bless their little hearts and keep them safe.
He went into the field of medicine and thanked the Lord for protecting those of us who hadn't caught terrible diseases or suffered crippling injuries. He got into agriculture and mentioned the good corn crop, and the cotton crop which was fair. Went then to meteorology and pointed out to God that the rains came a little too late in the season but were appreciated anyhow. He called the names of people who had died during the year, people we knew, and he gave thanks for their lives. He gave thanks for breezes that turned windmills, for pretty music, for the love of friends and kinfolks, for the very roof over our heads, for feather mattresses on cold winter nights.
This litany went on until the dressing was cold and I thought it was more a sermon than a prayer. Not until a good many years later did I understand why Bro. Foster's long prayers were sought and appreciated:
Life in that country was hard, and those folks needed somebody to remind them that they had a lot to be thankful for."
----- Leon Hale, Houston Chronicle, Nov 24, 1988
"I'm not saying it's windy out here, but I will say that in 1951 I was at a drive-in theater in Odessa that was showing a Western picture. At one point the wind outside my pickup got to blowing so strong it blew Gene Autry clean out of the saddle."
------ An old cowboy that I met in a honky-tonk in Midland back in 1986. I kind of didn't believe him, but I kind of did.
"If there is one instantly recognizable characteristic of West Texans it is their friendliness. It is almost impossible to overstate this trait. The newcomer, whether traveling through or settling down, finds constant and almost overwhelming welcome, even in the larger cities like Abilene, Odessa, Midland, and San Angelo. If he so desires he becomes an immediate member of whatever group he wishes.
Helpfulness is so ingrained in common affairs ----- especially at times of visible emergency ----- that other West Texans take such acts as being pulled from the ditch, driven somewhere out of the way for gasoline, or offered physical assistance in many forms almost for granted.
It is a land where the casual acquaintanceship is not only tolerated but demanded. You seldom enter one of the numerous highway cafes without getting engaged in conversation by some of the other customers or waitresses. And most times when you do not open your mouth you will still be included in whatever general conversation is taking place. Someone at the counter will address himself to the room at large, ending his declaration, perhaps, in a rhetorical question which is uttered directly at you, the stranger. The speaker may or may not expect an answer but is never displeased to get one, or a silent but agreeing nod."
----- A.C. Greene, "A Personal Country," 1979
"Did we have a dance? Just two days and two nights! And did we eat? We had Delmonico beat two to one, for our chef was none other than Billy Dixon, noted scout, Indian fighter, and hero of the Adobe Walls fight.
Romance was in the air, so it was quite natural when one of the handsome Turkey Track boys should toss his loop over one of our prettiest girls' wedding bells were ringing shortly after for two couples at least who were at the party.
When we got home we maybe looked and felt like the last petal of the last rose of summer in late twilight of a stormy day, but we wouldn't have missed it for anything. "
----- Mollie Montgomery remembers a fandango at the Turkey Track Ranch near Mobeetie, during the town's brief heyday in the mid-1880s.
"Every guitar has its own unique character and personality, which can be magnified once you commence to beating it up."
----- ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons
"You just can't live in Texas if you don't have a lot of soul." ------ the immortal Doug Sahm, musician extraordinaire
"I ain't saying he's fat. I'm just saying he's warm in the winter and shady in the summer."
------ overheard at Arkey Blues' honky tonk in Bandera, Texas, on a Saturday night in September, 2016
"Most Christmas Eve services are held within the protective walls of a church building, but one such service, conducted 116 years ago in Texas, was not.
The year was 1854 and the place was a small hill in central Texas overlooking the junction of the San Antonio and Cibolo rivers. The time was midnight. Assembled under these live oak trees on a broad, almost treeless plateau, a strangely garbed group of seven or eight hundred settlers bent in prayer as a young priest conducted Mass before an altar set under the trees.
After the service a few spent the night huddled together under the oaks, while others slept amid their belongings in shallow trenches or in the profusion of tall grass. Thus with little more than a spark of hope and the Holy Spirit to comfort and sustain them, the first emigration of Polish settlers to America passed their Christmas Eve in a strange land.
Nine weeks on a sailing ship and three weeks of foot travel through a hostile land in the dead of winter had left an indelible impression on the minds and bodies of these Polish settlers. Many later moved to other areas of Texas, but some remained to build and establish homes.
During the first year, these sturdy oaks witnessed deprivation, fever, and dissension among the settlers, who by now had little food and no money, and who spoke neither English nor Spanish. Their first homes were of pickets or sticks driven in the ground and covered with mud. The roofs were of grass, and the floors were of dirt covered with grass.
In spite of their many hardships and a dwindling population, the deeply religious people made plans to build a church that first spring. Work began in the summer, and the first Polish church in America was built beside these historic live oaks, which sheltered the first Mass.
Panna Maria, conceived of man's burning love for liberty and freedom, and born of hardship and deprivation, grew in humble and reverent obedience to God. Death of the little community is not imminent, and though these ancient oaks may never see a great city develop, Panna Maria carries the distinction of being the first Polish settlement in the New World and of having contributed to the growth of a great state. "
----- From "Famous Trees of Texas," third edition, published by the Texas Forest Service. Note: The Panna Maria Oaks can be found on the north side of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, which is located along FM 81 in Panna Maria, Texas. I have seen and photographed this group of oaks and it is gorgeous.
"Smoking, while universal, was practically restricted to cigarettes, which were pronounced cig-a-reets, and were handmade by the cowboy. Although in fact the great majority of cowboys had to use both hands in the operation of rolling and lighting, consummate elegance dictated that but a single hand should be employed; and that the rolling should be effected by the finger-tips of this single hand, or, better still, through a method which was successfully followed by some of the cowboys and was studiously attempted by all of them.
In this latter method, the paper, laid above the knee, received a charge of tobacco, and then, without change of position, was rolled into shape by a quick sweep of the ball of the thumb. Next, with the finished cigarette held between the fourth and fifth fingers of the rolling hand, the thumb and forefinger of that hand grasped one loop of the tobacco-sack's draw-string, the puncher's teeth seized the other loop, and a whirling of the sack like a windmill closed its aperture. A dab by the tongue along the papered cylinder, a match drawn by that same rolling hand across tightened trousers, and the cigarette was "working." The performance of this feat was one of the conventional ways of exhibiting ostensible nonchalance when on the back of a moving horse."
----- Phillip Ashton Rollins, "The Cowboy," 1922
"The 'catching of fire' by a pioneer plainsman became almost a science within itself ....As matches were unknown, other means of obtaining fire were necessary, the most common of which was the use of punk [ decayed wood, used as tinder] and steel. But in the prairie country, where there was no punk, the frontiersman had to turn to other ways of catching fire. A substitute for punk was frequently prepared as follows: Red corn cobs were burned to ashes, then the ashes were put in a tin plate and made into a very thin mush with water. Into this mush colored calico was put; when dried, this would readily catch fire from flint and steel.
In spells of rain the rangers were soaked and a fire became a matter of serious concern. Perhaps their powder alone was dry. As a last resort, the scout rubbed a damp rag through powder held in the palm of his hand, until it was saturated with half-melted explosive. Then he slipped off one of his Spanish spurs, placed a percussion cap at the end of a rowel, and wrapped the powder-laden rag around the rowel below the cap. He hit the cap sharply with the back of his Bowie knife. The rag caught the sparks and flashed into a blaze and burned; from this blaze the kindling was set."
----- legendary rancher Charles Goodnight in an interview with historian J. Evetts Haley, 1925
"More often than otherwise, the parties meet upon the plaza by chance, and each, on catching sight of his enemy, draws a revolver and fires away. As the actors are under more or less excitement, their aim is not apt to be of the most careful and sure; consequently it is, not seldom, the passers-by who suffer. Sometimes it is a young man at a quiet dinner in a restaurant who receives a ball in the head, sometimes an old negro woman returning from market who gets winged. After disposing of all their lead, the parties close to try their steel, but as this species of metallic amusement is less popular, they generally contrive to be separated ('Hold me! Hold me!') by friends before the wounds are mortal. If neither is seriously injured, they are brought to drink together on the following day, and the town waits for the next excitement."
----- Frederick Law Olmsted describes the gunplay that frequently occurred in San Antonio on the early days of Texas, "A Journey Through Texas," 1857
"There are very few things in life I cannot afford, but patience is one of them."
----- Larry Hagman, aka J.R. Ewing aka Major Tony Nelson aka ... you get the picture. Larry was born in Fort Worth and died in Dallas.
"In the absence of an act of God, serious family injury, or some other emergency, I pledge to stay here as the last man and to do everything I can to help other last men remain in this country. We promise to stay here ’til hell freezes over and skate out on the ice."
----- The oath of the "Last Man Club," organized by John McCarty of the Dalhart Texan during the dust bowl. The Last Man Club was a mutual support group for farmers who chose to stay in the American Great Plains in spite of the devastation caused by the Dust Bowl natural disaster of the 1930s. McCarty, an editor of the Dalhart Texan, formed the Last Man Club in Dalhart, Texas to support farmers fighting to remain in the drought-swept Great Plains or, as he called it, "Grab a Root and Growl." Members of the club pledged to help each other remain on the land for as long as possible and that each would be the last man standing
The following quote comes from Noah Smithwick's classic account of early Texas, "The Evolution of a State." Smithwick knew William Travis and Sam Houston and fought under Jim Bowie at the Battle of Concepcion a few months before the fall of the Alamo. Here, Smithwick is describing Webber's Prairie in Travis County (Austin) in 1853:
"The country was wild, and infested with predatory beasts, the most troublesome of which were the big gray wolves — lobos — 'the Mexicans called them. Many of them stood three feet high, measuring six or seven feet from tip to tip, with powerful jaws, which enabled them to drag down a grown cow single-handed if they could separate it from the band. Their endurance and speed were such that one could run down a deer.
Between my house and the timber belt of the Colorado river, stretched a prairie about a mile across. One evening near sundown, myself being away from home, my wife, looking across the prairie, saw the milk cows coming on a run and behind them two big wolves. One cow, falling a little behind the band, was seized by the foremost of the wolves, but her calls for help caused the other cattle to turn and fight the fierce brutes back. The cows then started again for home, but the wounded one again fell behind and again was seized, but she managed to tear herself loose. By this time the chase had reached half across the prairie, and my wife, unable to stand and see one of her favorites torn to pieces by their ferocious pursuers, calling to the dogs, started to the rescue.
The dogs, seeing the oncoming chase, dashed away and my wife after them, an unsafe thing, as the lobo had been known to make a stand and whip off dogs, and being intent on their victim, whose blood had already whetted their appetites, it would not have been surprising if they had refused to be vanquished. The dogs, encouraged by the presence and voice of their mistress, sped away on their mission of rescue, and, though wary of attacking the enemy, checked their advance, giving their torn and bleeding victim a chance to escape, till the wolves, catching sight of my wife, turned and made off to the timber. The cow was frightfully torn and died from the effects. After losing several cows and a number of calves, many of the latter being killed within a few hundred yards of the house, I began to treat the lobo family with strychnine, which noticeably decreased the loss of my cattle.
These wolves were a distinct species, having long, shaggy hair about the neck and shoulders, something like a lion's mane ; they did not hunt in packs, like the northern wolf, but rather in pairs. Wild cattle when attacked by them would form a ring around their calves, and presenting a line of horns fight them off; but gentle cattle were wont to break for home when frightened, as if understanding that they would be safe there, and woe to the unfortunate that fell behind. Milk cows lived on the range and were only separated from their calves during the intervals be- tween milkings, the calves being kept up during the day while the cows went out to feed, and the cows kept in at night to give the calves the benefit of pasture; so that the little bovines were at the mercy of the prowling lobos, who, under cover of darkness, ventured quite near to the house; and sometimes before we had gone to bed we would be startled by a piteous bleating, followed by an answering bellow from the cows, which would break from the inclosure and rush to the rescue, together with dogs and men; but though the wolf was cheated of his prey, he had inflicted fatal injuries, not one of the victims ever recovering."
----- Noah Smithwick, The Evolution of a State, 1899
"Wild Pigeons ---- large flocks of these birds have been wheeling and circling above in the last few days, seeking roosts and food. They make a noise in their passing like the rushing of a heavy wind, and there is a degree of grandeur in the regularity and rapidity of their movements, combined with the immensity of their number. They have made one roost about ten miles from town, and some of our neighbors went out and got some. Knocking down pigeons, netting partridges which are also in immense numbers, and hunting buffalo which range within 50 miles of town are three sources of amusement which would be considered great fun in most settled countries."
----- The Clarksville Northern Standard newspaper, 1843
"You give your hand to me
Then you say hello
I can hardly speak
My heart is beating so
And anyone can tell
You think you know me well
But you don't know me"
------- Cindy Walker, "You Don't Know Me" Cindy was born near Mexia, Texas, lived most of her 87 years there, and wrote top-10 hit songs in five different decades. This one, of course, has been covered by everybody from Ray Charles to Michael Buble.
Traces of Texas reader Robert Berryman's great aunt, Marie, was 12 years old when the great storm of 1900 destroyed Galveston. Her father was the assistant lightkeeper at the Bolivar lighthouse and the family survived the storm by riding it out in the lighthouse. She kept a diary of the events of that time and Robert's cousin posted some excerpts from it. This is an incredible read. Can you imagine being a 12-year old girl and witnessing this? It's a little gruesome so be forewarned:
From Marie's Diary: "It began at 7 am and ended at 6am the next morning. We lived in one of the lighthouses; my father was assistant keeper of the light. There were but a few residents near us and the business part was about a mile away. We had a pretty little home with two acres of beautiful lawn. We were in our home and a great many people came to us for refuge, and they stayed there as long as they could stay in the houses. At 6pm the water was 8 feet deep and it was coming in the house, se we all went to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse was about 150 feet from our house, so a lifeline was stretched from our house to the lighthouse. The ladies were carried there on men’s backs, while the men held on to the lifeline. After we had been in there long enough to get comfortable as anyone could expect at such times, some one cried from below that the water was rising and to move further up. But we did not move because we were fixed comfortable. We stayed where we were, but the water did not reach us.
We were sitting in a small window and it was so hot that a great many ladies wanted to break the window open. But if they had done so they would have been still hotter than ever because the door above would have had to been closed and that would close off all the air. Many children were crying for water and my brother got outside on top of the tower 125 feet high and caught the dirty water that fell off the roof. When they got the water they found it was very salty from the surf that dashed from below one hundred and twenty five feet high, and that is why the water was salty.
We had a boat and when we saw the storm was coming, we pulled it to shore and when the water got high enough we pulled the boat in our yard and tied it to the trees. But in spite of everything the boat was lost and we never saw anything of it since.
After the storm was over, many a man would have given a hundred dollars to have someone to take them to Galveston to get to their families. When we came out of the lighthouse the place was nothing but a mass of ruin. Our house was wrecked, and when we entered it we found a white pekin duck, and how he got there would be hard to say. A cow was on our back porch, and also a chicken, a dog, and a cat. All the stores had floated away and all the groceries were in the mud or floating around. Only one store was saved and it was about one mile away and that’s the only place we could get things to eat.
And when people went on the beach, they found dead people, cows, chickens, dogs, horses, birds, turtles, fishes, snakes, cats, and almost everything you could think of. The people would take the jewelry off the ladies’ fingers, and would even tear the ears to get the earrings. And to get the rings, they would pull them off with skin and all.
Many a man was shot for robbing the dead. There were so many dead people that they could hardly find room to bury them, and they had to throw them in the Gulf. They had some barges and they would put seven hundred people on a barge at a time, and throw them all in the Gulf of Mexico. They would ask a man to help bury the dead, and if he refused they would shoot him on the spot. So rather than get killed, they would try to help, but they would faint.
They burned most of the people to get rid of them and many a person noticed that they were burning their own parents or cousins, or perhaps their sisters. There was an old man with a wife and daughter that kept the life saving station. He was there alone – his wife and daughter had gone to town to do some shopping and they were drowned. After he found that he could not find their bodies he went to Port Bolivar where they kept the rings that belonged to the dead. When he went there he found his wife’s ring and he said that it was his wife’s ring, and to show him her body. They had buried her on the beach and he had her taken up and buried in the Galveston Cemetery. But if he found his daughter’s body, I do not know.
There was an old couple that kept the lighthouse in Galveston, who was worried about her son in Galveston. When the storm came up he tried to keep his light burning, but it was of no use. He had been a fine soldier in the Confederate army, and became a lighthouse keeper. The wind blew so hard it blew down a piece of slate and hit him on the head and injured him. He watched the light until it went out and of course there was no use in trying to make it burn any longer. Se he went downstairs with his wife in the front room and they stayed there together, thinking every minute they would go with the rest. But they were saved, and the next morning they could see dead bodies floating around their house. Her son was saved also.
The forts were a short distance from our house. The night of the storm the guns went boom! Boom! All night and we heard them and would say someone is in trouble. The next morning we found out it was the poor soldiers who were crying for help. When the people went on the beach, the soldiers were among the rest, and they were taken up and buried in Galveston at government expense. The way we knew about the soldiers was from only one who had escaped. He floated by the lighthouse and tried to reach it, but could not, so he floated away on the roof of an old house. Some people say they saw him riding the waves on the back of a dead mule that belonged to the soldiers.
There was a lady who stayed with us, by the name of Douglas, with her people until they could get her home, and they had a little boy that was in Galveston during the storm, and it was about a month before they ever found him. Many people were almost crazy trying to get to Galveston to get to their families. Many tried to get aboard the big vessels out in the Gulf because they thought it safer than on land.
There was a trestle that had two coal cars in the middle of it, and after the storm they had crossed the trestle, broke the switch, upset all the coal, and broke the car all to pieces. But the coal was no where to be seen – it had blown everywhere. You cannot imagine such a storm. I walked out on the beach near the wharf, and the wharf was torn off at the end where a ship had gone through."
----- Traces of Texas reader Robert Berryman's great aunt, Marie, writing in her diary about the great Galveston hurricane of 1900
"Once when [freight driver Bill Harelson and I] stopped for dinner at a little hotel at Paint Rock [near San Angelo], Bill began his meal by gulping down a cup of coffee, and then, searching for his sixshooter, shot a hole in the dining room floor. Whereupon the girl waiter placidly emerged from the kitchen. Holding out his cup and saucer at arm's length toward her, Bill smilingly said, "Another cup, please." It appeared that I was the only one to sense anything extraordinary about this mode of calling a waiter."
----- S.J. Houghton of Dallas, Texas, 1936
"When the roundup was over we went back to our routine work, but before getting down to routine duties, the waddies always took a little spell in Amarillo to shake off the roundup fever.
Amarillo was a pure cow-town those days [pre-1900] and run by stage. There were just a few womenfolks in the town, and they were at a premium. Most of the waddies would make the town after the roundup, and some of the boys would stay until all their money was gone. Some of the boys played the gambling joints, some just soaked themselves in the "pizen," and some went sally-hooting in the sally joints. Any kind of joint that a fellow wanted was in the town to satisfy the waddies' wants.
I was just a kid, but the older waddies took charge of me so I wouldn't get taken in, or get in wrong, and the boys held me down to earth, but I watched and saw the op'ra.
I saw some shootings and many bear fights. Nearly all the saloons in Amarillo, at that time, had bull-pens at the rear of the joints. The purpose for which the bull-pens were built was to have a place to shunt the fellows who became overloaded where they could sleep off the load of "pizen"; also to prevent interference from the law or meddling gentry who were looking for a chance to swipe a roll of money. The bull-pen was also used for a battle ground. When a couple of fellows got riled at each other they were shunted into the bull-pen to cool off. The saloon bouncers would take the guns away from the riled men and push them into the bull-pen to settle the argument, bear-fight fashion. That method saved a lot of shooting but could not always be worked in all cases, and there was an occasional shooting."
---- ancient trail cowboy Richard Murphy, as quoted in "Texas Cowboy," edited by Jim and Judy Lanning, 1984
"Poor meals and poor horses were constant companions of negro troopers The post surgeon [in 1870] at Fort Concho put it bluntly. The food was inferior to that provided at other posts. The bread was sour, beef of poor quality, and the canned peas not fit to eat. There were none of the staples common at other posts – molasses, canned tomatoes, dried apples, dried peaches, sauerkraut, potatoes, or onions. The butter was made of suet, and there was only enough flour for the officers. Certainly there were no visions of a sumptuous repast in the minds of worn-out troopers coming in to Concho after days or weeks in the field.
Off-post recreation, of a sort, was available in the sordid little towns that blossomed around the posts, but a good soldier had no cause to seek trouble, as it was already awaiting him. If a trooper was unfortunate enough to lose his life in a clash with a white citizen, his comrades could hardly expect that justice would be served. One such citizen, John Jackson, a settler near Fort McKavett, murdered a negro infantryman, private Boston Henry, in cold blood, long eluded the law and in the process shot and killed Corporal Albert Marshall and Private Charles Murray of F Compny, stationed at Fort Mckavett. When finally apprehended and brought to trial, a jury quickly set him free."
------- William H. Leckie, "The Buffalo Soldiers, a Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West," 1967
"Not long after my second birthday, Hank Williams made his next-to-last public appearance at Cook’s Hoedown, East Houston’s premier hillbilly nightspot. Rejecting the notion that I was too young to enjoy the experience, my father appointed me his preferred companion for the evening. Hoisted high on his shoulders, my legs straddling his neck, I felt my senses dawning in this new world like the first few pieces being fitted into a puzzle. The eddy of cool air wafting down from overhead awakened the feeling I was somewhere very different from my usual surroundings, the hush of anticipation in the audience stirring the suspicion that I was part of something incomprehensibly great. A thunderous man-made roar tested the building’s rafters for structural weakness and overwhelmed my fledgling sensory receptors even further, but somehow I was made to understand that this kaleidoscope of sound, color and chaos was nothing I need fear. And then there was the light. Two weeks shy of fading away forever in the backseat of a powder-blue Cadillac convertible, Hank Williams was suddenly spotlit and burning on center stage, the embodiment of the lone flaming star. Visions of a distant paradise bobbed in the wake of his brilliance. I’d have joined the light then and there were it not for the scent of hair tonic and Old Spice aftershave that tethered me to my father’s shoulders.
The pulse of the music matched my beating heart perfectly, and I took comfort in this. And yet it’s the memory of my father that holds in place the memory of seeing and feeling a Hank Williams performance.
My father idolized him, and reminding me I once saw “ole Hank” sing was something he never tired of. It was the part of his legacy he savored the most. Knowing he’d exposed his only son to the greatness in another man that he imagined in himself served to soften the hard fact that his own dreams would never materialize. Hank Williams was what my father wanted to be—a Grand Ole Opry singing star. Taking me to see him perform was his way of saying, Look at me up there on that stage, son, that’s who I really am. This is the truest picture of my father that I own, though at times I strain to see it."
------- Rodney Crowell, "Chinaberry Sidewalks," 2011. By the way, the book, which is autobiographical, is HIGHLY recommended. Rodney is a beautiful writer.
Good friend. Good drummer. Good singer. Good levitator.
Johnny Bush and I go way back, at least 50 years, to when I was a deejay at KBOP in Pleasanton, Texas, and playing clubs in and around San Antonio. I played in his band, and at one time I was also his personal manager. I was mostly a guitar player and John was the singer.
I remember we played a club in San Antonio called "Al's Country Club." The owner later changed the name to Mugwomp's. We asked him why he changed the name. He said, "The mugwomp is the meanest animal on the planet. It is like a huge dog with a head on both ends." We asked him, "Well how does it crap?" He said, "He don't. That's what makes him so mean."
Later on, Johnny played in my band. We called ourselves "The Offenders." Then John started fronting my band, and Paul English played drums behind John until I came on, and Johnny went back and played drums. Then Johnny started recording on his own, and we started calling him "Winni Mac Pigs**t Bush," a name he still loves to this day.
And then Johnny wrote "Whiskey River." He has been exceedingly wealthy ever since. He doesn't need to sing anymore, or write books. He only does it to serve his public, which he deeply loves.
So John, in the words of Dr. Ben Dorsey, "If you ever need a friend, buy a dog." And if there is anything that I can ever do for you, forget it.
Yours in country music,
P.S. Me and Texas and the rest of the world are very proud of Johnny Bush. Love forever. WN
P.P.S. Oh, about that levitation act. Apparently some stories cannot be told even in a tell-all book like this."
-------- Willie Nelson, writing the forward to Johnny Bush's autobiography "Whiskey River (Take My Mind)
"Bread or no bread, the excellence of anything was summed up in the phrase, 'As good as venison and honey.' Nobody ever appreciated this particular goodness more than Gideon Linecum, unflagging in his passion for liberty and knowledge of nature, his genius flavored with a tang as sharp as the juice of the mustang grape. Of his wanderings through the Texas wilderness in 1835, he wrote: 'I lived plentifully all the while. Three or four times I found honey. Once I tried fish. I did not relish them ---- had no bread or salt. But every time I found honey I would have a feast of the first order. I could kill venison any time, and to broil the back-straps of a deer on the coals, dip the point of the done meat into the honey, and then seize it off in your teeth and saw it off with your knife, is the best and most pleasant way to eat it. I have often thought that there could be no other preparation of food for man that is so suitable, so natural, so agreeable, and so exactly suited to his constitutional requirements.'"
------ J. Frank Dobie, "Tales of Old Time Texas," 1928
"Several of the young men have been in the habit lately of buying reserved seats in the opera house and presenting them to prostitutes. It is bad enough for them to buy the seats for these women at all, but it is a thousand times worse when they take advantage of the management to purchase seats in parts of the house where they know full well these women are not allowed to sit. Several prostitutes occupied such seats on the night of "Charley's Aunt," and the managers are anxious for the public to understand how it occurred, and to know exactly where the blame should rest. Fallen women are not allowed in any seats in the opera house except from the third dress circle row back, and in the gallery. And if they impose upon the management again as they have been doing, they will have to occupy the gallery or not enter the house. And further than this, the name of the person who buys tickets for them in the wrong part of the house will be published."
----- El Paso Times Newspaper, 1894
" I love Austin. To me, Austin is Texas going to the prom after eating some mushrooms."
----- Nick Offerman, the actor best known as "Ron Swanson" on TV's "Parks and Recreation," at an Austin book signing
"He's a carved-in-granite, samurai poet warrior Gypsy guitar-pickin' wild man with a heart as big as Texas and the greatest sense of humor in the West."
----- Texan Kris Kristofferson, speaking about his friend and fellow Texan Willie Nelson
"When General Houston's army was retreating from Gonzales, some of his men camped near a widow's home and made fire of her fence rails. The brave woman gave the culprits a piece of her mind, and just then General Houston rode up and tried to pacify her by saying that as soon as he whipped Santa Anna, he would return and compel his men to make rails for her until she was satisfied. "You'll never come back," she screamed. "You cowardly old rascal. You'll come a runnin' as long as your lazy legs will carry you. You look like whuppin' Santa Anna, you a-runnin' like hell and a' goin' so fast your men can't keep up with you, just stoppin' long enough to burn a poor woman's rails!" General Houston rode away smiling, and when he became President of Texas he sent her a fine clock as a gift and saw that she was paid for her rails."
------- Frontier Times magazine, March, 1926
"I thought: Now I know why I am not a revolutionary ---- have never had a desire to kick over old, established things. It's because The Hill Country does not teach you the need for change. The land is always so satisfying that you want it to remain the same forever as a kind of handy immortality."
------ Elroy Bode, "This Favored Place," 1983
The following is an obituary for Sam Houston that appeared in the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph after he passed away in 1863:
"DEATH OF GEN. HOUSTON
It is with deep and heartfelt sorrow that we announce the death of Gen. Sam Houston. It took place at his residence in Huntsville, on the 26th inst, at a quarter past 6 P. M. A letter from his physician, says:
"He died after an illness of five weeks. At one time during his sickness, hopes were entertained of his recovery, but his improvement was only apparent and it soon became evident that the band of death was upon him. To his numerous friends it will doubtless be a matter of great satisfaction to care that in his last hours he was sustained by the christian's hope and that he died the death of the righteous."
Thus has passed away one of the great men of the age. Say what we may of General Houston, we can but accord to him the merit of having filled his full share of the history of the last forty years. His life has been a remarkable one. Whether as Governor of Tennessee, when he was but a little over thirty years of age, or as chief of the Cherokees, or as a hero of the Texas revolution, or still later in the political arena of these last past years, he has always occupied a high place in the public consideration. He has not always been right, nor has he always successful, but he has always left the impress of his mind upon the times in which he has acted.
What were the springs of action to his mind, who dare undertake to tell? What drove him when he was on the high road to fame, and the enjoyment of life, the governor of a great State, the idol of a great people, to cast himself loose from them all and plunge into the wilderness of the West, and become the companion of savages? What led him afterwards, restated in the paths of civilization, honored Senator of another great State, and the beloved idol of its people, to again cast himself loose from their convictions of right, and in defiance of their feelings yield his assent to the designs of their enemies? Who can tell? What ever it was, the ease with which he regained of his fellow citizens, in both these instances, are among the most remarkable incidents in history.
After being lost for years in the wilderness, he re-visited Tennessee, and was received with the most flattering attentions by the whole people. He entered Texas, and was made little less than dictator. After being repudiated by the people of Texas twenty years later, denied his seat in the Senate, cast off by many who had always before voted for him, he took the field against a powerful and well organized party, and again the people flocked to his support and made him Governor.
Such power over men is unquestionably the most remarkable trait of his character. There in lay the greatness of Sam Houston. It was not in his virtue, for in the course of his life he has passed through what would have been degradation to other men and from the couch of the debauchee he has risen to the throne of power, his faculties unimpaired and his authority unquestioned. It was not in his generosity of heart, for a man who is slow to forgive as was General Houston, is not a natural lover of his kind. But it was in the certain power of discovering the springs of human action, a knowledge of human nature, and an ability to use his knowledge which few men possess.
To write a history of the life of Sam Houston is not our part. His history is too well know to make it necessary. To picture his character is also a task that may well be left to the public at large, to whom he is as well know as to us. We pity the heart that could now conceive evil of him. His noble qualities are before the people.
Let us shed tears to his memory, due to one who has filled so much of our affections. Let the whole people bury with him whatever of unkindness they had for him. Let his monument be in the hearts of those who people the land, to which his latter years were devoted. Let his fame sacredly cherished by Texans, as a debt not less to his distinguished services than own honor, of which he was always so jealous and so proud."
----- obituary for Sam Houston, Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, 1863
How three eyewitnesses saw the 1895 shooting of John Wesley Hardin, the most notorious gunslinger in the Old West, in El Paso.
"My name is Frank Patterson. I am a bar tender at present at the Acme saloon. This evening about 11 o'clock J. W. Hardin was standing with Henry Brown shaking dice and Mr. Selman walked in at the door and shot him. Mr. G. L. Shackleford was also in the saloon at the time the shooting took place. Mr. Selman said something as he came in at the door. Hardin was standing with his back to Mr. Selman. I did not see him face around before he fell or make any motion. All I saw was that Mr. Selman came in the door, said something and shot and Hardin fell. Don't think Hardin ever spoke. The first shot was in the head."
"My name is E.L. Shackeford. At the time I met Mr. Selman he was in the saloon drinking with several others ... I advised him as a friend not to get under the influence of liquor. We walked out on the sidewalk and came back into the saloon, I being some distance ahead of Selman, walking towards the back of the saloon. There I heard shots fired. I can't say who fired the shots, as I did not see it. I did not turn around but left immediately. The room was full of powder smoke, and I could nae have seen anything anyway."
"My name is Henry Brown. We were shaking dice. I heard a shot fired and Mr. Hardin fell at m feet at my left side. I heard three or four shots fired. I then left, went out the back door, and don't know what occurred afterward. When the shot was fired, Mr. Hardin was against the bar, facing it, as near as I can say, and his back was towards the direction the shot came from. I did not see him make any effort to get his six-shooter. The last words he spoke before the first shot were. ;Four sixes to beat,' and they were addressed to me."
------ three accounts of the murder of John Wesley Hardin by John Selman in El Paso's Acme Saloon in 1895; Selman himself was shot dead about 10 months later
"We bedded our cattle for the last time near Abilene, Kansas. The boss let myself and another boy go to the city one day. As it had been a long time since we had seen a house or a woman, they were good to look at. I wore a black plush hat which had a row of small stars around the rim, with buck-skin strings to tie and hold on my head. We went into town, tied our ponies, and the first place we visited was a saloon and dance hall. We ordered toddies like we had seen older men do, and drank them down, for we were dry, very dry, as it had been a long ways between drinks. I quit my partner, as he had a girl to talk to, so I went out and in a very short time I went into another store and saloon. I got another toddy, my hat began to stiffen up, but I pushed it up in front, moved my pistol to where it would be handy, then sat down on a box in the saloon and picked up a newspaper and thought I would read a few lines, but my two toddies were at war, so I could not very well understand what I read.
I got up and left for more sights— you have seen them in Abilene, Dodge City and any other place those days. I walked around for perhaps an hour. The two toddies were making me feel different to what I had felt for months, and I thought it was about time for another, so I headed for a place across the street, where I could hear a fiddle. It was a saloon, gambling and dance hall. Here I saw an old long-haired fellow dealing monte. I went to the bar and called for a toddy, and as I was drinking it a girl came up and put her little hand under my chin, and looked me square in the face and said, "Oh, you pretty Texas boy, give me a drink." I asked her what she wanted and she said anything I took, so I called for two toddies. My, I was getting rich fast —a pretty girl and plenty of whiskey. My old hat was now away back on my head.
My boss had ,given me four dollars spending money and I had my five-dollar bill, so I told the girl that she could make herself easy; that I was going to break the monte game, buy out the saloon, and keep her to run it for me when I went back to Texas for my other herd of cattle. Well, I went, to the old longhaired dealer, and as he was making a new layout I put my five on the first card (a king) and about the third pull I won. I now had ten dollars and I thought I had better go and get another toddy before I played again. As I was getting rich so fast, I put the two bills on the tray and won. Had now twenty dollars, so I moved my hat back as far as it would go and went to get a drink— another toddy, but my girl was gone. I wanted to show her that I was not joking about buying out the saloon after I broke the bank.
After this drink things did not look so good. I went back and it seemed to me that I did not care whether I broke him or not. I soon lost all I had won and my old original five. When I quit him my hat was becoming more settled, getting down in front, and I went out, found my partner and left for camp. The next morning, in place of owning a saloon and going back to Texas after my other herds, I felt—oh! what's the use? You old fellows know how I felt."
------ J.L. McCaleb, as quoted in "The Trail Drivers of Texas," 1925
"There is an old army story to the effect that, when General [Zachary] Taylor's little army was on the march from Corpus Christ to Matamoras, a soldier on the flak of the column came upon and fired at a Longhorn bull. The bull immediately charged, and the soldier, taking to his heels, ran headlong, scattering several regiments like chaff, finally escaping unhurt, having demoralized and put to flight an army which a few days after covered itself with glory by victoriously encountering five times its numbers of human enemies."
------ Richard Irving Dodge, "The Hunting Grounds of the Great West," 1878
"The year was 1904, Teddy Roosevelt was President, Archie Hahn was the world's fastest human, Jim Jeffries was the heavyweight champion, the New York Giants under John McGraw had won the National League pennant, and down in the Texas cattle country Jack Abernathy was catching wolves bare-handed.
Which seems a rather interesting occupation and one not to be taken lightly. There had been nothing in Abernathy's background that gave a hint he would become involved in so risky a pastime. Abernathy was born in Bosque County. At nine, he was a working cowboy and by 15 he was breaking horses in the Texas Panhandle on Charles Goodnight's JA Ranch. But for those times and that country this wasn't particularly unusual. The only clue that Abernathy might be subject to aberrant whims came at 17 when he decided to be a musician.
The question that comes to mind is why he wanted to catch a wolf bare-handed or why ANYONE would want to.
Abernathy caught his first wolf without giving much thought to danger. It was a mistake, done, he said later, in a hasty moment. When he was 15 he was working as a cow-puncher for the JA ranch. Working cattle one day, two greyhounds of which he was very fond jumped a wolf. After a chase the wolf turned and bayed. By the time Abernathy rode up, one dog had been disemboweled and the other was being chewed. Abernathy had no gun and, without thinking, jumped from his horse and started for the fight. He was a young man noted for his exceptional quickness and agility, but, even so, a big wolf—and this one weighed about 125 pounds, almost as much as Abernathy—has canines an inch long and jaws that can crush bones. Abernathy later wrote that his only concern was getting the wolf off his dog, and that he expected the beast to run away.
Instead, the wolf attacked Abernathy, lunging for his throat. Instinctively he threw up a hand, thrusting it sideways into the wolf's mouth. He then grabbed the wolf with his free arm and threw it on its back, and he discovered that as long as he kept the animal's lower jaw open it could not bite him. They struggled, the animal scratching and clawing. Once, Abernathy lost his hold and had to retake it. The scramble ended in a standoff with Abernathy on top of the wolf, holding on to its jaw for dear life, and the animal sulking beneath him. Abernathy was cut and bleeding when his brother, who had missed him, rode up. Abernathy later told his son that his brother said, "Well, what have you got there, Jack?" and he said, "I've got something captured I can't get loose from." His brother wanted to shoot the wolf, but Abernathy decided that since he'd got that far he was going to take the animal back alive. He made a running hitch with cord around the wolf's jaws, jerked his hand out, and with a quick pull tied its mouth shut. Then he slung it over his saddle and took it back to camp.
They say Abernathy caught a few more wolves at this time, but it was more for the sport of the thing and it wasn't until years later that he got serious about wolves. Instead, he decided to become a musician, got married, began selling pianos and raising a family, including two sons. It's important to take note of these two sons because they figure in the story later and they were just a bit unusual, too, maybe even more so than their father.
After Abernathy quit being a musician and piano salesman he returned to cowboying and catching wolves. Only this time he discovered that he had a real knack for wolf catching and he began doing it full time, selling the animals to zoos, circuses and traveling shows for $50 each. His fame spread and Teddy Roosevelt heard about him. Teddy, of course, couldn't let something unusual and outdoorsy go uninvestigated. A month after he was sworn in for his second term as President, Roosevelt arrived in Frederick, Okla. to watch Jack Abernathy catch a live wolf. That made everyone nervous, including the governor of Texas, S.W.T. Lanham, who sent Texas Rangers to provide Roosevelt with added protection. According to newspaper accounts, Roosevelt was immediately taken with Jack Abernathy and with Abernathy's famous wolf-hunting horse, "Sam Bass." The President and Abernathy posed for pictures, the two looking bully and the Secret Service men looking apprehensive.
The first morning, Roosevelt joined the 10-mile chase over broken and rocky land. He later wrote: "...just as they crossed the creek the greyhound made a rush, pinned the wolf by the hind leg and threw it. There was a scuffle, then a yell from the greyhound as the wolf bit it. At the bite the hound let go...and at that moment Abernathy, who had ridden his horse right on them as they struggled, leaped off and sprang on top of the wolf. He held the reins of the horse with one hand and thrust the other, with a rapidity and precision even greater than the rapidity of the wolf's snap, into the wolf's mouth, jamming his hand down crosswise between the jaws, seizing the lower jaw and bending it down so the wolf could not bite him...with his knees he kept the wolf from using its forepaws to break the hold until it gave up struggling. When he thus leaped on and captured this coyote it was entirely free, the dogs having let go of it; and he was obliged to keep hold of the reins of the horse with one hand. I was not 20 yards distant at the time.... It was as remarkable a feat of the kind as I have ever seen."
Of course, they had trouble with Roosevelt because he wanted to catch a wolf, too. The Secret Service finally talked him out of that, and he turned his attention to killing rattlesnakes, one as long as five feet, with his riding quirt.
Roosevelt wasn't the only one of the party who wanted to try catching wolves. It was reported in the Daily Oklahoman that two others attempted it and had their hands badly mangled. When Roosevelt asked Abernathy about his technique, he said, "Well, Mr. President, you must remember that a wolf never misses its aim when it snaps. When I strike at a wolf with my right hand I know it's going into the wolf's mouth."
During his career Abernathy caught about a thousand wolves. He wrote: "Usually I wore a thin glove, the thinner the better. I wore this glove merely to prevent the sharp canine teeth of the wolf from splitting open the skin of my hand. In thrusting my hand into the mouth of a biting wolf, sometimes the sharp teeth would scratch the skin if I didn't have on a thin glove." In a book he wrote called Catch-'Em-Alive Jack, Abernathy talked about trying to teach others the process. "Nearly all were able to make the catch so far as letting the wolf have their hand. But when the savage animal would clamp down on the hand, the student would become frightened, fearing the hand would be ruined forever. Instead of holding fast to the lower jaw, the student would quit. Consequently the wolf would then almost ruin the hand."
One of Abernathy's sons, Temple, talks of witnessing such an instance as a small boy: "Dad was trying to teach a Mexican cowhand who was around the camp. The man got the wolf all right, but then he got scared and let go and the wolf bit him viciously. He died a few days later. Loss of blood or some such."
In his book Abernathy claimed that the only time he was badly bitten was when he was catching wolves for a Colonel Cecil A. Lyon near Sherman, Texas. He had caught several wolves successfully, but then he had a few drinks of whiskey and the next wolf bit him. He later said the whiskey had ruined his timing.
Temple says the worst bite his father got was from his very first wolf. "Dad told me he was surprised at how easy he got that wolf down and thought he had a good chance of getting out of a bad spot unharmed. So he went to jerk away, but when he did, the wolf got him by the wrist and bit him pretty bad. Dad pried open his mouth and took his hold again, but the wolf had severed the artery in the wrist, and he was losing blood pretty fast when my uncle rode up. When they got back to camp, that big vessel was sticking out about half an inch and spurting blood. Dad tried to shove it back in under the skin, but it wouldn't go. Finally, he just stretched it and cut if off with some shears they had around the wagon, tied it and stopped the bleeding."
When Roosevelt returned to Washington, he sent for Abernathy and asked him what federal office he would like to hold. Abernathy said he'd like to be the United Slates marshal for the Oklahoma Territory and Roosevelt appointed him on the spot at a salary of $5,000 a year. Later, the President wrote:
My Dear Marshal:
I guess you had better not catch live wolves as a part of a public exhibition while you are Marshal. If on a private hunt you catch them, that would be all right, but it would look too much as if you were going into show business if you took part in a public celebration.
Give my regards to all your family.
I am sure you are doing well in your position.
Sincerely, President Theodore Roosevelt."
------ From a 1976 Sports Illustrated Article about Jack Abernathy
"An old, old man got to remembering down in Texas the other day, and when somebody questioned a statement he made, he hauled forth from the tray of an ancient horsehair trunk yellowed letters that have the haughtiest crest of British royalty, and two very famous signatures.
When he showed them around, he not only convinced his hearers that his story was true, but he made public for the first time a tale of both homely and historic value ---- a tale that casts a very human sidelight upon the most famous of modern monarchs, Queen Victoria.
The venerable Texan's name is Shannon ----- last survivor of that famous family that, headed by Colonel Thomas Jefferson Shannon, prairie-schoonered its way into that vast and howling wilderness in the days of head-rights and buffalo. The old Colonel, a bluff, hard riding, sharp-shooting old plainsman, is remembered as the man who introduced the Red Durham strain into the cattle business of the West.
It now appears that that start ----- probably the parent herd of all the Durham cattle in America today, was a male and two females sent to Colonel Shannon by none other than Victoria, herself, and sent to him merely because he wrote her a letter saying he'd like a sample of the cattle she liked best.
He was only a plainsman living in an uncharted wilderness, but ... he sat down and wrote the Queen of England ... simply asked her to sell him some of her livestock. He told her who he was, where he lived, and what he wanted with it. The order was for a male and two females, and he generously offered to let her set any price she thought was fair.
Two months later the Queen herself wrote. It was a friendly but business-like letter. She said she'd be glad to let the colonel have the stock as he requested, and if he'd pay the freight on them from New Orleans to his North Texas home, she'd be glad to make him a present of them .... and in 1848 the bull and two cows landed from a British ship in New Orleans.
The colonel conveyed them carefully from there to North Texas. There were no railroads, but he placed them in wagons. At frequent intervals he unloaded them, fed them, and let them graze for a day or two. He at last got them home in perfect condition and they founded the herd that was the sensation of the old Southwest.
The old colonel never forgot the graciousness of England's queen. He sent her reports from time to time as to how her transplanted stock was flourishing in the New World. He named his first daughter "Victoria" in her honor and one of his sons was christened "Albert" in honor of her consort."
------- Norfolk (Virginia) News, March 20, 1926. I love little slices of human-interest history like this one. To think that the Queen of England would be so humored by this simple Texan's letter that she would actually send a bull and two cows all the way to New Orleans at her own expense is just too great.
"In that day [1870s] there was truly a hard set congregated in Houston. It seemed to me that the sole business of most of them was drinking liquor and playing cards, varied now and then by a little recreation in the way of ''target shooting" at each other with their double barrel guns and derringers. I was walking leisurely along Main street, when I heard the reports of two or three pistols in rapid succession, and shortly afterwards I noticed a small crowd collected in front of a shanty, over the door of which was a board with the following legend inscribed on one side: ''The First Chance," and on the other*'The Last Chance," thus appropriately soliciting the custom of thirsty wayfarers, coming into or going out of town.
I stepped up to one of the crowd collected around this "juicery" and inquired if anything unusual had happened. "No," said he, "nothing more common. Bob Sprowls and Arkansaw Jake had a little misunderstanding 'bout a game of poker just now, and Jake 'upped him' with a derringer, that's all." "And where is Sprowls now?" said I. "Well, some of his friends carried him off to the drug store to see if the doctor could do anything for him, but I reckon he can't do much for a fellow that's got a half ounce bullet through his lights."
"And where is Arkansaw Jake now?" I asked. "Have they arrested him?" "Arrested thunderation!" replied my informant, ''you must be green from the States— he's there," pointing to the door ofthe juicery. "Seth Blake has taken Spowls' hand, and they are finishing the game— and by the by, my young man," he continued, "you'd better git out of the range of that door, for I heard Arkansaw Jake jess now tell Seth he was renigging, and I reckon 'twont be long afore another derringer goes off."
I got out of the range of that door promptly and returned to my hotel, satisfied that the "lions" of Houston were a unique species, and were very dangerous animals to tamper with. "
------ John C. Duval, "The Young Explorers," 1892
"The bluebonnet is to Texas what the shamrock is to Ireland, the cherry blossom to Japan, the lily to France, the rose to England and the tulip to Holland."
----- historian Jack MaGuire
"He walked out of the valley, as lean as a mesquite post and just about as gnarled, his eyes harsh and stubborn like the land around him. He paused to kick at a clump of prickly pear cactus that held on selfishly to a patch of dirt that had washed down among the rocks. He looked out as the bluebonnets, the Indian Paintbrush, the clover, the purple, orange and red haze that ran up and down the gentle hillsides without going anywhere at all, the beauty amid the bristles.
In the rugged valley from whence he came, he saw the face of Texas the way the mythical Texas is supposed to be:big and empty, delicate yet defiant, tough as boot leather and just about as polished.
"This land ain't worth a plugged nickel," he explained, a definite German accent rolling off his tongue. "I've seen cows walk for ten miles just tryin' to find an acre of grass to chew on. 'Bout all you can raise on it is rocks and a little Cain now and then." He paused and sighed. "It's poor, useless, good for nothin', and too dadgummed hard to even leave a footprint. But ain't it pretty?"
And so it was. The old man grinned again, bent low into the wind, and slowly shuffled away. I looked close. There were no footprints behind him to even prove he had ever come to or from the valley that separated Kerrville from Medina."
----- Caleb Pirtle III, "The Genuine Old-Fashioned, Down-Home, Home Grown Official Texas Cookbook," 1990
"As a Texan and a country music fan, I didn't LEARN George Strait songs; I knew them the same way I know English. In Texas, when you get your first car at 16 or 17 years old, it comes standard with a George Strait Greatest Hits along with brakes and A/C."
----- Country Musician Jack Ingram
"I come from a long line of dancers. My maternal grandfather, a short, squat blacksmith named Daddy Harrell, was the king of country dancing ... Everything was music to Daddy Harrell. A mule could bray and he'd mistake it for a melody. .. When Aunt Esther sang at Mam Harrell's funeral, it was all they could do to hold Daddy Harrell down and keep him from dancing over her coffin. He cried, 'They who hear not the music think the dancers mad.' Then he sat down and let the preacher finish."
----- Bill Porterfield, "The Greatest Honky Tonks in Texas," 1983. Note: You know, besides being a wise observation and a bumper sticker slogan in and of itself, this is the PERFECT comeback. How many times have you been been caught doing something really stupid and, when somebody calls you out on it, you don't have a comeback? Well here is the perfect comeback right here. Example: "Traces, what in tarnation were you thinking, climbing 475 feet up that giant television broadcast antenna?" "Those who hear not the music think the dancers mad!" Not that I, myself, have ever illegally climbed one of those towers, mind you. Of course not. That would be dangerous. But still, you can see where this response would come in handy, right?
"I have lived long enough to know that nothing has been screwed up so bad that I can't screw it up some more."
----- overheard at the Starlight Theater in Terlingua on New Year's Eve, 2016
"That night he dreamt of horses in a field on a high plain where the spring rains had brought up the grass and the wild flowers out of the ground and the flowers ran all blue and yellow far as the eye could see and in the dream he was among the horses running and in the dream he himself could run with the horses and they coursed the young mares and fillies over the plain where their rich bay and their rich chestnut colors shone in the sun and the young colts ran with their dams and trampled down the flowers in a haze of pollen that hung in the sun like powdered gold and they ran he and the horses out along the high mesas where the ground resounded under their running hooves and they flowed and changed and ran and their manes and tails blew off of them like spume and there was nothing else at all in that high world and they moved all of them in a resonance that was like a music among them and they were none of them afraid horse nor colt nor mare and they ran in that resonance which is the world itself and which cannot be spoken but only praised."
----- Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses"
"You never know what worse luck your bad luck might have saved you from."
------ Cormac McCarthy, "No Country for Old Men"
"When the wind was in the north you could hear them [the Comanches], the horses and the breath of the horses and the horses' hooves that were shod in rawhide and the rattle of lances and the constant drag of the travois poles in the sand like the passing of some enormous serpent and the young boys naked on wild horses jaunty as circus riders and hazing wild horses before them and the dogs trotting with their tongues aloll and foot-slaves following half naked and sorely burdened and above all the low chant of their traveling song which the riders sang as they rode, nation and ghost of nation passing in a soft chorale across that mineral waste to darkness, bearing lost to all history and all remembrance like a grail the sum of their secular and transitory and violent lives."
----- Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses"
"He stood hat in hand over the unmarked earth. This woman who had worked for his family fifty years. She had cared for his mother as a baby and she had worked for his family long before his mother was born and she had known and cared for the wild Grady boys who were his mother's uncles and who had all died so long ago and he stood holding his hat and he called her his abuela and he said goodbye to her in Spanish and then turned and put on his hat and turned his wet face to the wind and for a moment he held out his hands as if to steady himself or as if to bless the ground there or perhaps as if to slow the world that was rushing away and seemed to care nothing for the old or the young or rich or poor or dark or pale or he or she. Nothing for their struggles, nothing for their names. Nothing for the living or the dead.
IN FOUR DAYS' riding he crossed the Pecos at Iraan Texas and rode up out of the river breaks where the pumpjacks in the Yates Field ranged against the skyline rose and dipped like mechanical birds. Like great primitive birds welded up out of iron by hearsay in a land perhaps where such birds once had been…..The desert he rode was red and red the dust he raised, the small dust that powdered the legs of the horse he rode, the horse he led. In the evening a wind came up and reddened all the sky before him. There were few cattle in that country because it was barren country indeed yet he came at evening upon a solitary bull rolling in the dust against the bloodred sunset like an animal in sacrificial torment.
The bloodred dust blew down out of the sun. He touched the horse with his heels and rode on. He rode with the sun coppering his face and the red wind blowing out of the west across the evening land and the small desert birds flew chittering among the dry bracken and horse and rider and horse passed on and their long shadows passed in tandem like the shadow of a single being. Passed and paled into the darkening land, the world to come...
----- Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses"
"He rode with the sun coppering his face and the red wind blowing out of the west. He turned south along the the old war tail and he rode out to the crest of a low rise and dismounted and dropped the reins and walked out and stood like a man come to the end of something.
There was an old horse skull in the brush and he squatted and picked it up and turned it in his hands. Frail and brittle. Bleached paper white. He squatted in the long light holding it, the comicbook teeth loose in their sockets. The joints in the cranium like a ragged welding of the bone plates. The muted run of sand in the brainbox when he turned it.
What he loved in horses was what he loved in men, the blood and the heat of the blood that ran in them. All his reverence and all his fondness and all the leanings of his life were for the ardenthearted and they would always be so and never be otherwise."
------ Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses"
"In the afternoon he rode through the McKenzie crossing of the Clear Fork of the Brazos River and he and the horse walked side by side down the twilight toward the town where in the long red dusk and in the darkness the random aggregate of the lamps formed slowly a false shore of hospice cradled on the low plain before them. They passed enormous ricks of bones, colossal dikes composed of horned skulls and the crescent ribs like old ivory bows heaped in the aftermath of some legendary battle, great levees of them curving away over the plain into the night."
----- Cormac McCarthy, "Blood Meridian"
"Part of the problem was his charm. At first blush women loved him. He approached young and old with equal gallantry and broke many a heart when they realized he was here today and gone tomorrow. Among men he mixed well. On those small-town sidewalk Saturdays he could be as courtly as a colonel to the promenading ladies and then duck into the pool hall and cue up and casually cuss with the best. And of course he always had a proposition, a little something for everyone, a side deal here, a bigger deal there. The war was on abroad, and although we weren't in it yet, we were already feeling the pinch of shortage and hearing talk of rationing. If your lady didn't like nylons, Uncle John could get her silk. In a dry county he knew the bootleg, in a tight country the black market."
----- Billy Porterfield, describing his Uncle John Pierson, a man who was not related to him by blood but who became his "Uncle" when, in 1941, his parents left a young Billy to live with Mr. Pierson as they left Texas to go to Oklahoma to tend to Billy's dying grandmother. The portrait of Pierson that Porterfield paints in "A Loose Herd of Texans" is wonderfully comic.
"The family had not yet entered the sanctuary, but at our backs we were startled to see an unmistable likeness of the dead man standing in the doorway. It could have been Hunt himself, thirty years younger. "Hassie!" someone whispered. And indeed it was. Haroldson Lafayette Hunt III, the old man's eldest son, the gentle one who was said to live in a world of his own. Some great tragedy had befallen him, and he had lived close to the side of his father. Once, it was said, he had shown the same managerial genius as the father, only to retreat from the world of men and affairs.
Some said Hassie's tragedy was his experience in the Second World War. Others said he had never gone to war, that he had changed because he could not stand up to the pressure of being a great man's son. Is it indelicate and inaccurate of me to slip here into heresay? What the mourners said that day, and what the press and other people wrote and said, were the stuff of the Hunt legend. For a man so prominent yet so private, this legend is what lives on, and it bathes his children in the same light. In a moment Brother Chriswell himself would be myth-making, and I would listed to that. Right now I watched Hassie Hunt. He walked down the aisle, looked at his dead father, and wept. Then he returned to his post behind us, near the door. There was in him such a sad dignity. "
----- Bill Porterfield (one of my literary idols) describes the funeral of legendary oilman H.L. Hunt, "A Loose Heard of Texans," 1978
"Texas is still a caricature, damn it.
There is no other way to describe it, try as you might in so short a space. Sure, if one had the pages, not to speak of the power, of a Tolstoy, and the time he took to take us to the steppes of Russia, then one could write of Texas and its people without cliche'. Stereotypes which stick in the desert of the mind like prickly pear would soften and surrender to a steady rain of specificity. Panorama would give way to closeup; people and place would come into focus as individual and unique and yet all all too human and familiar, and we would glory in the universality, not the rootin', tootin', chauvinism of it all.
And yet caricature is appropriate here ---- the word must match the deed, in outline at least. Texas is an exaggeration, not only of itself but of the American dream, past and present. As old as Indians and cowboys, it is as new as the last moon shot and the latest millionaire. Between these extremes of time, temper, tall tales, and technology, however, lies the truth, the middling mean, about the Lone Star state."
----- Bill Porterfield, "A Loose Herd of Texans," 1978
"Of all the fabulous cattle empires in Texas, only three ever surpassed the Waggoners' in sheer size: the 3-million-acre XIT ranch in the Panhandle, the 1.8 million-acre Matador Land and Cattle Company just below the Panhandle, and the 1-million-acre King Ranch on the southern coast. The Chicago corporation, which owned the XIT, disbanded it in 1912, and the Scottish syndicate that ran the Matador had sold it off in parcels by 1951. In 1954 ranch historian J.W. Williams wrote that 'if the the great ranches are to be weighed according to value, the vast oil wealth of the owners of the Waggoner Estate might tip the scales in their favor.'
The oil, however, came years after Dan Waggoner's death in 1904. They discovered it in 1903 while drilling water wells. They considered it a damn nuisance. Dan's son, W. T., is said to have abandoned the wells in disgust, plugging them with fence posts. "Damn it," he bellowed, "cattle can't drink that stuff." Tom, as they called him, had better things to think about. He was once heard to say, 'a man who doesn't admire a good steer, a good horse, and a pretty woman ---- well, something is wrong with that man's head.'
Tom was a chip off the old bock, not one of those sons who is devoured by his father's epic appetites. At the age of eighteen he herded up the Chisholm Trail with the old man. Their bond was so close that he and the widowed Dan married sisters. The mansion in Decatur was imposing but not removed from the workaday ranch life. It was headquarters and hotel for the hands as well as residence for the Waggoners. Eventually, their operation outgrew the environs. (continued on next page)
They bought one-half million acres in Vernon. When the old man died, he left Tom an estate valued at seven million dollars. Thirty years later when Tom died, he left his two sons and daughter an empire worth seven million dollars multiplied a hundred times over. It included cattle, banks, oil, buildings in cities, and a famous race track and horse breeding farm called Arlington Downs ---- now the site of Six Flags Over Texas and the home of the Texas Rangers baseball team."
---- Bill Porterfield describes the famed Waggoner Ranch and the men who created it, "A Loose Herd of Texans," 1978
"It was funny how such a simple thing as a tree tall enough to shade became precious and worth resting under. The chaparral was a tangle of treachery. Jesús la Feria told me so, and I believed him. We had shared the umbrella of a roadside oak that July a quarter-century before ---- I lost and letting my car radiator cool, he trying to revive with drinking water the wilting funeral flowers that covered a casket in the back of his hearse. On the door panels of the death wagon, carved in gilded wood, was the legend:
Jesús & Jesús
Mirando City, Texas
An old woman from one of the ranches of his boyhood had died, and Jesús had taken her to his establishment, seventy miles to the west, to embalm the body. Now he was returning her for burial that afternoon. An uncle, a superintendent for an oil company, had hired me to nightwatch a drilling rig going up on the Armstrong Ranch and I, eighteen and a stranger to the border country, had lost my way on one of the back roads.
Jesús la Feria gave me excellent directions. He was a large man, his heavy body entombed in a black suit, all canopied by a big, black hat. He sank to his haunches beneath the tree, removed his sombrero, and poured water on his steaming scalp. His neck was as black as a bois d'acr root. Suddenly, he reached out and swatted me, or rather a large red ant crawling up my pant leg.
It startled me, and he laughed, "Better me hit you than the hormiga," he said. "Stand still out here, and you're in trouble, my friend. Think of all the things that can get you." In spite of his warning, we sat for a while, and I listened as he described with a kind of pagan pride the predatory nature of his home lands. He was an eloquent and convincing man, and when we parted I prayed nightfall would not find me stranded."
----- Bill Porterfield describes a random meeting in the chapparral country of South Texas, "A Loose Herd of Texans." 1978
"It seems to me that I spent most of my childhood in the rear seat of a black Terraplane Hudson staring at the back of my father's wrinkled red neck as we droned across the Texas prairie from one oil patch to the next. I can still hear the engine and the whine of that transmission. It is like a mother's heartbeat. I can smell the faded felt of the seats. The telephone poles and their crossbars flash past like crucifixes. We could get out so far from nowhere that we left the poles behind, and there would be nothing but the ribbon of road amid all that time and space.
On those endless odysseys, the destinations proved to be mirages ----- dreamy reststops half-remembered ---- for we never got to where were were going and have yet to complete the journey. Oh, we may have gotten to the rig were Daddy was to work but that's another thing entirely."
----- Bill Porterfield, "The Greatest HonkyTonks in Texas," 1983
"What hits you most is the cussedness of the country. It is at once friendly and hostile. Friendly in its soils, which send up good grasses and productive oil sands. Hostile in its distances and high winds. The mesquite and the post oak have to hold on for dear lifte to keep from becoming tumbleweeds. It is no place for a baldheaded man with a hairpiece. Obfuscation and sophistication seem out of place and thus writers don't belong."
------- Bill Porterfield writing about Archer City, Larry McMurtry's hometown and the setting for "The Last Picture Show"
The Night Before Christmas, Texas Style:
'Twas the night before Christmas, in Texas, you know.
Way out on the prairie, without any snow.
Asleep in their cabin, were Buddy and Sue,
A dreamin' of Christmas, like me and you.
Not stockings, but boots, at the foot of their bed,
For this was Texas, what more need be said,
When all of a sudden, from out of the still night,
There came such a ruckus, it gave me a fright.
And I saw 'cross the prairie, like a shot from a gun,
A loaded up buckboard, come on at a run,
The driver was "Geein" and "Hawin", with a will,
The horses (not reindeer) he drove with such skill.
'Come on there Buck, Poncho, & Prince, to the right,
There'll be plenty of travelin' for you all tonight.'
The driver in Levis and a shirt that was red,
Had a ten-gallon Stetson on top of his head.
As he stepped from the buckboard, he was really a sight,
With his beard and mustache, so curly and white.
As he burst in the cabin, the children awoke,
And were so astonished, that neither one spoke.
And he filled up their boots with such presents galore,
That neither could think of a single thing more.
When Buddy recovered the use of his jaws,
He asked in a whisper,'Are you really Santa Claus?'
'Am I the real Santa? Well, what do you think?'
And he smiled as he gave a mysterious wink.
Then he leaped in his buckboard, and called back in his drawl,
'To all the children in Texas, Merry Christmas, Y'all!'
Here is an interesting article about an incident that happened in La Grange in 1883:
"After emancipation the State of Texas began to pass Jim Crow laws (laws requiring racial segregation). The Lone Star state eventually passed 27 of these laws which were not repealed until 1964. Blacks were segregated in schools and when using public transportation. Voting rights were curbed. Interracial marriage was outlawed and, by 1915, violating this law could bring you a prison sentence of two to five years.
Despite the contentious relationship between the races, an extraordinary event occurred in La Grange late one spring evening in 1883. Mr. J.F. McClatchy, a white man from Mississippi, found his livery stable ablaze. It was located on the east side of the town square. He lost 23 horses to the fire and nearly all his buggies. At one point the fire threatened to destroy the square’s entire east side. However, both African American and white citizens joined together to fight the flames and limited the damage to McClatchy’s property and several other small buildings. Sadly, the fire was thought to be the work of an arsonist.
Unfortunately for Mr. McClatchy, insurance covered less than half of his loss. However, local African Americans came to his aid. Having no money to give, they donated their time and labor to help him build a new stable:
Johnson Miller 6 days
Reuben Pierce 6 days
Jack Blocker 2 days
W. A. Schropshire 2 days
Granderson Lindsay 3 days
Sam Rogers 1 day
George Holmes and team 1 day
Nathan Powel 2 days
Bob Lyles 1 day
Richard Smith 1 day
Mr. McClatchy was able, within 36 hours, to open another stable with 18 stalls on the same lot.
White citizens expressed their appreciation to those who helped put out the fire in a May 25, 1883 letter to the editor of the La Grange Journal:
“We, the signers hereto, desire through the columns of your paper, to express our sincere thanks to the citizens, white and colored, who came to our relief on the occasion of the recent destructive fire. Your prompt and continuous efforts saved, not only the property of the signers hereto, but the property of many others. For the prompt, noble, and untiring efforts of the citizens and visiting friends, we do most sincerely tender our grateful acknowledgements.”
White & Bradshaw,
Chas. W. Gregory
H. Scholz & Co.
Kruschel & Schmidt
This comes verbatim from the "Footprints of Fayette County" webpage. You can find this and many other really interesting articles and photos about La Grange and Fayette County here: http://www.fayettecountyhistory.org/la_grange_footprints.htm
"Around noon on January 21, 1932, a cloud ten thousand feet high from ground to top appeared just outside Amarillo. The winds had been fierce all day, clocked at sixty miles an hour when the curtain dropped over the Panhandle. The sky lost its customary white, and it turned brownish then gray as the thing lumbered around the edge of Amarillo, a city of 43,000 people. Nobody knew what to call it. It was not a rain cloud. Nor was it a cloud holding ice pellets. It was not a twister. It was thick like coarse animal hair; it was alive. People close to it described a feeling of being in a blizzard—a black blizzard, they called it—with an edge like steel wool. The weather bureau people in Amarillo were fascinated by the cloud precisely because it defied explanation. They wrote in their logs that it was "most spectacular." As sunlight came through the lighter edge of the big cloud, it appeared greenish. After hovering near Amarillo, the cloud moved north up the Texas Panhandle, toward Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kansas.
Bam White saw this black monstrosity approaching from the south, and he thought at first he was looking at a range of mountains on the move, nearly two miles high. But the Llano Estacado was one of the flattest places on earth, and there was no mountain of ten thousand feet, moving or stationary, anywhere on the horizon. He told his boys to run for protection and hide deep under their little house. The cloud passed over Dalhart quickly, briefly blocking the sun so that it looked like dusk outside. It dumped its load and disappeared, its departure as swift as its arrival, the sun's rays lighting the dust.
Some sandstorm, they said down at the DeSoto.
No, sir, that was no sandstorm, others said.
Did you see the color of that monster? Black as the inside of a dog.
The storm left the streets full of coal-colored dust and covered the tops of cars and the sidewalks on Denrock. The dust found the insides, too, coating the dining table and wood floor of Doc Dawson's place, and the fine furniture inside the DeSoto lobby, and the pool tables at Dinwiddie's, and the baseball stands at the edge of town. Folks had it in their hair, their eyes, down their throat. You blew your nose and there it was—black snot. You hacked up the same thing. It burned in the eyes and made people cough. It was the damnedest thing, and a mystery.
What is it? Melt White asked his daddy.
It's the earth itself, Bam said. The earth is on the move.
Look what they done to the grass, he said. Look at the land: wrong side up."
----- Timothy Egan, "The Worst Hard Time"
“They heard somewhere in that tenantless night a bell that tolled and ceased where no bell was and they rode out on the round dais of the earth which alone was dark and no light to it and which carried their figures and bore them up into the swarming stars so that they rode not under but among them and they rode at once jaunty and circumspect, like thieves newly loosed in that dark electric, like young thieves in a glowing orchard, loosely jacketed against the cold and ten thousand worlds for the choosing.”
----- Cormac McCarthy, "All the Pretty Horses"
"Then there's the story of a young Texas lad in Sunday School who was asked to name the birthplace of Jesus. He guessed Gladewater, Mount Pleasant, and Bonham. When told the answer was Palestine, he said "I knew it was in East Texas somewhere."
------ "The Truth About Texas," Lewis Nordyke, 1957
“In keeping with the Laws of the Prophet Bubba and the Code of the UIL, as set forth in the Book of First Downs, as the sun sets on Friday nights the rites of the Texas state religion are celebrated: high school, smash-mouth football. ‘And lo, the children of Jim Bob do take to the roads in caravans and they do go up unto the stadium by tribes, the Indians of Groveton, the Panthers of Lufkin, the Mustangs of Overton, and the very Wildcats of Palestine, and who shall withstand the traffic jams thereof?’ Thus is it written, and so it is and shall be.”
------ Markham Shaw Pyle
The following quote is a VERY interesting description of a murder trial and its aftermath in El Paso back in 1851:
"It is doubtful whether in the whole history of trial by jury a more remarkable scene than the one here presented was ever exhibited. The trial took place in one of the adobe or mud-built houses peculiar to the country, which was dimly lighted from a single small window. Scarcely an individual was present who had not the appearance and garb of men who spend their lives on the frontier, far from civilization and its softening influences. Surrounded as we had been, and now were, by hostile Indians, and constantly mingling with half-civilized and renegade men, it was necessary to go constantly armed. No one ventured half a mile from home without first putting on his pistols; and many carried them constantly about them, even when within their own domicils. But, on the present occasion, circumstances rendered it necessary for safety, as well as for the purpose of warning the desperate gang who were now about to have their deserts, that all should be doubly armed.
In the court room, therefore, where one of the most solemn scenes of human experience was enacting, all were armed save the prisoners. There sat the judge, with a pistol lying on the table before him; the clerks and attorneys wore revolvers at their sides; and the jurors were either armed with similar weapons, or carried with them the unerring rifle. The members of the Commission and citizens, who were either guarding the prisoners or protecting the court, carried by their sides a revolver, a rifle, or a fowling-piece, thus presenting a scene more characteristic of feudal times than of the nineteenth century. The fair but sunburnt complexion of the American portion of the jury, with their weapons resting against their shoulders, and pipes in their mouths, presented a striking contrast to the darker features of the Mexicans, muffled in checkered serapes, holding their broad-brimmed glazed hats in their hands, and delicate cigarritos in their lips. The reckless, unconcerned appearance of the prisoners, whose unshaven faces and disheveled hair gave them the appearance of Italian bandits rather than of Americans or Englishmen; the grave and determined bearing of the bench; the varied costume and expression of the spectators and members of the Commission, clad in serapes, blankets, or overcoats, with their different weapons, and generally with long beards, made altogether one of the most remarkable groups which ever graced a court room.
Two days were occupied in the examination and trial: for one immediately followed the other. In the mean time, a military guard of ten men had been promptly sent to our aid by Major Van Home, the commanding officer at El Paso, on my requisition: so that the open threats which had been made by the friends of the prisoners during the first day of the trial, were no longer heard; for they now saw that the strong arm of the law would triumph.The second day, a member of the Commission who manifested a deep interest in the prisoners, was requested by one of them to act as his counsel; but his efforts to prove an alibi, to impeach the testimony of some of the witnesses, and to establish the previous good character of the defendant, proved utterly futile. The prisoners were then heard in their own defense; but they could advance nothing beyond the mere assertion of their innocence. At the close of the testimony, an attempt was made by one of the friends of the prisoners to postpone the trial, for the purpose, as he stated, of obtaining counsel and evidence from El Paso. But the court had been apprised of the existence of a plot for attempting a rescue that night, and accordingly the request was refused.The evidence being closed, a few remarks were now made by the prosecuting attorney, followed by the charge of the Judge, when the case was given to the Jury. In a short time they returned into court with a verdict of guilty, against William Craig, Marcus Butler, and John Wade; upon whom the Judge then pronounced sentence of death.
The prisoners were now escorted to the little plaza or open square in front of the village church; where the priest met them, to give such consolation as his holy office would afford. But their conduct, notwithstanding the desire on the part of all to afford them every comfort their position was susceptible of, continued reckless and indifferent, even to the last moment. Butler alone was affected. He wept bitterly, and excited much sympathy by his youthful appearance, being but 21 years of age. His companions begged him "not to cry, as he could die but once!"
The sun was setting when they arrived at the place of execution. The assembled spectators formed a guard around a small alamo, or poplar tree, which had been selected for the gallows. It was fast growing dark, and the busy movements of a large number of the associates of the condemned, dividing and collecting again in small bodies at different points around and outside of the party, and then approaching nearer to the center, proved that an attack was meditated, if the slightest opportunity should be given. But the sentence of the law was carried into effect.The entire proceedings were intensely interesting, and the scene of a character which none present desired ever again to witness. The calm but determined citizens on the one side, and the daring companions of the condemned wretches on the other, remained throughout keenly on the watch: the first for the protection of life, and the support of good order in the community, the other with the malicious eyes of disappointed and infuriated demons, who, to rescue their companions, would have been willing to sacrifice a hundred additional lives."
----- Boundary Commissioner John Russell Bartlett describes a murder trial in El Paso, 1851. Three American outlaws were convicted of murdering one of the Boundary Commissioners, for which they were soon hanged.
The following is an account of the death of notrious gunslinger John Wesley Hardin that appeared in the August, 20th, 1895 edition of the El Paso Herald newspaper of the death of John Wesley Hardin:
THE DEATH OF HARDIN
"Last night between 11 and 12 o'clock San Antonio street was thrown into an intense state of excitement by the sound of four pistol shots that occurred at the Acme saloon. Soon the crowd surged against the door and there, right inside, lay the body of John Wesley Hardin, his blood flowing over the floor and his brains oozing out of a pistol shot wound that had passed through his head. Soon the fact became known that John Selman, constable of Precinct No. 1, had fired the fatal shots that had ended the career of so noted a character as Wes Hardin, by which name he is better known to all old Texans. For several weeks past trouble has been brewing and it has been often heard on the streets that John Wesley Hardin would be the cause of some killing before he left the town.
“Only a short time ago Policeman Selman arrested Mrs. McEose, the mistress of Hardin, and she was tried and convicted of carrying a pistol. This angered Hardin and when he was drinking he often made remarks that showed he was bitter in his feelings towards young John Selman. Selman paid no attention to these remarks, but attended to his duties and said nothing. Lately Hardin had become louder in his abuse and had continually been under the influence of liquor and at such times he was very quarrelsome, even getting along badly with some of his friends. This quarrelsome disposition on his part resulted in his death last night and it is a sad warning to all such parties that the rights of others must be respected and that the day is past when a person having the name of being a bad man can run roughshod over the law and rights of other citizens.
This morning early a Herald reporter started after the facts and found John Selman, the man who fired the fatal shots, and his statement was as follows:
"I met Wes Hardin about 7 o'clock last evening close to the Acme saloon. When we met, Hardin said, "You've got a son that is a bastardly, cowardly son of a b— .'
"I said, "Which one?"
"Hardin said: 'John, the one that is on the police force. He pulled my woman when I was absent and robbed her of $50, which they would not have done if I had been there."
"I said: 'Hardin, there is no man on earth that can talk about my children like that without fighting, you cowardly s — of a b — ."
"Hardin said: 'I am unarmed.'
"I said: 'Go and get your gun. I am armed."
"Then he said, 'I'll go and get a gun and when I meet you I'll meet you smoking and make you pull like a wolf around the block."
"Hardin then went into the saloon and began shaking dice with Henry Brown. I met my son John and Capt. Carr and told them I expected trouble when Hardin came out of the saloon. I told my son all that had occurred, but told him not to have anything to do with it, but to keep on his beat. I also notified Capt. Carr that I expected trouble with Hardin. I then sat down on a beer keg in front of the
Acme saloon and waited for Hardin to come out. I insisted on the police force keeping out of the trouble because it was a personal matter between Hardin and myself. Hardin had insulted me personally.
"About 11 o'clock Mr. E. L. Shackleford came along and met me on the sidewalk. He said: "Hello, what are you doing here?'
'Then Shackleford insisted on me going inside and taking a drink, but I said, 'No, I do not want to go in there as Hardin is in there and I am afraid we will have trouble.' Shackleford then said: 'Come on and take a drink anyhow, but don't get drunk.' Shackleford led me into the saloon by the arm. Hardin and Brown were shaking dice at the end of the bar next to the door. While we were drinking I noticed that Hardin watched me very closely as we went in. When he thought my eye was off him he made a break for his gun in his hip pocket and I immediately pulled my gun and began shooting. I shot him in the head first as I had been informed that he wore a steel breast plate.
As I was about to shoot the second time some one ran againstme and I think I missed him, but the other two shots were at his body and I think I hit him both times. My son then ran in and caught me by the arm and said: 'He is dead. Don't shoot any more.' "I was not drunk at the time, but was crazy mad at the way he had insulted me."
"My son and myself came out of the saloon together and when Justice Howe came I gave my statement to him. My wife was very weak and was prostrated when I got home. I was accompanied home by Deputy Sheriff J. C. Jones. I was not placed in jail, but considered myself under arrest. I am willing to stand any investigation over the matter. I am sorry I had to kill Hardin, but he had threatened mine and my son's life several times and I felt that it had come to that point where either I or he had to die.
(Signed.) JOHN SELMAN."
"Fort Worth in the late nineteenth century was no different than dozens of other western towns built on cattle and railroads. They all had their [gambler] Ben Tutts and saloons and theaters. In fact, every frontier community ----- from Deadwood to Denver and San Francisco to San Antonio ----- had its own red-light district. They were as ubiquitous in the West as "boot hills," but much more profitable for everyone involved. In Texas the chief rivals to For Worth for "Sin Capital of the State" were AUstin, San Antonio, El Paso, and Galveston ---- in all, two cattle towns, a railroad town and a seaport. Austin had an unfair advantage because, some said, politics are the worst sin of all and that was the main business in Austin. Dallas, some Fort Worthers were proud to point out, was not even in the running.
In the typical red-light district, prostitution went hand-in-hand with gambling, drinking, and general hell-raising. One just naturally led to another. The amount of sinning and hell-raising that went on in these districts largely explains a curious sameness in the names of the most notorious examples. From "Devil's Addition" in Abilene to "Hell's Half Acre" in Fort Worth, most paid homage to Satan, the devil, or hell somewhere in their names. Neither creative originality nor any desire to come up with mellifluous-sounding monikers entered into the picture; nor did anyone ever hold a contest to "Name that red-light district." Instead, the same names appear again and again in the local histories of western towns. San Antonio called its red-light district "Hell's Half Acre"; so did Tascosa, Texas and Perry, Oklahoma. Even Dallas, 30 miles away, had a smaller, less notorious district that went under the same name as Fort Worth's. "Hell's Half Acre" was such a common name on the frontier, it acquired an almost generic status. A cowboy could ride into practically any trail town and ask the first citizen he met, "Where's the Acre" and the locals would know exactly what he was talking about."
----- "Hell's Half Acre" by Richard F. Selcer. It is a very interesting read and can be purchased at the usual suspects
"You have to remember that space is large. It is even larger than Texas."
----- Dr. Werner von Braun, famed rocket scientist. I mentioned this quote to my friend Thomas and he said, "Well, Werner probably knew what he was talking about, but I'll bet he never drove Beaumont to El Paso."
"Mr. Tuttle, a brick mason, fell from the scaffold on which he was working on the new courthouse Monday. He was slightly injured. Mr John Marening was also injured on the same day but standing on the ground. He was shot."
----- "The Lone Star" newspaper, El Paso, May 6 1885
Famed singer Marty Robbins describes how he wrote his monster hit song, "El Paso":
"It was a funny sensation. I'm driving across the desert from El Paso to Phoenix as I'm writing, you see. The song came out like a motion picture, and I could never forget the words to it. I put them down after I got to Phoenix, but I couldn't forget them because it was like a motion picture. I didn't know how it was going to end. It just kept coming out and coming out and the tune was coming out at the same time. I was rushing real quick trying to get through it, saying the words as fast as I could because they were just coming out. It was real exciting and I kept waiting for the end to see what was going to happen. Finally it ended when it wanted to. I really didn't have much to do with that song. It just came out."
----- Marty Robbins, in an interview with Ralph Emery
"He is gone from among us, and is no more to be seen in the walks of men, but in his death like Sampson, he slew more of his enemies than in all his life. Even his most bitter enemies here, I believe, have buried all animosity, and join the general lamentation over his untimely end."
----- John Wesley Crockett, David Crockett's son, in a letter dated July 8th, 1836. This was written only four months after the Battle of the Alamo, in which David Crockett lost his life.
Here is an excerpt from Susanna Dickenson's 1875 account of the Battle of the Alamo. Susanna was the wife of Almeron Dickinson, an artillery officer there. She was one of the survivors:
"On February 23d, 1836, Santa Anna, having captured the pickets sent out by Col. Travis to guard the post from surprise, charged into San Antonio with his troops, variously estimated at from six to ten thousand, only a few moments after the bells of the city rang the alarm.
Capt. Dickinson galloped up to our dwelling and hurriedly exclaimed: "The Mexicans are upon us, give me the babe, and jump up behind me." I did so, and as the Mexicans already occupied Commerce street, we galloped across the river at the ford south of it, and entered the fort at the southern gate, when the enemy commenced firing shot and shell into the fort, but with little or no effect, only wounding one horse.
There were eighteen guns mounted on the fortifications, and these, with our riflemen, repulsed with great slaughter two assaults made upon them before the final one.
I knew Colonels Crockett, Bowie and Travis well. Col. Crockett was a performer on the violin, and often during the siege took it up and played his favorite tunes.
I heard him say several times during the eleven days of the siege: "I think we had better march out and die in the open air. I don't like to be hemmed up."
There were provisions and forage enough in the fort to have subsisted men and horses for a month longer.
A few days before the final assault three Texans entered the fort during the night and inspired us with sanguine hopes of speedy relief, and thus animated the men to contend to the last.
A Mexican woman deserted us one night, and going over to the enemy informed them of our very inferior numbers, which Col. Travis said made them confident of success and emboldened them to make the final assault, which they did at early dawn on the morning of the 6th of March.
Under the cover of darkness they approached the fortifications, and planting their scaling ladders against our walls just as light was approaching, they climbed up to the tops of our walls and jumped down within, many of them to immediate death.
As fast as the front ranks were slain, they were filled up again by fresh troops.
The Mexicans numbered several thousands while there were only one hundred and eighty-two Texans.
The struggle lasted more than two hours when my husband rushed into the church where I was with my child, and exclaimed: "Great God, Sue, the Mexicans are inside our walls! All is lost! If they spare you, save my child."
Then, with a parting kiss, he drew his sword and plunged into the strife, then raging in different portions of the fortifications.
Soon after he left me, three unarmed gunners who abandoned their then useless guns came into the church where I was, and were shot down by my side. One of them was from Nacogdoches and named Walker. He spoke to me several times during the siege about his wife and four children with anxious tenderness. I saw four Mexicans toss him up in the air (as you would a bundle of fodder) with their bayonets, and then shoot him. At this moment a Mexican officer came into the room, and, addressing me in English, asked: "Are you Mrs. Dickinson?" I answered "Yes." Then said he, "If you wish to save your life, follow me." I followed him, and although shot at and wounded, was spared."
------ Susanna Dickenson, 1875
Here is a description of David Crockett at the Alamo, as seen by Captain Rafael Soldana of the Mexican Army's Tampico Battalion:
"A tall man, with flowing hair, was seen firing from the same place on the parapet during the entire siege. He wore a buckskin suit and a cap all of a pattern entirely different from those worn by his comrades. This man would kneel or lie down behind the low parapet, rest his long gun and fire, and we all learned to keep a good distance when he was seen to make ready to shoot. He rarely missed his mark, and when he fired he almost always rose to his feet and calmly reloaded his gun, seemingly indifferent to the shots fired at him by our men. He had a strong, resonant voice and often railed at us, but as we did not understand English, we could not comprehend the import of the words, other than that they were defiant. This man I later learned was known as "Kwockey."
----- Captain Rafael Soldana
Here are several quotes describing the city of Houston as seen by early travelers to that fair place. All of these come from Jeffrey Stuart Kerry's excellent "Seat of Empire," a book that describes the battle between Mirabeau Lamar and Sam Houston regarding which city --- Austin or Houston ---- should be the state capitol of Texas. Regarding the city of Houston:
"An early Houstonian named Granville Rose and friends were lounging on the banks of the bayou one afternoon in 1837 when they decided to jump into the water to escape mosquitoes "as large as grasshoppers."
'They thought they would have a nice bath,'Rose's sister later recalled,'but in a few minutes the water was alive with alligators' Their splashing scramble to safety left one of their companions on the opposite bank. Finding a canoe to ferry him across, they spooked a large panther crouching in the brush. The big cat bounded away.
John J. Audobon, the famous naturalist, visited Houston in May, 1837. He noticed the "drunk and hallooing" Indians "stumbling about in the mud in every direction." He strode through a collection of half-finished houses, tents, and roofless buildings to approach the "mansion" of President Sam Houston by sloshing through ankle-deep water. A gathering of Cabinet members welcomed Audobon into a log house consisting of two rooms separated by a dog run. Audobon, though impressed by Sam Houston himself, wrote that "the state of his abode can never be forgotten."
An anonymous visitor who got to Houston the same year as John J. Audubon found a one-story frame building, several log cabins and "a few linen tents which were used for groceries together with three or four shanties made of poles set in the ground, and covered and weathered with rough splint shingles."
The grocers, purveyors of hard liquor as well as food, stayed busy: "It appeared to be the business of the great mass of people to collect around these centers of vice and hold their drunken orgies." Texians, the visitor noted, "not only fought, but drank, in platoons."
Another visitor, John Dancy, was impressed with the energy of Houston, even though he described it as "one of the muddiest and most disagreeable places on earth."
----- Jeffrey Stuart Kerr, "Seat of Empire"
"Tascosa's about a hundred miles due northwest, and you can't miss it. Just follow the plain trail of empty whiskey bottles."
----- A rancher's instructions to attorney Temple Lea Houston (Sam Houston's son) regarding to how to find Tascosa, Texas, 1882
"Lord help the fish below."
----- Sam Houston, upon being congratulated that baptism had just washed away his sins, 1854
"A gentleman in Sioux City, Iowa appeals to 'The Iconoclast' to inform him "What a Texas norther may be." A Texas norther, my Christian friend, may be, and usually is, very much of a nuisance. It is much like a spring day in Iowa, a cold, dank, windy, water wetness. A norther is a Dakota blizzard that has gotten off the reservation and lost its bearings. It usually comes down on Sioux City first like a wolf on the fold, then makes a Fitzgibbons swipe at Omaha. Then it drops a tear on the pine tombstone of the erstwhile Jesse James and blows into the mouth of the Kaw just to see if it's loaded. It then starts across Kansas, but usually becomes frightened by the female reformers; and then it comes achortling down into the Indian Territory and makes Lo the poor Indian yearn for a five-finger snifter of bootleg booze and a new government blanket. If it doesn't break its mainspring crossing the Red River, it introduces itself to the people of Denison as a full-fledged Texas norther.
The norther is bad enough in all conscience, but is to the blizzard what varioloid [a mild form of smallpox] is to confluent small pox, or lager beer to Prohibition booze. It is the thin edge of a northern winter which inserts itself into this earthly Eden semi-occasionally, much to our dissatisfaction. It usually catches a man seven miles from home without his overcoat. Sometimes it wanders as far south as Waco and evokes audible wishes that the Yankees should keep their damned weather for their own consumption. About the time you get a stove up and trusted for a ton of coal, the norther is dead as Hector, the kids are rolling on the grass in the glad sunshine and the gude [sic] housewife is chasing a marauding hen out of the flower garden. That, my dear sir, is all I know about northers. If you can deliver an able-bodied one at this office during the next ten days you will hear something to your advantage.
----- William Cowper Brann, "The Iconoclast," 1897. Note: This was written less than a year before Brann was murdered.
"It is a source of much astonishment and of considerably severe comment upon the religious character of our city, that while we have a theater, a courthouse, a jail, and even a capital in Houston, we have not a single church."
----- "The Morning Star," a Houston newspaper, June 18, 1839
"The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight."
----- Ben Hogan, legendary golfer, who was born in Stephenville in 1912 and passed away in Ft. Worth in 1997.
This is a claim letter written by a cowman in Fort Worth to a railroad in the late 1800s. I preserved the spelling and punctuation as he wrote it:
6:30 this morning in going to the Stockyards to feed at this place another train run in to my stock train. On an open switch . & killed 2 cows & crippled 4 & the rest of the cows in that car is now all over town. So I got one car less & few cows in another car is feeling sore & some of them got one horn left.
The crew of both train jumped off & myself. So it was no one hurt. It was not enough left of the engine to tell the fait [?]. 8 or 10 of the cowboys is all over town picking up our cattle ----- wich you could see them coming down the street driving one or two of them cows ----- I think they got about ten of them cows in a pen (down in town) & they heard of 5 cows in a cornfield just a little while ago, so I guess they will get most of them back today. I will leave here about 5:00 p.m. Will make tomorrow market.
P.S. This R.R. ought to take charge of this whole shipment and pay for same
P.S. The Sheriff shot one cow on the street just a little while ago.
P.S. The cows in town is making the horses run off with buggys and running all the women out of town.
P.S. I think this will cost the R.R. a good deal in this town.
P.S. The Rail Road they give me a poor and sorry run.
P.S. They run my cattle 40 hours before this happened without feed: (how about that).
----- Swenson Brothers, "The Story of the S.M.S. Ranch," 1922
From an 1863 British traveler's account of traveling through Texas (link below) that is utterly fascinating ---- especially the description of crossing the Brazos river:
30th April (Thursday.)--I have to-day acquired my first experience of Texan railroads.
In this country, where every white man is as good as another, by theory, and every white female is by courtesy a lady, there is only one class. The train from Alleyton consisted of two long cars, each holding about fifty persons. Their interior is like the aisle of a church, twelve seats on either side, each for two persons. The seats are comfortably stuffed, and seemed luxurious after the stage.
Before starting, the engine gives two preliminary snorts, which, with a yell from the official of "all aboard," warn the passengers to hold on; for they are closely followed by a tremendous jerk, which sets the cars in motion.
Every passenger is allowed to use his own discretion about breaking his arm, neck or leg, without interference by the railway officials.
People are continually jumping on and off whilst the train is in motion, and larking from one car to the other. There is no sort of fence or other obstacle to prevent "humans" or cattle from getting on the line.
We left Alleyton at 8 A. M. and got a miserable meal at Richmond at 12.30. At this little town I was introduced to a seedy-looking man, in rusty black clothes and a broken-down "stovepipe" hat. This was Judge Stockdale, who will probably be the next Governor of Texas. He is an agreeable man, and his conversation is far superior to his clothing. The rival candidate is General Chambers, I think, who has become very popular by the following sentence in his manifesto: "I am of opinion that married soldiers should be given the opportunity of embracing their families at least once a year, their places in the ranks being taken by unmarried men. The population must not be allowed to suffer."
Richmond is on the Brazos river, which is crossed in a peculiar manner. A steep inclined plane leads to a low, rickety, trestle bridge and a similar inclined plane is cut in the opposite bank. The engine cracks on all steam, and gets sufficient impetus in going down the first incline to shoot across the bridge and up the second incline. But even in Texas this method of crossing a river is considered rather unsafe.
After crossing the river in this manner, the rail traverses some very fertile land part of which form the estate of the late Colonel Terry. There are more than two hundred negroes on the plantation. Some of the fields were planted with cotton and Indian corn mixed three rows of the former between two of the latter. I saw also fields of cotton and sugar mixed."
------- Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, "Three months in the Southern States, April-June 1863" The whole thing is extremely intersting but be forewarned that there is A LOT of "casual, everyday 1863 racism" that is pretty hard to stomach. You can read it here:
"Texas was a new country then .... and certainly an aggressive country. Every brush had its thron, every animal, reptile, or insect had its horn, tooth, or sting; every male human his revolver; and each was ready to use his weapon of offense on any unfortunate sojourner, on the smallest or even without the smallest provocation."
----- Richard Irving Dodge, "The Hunting Grounds of the Great West," 1877
This is both a gripping account of an incident that happened in the late 1860s and a reminder of how tough Texas women can be:
"Mr. Menasco came into the country, when a young man, from Arkansas, and lived for a time in Navarro County, where he was married to Judge Brown’ s daughter. Afterwards he moved into the northwest part of Denton County, and settled on the head of Clear Creek, where he had been long enough, when the war began, to become very well and comfortably fixed in his home. In the early part of the war, his father came to live with him. Although the Indians had been into the country on a number of very destructive raids, they had never yet molested his home. They, nevertheless, were in continual suspense, waiting and hoping for the time to come when the Government would give them safe protection. Captain Shegog, who married a sister of Mr. Menasco, lived near him, perhaps a mile and a half from him. One day in the winter of 1868 and 1869, at a time when Captain Shegog and Menasco were out on the range, hunting stock, a large band of Indians, estimated at three hundred, came down through the cross timbers. Evidently they were Comanches from high up on the Red River, and on account of the large number of them, they were moving along intrepidly in the daylight, and camping at night, as if they were in their own country, among their friends. This whole body of fearful savages moved through the country, leaving devastation and death as they went. They carried on their brutal work, as if they had no thought or fear of being restrained in their destruction.
On this sad and fatal. day, the two oldest children of Menasco were at the home of Captain Shegog, when their grandfather, learning that the Indians were in the country, went over to Shegog’s to bring them and their aunt, Mrs. Shegog, where they could be in a safe place . But while they were returning, and perhaps had gone about half the distance, they were suddenly surrounded by a large number of the Indians. The old man was cruelly murdered and Mrs. Shegog, with her child a year or more of age, and the two little Menasco girls, four and six years of age, were taken as prisoners.
They then went to the house of Menasco and, surrounding it, began whooping and yelling like infuriated demons. Of course, they intended to kill, rob and carry off as captives the inmates of the house, as might suit their momentary fancy, but Mrs. Menasco, taking her stand in the door, with her gun presented, told them that some of them must die, should they attempt to enter there. Just think of this brave woman, standing there all undaunted in the presence of such dreadful danger, seeing her sister-in-law and her own dear children there, captives, in the merciless hands of the savages! Calmly and with determination she stood for home and for fireside and all that was left her there. Those cruel old warriors read in her appearance the fate of that one who dared to enter there. So they turned to the horse lot, took the two valuable horses that were there and departed. Just after they surrounded Menasco’s house, Shegog and Menasco came in sight, but it would have been worse than folly for them to have attacked such an overwhelming force, and they could only watch and wait to see what the dreadful result would be. When these people were carried off, it was quite warm and pleasant for the time of year, consequently they were not clad for cold weather on that day.
This large band of Comanches went far down into the settlements, evidently intending to sweep the vast herds of stock horses off of the prairie country, but in this they failed to a great extent. They went down below the town of Gainesville, and then turning back west again, they camped only a mile or two from the town. They had not taken their prisoners far before they killed Mrs. Shegog’s child, and took its mother on with them, until one night, a cold norther blowing and the snow falling, she slipped off into the darkness and escaped to the house and hospitable home of Sam Doss, where, though almost frozen, she was kindly cared for and soon returned to her home. No doubt that, on account of the extreme cold weather, the Indians failed to make search for her. The next morning early they moved on, but before they had gone many miles on their way, they left both of these tender little girls, perhaps frozen to death at the time they were left. The body of one of them was found in about one month afterwards, but that of the other was not found until nearly three months had passed. The Indians found that the horses on the prairie were too thin of flesh to bear rapid driving, so they took but few of them away and then, again, the excessive cold hindered them on their return, and it was said that many of the horses perished in the snow storm. Not long after these heart-rending scenes, these families moved clown to Pilot Point, where they lived and prospered until a few years past."
------- "Escape of Mrs. Shegog," Texas Indian Troubles, H.G. Bedford, 1905
What follows is an article that I transcribed verbatim from a November, 1967 Harper's magazine, which I found at Half Price Books. It's the text of an article written about jazz legend Louis Armstrong by Larry L. King, one of my Texas literary idols. This is not THE Larry King, the famous journalist/interviewer whom you can still see on TV today, but rather the Texan who is most famous for writing the Broadway play "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." Besides BLWIT, Larry L. King wrote thousands of articles for magazines and whatever else would pay the bills. He was a first rate journalist and is buried in the Texas State Cemetery in Austin.
by Larry L. King
"When I blow I think of times and things from outa the past that gives me a image . . . A town, a chick somewhere back down the line, an old man with no name you once seen in a place yo udon't remember. What you hear coming from a man's horn, that's what he is."
Perhaps you have not heard of my singing with Louis Armstrong. Nobody reviewed us for Downbeat and we didn't get much of a crowd--just the two of us. This impromptu duet with Pops (also Satchmo, Louie, Dippermouth, "America's Ambassador of Good Will") took place last July in his suite at the Chalfonte, a resort hotel on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City, around five o'clock of a groggy morning.
For several hours we had been "stumbling over chairs"--Satchmo's euphemism for serious tippling--while he reminisced, smoked an endless chain of Camels, and poured with a quick hand. This mood carried him back almost sixty years to New Orleans' Storyville section where as a boy he delivered coal to the cribs of certain available ladies, lingering to monitor honky-tonk and sporting-house bands until "the lady would notice me still in her crib--me standing very silent, digging the sounds, all in a daze--and she would remind me it wasn't no proper place to daydream."
Storyville was wide open in those days. Liberty sailors, traveling drummers, cotton traders, and assorted bloods in hot pursuit of fun mingled with prostitutes, pickpockets, musicians, gamblers, street urchins, and pimps. It was located directly behind Canal Street and touching the lower end of Basin in the French Quarter, and it had everything from creep joints where wallets were removed from the unwary during sex circuses to Miss Lulu White's Mahogany Hall on Basin Street with its five posh parlors, fifteen bedrooms, and $30,000 worth of artfully placed mirrors. Miss Lulu hired "none but the fairest and most accomplished of girls," and Jelly Roll Morton played piano for her. In 1917 the Navy Department sent in a task force to clean up the district after too many sailors turned up robbed, drugged, or dead. Preachers railed against this sinkhole, but it was the place where jazz was born and where Daniel Louis (pronounced "Louie") Armstrong, literally before he was out of short pants, learned to play a little toy slide whistle "like it was a goddamn trombone." The boy strolled behind brass bands at street parades, funeral processions, or in horse-drawn bandwagons to tout their appearances at local clubs. "Two bandwagons would park head-to-head," Armstrong remembers, "and blow until one band was reduced to a frazzle." The Armstrongs lived in a cement-brick house on Brick Row. Armstrong's grandmother bent over a tin tub and corrugated washboard to scrub white families' clothes and his father, when he was around, attended turpentine boilers. There was a decrepit neighborhood tavern called the Funky Butt, which Armstrong remembers for its bands and its razor fights. A detective grabbed Armstrong for celebrating for eighteen months to the New Orleans Colored Waifs' Home. At nineteen he married Daisy Parker, the first of his four brides. One night she caught Louis with another doll and chastised him with a brickbat. "I ain't been no angel," Pops confessed that morning as we lounged in the Chalfonte, "but I never once set out to harm no cat."
Louis Armstrong's marvelous memory took me back to the night he arrived in Chicago in 1922, up on the train from New Orleans to join King Joe Oliver's Creole Jazz Band as second trumpet for $50 a week. "I was carrying my horn, a little dab of clothes, and a brown bag of trout sandwiches my mother, Mayann, had made me up. Had on long underwear beneath my wide-legged pants--in July. I am just a kid, you see, not but twenty-two years old, don't know nothing and don't even suspect much. When we pull into the old La Salle Street station and I see all the tall buildings I thought they was universities and that I had the wrong town. Almost got back on that rail-runner and scooted back home."
He spoke lovingly of old pals: King Oliver, Jack Teagarden, Kid Ory, Bix Beiderbecke, and a hot-licks bass drummer everyone recalls only as Black Benny. ("All dead and gone now, them swinging old cats-and I've took to reading the Bible myself.") Between dips into his on-the-rocks bourbon Armstrong hummed or scatted or sang snatches of his ancient favorites. "Hotdamn"--he would say, flashing his teeth in that grand piano grin--"you remember this one?" and out would pour "Didn't He Ramble," "Gut Bucket Blues,' " Blueberry Hill," "Heebie-Jeebies," and "Black and Blue."
Just how I presumed to sing with him remains unclear and possibly indefensible. Earlier, in a noisy penny arcade on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, I had proposed to his traveling manager, Ira Mangel, that I perform on stage with Armstrong at one of his three-a-day shows. Mangel, a stoic man of generous figure, ate peanuts, staring, while I explained. I would describe both the elation and the dread of appearing with the most celebrated figure in a filed wholly alien to my talents, a man who has been called "an authentic American genius" for his contributions to jazz. Paul Gallico and George Plimpton had done the same thing in sports, I recalled to Mangel, boxing Jack Dempsey and Archie Moore, golfing with Bobby Jones, pitching to Mantle and Mays. Their first-person stories permitted the average sports fan to consort vicariously with champions. Out there on that stage, moving into the spotlight to join Pops in Blues in the Night or perhaps even Hello Dolly, I would represent all my peers.
Ira Mangel has been in show business almost as long as pratfalls. He is neither easily rattled nor easily amused. When my special plea was done Mangel gazed into my face, chewing all the while. When the peanuts ran out he smiled and walked away.
Now, days later, sitting at a table holding the wreckage of our midnight snack (sardines in oil, Vienna sausages, Chinese food, soda crackers, pickles, beer) Pops and I somehow cut into That's My Desire. My uncertain baritone mingled with the famous voice that has been likened to a "cement mixer ... rough waters ... iron filings ... a gearbox full of peanut butter ... oil on sandpaper ... a horn wailing through gravel and fog."
Once--when I came in on the break behind him at precisely the right point--Pops gave me some skin. He reached out his dark old hand just as he does on-stage when Joe Muranyi has ripped off an especially meritorious stretch on clarinet, and I turned my hand, palm up, as I had seen Muranyi do. Leaning across sardine tines and cracker wrappers Pops lightly brushed my open palm in a half-slap, the jive set's seal of approval, the jazz equivalent of the Congressional Medal of Honor. And there was good whiskey waiting in the jug.
We had already siphoned off generous rations, waving our arms a bit much, gently boasting and exaggerating. "Hey, Pops," my host said (it is his all-purpose salutation, as well as what friends call him, and saves everybody memorizing a lot of troublesome names), "this is the way I get my kicks. Having a little taste ... talking over the olden times in Storyville and Chicago ... remembering all the crazy sounds that always seemed to be exploding around you and inside you. Everything made music back then: banana men, ragpickers, them pretty painted streetwalkers all singing out their wards--oh, yeah! Everything rocking and bobbing and jousting and jumping." He grinned that huge, open grin again. "Ya know, Pops," he said, "my manager, Je Glaser ----- Papa Joe, bless his ole heart he's my man, we been together since we was pups, why to hear us talk on the phone you'd think we was a couple of fairies I say, 'I love you, Pops,' and he say, 'I love you, Pops' ----- well, anyhow, Joe and Ira and all them people don't like for me to talk about the olden days. All the prosty-toots and the fine gage and the bad-ass racketeers. But hell, Man, I got to tell it like it was! I can't go around changing history!"
(Often one gets the feeling that Pops prefers those "olden days" to the frantic existence that has become his life. He once told writer Richard Meryman, "I never did want to be no big star....All this traveling around the world, meeting wonderful people, being high on the horse, all grandioso--it's nice--but I didn't suggest it. I would say it was all wished on me. Seems like I was more content, more relaxed, growing up in New Orleans. And the money I made then--I lived off it. We were poor and everything like that, but music was all around you. Music kept you rolling.")
Thought two weeks earlier Louis Armstrong wouldn't have known me from any other face in the multitudes, we had reached a stage of easy friendship--all thanks to him. For tough I have known three Presidents and two wives, I sat down to face Armstrong that first night in Washington with a head full of wind and dishwater. There seemed nothing I was able to ask or say, not even banal comments about Washington's dreadful humidity, for on the couch beside me sat a living legend, a talent so long famous and admired that I considered him of another age and so was struck dumb in his presence--as if I had come upon Moses taking a Sunday stroll in the Gaza Strip or had encountered Thomas Jefferson at a Democratic National Convention.
Downstairs, I knew, Shriners offered hotel bellboys five-dollar bribes for Louis Armstrong's room number. No telephone calls were put through to him from the Shoreham front desk unless you knew a special secret. In Armstrong's suite (a palace of curved glass, rich draperies, soft carpets, and pillows of psychedelic hues) he sat wrapped in a faded robe. A white towel around his neck soaked up juices from the last of the evening's two one-hour shows, while Pops accepted photographs of himself from a thick stack presided over by his hovering valet, Bob Sherman. On each he scrawled, "Hello, Louis Armstrong" in a round, uneven hand. Ira Mangel asked his star if he would like a drink, a snack, another pen, a crisp handerkerchief. Mopping his brow, Louis declined with grunts and headshakes. "You go ahead," he said as I sat there tongue-tied and witless. "Ask me anything you wnt. Won't cramp my writing style. Just doing the bit for a few of my fans." Out of the silence Ira Mangel suggested that Armstrong discuss a recent TV tape cut with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass: perhaps Armstrong would compare the two generations of music and judge the younger man's artistry. "Oh, yeah," Armstrong said. "He blows pretty, all right. Nice young cat." Mangel then prompted him to say something of his popularity with the public, his friendships in show business, the world figures who have toasted him. "Everybody's been real nice," Pops said.
Mangel's helpless shrug left me on my own. Finally I said, "Well, I seem to have come down with a bad case of buck fever. Can't think of a damn thing. Maybe I'd better run along and return another night." Quickly Armstrong cast aside his pen. A look of pain passed his face. "Aw, naw!" he said. "It ain't like that! We'll just loaf and chew the fat and have a little taste of bourbon and if we feel like stumbling over chairs--well, hell, we all over twenty-one! Ira, get my man a little taste." THen he launched into a story, and the generous act got me functioning again.
The men who handle Armstrong thought we got a little too chummy. Valet Bob Sherman, a dapper middleweight with a heavyweight's torso and a Sonny Liston scowl when one is needed, nailed me backstage at the Steel Pier. "You'd better cut on out tonight after about an hour," he said. "Otherwise, you're gonna wear Pops out. He needs rest." Later, when I tried to leave at a decent hour, Pops protested. "Man, I'm just starting to roll. Won't be hitting the sheets for some odd-hours on. Here"--he splashed liquid into my glass--"relax and have another little taste." Waiting in the wings for his introduction one matinee, mopping his face and carrying that golden trumpet, he waved me over: "Where'd you go last night, Pops? Had to stumble over chairs all by myself. Ira and them people keep you away from me?" Well, yes, I admitted. "Aw, they ought not to do that!" Armstrong said. "They know Pops is still gonna be unwinding when first light comes. Don't pay them people no mind."
Armstrong's associates can hardly be blamed for their vigilance: he is a most valuable commercial property. Last spring a two-month recuperation from pneumonia cost more than $150,000 in bookings. His sixty-seven years, his respiratory ailments, and his grinding travel schedule--Ireland, England, Denmark, France, Spain, Tunisia, New England, the Midwest, the West Coast and two major TV bookings in August and September alone--cause concern for his health.
He is not the world's most docile patient. He walked around with bronchial pneumonia for two weeks last spring before anyone knew it. His trombonist, Tyree Glenn, was one of his first hospital visitors: Pops coaxed him into rehearsing a duet he wanted to put in the show. Nurses managed to clear the room only after a one-hour concert. The Washington booking was the first to follow his illness. Yet he stayed up all one night reveling with me, another with old music-world cronies (Duke Ellington and Clark Terry turned up at the Shoreham on July 4th to lead the midnight-show crowd in singing Happy Birthday to him), and on his night off he dropped by Carter Barron Amphitheatre to catch Ella Fitzgerald's performance--and ended up doing several numbers with her. Pops played two shows of his own each night and one two-hour benefit for wounded Vietnam veterans at Walter Reed Hospital.
A week later in Atlantic City he stunted and cheered at a nightclub until dawn, and the following night railed-in vain--when he learned that Ira Mangel had wired a second club expressing regrets that Pops would not catch the late show as promised. "Damnit!" he complained. "All them cats over there live and breathe Louis Armstrong. They love Pops! If I go back on my word to them it's like, why hell, it's like the United States Marines losing a goddamn war!"
Armstrong has a zealot’s faith in certain old remedies. He is quick to offer his medical opinions: “Man, a heart attack is nothing but so much gas accumulated and bubbled over.” Armstrong on cancer: “Nowadays it has come in fashion to die of it. What they call cancer is merely the bodily poisons fermented because people is so full of fevers beating and working in the blood.” Germs: “I always carry my mouthpiece in my hip pocket—never pitch it around where germs can crawl over it and into its parts.” To rid himself of possible heart disease, crawling germs, or malignant tissues, Armstrong recommends the removal of “bodily impurities.” For this he relies on a laxative called Swiss Kriss. It is his old reliable among an assortment of wonder-working products that seems to unusual vigor. One dawn he gave me three Swiss Kriss sample packets. The following night, as we blitzed another midnight snack of sardines and supporting embellishments, Pops asked, “You take your Swiss Kriss yet?”
“Ah…well; not yet.”
“Get my man some Swiss Kriss,” Armstrong instructed Bob Sherman. “Be just the thing to clear him all up. Flush out the bodily impurities.” Sherman didn’t move a step. He dipped into his pocket and produced a thin packet of olive-drab substance.
“Lay it on your tongue,” Armstrong said. “Take it dry, then send some beer chasing after it. Beer all gone? Well, bourbon do it too.” I turned the thin packet in my hands to stall for time. “Active ingredients”—I read aloud—“dried leaves of senna. Also contains licorice root, fennel, anise, and caraway seed. Dandelion, peppermint, papaya, strawberry and peach leaves. Juniper berries—“
“Oh yeah,” Pops broke in. “Got all manner of elements in there. Lay it on your tongue.”
“—Juniper berries, centaury, lemon verbena, cyani flowers, and parsley for their flavoring and carminative principles.”
“Here’s your chaser, Pops.” Armstrong nudged the bourbon glass over while I frantically searched for something more to read. Bob Sherman celebrated my discomfort with a grin as Armstrong, hooting and exhorting like an evangelistic witch doctor, urged the treatment on.
I know not what it tastes like on the tongue of Louis Armstrong. In my mouth it registered flavors of creosote and licorice with slight overtones of Brown Mule chewing tobacco. It neither improves bourbon nor bourbon it. Just as the main body of surprise had passed my host reproved me:
“Looka here, Pops! You left half of it in the bag!” He poked the dose under my nose. “Don’t never do nothing halfway,” Pops said, “else you find yourself dropping more than can be picked up.”
“Take off your shirt” he ordered, suddenly.
“Beg your pardon?”
“Gonna teach you another little trick. Now this”—he grabbed a brownish bottle from a nearby table—“is called ‘Heet.’ H-e-e-t. Swab myself down with it when I come off stage all sopping wet. Cools me down and dries me out and steadies the skin….You ain’t got that shirt off, Pops.” Armstrong circled me like Indians attacking a wagon train, crying a sales pitch as he daubed my chest, ribs, back. “Don’t that cool you like rain?” he said. “Ain’t that a goddamn groove?”
“Now you take a man’s eyes,” he said, ominously. “You ever have any trouble with your eyes?”
“Must have trouble, else you wouldn’t be wearing them eyeglasses! This little remedy gonna pull all the bloodshot qualities right outa your eyeballs.” He brandished a new bottle. “Witch hazel. Now, I take these”—he was ripping into a package and extracting two gauze pads—“and I dab a little on there, like this, swoggling it all around. Now I put them babies on your eyelids and I won’t be thirty seconds until you feel it cooling up all the way back inside your cranium!” He marched about, rattling on, while I sat in darkness, feeling like ka man who has stumbled into May Clinic by mistake. “Take them pads off in another three minutes and you can feel heat on the underside like you had fried an egg there! So, quite nat-ur-ally—you gonna see clearer and sweeter and cooler than you ever did see before.”
“You use all sorts of nostrums, don’t you?” I said.
“Use whatever helps. You know, it wasn’t long ago I believed in all kinds of old-timey remedies like the voodoo people. Yeah! Various dusts and herbs and junk like that.” He laughed to think on days when he had been so medically unschooled. “Now I jjust use things do me some good, ya dig? And it works, Pops. Do you know I am the only one left from the olden days in Storyville still blowing? Oh yeah, lotta cats lost their chops. Lips split and goddamn the blood spurt like you had cut a hog and the poor cats can’t blow no more. Now, I got this lip salve I’m gonna expose you to. Keeps my chops ready so I don’t go in there and blow cold and crack a lip like I did in Memphis so bad I lost a chunk of meat.”
Armstrong snatched the pads away and leaned forward with his face almost against mine, pulling his upper lip outward and upward, trying ineffectually to talk under the handicap. I leaned in, much in the manner of a man judging a horse’s teeth for age, and saw in the middle of that talented lip a sizable flesh-crater. “My poor damn chops would be tender as a baby’s bottom,” Pops said. “Oh, no way to tell you how them chops could throb.” He poked a small orange tin at me. “I order this salve from Germany by the caseload. Bought so much the cat that boils it up named it after me. See, it says ‘Louis Armstrong Lip Salve.’ You write something nice about that cat for Pops, ya hear? Aw yeah, he’s fine!” He reached for my pen: “I’ll write it down so’s you don’t forget.”
He selected a cocktail napkin and printed in large, undisciplined letters: ANZACZ CRÈME MADE IN MANNHEIM GERMANY. He turned the napkin over and printed BY FRANZ SCHUITS. “That cat saved my lip,” he said. “Reason his salve’s so good it draws all the tiredness out. So—quite naturally—your chops rest easy. You oughta try some…only you don’t blow so it wouldn’t benefit you.” He daubed his own lips with the wonder potion. “Oh, yeah! I got this other little tidbit here! I see you got weight problems—now no offense, Pops, ‘cause most of us go around bloating ourselves up with various poisons which—quite naturally—causes some heavy stomping on the scales. All the sweets and sugars a person eats just goes right down there and hangs over your belt and looks up at you! Fat is made outta sugar more than anything else—you know that? Yeah! Why, a year ago I weigh two hundred and some pounds and now I’m shed off to a hundred and sixty-some and feel retooled. Between my Swiss Kriss and this Sweet ‘N Low—it ain’t like real sugar, you can eat a ton of this—I got no more weight imbalances which throws the body off center. Here”—he again sprang across the room to produce yet another packet—“it goes groovy on grapefruit. You want to try it? I got plenty grapefruit.”
When I demurred, Pops looked somehow betrayed. “Well,” he said, “you come on back tomorrow night. I’ll lay it on you then, Pops.
“Quite naturally,” I said.
Louis Armstrong is sophisticate and primitive, genius and man-child. He is wise in the ways of the street and gullibly innocent in the ways of men and nations. After four marriages, reform school, international fame and personal wealth, there is still a fetching simplicity about him. (Of his friend Moise Tshombe, kidnapped and facing a return to the Congo, he says, “I pray each night they won’t kill him. When I played Africa in [‘60] that cat was so nice to me. Kept me in his big palace and all…fed me good…stayed up all night gassing. I had this little tape recorder that cost me several big bills and Tshombe dug it so much I laid it on him. They ain’t gonan kill a sweet cat like hat, are they? So many he hung out with the wrong cats—that any reason to kill a man?”)
The on-stage Louis Armstrong is all smiles and sunshine, almost too much the “happy darky” of white folklore. When he has finished Hello Dolly in a spasm of body shaking, jowl flapping, and gutteral ranges, and has the joint rocking with applause, he sops at his ebony, streaming face with his white handkerchief and rasps, “Looka here, my Man Tan’s coming off!” Maybe his white audiences break up, but they no longer laugh at such lines in the black ghetto. One soon learns that this “happy” image is not all stagecraft; privately Pops is often full of laughter, mugging, instant music, irrepressible enthusiasms, and vast stories of colorful misinformation.
He is not Old King Cole merry old soul, however; his waters run much deeper. I have seen Pops swearing backstage between numbers, his face wrinkled and thoughtful and sad only seconds before he burst back on stage, chest out, strutting, all teeth, and cutting the fool. He can be proud, shrewd, moody, dignified—and vengeful. “I got a simple rule about everybody,” he warned me one evening. “If you don’t treat me right—shame on you!”*
[*Armstrong despises a couple of comedians who use their audiences or associates as targets in their acts. “Ain’t noting funny about putting another man down,” he judges.]
Cross him or wound his pride and he never forgets. My innocent mention of a noted jazz critic set off a predawn tirade. “I told that bastard, ‘You telling me how to blow my goddamn horn and you can’t even blow your goddamn nose.’” When he was young and green somebody gave him fifty dollars for a tune he had written called Get Off Katie’s Head. “I didn’t know nothing about papers and business, and so I let go all control of it.” Pops did not share in the money it made under another title. He has never performed the tune in public and never will. Of his father, Pops said, “I was touring Europe when he died. Didn’t go to his funeral and didn’t send nothing. Why should I? He never had no time for me or Mayann.”
He is big on personal loyalty. “Frank Sinatra—now there’s a man carries a lot of water for his friends. A most accommodating gentleman—if he digs you. My wife, Lucille, she’s another one that when she’s with you she’s with you one thousand per cent.”**[**Lucille holds the record as Mrs. Armstrong. They have been married twenty-five years, and live in Queens on Long Island.] And my mother, why she would work with you—laugh, cry, or juice with you. Oh, what a sweet and helpful girl Mayann was. Only tears I ever shed was when I saw ‘em lower her into that ground.”
He is generally a relaxed man, able to take a quick nap in strange rooms or on buses. “I don’t like nothing to fret me,” Pops said. “You healthier and happier when you hang loose. Business I don’t know nothing about and don’t want to. It must have killed more men than war. Joe Glaser books me, pays my taxes and bills, invest me a few bundles. Gives me my little leftover dab to spend. And that’s the way I want it. Don’t want to worry all time about that crap! I don’t even know where I go when I leave this pier until today I overhear Ira say something about Ireland and France and such places. I go wherever they book me and lead me.” (Both Armstrong and Joe Glaser are wealthy men. Armstrong commands top money—$20,000 to $25,000—for guest shots on television. He accepts eight to ten such jobs each year.)
Nothing worries Louis Armstrong for long. “Mama taught me,” he says, “that anything you can’t get—the hell with it!” This philosophy may be at the root of Armstrong’s rumored differences with militants of the Black Power generation. Nobody has flatly called him Uncle Tom but there have been inferences. Julius Hobson, a Washington ghetto leader, said during Armstrong’s Shoreham appearance last July, “He’s a good, happy black boy. He hasn’t played to a black audience in ten years. I’m glad I saw him though, but I wouldn’t come here if I had to pay. He’s an interesting example of the black man’s psychology but if he took this band”—two whites, three Negroes, a Filipino—“down on U street it would start a riot.” Armstrong, who remembers that not long ago everyone cheered him for having an integrated band, is genuinely puzzled by such comments.
He was not eager to talk civil rights. When I first mentioned the subject, as he dried out between shows in the dingy dressing room at Atlantic City, Pops suddenly began to snore. The next time he merely said, “There is good cats and bad cats of all hues. I used to tell Jack Teagarden—he was white and from Texas just like you—‘I’m a spade and you an ofay. We've got the same soul—so let’s blow.’”
One morning, however, he approached the racial topic on his own. “When I was coming along, a black man had hell. On the road he couldn’t find no decent place to eat, sleep, or use the toilet—service-station cats see a bus of colored bandsmen drive up and they would sprint to lock their restroom doors. White places wouldn’t let you in and the black places all run-down and funky because there wasn’t any money behind ‘em. We Negro entertainers back then tried to stay in private homes—where at least we wouldn’t have to fight bedbugs for sleep and cockroaches for breakfast. Why, do you know I played ninety-nine million hotels I couldn’t stay at? And if I had friends blowing at some all-white nightclub or hotel I couldn’t get in to see ‘em—or them to see me. One time in Dallas, Texas, some ofay stops me as I enter this hotel where I’m blowing the show—me in a goddamn tuxedo, now!—and tells me I got to come round to the back door. As time went on and I made a reputation I had it put in my contracts that I wouldn’t play no place I couldn’t stay. I was the first Negro in the business to crack them big white hotels—Oh, yeah! I pioneered, Pops! Nobody much remembers that these days."
“Years ago I was playing the little town of Lubbock, Texas, when this white cat grabs me at the end of the show—he’s full of whiskey and trouble. He pokes on my chest and says, ‘I don’t like niggers!’ These two cats with me was gonna practice their Thanksgiving carving on that dude. But I say, ‘No, let the man talk. Why don’t you like us, Pops?’ And would you believe that cat couldn’t tell us, Pops? So he apologizes—crying and carrying on. Said he was just juiced and full of deep personal sorrows—something was snapping at his insides, you see—and then he commenced bragging on my music. Yeah! And dig this: that fella and his whole family come to be my friends! When I’d go back through Lubbock, Texas, for many many years they would make old Satchmo welcome and treat him like a king.”
“Quite naturally, it didn’t always test out that pleasurable. I knew some cats was blowing one-nighters in little sawmill stops down in Mississippi, and one time these white boys—who had been dancing all night to the colored cats’ sounds—chased ‘em out on the highway and whipped ‘em with chains and cut their poor asses with knives! Called it ‘nigger knocking.’ No reason—except they was so goddamn miserable they had to mess everybody else up, ya dig? Peckerwoods! Oh, this world’s mothered some mean sons! But they try such stunts on the young Negroes we got coming along now--well, then the trouble starts. Young cats, they ain't setting around these days saying 'Yessuh' or 'Nawsuh.' Which I ain't knocking; everybody got to be his own man, Pops. No man oughta be treated like dirt."
"If you didn't have a white captain to back you in the old days--to put his hand on your shoulder--you was just a damn sad nigger. If a Negro had the proper white man to reach the law and say, 'What the hell you mean locking up my nigger?' then--quite naturally--the law would walk him free. Get in that jail without your white boss, and yonder comes the chain gang! Oh, danger was dancing all around you back then."
"Up north wasn't much to brag on in many ways. Not only people put your color down but you had mobsters. One night this big, bad-ass hood crashes my dressing room in Chicago and instructs me that I will open in such-and-such a club in New York the next night. I tell him I got this Chicago engagement and don't plan no traveling. And I turn my back on him to show I'm so cool. Then I hear this sound: SNAP! CLICK! I turn around and he has pulled this vast revolver on me and cocked in. Jesus, it look like a canon and sound like death! So I look down that steel and say, 'Weeelllll, maybe I do open in New York tomorrow.' That night I got every Chicago tough me or my pals knew--and it must have been eighteen hundred of 'em--to flock around and pass the word I wasn't to be messed with. And I didn't go to New York. Very Very shortly, however, I cut on out of town and went on tour down South. And the mob didn't mess with me again. They never wanted me dead, wanted me blowing so they could rake in my bread."
"You was running a very large risk to buck them mobsters and all the sharpies. They controlled everything. Cross 'em just so far--and BLIP! Your throat's cut or you're swimming in cement with lumps on your head. You needed a white man to get along. So one day in 193 I went to Papa Joe Glaser and told him I was tired of being cheated and set upon by scamps and told how my head was jumping from all of that business mess--Lil, one of my wives, had sweet-talked me into going out on my own to front some bands and it was driving me crazy--and I told him, 'Pops, I need you. Come be my manager. Please! Take care all my business and take care of me. Just lemme blow my gig.' And goddamn that sweet man did it! Sold his nightclub in Chicago where I had worked and started handling Pops."
"Sometimes Joe Glaser says I'm nuts. Says it wasn't as bad as I recall it. But then Papa Joe didn't have to go through it. He was white. Not that I think white people is any naturally meaner than colored. Naw, the white man's just had the upper hand so long--and can't many people handle being top cat."
"Passing all them laws to open everything up--fine, okay, lovely! But it ain't gonna change everybody's hearts. You know, I been reading the Bible this last little bit and them Biblical people had wars and riots and poverty and bad-asses among 'em just like we got. Nothing new happening!"
"It's much the same they talk about making marijuana legal. They think they're gonna do that and say, 'Everything's cool now, babies, it's all right and set square.' But how about them poor bastards already been busted for holding a little gage and have done their lonesome fifteen and thirty and fifty years? My God, you can't never never make it all right with them! Many years ago I quit messing around with that stuff. Got tired looking over my shoulder and waiting for that long arm to reach out and somebody say, 'Come here, Boy. Twenty years in the cage!' BLOOEY! Naw, they can't undo all the years of damage by passing a few laws."After a moment's brooding he said, 'That's why I don't take much part in all this fandangoing you hear about today. All I want to do is blow my gig."
Louis Armstrong’s first professional gig—as a substitute cornet player in a Storyville honky-tonk—brought him fifteen cents. He was fifteen years old. “But I sang for money long before I played for it,” he says. “When I was around twelve we formed this quartet—me, Little Mack, Georgie Gray, and Big Nose Sidney. We’d sing on the streets and in taverns—pass the hat; might make six-bits, a dollar. Good money. After hours all them prostitutes would be juicing, having a little fun, and they would offer us big tips to entertain ‘em. Carried their bankrolls in the tops of their stockings. Some would hold us on their laps and we would sniff the pretty scents and powders they wore.”
Though he had taught himself to play the little toy slide whistle and a homemade guitar, Armstrong really familiarized himself with musical instruments in the New Orleans Waifs’ Home. He began with the tambourine, then the snare drum, then ran through the alto horn, bugle, and cornet. Soon he was the leader of the Waifs’ Band, playing picnics and street parades. Old-time drummer Zutty Singleton, a boy then himself, was so astounded at hearing Armstrong’s horn that he moved closer to see if the boy was actually playing those fabulous notes. On his release from the home, Armstrong took one-night jobs filling in with bands until a few months later he landed a regular job at Henry Matranga’s in Storyville. “I wasn’t making no great sums so I kept on delivering coal, unloading banana boats, selling newspapers—though there never was any doubts I would follow music at that point. Had to work for extra bread, you see. For when I am sixteen I start hanging out with the pretty chicks and need operating money.”
King Joe Oliver took Louis Armstrong under his wing. “He was the best,” Pops says. “Laid a new horn on me when mine was so beat I didn’t know what sounds might come out of it. Advised me…took me home for red beans and rice feasts. Taught me about blowing trumpet, too. Lotta claims been made that Bunk Johnson put me wise to trumpet—Bunk hisself helped that story along. No such thing. Joe Oliver was the man.”
When King Oliver left Kid Ory’s brass band to go it alone, seventeen-year-old Louis Armstrong took his chair. In the eighteen months he played with Kid Ory at Pete Lala’s, Armstrong’s reputation grew. He was with the Tuxedo Brass Band in 1922, when King Oliver called him to Chicago—then the center of jazz as New Orleans once had been. In 1924-25 Armstrong was with the Fletcher Henderson band but quit because “The cats was goofing and boozing—not blowing. I was always deadly serious about my music.” From Henderson he joined Lil Hardin’s group (she was his second wife) and also worked in Erskine Tate’s pit orchestra at the Vendome Theatre in Chicago. Then he went to work at the Sunset Club for Joe Glaser—who immediately billed him as “The World’s Greatest Trumpet Player.” This title had been generally conceded to Joe Oliver—and King Joe was playing at a rival club nearby. It came down to a head-on contest between the two great trumpeters. “I felt real bad when I took most of Joe Oliver’s crowds away,” Armstrong says now. “Wasn’t much I could do about it, though. I went to Joe and asked him was there anything I could do for him. ‘Just keep on blowing,’ he told me. Bless him”
----- Larry L. King, Harper's magazine, November, 1967
The following quote finds historian Robert Caro describing the hard life of women in the Hill Country before electricity came to the land:
"In the Hill Country, canning was required for a family's very survival. Too poor to buy food, most Hill Country families lived through the Winter largely on the vegetables and fruit picked in the Summer and preserved in jars.
Since--because there was no electricity--there were no refrigerators in the Hill Country, vegetables and fruit had to be canned the very day they came ripe. And, from June through September, something was coming ripe almost every day, it seemed; on a single peach tree, the fruit on different branches would come ripe on different days. In a single orchard, the peaches might be reaching ripeness over a span as long as two weeks; "You'd be in the kitchen with the peaches for two weeks," Hill Country wives recall. And after the peaches, the strawberries would begin coming ripe, and then the gooseberries, and then the blueberries. The tomatoes would become ripe before the okra, the okra before the zucchini, the zucchini before the corn. So the canning would go on with only brief intervals--all Summer.
Canning required constant attendance on the stove. Since boiling water was essential, the fire in the stove had to be kept roaring hot, so logs had to be continually put into the firebox. At least twice during a day's canning, moreover--probably three or four times--a woman would have to empty the ash container, which meant wrestling the heavy, unwieldy device out from under the firebox. And when the housewife wasn't bending down to the flames, she was standing over them. In canning fruit, for example, first sugar was dropped into the huge iron canning pot, and watched carefully and stirred constantly, so that it would not become lumpy, until it was completely dissolved. Then the fruit--perhaps peaches, which would have been peeled earlier--was put into the pot, and boiled until it turned into a soft and mushy jam that would be packed into jars (which would have been boiling--to sterilize them--in another pot) and sealed with wax. Boiling the peaches would take more than an hour, and during that time they had to be stirred constantly so that they would not stick to the pot. And when one load of peaches was finished, another load would be put in, and another. Canning was an all-day job. So when a woman was canning, she would have to spend all day in a little room with a tin or sheet-iron roof on which the blazing sun was beating down without mercy, standing in front of the iron stove and the wood fire within it. And every time the heat in that stove died down even a little, she would have to make it hotter again.
"You'd have to can in the Summer when it was hot," says Kitty Clyde Ross Leonard ... "You'd have to cook for hours. Oh, that was a terrible thing. You wore as little as you could. I wore loose clothing so that it wouldn't stick to me. But the perspiration would just pour down my face. I remember the perspiration pouring down my mother's face, and when I grew up and had my own family, it poured down mine. That stove was hot. But you had to stir, especially when you were making jelly. So you had to stand over that stove." Says Bernice Snodgrass of Wimberley: "You got so hot that you couldn't stay in the house. You ran out and sat under the trees. I couldn't stand it to stay in the house. Terrible. Really terrible. But you couldn't stay out of the house long. You had to stir. You had to watch the fire. So you had to go back into the house."
And there was no respite. If a bunch of peaches came ripe a certain day, that was the day they had to be canned--no matter how the housewife might feel that day. Because in that fierce Hill Country heat, fruit and vegetables spoiled very quickly. And once the canning process was begun, it could not stop. "If you peeled six dozen peaches, and then, later that day, you felt sick," you couldn't stop, says Gay Harris. "Because you can't can something if it's rotten. The job has to be done the same day, no matter what." Sick or not, in the Hill Country, when it was time to can, a woman canned, standing hour after hour, trapped between a blazing sun and a blazing wood fire. "We had no choice, you see," Mrs. Harris says."
----- Robert Caro, "The Years of Lyndon Johnson: The Path to Power," 1982
The following quote is a description of a journey made in 1849 by legendary Texas Ranger John Salmon Ford:
"It took them fifty-five days to cover the 1160 miles form San Antonio to El Paso and back again. During that time Ford felt better mentally and physically than at any time since his wife's death. He made new friends too: Doc Sullivan, an impetuous and impish little man, always into mischief, and his constant companion Alpheus D. Neal, and Delaware Jim Shaw and several other Indian scouts, all of whom accompanied the expedition; and out at El Paso Ford met a living Texas legend, the "Great Western," a huge, powerful woman who operated a hotel and gambling house. She could whip any man, fair fight or foul, could shoot a pistol better than anyone in the region, and at black jack could out play (or out cheat) the slickest professional gambler.
The way the story went, she had fallen in love with Zachary Taylor back in Florida and had followed him to Texas. When war began, and Old Rough and Ready Taylor lead his army into Mexico, she came to El Paso and bought a hotel. One day a man fresh from the Battle of Buena Vista came running into the hotel crying that Taylor had been badly defeated. The Great Western floored the courier with a powerful blow between the eyes as she bellowed: "You damned son of a bitch, there ain't Mexicans enough in Mexico to whip old Taylor!" According to the gossipers she was still in love with the general and would let no man touch her. Which was all right, they added, because it would require some sort of mutation of man and gorilla to handle her anyway."
----- Stephen Oates, "Rip Ford's Texas," 1987
“It was like the circus had come to town, it was a festival for all the time I was there. It was glorious what was happening in Marfa.”
----- actor Earl Holliman on the impact of the filming of the movie "Giant" in that West Texas town. Holliman played the roll of Bob Dace, Rock Hudson\Bick Benedict's son-in-law in the film.
Here is a hazard of frontier life that you might not have considered:
"W.W. Schermerhorn, an attorney of San Angelo, once a citizen of this town, while under the influence of liquor last week in the saloon of Memph Eliot, had his feet badly burned by some unprincipled party pouring alcohol in his boots and setting fire to them. The proprietor of the saloon, Memph Eliot, is charged with the crime, and people of San Angelo are very indignant at the outrage. It is thought that amputation will be necessary in order to save his life. Judge Schermerhorn has entered suit against Elliot for $4,000.00, which he will have no trouble in recovering, as he has good witnesses who saw the affair."
------- The Colorado City Clipper newspaper, April 11, 1885
"1 believe I could walk along the streets of any Texas town or city and pick out the real cowboy, not by his clothes especially, but because one can nearly always notice that he has a very open countenance and almost innocent eyes and mouth. He is not innocent of course; but living in the open, next to nature, the cleaner life is stamped on his face. His vices leave no scars, or few, because old mother nature has him with her most of the time."
----- Mrs. Bula Rust Kirkland, "The Trail Drivers of Texas," 1914. Mrs. Kirkland was the daughter of C. H. Rust, of San Angelo, Texas, one of the active members of the Old Trail Drivers' Association.
"If I, a lowly singer, dry one tear or soothe one humble human heart in pain, then my homely verse to God is dear and not one stanza has been sung in vain."
------ epitaph inscribed on Country Superstar Jim Reeves' grave in Carthage, Texas. Jim was born in Galloway, Texas (Jefferson County) and killed in 1964 in a plane crash near Nashville, Tennessee.
"I’d begun “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother” one night in this redneck bar in Red River [New Mexico]. Somebody had started in on me with “How can you call yourself American with long hair like that?” Then I’d seen a pickup outside with a bumper sticker reading something like “America, love it or leave it.” Later that night, B.W. Stevenson and Bob Livingston and I were passing a guitar around, and I started singing, “He was born in Oklahoma …” I came up with the chorus, we laughed, and that was it. Next thing I know, Livingston calls me from Luckenbach and says 'Jerry Jeff wants to cut it.' But there was no second verse. I made it up over the phone."
------ Ray Wylie Hubbard talking about how he wrote "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother" and how Jerry Jeff Walker recorded it and turned it into an anthem
A Mexican vaquero (cowboy) describes how to get to Big Bend from Fort Davis:
"You go south from Fort Davis
Until you come to the place
Where rainbows wait for rain.
And the river is kept in a stone box
And water runs uphill.
And the mountains float in the air.
Except at night, when they run away to play
With other mountains."
----- as told to Frank Tolbert, legendary Dallas newspaperman, 1960s
The cowboy seems to wear long sleeved western shirts even in the summer. They are likely to be gray or blue chambray, and starched and ironed by the cowboy's wife or mother. The younger cowboy may have on cotton knit shirts with a pocket. These knit shirts do not say things on the back, nor do they express obscenities. This form of self assertion is saved for bumper stickers. Whether knit of chambray, the shirt has a long tail, which is tucked in the Levis, those being positioned under a (usually) prominent stomach, "beer belly," or paunch. The cowboy has muscular arms and shoulders; he obviously does manual labor at times. He doesn't really drink enough beer to justify the stomach, but it is there, and he has a tendency to pat it. When his wife is particularly pleased with him, she may pat it. By some feat of engineering, the shirt reaches around the stomach and stays tucked into the Levis.
Next the watcher will notice the Levis. He will wish to give his "501s" away: the cowboy will neither have on "501s" or bell bottoms. He will have on boot or cowboy cut Levis, well washed and ironed (presumably by the same accommodating woman who irons the shirts). The crease will be ironed in according to the way the pants legs fall, not according to the seams. If the [cowboy] aspirer tries to match the side seams and iron a crease straight down, he will find, when he puts his pants on, that the crease seems to wind about his legs, giving a peculiar appearance to his stance. The Levis are not "flood or highwater" pants: they are the length which cause the hem to break just across the front of the boot and to just drag the ground in the back. After several wearings, the hem in the back of the Levis will be worn off and raveled. The watcher should not attempt the shortcut of cutting the hem off in the back; it must wear off and ravel naturally. These Levis can have a button fly instead of a zipper, but it is important either way that they are tight and that they do not bag.
These Levis are worn with a belt that has a large buckle.
The back right hand pocket will have a peculiar circle worn on it from the inside. This has been worn by the ubiquitous can of "Skoal" ---- snuff ----- which is carried there. In the left pocket in back will be the billfold, or wallet, with varying amounts of paper money, a driver's license, a gas credit card, and little else. This billfold will not have a plastic picture album in it."
----- Mildred Boren, "The Real Thing: How to Look, or Avoid Looking, Like a Real Cowboy, " a monograph, 1990
In 1940, legendary Texas songwriter Cindy Walker showed some good, old-fashioned Texas sticktoitiveness when she went to Hollywood with her parents and tried to sell some of her songs. In that year, Cindy, then 22 years old, accompanied her parents on a business trip to Los Angeles. As they were driving down Sunset Boulevard she asked her father to stop the car near the Bing Crosby Enterprises building. Walker later recalled: "I had decided that if I ever got to Hollywood, I was going to try to show Bing Crosby a song I had written for him called 'Lone Star Trail'". Her father said "You're crazy, girl", but nonetheless stopped the car.
Cindy went inside the building to pitch her song and emerged shortly afterward to ask her mother to play the piano for her. Bing Crosby’s brother, Larry Crosby, had agreed to listen to the song; Walker sang “Lone Star Trail” to him, accompanied by her mother. Larry Crosby was both impressed and aware that his brother was looking for a new Western song to record. The next day Cindy played guitar and sang “Lone Star Trail” for Bing Crosby at Paramount Studios (where he was making a movie). Crosby arranged for her to record a demo with Dave Kapp of Decca Records, who was also impressed and offered her a recording contract."Lone Star Trail" was recorded and became a top-ten hit for Bing Crosby.
Walker remained in Los Angeles for 13 years. In 1940 she appeared as a singer in the Gene Autry Western Ride Tenderfoot Ride. The Decca recording contract led to Walker recording several songs with Texas Jim Lewis and His Lone Star Cowboys, including “Seven Beers with the Wrong Man” in 1941, which was also filmed as an early "Soundie" (a precursor of music videos). In 1944 Walker recorded a song (not her own) which became a top ten hit, “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again".
------- Cindy Walker, "You Don't Know Me." Cindy was born near Mexia, lived her 87 years there, and wrote top-10 hit songs in five different decades. "You Don't Know Me,' of course, has been covered by everybody from Ray Charles to Michael Buble
The following quote finds Traces of Texas reader Johnny Hughes' recollection of the dating scene at the Lindsey Theater in Lubbock about 55 years ago. Johnny is a rather legendary character and this is a touch risque', but this is how he wrote it:
TAKING DATES TO THE LINDSEY THEATER: LUBBOCK, TEXAS
by Johnny Hughes
"Fireworks always reminds me of the Lindsey Theater in Lubbock. Y'all remember the nicest moving picture show house in your town? From ninth grade all through high school, it was the social, focal point of our town. When a car load of boys hoping to get to talk to a car load of girls were making the circle: Hi D Ho, Hi D Ho Jr on College Avenue, the Village Mill, across the street, to Etter's Rebel at 34th and P, giving the Lindsay and State Theaters a drive by was in there. Etter's had car hops on roller skates.
Before you'd ask a gal for a movie date, there was the coke date. In Texas, coke is a generic term meaning cherry lime, root beer, and what folks from the lesser states call pop or soda water. A coke dated started with one of the most terrifying experiences and went on to a more terrifying experience. First, you had to ask her and risk some phony baloney excuse, "I have to wash my hair" which meant you are not cool enough for me or anyone I know. If she did say yes, you had to meet her ax murderer-looking father and remember the eye contact and firm handshake while being given a Charlie Manson eye dance. 'Ol Daddy would set a curfew with the unspoken you might be killed if you were over five minutes late.
You might go to the Hi D Ho for a coke but since the man paid for everything, ususally not a burger. Then there was the sole reason for coke dates: parking which implied necking a.k.a. smooching a.k.a. making out and for certain, attempted light petting where a mental score of first bast, second base, third base was kept but never talked about. It is a myth about all that locker room talk as boys do not wish to share their rare successes because of their far more frequent failures, We'd go parking out in the country on dirt road, on isolated spots on Texas Tech's campus, and the traditional spot, Prairie Dog Town in Mackenzie Park. It was good because there was a row of cars with teenies necking which set an example for your date of the reason for your presence. There was one legendary Lubbock policeman, Copper Rollins, who would come shine lights and even get out and talk to folks.
Out in the country, you might encounter sheriff's deputies hoping to see half-clothed teenie women, if that is not an oxymoron.
Movie dates were often Friday or Saturday night affairs. There were larger than life oil paintings in the lobby at the Lindsey and it was a class joint with a big balconey where dates could be semi-alone in the dark. Goody. Goody. We might pick our date up at 7:30 and enter the movie in the middle which didn't seem odd at all. In this Golden Age of the movies, movies had Intermission with an overture. I'd go to the Lindsey lobby to smoke and flirt with other girls and my date would save our seats. You'd want to be back to sing along with songs with the lyrics up on the screen and a bouncing ball. I date myself. Y'all are not as old as me. Our high school motto was "Rough as hell. Sweet as heaven. Senior class of '57."
There was the dilema of whether to hold hands, put your arm around her, cop a feel. Daddys didn't have much to worry over because gals had on layers of clothes and mysterious garments. We'd dress up some for the Lindsey, no ties, but slacks, sports coats in season. Gals would have on panties, a bra held in place by buckles, clasps, and it might be mildly padded. The gal had on panty hose and a garter belt, and a girtle, nearly required at Texas Tech, again held tightly by security devices. Over that, she might have fifty petty coats, a dress, and a sweater. There was an actual gal down in there if you were persistent.
It was cool to go to the major flicks early in their run. When Red River with John Wayne premeired around 1949, Hemphill Wells also opened and they gave away these packets of four chocolates and they had an escalator we would ride like a carnival ride. We'd walk downtown stopping at Sears to look at our feet in the exray machine and sit on the saddles, maybe buy a quarter's worth of hot peanuts.
This was at a time in the mid to late fifties when the teenies were in rebellion and called juvenile delinquents. The biggest event was the midnight movies at the Lindsey. One time a few of us worthless boys, trying to be James Dean, spent the afternoon making flour bombs, a Kleenex full of baking flour, secured by a rubber band. At midnight, we hurled these from the baloney on all the folks below. Made a big white cloud. No one snitched us off, being the rebellion and all. The next year, at midnight, my best friend and I, lit a string of firecrackers right by the screen. We lacked a coherent exit plan and were immediately siezed by the Lubbock police, arrested, and walked to jail, a few blocks.
I was fourteen and this was my first arrest. Daddy came down in good humor and paid 'em something. We were put on probation and had to be lectured by this old dude, John Wilson, who majored in stern in college. Worse, we were forced to go to the Boy's Club and take part in their activites. They had a gym, a boxing ring I hated, a dangerous wood craft room with spinning saws and other minor criminals all around, a baseball field and teams you were assigned to, which I hated. I was the eternal right fielder, last guy chosen and bad at all sports even though I tried them all: football, baseball, basketball, track, boxing, and golf. I was good at poker, a blessing since they play with real money and you do not bump into big guys or get slugged. The swimming was way more than weird. We were required to swim naked. The offical reason was that the loose threads from bathing suits would clog the drain. I still suspect strongly that the real reason was that the honchos who chose to work with teenage boys just wanted to see them naked. Duh!
I miss the Lindsey. I miss downtown Lubbock. Remember it?"
----- Johnny Hughes
"Not all [Texas] Ranger captains had Captain John W. Samson's grit, but results also depended on the caliber of the men in the companies. Captain Bland Chamberlain certainly did not have much to work with. Of the sixty rangers in Chamberlain's Company H, only five hailed from Texas. The non-Texans included a Frenchman who had been in Emperor Maximilian's army in Mexico, a man who during the Civil War had ridden with Quantrill's guerrillas, eight Mexican-Americans, and, as one of the Texans later wrote, 'the rest of the company was fished out of the slums in San Antonio by the first sergeant.'
The company spent a few months scouting the Rio Grande but its service record amounted to only a few words: "Arrested several rustlers on February 25, 1871." Three days later, the company received orders to disband. That lead to Company H's most notable accomplishment ---- being the only Ranger company known to have had a mutiny.
As it developed, the men of Company H believed that Sergeant John Morgan, a former Yankee soldier, took his job way too seriously. He and the other ex-soldiers in the outfit made up one faction, the less disciplined Texans and others composing the other side. On the way back to Austin for their official mustering out, some of the Texans, in strict violation of orders, got drunk.
The situation degenerated into a melee punctuated by gunfire. Nobody got shot, but one state-owned wagon ended up in flames. Order finally restored, the by-the-book sergeant had five rangers clapped into irons. When they reached Austin, he said, he would see them court-martialed for mutiny. The captain did not intervene, but when a lieutenant returned to the unit ---- he had been gone during the incident ---- he countermanded the sergeant's order and released the rowdy rangers.
Unreconstructed, when the rangers arrived in Austin on St. Patrick's Day, they pawned state-issued pistols and carbines for a keg of beer. When the brew ran dry, they started on whiskey.
The next day, those able to stand marched up Congress Avenue for discharge. Since the state did not have enough money to pay them all it owed them, the adjutant general told them they would be sent vouchers for back pay. He also offered them commissions in the state police, but most had had enough of state service.
The men of Company H had learned, as others would, that rangering did not always prove to be exciting and romantic."
------ Mike Cox "The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso," 2008. This is an excellent study of the Rangers, by the way. Highly recommended.
"My favorite Aggie joke? I'm sorry, I don't understand the question."
----- singer/songwriter Lyle Lovett, Texas A&M alumnus
Over the course of his life, Charles A. Siringo was a cowboy, lawman, detective and writer. Today's Texas quote finds Charles describing an even in Old Tascosa which, though a ghost town now, was once a wild and wooly place:
"About Christmas we had a little excitement, chasing some Mexican thieves, who robbed Mr. Pitcher of everything he had in his little Jim Crow store. John and I were absent from our camp, six days on this trip. There were nine of us in the persuing party, headed by Mr. Moore, our boss. We caught the outfit, which consisted of five men, all well armed and three women, two of them being pretty maidens, on the staked plains, headed for Mexico. It was on this trip that I swore off getting drunk, and I have stuck to it--with the exception of once and that was over the election of President Cleveland--It happened thus:
We rode into Tascosa about an hour after dark, having been in the saddle and on a hot trail all day without food or water. Supper being ordered we passed off the time waiting, by sampling Howard and Reinheart's [Saloon] "bug juice."
Supper was called and the boys all rushed to the table--a few sheepskins spread on the dirt floor. When about through they missed one of their crowd ----- me. On searching far and near I was found lying helplessly drunk under my horse, Whisky-peet, who was tied to a rack in front of the store. A few glasses of salty water administered by Mr. Moore brought me to my right mind. Moore then after advising me to remain until morning, not being able to endure an all night ride as he thought, called, "come on, fellers!" And mounting their tired horses they dashed off at almost full speed.
There I stood leaning against the rack not feeling able to move.
Whisky-peet was rearing and prancing in his great anxiety to follow the crowd. I finally climbed into the saddle, the pony still tied to the rack. I had sense enough left to know that I couldn't get on him if loose, in the fix I was in. Then pulling out my bowie knife I cut the rope and hugged the saddle-horn with both hands. I overtook and stayed with the crowd all night, but if ever a mortal suffered it was me. My stomach felt as though it was filled with scorpions, wild cats and lizards. I swore if God would forgive me for getting on that drunk I would never do so again. But the promise was broken, as I stated before, when I received the glorious news of [Grover] Cleveland's election."
----- Charles A. Siringo, "A Texas Cow Boy," 1885
"Sunday morning in Texas. The hum. The softness and possibility of dawn. The gradual graying from the east. A cow lowing, a truck rumbling. Are you awake? Yes. That cricket you fell asleep to last night is still chirping. Your refrigerator kicks on in the kitchen. You should get up. Really, you should get up. You have to clean out the truck and your clothes need washing and a bunch of limbs got knocked down in the last storm, so you should get your butt up out of bed right ... now .... But it is so nice lying next to your sweetie, and one of your dogs --- Callie, it feels like ----- is curled up at the foot of your bed, and although a cup of coffee would be nice right about now, you fall back asleep for a few minutes, a smile on your heart .
It's the little things, you know."
----- Me, Traces of Texas
"Many of the Texas country blues musicians toiled in obscurity, only to be discovered late in their lives. Mance Lipscomb is probably the best example of these artists. He was born in 1894 in the Navasota River bottoms and spent his life as a sharecropper. An intuitive and cunning guitarist who originally learned fiddle from his father, Lipscomb entertained at parties and barn dances. Though he made trips to Dallas to pick cotton during the harvest, and would anonymously watch Blind Lemon Jefferson play, he never made the trek to any of the urban blues centers with the idea of performing himself.
Lipscomb "turned pro" when he was sixty-five ... In 1950, Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Rocords, an archival label in San Francisco, was led by Houston disc jockey Mack McCormick to Navasota, where Lipscomb could generally be found playing on his porch.
A guitarist whose staggering technique underscored a lifetime spent writing and cataloging a spectacular range of material (from country blues to ballads to jazz and folk) by all accounts Lipscomb was a devout, friendly, gentle man, and it must have been astonishing to him when the records he recorded for Arhoolie brought him a bit of fame.
He criscrossed the United States, appearing before adoring fans and bedazzled musicians at various clubs and folk festivals, but he found a spiritual home in Austin. For almost ten years, Lipscomb was a kind godfather to a city-wide family of players, preaching his gospel of Texas music in "churches" like the Armadillo World Headquarters and the Vulcan Gas Company. He passed away in 1976, but scores of modern guitarists ----- from Jimmie Vaughan to Ian Moore ----- are quick to point to Lipscomb as a genuine Texas musical force. Arhoolies "Texas Sharecropper and Songster" and "You Got to Reap What You Sow" are recommended."
----- Rick Koster, "Texas Music," 1998
"I stood at street corners in waiting to see some ranchero, or farmer, emerge from a saloon and vault cleanly into the saddle of his patient mustang. This feat is thoroughly Texas, and should be seen to be appreciated."
------- reporter in the June, 1880 edition of "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper" describes Austin
"In Old Hico is a house in which, at different times within the past 30 years, some six or seven men have been killed for diverse offenses. The house, which is known as “The Slaughter pen,” is situated on the farm of Mr. G. H. Medford, and occasionally some renter moves into it, and also moves out in haste, and as the house is rarely occupied it is said the place is frequented by the restless and disembodied spirits of the man whose material existence was so suddenly terminated there, and the result is edifying only at a distance and in broad daylight.
The parties whose mortal coils were shuffled off forgot, on the spur of the moment, to remove their boots, and they, therefore, make a great deal of unnecessary noise in their midnight peregrinations, and are anything but seemly and fastidious ghosts. They also seem to be on unfriendly terms with each other, and their bickerings are so open that the neighbors have noticed it and deprecate the lack of secrecy that the skeleton in the closet observes. The last addition to this select circle of ghost were two gentlemen who about two years ago, stole some money from old Mr. Isaac Malone.
They were found in a barbershop in Waco and brought back and placed in this house. During the night, while chained together near the fireplace, their spirits escaped to another world. Since then these two ghosts have seemed rather “stuck up" to the other ghosts, probably because they were clean- shaved and wander off to themselves, clanking the chain to irritate the other low-down ghosts. We've noticed that fresh shaved ghosts always act this way. The old ghosts retaliate by driving these two away, as, having branded the wrong yearlings only, they cannot associate with ghosts who steal.
Because of these quarrels it is very disagreeable to remain in the house at night. The last occupant moved out two weeks ago, because, as he told Hol Medford, a barrel of pistols had been thrown into the house and all fired off at once; he didn't mind the ghost, but he said the pistols were really dangerous. He was an Englishman and hadn't got the hang of Texas ghosts."
----- From the Hico Times as reprinted in the Brenham Weekly Independent. Vol. 1, No. 15, Ed. 1, Thursday, April 20, 1882, page 5
Obituaries from the Dallas Times Herald, 1890:
"Philip Cris Ungeheuer, a German farmer, died at his residence, 1334 Pacific avenue, yesterday, from the effects of an overdose of morphine, taken with suicidal intent the night before. Justice Brown was called to hold the inquest.
The wife of the deceased stated that he received injuries about the head in an accident several months ago which completely unbalanced him, and to this cause, his rash deed is attributed. The deceased formerly lived at Mesquite, where he sustained the reputation of an excellent citizen."
------ January 25, 1890, Dallas Daily Times Herald
"Floyd, the four-year-old son of John Spartman [Sparkman?], living near Cochran's Chapel, met with a horrible death yesterday. Mr. Spartman and his employes were preparing to slaughter hogs and a great iron kettle filled with boiling water hung on a crane over a blazing fire near the slaughtering pen. The little boy was playing about the premises and venturing near the fire, he missed his footing and plunged into the scalding water. The horrified spectators drew him from the kettle, but too late to save his life. After lingering an hour in terrible agony, the little sufferer expired. The funeral took place this morning at Cochran's Chapel and was largely attended. A number of relatives and friends of the family were present from this city."
------ January 2, 1890, Dallas Daily Times Herald
"Mr. and Mrs. T. Cordell of East Dallas, mourn the loss of their little seven-year-old daughter, who died at the family residence in East Dallas at 8 o'clock last evening.
Yesterday afternoon, a group of children were playing the childish game of "see-saw," among the number, deceased. By some means, she fell, or was thrown from the plank to the ground, only a short distance, and was considerably stunned by the fall. This happened at 3 o'clock, and while her injuries were regarded as slight, at 8 o'clock, the child expired."
------ January 6, 1890, Dallas Daily Times Herald
"Mary A. Rice and M. W. Rice, parents of Nannie West, the unfortunate deaf and dumb mute who was killed a few months ago by a Central train near the intersection of the railroad track and Ross avenue, filed suit for $25,000 damages against Charles Dillingham, receiver of the Houston & Texas Central road."
----- January 29, 1890, Dallas Daily Times Herald
"George W. Collins, a well-known printer, for some time past foreman in the establishment of A. D. Aldredge, died at 312 Caruth street to-day of consumption. Deceased was about thirty-two years of age, a fine workman and held in high esteem by a large circle of friends. The remains will be shipped to Chicago, his old home, for interment."
------ January 29, 1890, Dallas Daily Times Herald
"Word was received in this city today that J. K. P. Jourdan, one of the leading farmers and most prominent citizens of Dallas county, died at this home in Grand Prairie last evening. after a brief illness of la grippe. Mr. Jourdan was in the city Saturday, hale and hearty and in the best of spirits, and his early demise is a great shock to his relatives and friends."
------ January 30, 1890, Dallas Daily Times Herald
"Pampa was a Texas oil boom town and wilder than a woodchuck. It traveled fast and traveled light. Oil boom towns come that way and they go that way. Houses aren't built to last very long, because the big majority of the working folks will walk into town, work like a horse for a while, put the oil wells in, drill the holes down fifteen thousand feet, bring in the black gushers, case off the hot flow, cap the high pressure, put valves on them, get the oil to flowing steady and easy into the rich people's tanks, and then the field, a big thick forest of drilling rigs, just sets there pumping oil all over the world to run limousines, factories, war machines, and fast trains. There's not much work left to do in the oil fields once the boys have developed it by hard work and hot sweat, and so they move along down the road, as broke, as down and out, as tough, as hard hitting, as hard working, as the day they come to town.
The town was mainly a scattering of little old shacks. They was built to last a few months; built out of old rotten boards, flattened oil barrels, buckets, sheet iron, crates of all kinds, and gunny sacks. Some were lucky enough to have a floor, Others just the dusty old dirt. The rent was high on these shacks. A common price was five dollars a week for a three roomer. That meant one room cut three ways. Women folks worked hard trying to make their little shacks look like something, but with the dry weather, hot sun, high wind, and the dust piling in, they could clean and wipe and mop and scrub their shanty twenty-four hours a day and never get caught up. Their floors always was warped and crooked. The old linoleum rugs had raised six families and put eighteen kids through school. The walls were made out thin boards, one inch thick and covered over with whatever the women could nail on them: old blue wallpaper, wrapping paper from the boxcars along the tracks, once in a while a layer of beaver board painted with whitewash, or some haywire color ranging from deep-sea blue through all of the midnight blues to a blazing red that would drive a Jersey bull crazy. Each family usually nailed together some sort of a chair or bench out of junk materials and left it in the house when they moved away, so that after an even thirty-five cents worth of hand-made wash benches, or an old chair, or table had been left behind, the landlord hired a sign painter to write the word "Furnished" on the "For Rent" sign.
Lots of folks in the oil fields come in from the country. They heard about the high wages and the great number of jobs. The old farm has dried up and blowed away. The chickens are gone dry and the cows have quit laying. The wind has got high and the sky is black with dust. Blow flies are taking the place over, licking off the milk pails, falling into the cream, getting hung up in the molasses. Besides that, they ain't no more work to do on the farm; can't buy no seed for planting, nor feed for the horses and cows.
Hell, I can work. I like to work. Born working. Raised working. Married working. What kind of work do they want done in this oil boom town? If work is what they want done, plowing or digging or carrying something, I can do that. If they want a cellar dug or some dirt moved, I can do that. If they want some rock hauled and some cement shoveled, I can do that. If they want some boards sawed and some nails drove, hell's bells, I can do that. If they want a tank truck drove, I can do that, too, or if they want some steel towers bolted up, give me a day's practice, and I can do that. I could get pretty good at it. And I wouldn't quit. Even if I could, I wouldn't want to.
Hell with this whole dam layout! I'm a-gonna git up an' hump up, an' walk off of this cussed dam place! Farm, toodle-do. Here I come, oil town! Hundred mile down that big wide road."
----- Woody Guthrie describes Pampa, Texas in "Bound for Glory," 1943
The next quote is an entire article that was published in the Dallas Times Herald back in 1903:
TWO EARLY PIONEERS AND THEIR STORIES.
"Captain June Peak and How
He Joined the Army, Chickasaw
Indian Fighters -- "Uncle Buck"
Hughes and the Big Flood of 1866.
Captain June W. Peak is 58. He is a splendidly preserved specimen of manhood and one among the last of the early broncho-busters and buffalo hunters of Dallas county. Captain Peak is a superb horseman, and in the 60's and 70's, the mustang did not live that he could not mount and subdue. A veteran of the war between the states, he is proud of relating war stories, and is an accomplished raconteur. "I was plowing in the field when the news came of the fall of Fort Sumpter," he said to a Time Herald representative, "Our farm was at the edge of the old town, and is now known as East Dallas. I was a husky boy then, and an ardent secessionist. Our people had been repeatedly assured that one Southern man could whip five Yankees, and I was very ambitious to whip my five. It must have been a mistake, as it is much easier to whip an enemy with a bayonet at close quarters.
'As I stated, I was plowing in the field when my brother came from town with a copy of our weekly newspaper. Dallas had no daily, and news was week to ten days old when it reached us. At dinner, he read the news and my boy's martial spirit was aroused. I resolved to go as a soldier without delay. Knowing that it would be useless to ask my mother's consent, I made my arrangements secretly. Ben Long, afterwards city marshal, owed me eighteen dollars. The best pony in Dallas county was in my stable. Dinner over, I saddled and mounted him. My mother asked, 'Where are you going, Son?' "To town, to get my money from Ben Long, Mother," I replied. She accepted the explanation, never dreaming that her boy had murderous designs upon the Yankees. Ben Long paid me the money, and I rode home and lariated the pony a safe distance from the house, slipped up stairs, packed my saddle-bags, and under cover of the night, mounted and rode away. That pony had plenty of bottom, and before sun was noon high the next day, I had ridden ninety miles to the northward, and was in the camp of Colonel Bill Young, who had rallied to his standard, the young men of Lamar, Fannin, Grayson and Cooke. Fort Arbuckle was garrisoned by Federal soldiers and was commanded by Colonel Edmonds, a soldier and a gentleman. Colonel Young decided to seize Fort Arbuckle, and we made a rapid march to the place, only to find the fort had been deserted and the Federals were working their way across the Indian Territory.
“Our men were farmers, frontiersmen, cowboys and hunters. Some were armed with squirrel rifles; others had army carbines, and a few were equipped with army muskets. They were fighting men, but poorly armed for pitched battles with trained soldiers with modern firearms in their hands. Well, we decided to give pursuit and capture Colonel Edmunds and his 1200 regulars. Fifty of our boys were detached from the regular command and were sent ahead to spy out the lay of the land as scouts. 'It is fun to hunt the tiger, but it is hell when the tiger hunts you.' Colonel Edmunds was too old a campaigner to be caught napping. One morning, bright and early, we were drawn into an ambush and caught like rats in a trap. Resistance would have been suicide. We were surrounded, outnumbered, and in a bad scrape. What did we do? Laid down our arms and surrendered like little men. Colonel Edmunds treated us kindly. 'Boys,' said he, 'go back to your people. I don't want to hurt you, but if you pursue me another step, there's going to be graves to dig and men to fill them.'
"We did not stand on ceremony, and obeyed the instructions of the Federal commander. Crestfallen and footsore and hungry, we retraced our steps. Colonel Bill Young reconsidered and did not carry out his threat to bag Edmunds and his command.
"No, I did not return to Dallas. The Chickasaw Indians were loyal to the South and raised a regiment of fighters, volunteering for one year. This was the first regiment of Indians to take up arms for the Stars and Bars. I became a member of the command, and we were given plenty to do for the next twelve months. At the expiration of the year, the survivors demanded their discharge. they were homesick, longed for a sight of their wives and children in the Indian Territory. They were loyal, mind you, and were ready to re-enlist after a visit to their families. Colonel Cooper mustered out the redmen, and I re-enlisted with a Texas regiment and saw enough in the four years that followed to convince me that General Sherman was right when he stated that 'war is hell.'
I was attached to Wharton's command and was with him at Houston, when he was shot and killed by General Baylor. They were gallant soldiers, true sons of the South, and it was a pity that a private quarrel should have culminated in a bloody tragedy. We were in camp at Hempstead at the time. General Wharton had gone to Houston on business and General Baylor had followed him to the Bayou City. The shooting occurred in the old Lamar House, I believe, and was one of the regrettable and tragic incidents of the war between the states. I returned to Dallas in 1865, with plenty of experience and a few scars, but my pony and $18 were gone. I was a boy when I joined Colonel Bill Young's squad, and but little more than a boy when the flag of the South went down at Appomattox Court House thirty-eight years ago. My Indian comrades were splendid soldiers, regular dare-devils, and their loyalty to the cause of the South in those trying times, made me love them. It is almost like a dream when I think of it. In 1861, Dallas was a very small village, and the leading farmers raised corn and cotton almost within a stone's throw of the post office. In my boyhood, Texas was a wilderness. Today, she is an empire, teeming with people and is the fifth in the constellation of stars. God has been good to the land of the Lone Star."
Rev. W. H. Hughes is another veteran of Dallas county, who came here in the 50's and knows Dallas county, its history and its pioneers, as he knows his good right hand. He is called "Uncle Buck" by the sons and daughters of the old pioneer families, and his reminiscences would fill a book of many pages. Parson W. C. Young and "Uncle Buck" Hughes are the survivors of the band of men who were called "sky pilots" by the ungodly in the early days of Dallas and adjoining counties. They preached the gospel of Christ on Sunday, held revivals at intervals and tilled the soil between times. Pioneer preachers had work to do, and they never shirked. "Uncle Buck" has a marvelously retentive memory, and has been a close observer. He talked high water and crop conditions to a coterie of old friends the other day. "Yes," he said, "the Trinity is away up this year. The government gauges shows 36 feet of water in the river, I've been told. The rise of 1890 is a favorite theme with navigators and recent comers. These gentlemen should have been here in 1866. That summer, the greatest flood in the history of Dallas county since the coming of white men, swept down upon us. The bottom lands were inundated, and over in what is now known as the Second ward, you could easily have floated a boat. The water touched Ross avenue, and farmers had to go miles out of their way to get to town. The high-water mark of the Trinity was made in 1866, and the floods since that year, have been freshets. Alex Cockrell rescued a family from drowning on the West Dallas pike at that time. It was a heroic performance and Alex was lionized by the people. There is always danger on the West Dallas pike when the river is out of its banks. I crossed it in the 50's, and had a narrow escape. Something should be done to protect life and guard against these frightful accidents."
Mr. Hughes was speaking of the drowning of a German farm-hand and young woman, who started for town from West Dallas and lost their lives before assistance could reach them.
"Wheat and oats yielded large crops," said the veteran preacher-farmer, "and the corn crop is far beyond the expectations of the most sanguine. Cotton is coming all right, and the staple will make a good showing in sections free from bollweevil."
Captain Peak and "Uncle Buck" Hughes are Dallas county pioneers of the genuine type and will swell the throng at the Old Settlers' Reunion at Hutchins on the 29th of July. The people of Hutchins are getting ready to entertain visitors in royal style and all the veterans, men and women of the good old days and good old times will attend the reunion."
------- Dallas Daily Times Herald, July, 1903
In 1849, Dallas farmers had their wheat fields invaded by millions of wheatbirds (otocoris alpestris or horned lark). An 1858 account in the Dallas Herald newspaper relates one farmer's attempts to save his crop:
"He sought by gun and shot, ringing bells, beating tin pans, and every other available noise-maker, to frighten them from his grounds. For this purpose, bringing his whole force, big and little, into requisition, with these motley weapons he stationed the little army over the field. Finding that his efforts were likely to prove unavailing, he thought to compromise with the enemy by giving up a part of the field, and concentrating his force on the remainder, and defend it the more effectually.
The rapacious gluttons soon made a ' clean sweep' of the relinquished spoils, and then swooped down on the other. After a desperate struggle, our farmer concluded to relinquish the half of that, and give the other to the birds. No sooner had they finished the second section of the crop, than they insolently demanded the balance. A gallant stand was made by the farmer to save this, but his little force could do nothing against the legions of the invader. He finally thought he would save enough for seed, and retreated and took position on an acre, there resolved to 'do or die.'
It became a hand-to-hand fight, but while shotguns were firing, pans sounding, bells ringing, and sticks, whips, and bludgeons waving around the heads of the little urchins, the birds would swarm defiantly around them, light in their midst, and actually destroyed the last of his acre of wheat before his eyes, and in defiance of all his efforts."
----- Dallas Herald newspaper, 1858
So, just like you, I've been reading the front page of the Dec. 1st, 1916 Bartlett Tribune and News (linked below). I am struck by the rather routine gruesomeness with which they wrote back then. For example, we have the article about the death of local farmer R.F. Mclaren, killed when his auto went off a bridge. This is what we're told:
"R.F. Mclaren, a prominent farmer near Taylor, was crushed to death beneath his car and his body nearly cremated in the flames when the car caught fire last night ... The body was burned nearly beyond recognition. Both hands had been burned off and the entire body practically cremated. It is not thought, however, that Mr. McLaren ever suffered for even a moment as the skull had been crushed in when the car fell on him, undoubtedly killing him instantly."
Can you imagine a story being written in this manner today?
Also on the first page is a giant advertisement for Christmas toys at the Gersbach-Wacker Company. Besides telling us that Santa Claus has arrived and located his headquarters in the store, the ad reads "Every live boy and girl, no matter how old or young, is invited to visit this store." Isn't it nice that the specified that the children be live? It does make me wonder, however, why they are discriminating against deceased children.
"I meant to tell you about a house ... The walls still stand, and part of a rotting roof, from which protrudes part of a rusty stovepipe. Even if I offered explicit directions, many of you would not find it. You have to go west from Fort Worth about 225 miles, through Weatherford, Mineral Wells, Breckenridge, Albany, Stanford, Aspermont, Swenson, to Jayton. By now, you'd be into territory from which it costs about fourteen dollars to send a letter to the world, but you'd still not be there yet. Jayton, with a population of about 750, is the last big city before you get there. You drive four or five miles out into what people in the area call the Cotton Breaks for seven or eight miles, and after a while you'd come to the little community known as Golden Pond. It's not close to anything. Nobody ever goes there. It's no longer recognized as a community. The only inhabitannts are ghosts, and the wouthwest wind keens and moans through rotting plannks of an occasional ruined shack.
Not far from Golden Pond ... is the house I mentioned. It is a little house mde of native stone. It measures about ten feet by twelve feet, and there is a small wooden lean-to on the back. You can see through the walls.
My aunt lived in that house with a family during the school year of 1933-34 ... It was her first teaching job, and she made 12 dollars a month, with room and board thrown in.
She was far miles from home. There were no telephones in Golden Pond, and she had no transportation save what her feet offered. She was among strangers in a barren, twisty land. That area, the Cotton Breaks, is broken, eroded country; dry creeks, ravines, gullies, and canyons break the terrain for thirty miles and maybe more. Even in 1933 it ws nearly forgotten country.
There were no telephones, no electricity, no running water, no way to wash except in a pan or round metal washtub. And the wind whistled and moaned through the rocks.
If you stand on the little rise between ravines where the rock house is, if you stand there even in bright daylight, in every direction you look the distance is blue and far and melancholy. It is the lonesomest country I know. If you stand there at night, imagine what the dark is like when you're far from home and there's only one dingy. smoky kerosene lamp which, for the sake of economy, you can't burn for long.
Imagine lying in a narow bed with the wind coming in between the rocks and across you. How could you possibly imagine a bright future?"
----- James W. Corder, "Lost in West Texas," 1988
The following quote is the first chapter of Paul Horgan's monumental treatise on the Rio Grande river, "Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History." Every Texan and every fan of great writing should read this incredible book. Here's the quote:
The elements at large.
Over warm seas the air is heavy with moisture. Endlessly the vast delicate act of evaporation occurs. The seas yield their essence to the air. Sometimes it is invisible, ascending into the upper atmosphere. Sometimes it makes a shimmer in the calm light that proceeds universally from the sun. The upper heavens carry dust—sea dust of salt evaporated from ocean spray, and other dust lingering from volcanic eruption, and the lost dust of shooting stars that wear themselves out against the atmosphere through which they fly, and dust blown up from earth by wind. Invisibly the volume of sea moisture and dust is taken toward land by prevailing winds; and as it passes over the coast, a new condition arises—the wind-borne mass reflects earth temperatures, that change with the earth-forms inland from the sea. Moving rapidly, huge currents of air carrying their sea burdens repeat tremendously in their unseen movement the profile of the land forms over which they pass. When land sweeps up into a mountain, the laden air mass rolling upon it must rise and correspond in shape.
And suddenly that shape is made visible; for colder air above the mountain causes moisture to condense upon the motes of dust in the warm air wafted from over the sea; and directly in response to the presence and inert power of the mountain, clouds appear. The two volumes—invisible warm air, immovable cold mountain—continue to meet and repeat their joint creation of cloud. Looking from afar calm and eternal, clouds enclose forces of heat and cold, wind and inert matter that conflict immensely. In such continuing turbulence, cloud motes collide, cling together, and in the act condense a new particle of moisture. Heavier, it falls from cold air through warmer. Colliding with other drops, it grows. As the drops, colder than the earth, warmer than the cloud they left, fall free of cloud bottom into clear air, it is raining.
Rain and snow fall to the earth, where much runs away on the surface; but roots below ground and the dense nerve system of grasses and the preservative cover of forest floors detain the runoff, to that much sky moisture goes underground to storage, even through rock; for rock is not solid, and through its pores and cracks and sockets precipitation is saved. The storage fills; and nearing capacity, some of its water reappears at ground level as springs which find upward release through the pores of the earth just as originally it found entry. A flowing spring makes its own channel in which to run away. So does the melt from snow clinging to the highest mountain peaks. So does the sudden, brief sheet of storm water. Seeking always to go lower, the running water of the land struggles to fulfill its blind purpose—to find a way over, around or through earth’s fantastic obstacles back to the element which gave it origin, the sea.
In this cycle a huge and exquisite balance is preserved. Whatever the amount of its element the sea gives up to the atmosphere by evaporation, the sea regains exactly the same amount from the water which falls upon the earth and flows back to its source.
This is the work, and the law, of rivers."
------- Paul Horgan, "Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History," 1955
"Some of the largest cattle herds belong to the great companies operating where the nation's range cattle industry had its origin ---- along the Rio Grande between the Pecos and Mexico Bay. It was "the brasada," the brush country, stretching from the Nueces to the Rio Grande. It was profuse in growth ---- but almost all were thorned. It was either swept with gray dust borne on blistering winds or beaten by deluges that hissed as they struck the hot ground or raked by blizzards that came whistling out of the north. In the interlocking thickets that enclosed small clearings where grew curly mesquite grass, cattle could graze by thousands and hardly be seen by horsemen who sought them. There cicadas sang of the heat, and sharp-haired peccaries rooted among the thorns and blue quail rand amidst the wire shadows, and rattlesnakes sought the cool and were sometimes drummed to death by wild turkey gobblers at whose destroying wings they struck and struck with no effect on nerveless quill and feather. It was a land of hard secrets, the best kept of which was the location of water. Its few rivers ran in abruptly cut trenches walled with pink or yellow or slate blue limestone, and could not be seen except at their very brinks. In every direction the wilderness looked the same. There were no distant mountains to be seen. The land swelled away toward the white sky in slow rolls and shimmered in the heat that blended the ashen color of the ground with the olive greens of the brush until across the distance there seemed to hang a veil of dusky lilac."
----- Paul Horgan, Great River Vol. II, 1954. Incidentally, Horgan's two books about the Rio Grande are "must" reading for any fan of Texas history. They are not only lyrically written but incredibly informative. You could spend a summer reading them and you would be the better Texan for it.
"In the early days, a YO ranch hand couldn't get into town as often as he does now. When he did, the sudden release from isolation sometimes proved more a curse than a blessing.
That's the way it was with Hen Baker, a cowboy who'd been up the trail with YO rancher Gus Schreiner. On one of Hen's infrequent forays into Kerrville, he wound up getting indicted by the grand jury for killing a man with his pocketknife. At his trial, Baker took the stand in his own defense.
While attending a picnic and barbecue along the Guadalupe River, he explained, he decided to appoint himself parking lot attendant. In the course of carrying out those duties, a stranger from Bandera rode up, got off his horse, and challenged Baker:
"I'm the Bull of the Bandera Woods and I hear you're King of the Kerrville Cedarbrakes. Let's see who's the best man."
Baker noticed the man seemed drunk. He also noticed there was a gun on his hip. Baker shooed him away and went back about his business.
After the picnic, Hen strolled into the Mint Julep saloon for a drink. Sure enough, here came the Bandera Bull, still drunk and still looking for trouble. Baker bought him a drink. The Bull swallowed it in one gulp, folded his arms, and accordring to Hen's testimony, "roosters me in the ribs just like that."
Hen then told the jury, "I didn't have my six-shooter, so I had to cut his throat."
In effect, what Hen was doing was apologizing for bad manners. A frontiersman didn't use his fists or his knife --- but, as Baker explained, he didn't have his pistol. What was he to do, under the circumstances, knowing the Bandera Bull had a gun?
The case was clear enough to the jury, and they found Hen Baker 'not guilty.'"
----- Neal Barrett Jr., "Long Days and Short Nights," 1980
Lee County, Texas
May 18, 1877
M. Mast Esq.,
Dear Mr. Mast,
Your esteemed favor of April 24th was received. Allow me to thank you for your interest in the arrest of criminals. [Bill] Longley is today the worst man in Texas ---- he hs committed many murders in this vicinity ---- he has even murdered a woman. He is about six feet high; weighs 150 .lbs; tolerably spare built; black hair, eyes, and whiskers; slightly stopped in the shoulders. I have been told by those who know him that he can be recognized in a crowd of 100 men by the keenness and blackness of his eyes... You will have to take advantage of him.... he will fight and is a good shot.
Very respectfully yours,
----- 1877 letter from W.A. Knox of Lee County, Texas, to Captain Milt Mast in Nacogdoches, Texas. Mast had written to Knox with an offer to help arrest Bill Longley. Captain Mast eventually caught Longley. See the next quote:
"On yesterday evening, Captain Milt Mast of Nacogdoches County and W.M. Burroughs of that same county, arrived in Henderson, having under arrest one William Longley, a notorious murderer of Lee County, Texas. Captain Mast was corresponding with friends in Lee County and by this means got on the track of this desperado. A $1,050.00 reward has been offered for his arrest by different counties. He says that he has killed 32 men."
----- Panola Watchman newspaper, June 27, 1877
Here is a description of the hanging of Bill Longley as it appeared in "The Frontier Times" in June, 1926:
"Bill Longley was hanged on October 11, 1878, in the northern part of Giddings. This spot is marked now by the houses of the water and the light plant.
The day of the execution opened with a murky morning and with rain threatening, but this did not deter the crowds from coming in along the highways and byways and bridle paths, afoot, in wagons and on horseback. Toward mid-day, the clouds disappeared and the little town of Giddings was thronged with a crowd of 4,000 people.
About 1:30 p.m., Sheriff Jim Brown and his special guards took Longley out of the jail and the melancholy march began. The gallows were erected of framing timber and were thought to be abundantly strong. Longley ascended the stairs with a cigar in his mouth and with a rather jaunty tread. The stair steps vibrated as he ascended about a quarter past two, and Longley exclaimed 'Look out, the steps are falling,' and laughing added, 'I don't want to get crippled.'
Longley then spoke from the gallows as follows:
'Well, I haven't got much to say. I have got to die. I see a good many enemies around me and only a mighty few friends. I hate to die, of course; any man hates to die, men who loved life as well as I do. If I have any friends here I hope they will do nothing to avenge my death; if they want to avenge my death, let them pray for me. I deserve this fate. It's a debt I owe for my wild, reckless life. When it is paid, it will all be over. I hope you will forgive me; I will forgive you, whether you do or not, may God forgive me. I have nothing more to say.'
Prayer was offered by Father Querat, after which Longley did a spectacular and unlooked for thing. He kissed Sheriff Jim Brown and the priest, shook hands with everybody on the scaffold, raised his hand and in a clear, ringing voice, exclaimed, "Goodbye everybody." Several from the crowd responded with a last farewell. The black cap was drawn, the rope adjusted, and the signal given. The drop was almost 12 feet. After hanging slightly over eleven minutes, Doctors pronounced him dead. Dr. Brown took the head in his hands and turned it completely around 180 degrees. Sheriff Brown placed the body in a covered hack and conveyed it to the cemetery in the western part of the town and buried it outside the fence that enclosed the cemetery."
----- "the Frontier Native" writing for "The Frontier Times," June, 1926
"The Big Bend is not close to nowhere so people ain't had a chance to ruin it. It's just like it always was. When your lungs are full of Big Bend air you seem to forget that you are gettin' older. But I reckon the best thing about this part of Texas is that it's lonesomer than any place else."
------ Attributed to an unnamed Big Bend resident by Virginia Madsen in "The Big Bend Country of Texas," 1955
"Texans have moved across the map of history with a kind of innocence and wonder that there are other people in the world who might see life through different lenses. In another way, they are like a friendly, undisciplined Dalmation dog that, as it smothers you with its affection and interest, cannot understand why you do not think it is the greatest dog in the world. In a word that shows signs of weariness, I personally often wish that Texas would grow up ----- but only a little bit."
----- Joe B. Frantz, "The Republic of Texas," 1968
The following quote was written in 1844 by "Mrs. Housrou," an English woman who had traveled through Texas the previous year:
The city of Houston was our headquarters during our stay up the country; and greatly did we regret that the state of the prairie' owing to the constant and heavy rains, prevented our traveling as far as Washington, which city we had intended to have visited. The scarcity and indifference of the accommodations would not have deterred us from such an undertaking; but, in a country where roads do not exist, it is difficult not to lose one's way. The danger is considerably increased when the trail of previous travelers is obliterated by the rains, for "plumbing the track," the Texan term for tracing a road, is at all times a slow and tedious operation. Between Houston and Washington there is a certain space of two miles, which, when we were in the country, was not traversed in less time than four hours, so deep was the mire.
Even at Galveston, the first city in the country, things do not seem vastly better for a little excursion.
THE GALVESTON DRIVE.
The only " drive " is on the sea-beach : and a most beautiful beach it is—so hard and smooth, with its fine sand, that you scarcely hear your horse's foot fall, as he trots or rather runs along, a light carriage behind him, and the broad prairie spreading far before. Occasionally you are—I was going to say stopped, but I should have been wrong: no one is stopped in this country by anything short of a bowie-knife or a rifle-ball; but your progress is delayed by an interesting bayou, through which you have to wade, or swim, as the case may be. There is neither time nor spare cash to erect bridges and, indeed, were the expense to be incurred, the probability is they would be washed away by the first rain, or by a more than usually high tide. Bridges, then, being out of the question, nothing is left you but to make the best of such means of transport as are within your reach. If you fortunately chance to meet with any person who has lately crossed, you ask, " 'Well, Sir, is it swimming ? " Should the answer be in the affirmative, and you happen to be on horseback, equipped for a journey, with your plunder (luggage) about you, you " up saddle-bags," and boldly plunge into the stream. Should your route lie along the shore, the safest plan is to go a good way out to sea—on, on—till you find yourself well out among the breakers. I confess that at first this struck me as rather an alarming proceeding: but in fact it is much the safest plan ; there being always a bar of sand formed across the mouth of these bayous; and if you can hit that, the depth of water is much lessened.
Nor does there seem much in the social state of Texas to counterbalance the material evils. Mrs. Housrou admits three drawbacks to British emigration,—a total insecurity of titles to land; the smartness of the Texans, who when they deal with a Britisher, generally end by completely " shaving " him, that is possessing themselves of all his material goods; and the want of adaptability in the British character to qualify our settlers to meet the new and endless demands upon ingenuity. She says there are a great many lawyers in Texas, and a vast many laws—the Assembly having been industrious enough in this kind of work: but Mrs. Housrou makes it a ground of panegyric that there is little law among them—which seems to be true enough."
----- "Littell's Living Age II", August-October 1844
"They [the Texans] were citizens of the free and enlightened republic which boasts itself the smartest nation in all creation, and like most Yankes transplanted from their native localities to the rank soil of Texas were lazy, reckless, and rude: beyond the conception of anything European."
----- Littell's Living Age, January/March 1845
"I owe any success I've had to a single strange thing. I've never been able to hold one note longer than one beat, and then it sort of trails off. So all over the country there are guys sitting in bars getting soused and trying to impress their girl. Then my voice comes on the jukebox and they say, 'I can sing better than that guy.' And in about 90% of the cases they're right."
----- country music legend Ernest Tubb, 1967, interview with "The Nashville Tennessean"
"I don't care whether I hit the right note or not. I'm not looking for perfection of delivery ----- thousands of singers have that. I'm looking for individuality."
----- country music legend Ernest Tubb
"If you judge notoriety by the number of times the name of a place is spoken, the likelihood is that the most famous towns in Texas are Tenaha, Timpson, Bob and Blair. The reason for this is that there are so many dice players in the world. When trying to make ten with dice, crap shooters everywhere are apt to holler "Tenaha, Timson, Bobo and Blair," even though they may not know what these four words mean. These four towns are strung out along U.S. 59 in the East Texas county of Shelby.
Now how in creation did four little places in East Texas ever get to be so common on the tongues of dice players? I once set out to solve that mystery. At Tenaha, Bobo, and Blair I found no one who could shed any light on the matter.
At Timpson, I located R.R. Morrison, Colonel, U.S. Army (retired) who said that the old dice shooter's cry had its beginnings right there in town just before World War I. Morrison was then captain of a local company of infantry organized as Fory's Fusileers, named in honor of a Timpson railroad agent, H.R. Fory. The Fusileers later became Company B, 3rd Texas Infantry, of the National Guard, and Colonel Morrison led the company to France in World War I.
Just before leaving home the infantrymen in that company had a few dice games, as soldiers anywhere are apt to do before going overseas, or even when they're coming home, for that matter. Anyway, while talking to the dice as crapshooters do and calling on them to make ten, one of the boys happened to yell, "Tennyhaw!" Which inspired another, who was apparently betting his friend would make the point, to answer with "Timpson!" and somebody threw in Bobo and Blair. This was a natural thing, for the four towns lay within a few miles of each other along the railroad and passengers were accustomed to hearing the stations called out in that order. And it made a nice alliterative phrase, pleasing as it rolled off the tongue.
The names of the soldiers who applied this cry to crap shooting will remain forever a mystery, but the fact is clear that the phrase sailed to Europe with Fory's Fusileers. There it fell on fertile ground and spread to dice games the world over. During World War II in Europe I heard dice players from New York and Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada, and California and various other states invoking the dice to make ten in the name of Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair, but I never found one who'd believe me when I explained that those are the names of four small towns in Shelby County, Texas.
----- Leon Hale, "Turn South at the Second Bridge," 1964
"On last Thursday afternoon, a terrible gale of cold wind swooped down upon this devoted section while in its shirt-sleeves, that cleared the thoroughfares in a few brief and hurried good-bye moments, killed business dead, stopped all out-door work, sent men tumbling into their overcoats, and in a few hours froze all creation stiff and hard.
The gale blew great guns all of Thursday night, and on Friday morning the thermometer actaully went down to 1 degree above the point of zero!
The Colorado was frozen entirely over at Bluffton, Marble Falls, and other crossing where the water was comparatively shallow and still. The ice ranged from half to over an inch in thickness, which is unprecedented. At Marble Falls, it took over two hours to cut a passage for the ferry boat on Friday. The Llano river was also a mass of ice in places. Mr. J.J. Smith saw a horse pass over it at Llano town. Hamilton Creek was frozen all over as far as the eye could see with thickness of two and three inches reported and the boys had a lively time sliding."
------ Burnet Bulletin, January 1866
"Havin' fun while freedom fightin' must be one of those lunatic Texas traits we get from the water ---- which is known to have lithium in it ----- because it goes all the way back to Sam Houston, who was surely the most lovable, the most human, and the funniest of all the great men this country has ever produced."
----- Molly Ivins, journalist, humorist, and essayist
"The rivers, especially the Colorado, Brazos, Guadalupe, and Nueces, were only crossable at a few fords when in full flow, and sometimes not even then, making ferries vital, for bridges as yet could span only the minor tributaries. The communities that appeared by 1800 grew up beside the rivers: San Antonio de Bexar, capital of the early province under Spain, and known colloquially both as San Antonio and simply as Bexar, sat on the upper reaches of the San Antonio River, one hundred and forty miles from the coast.
Downstream, just fifty miles from the Gulf, the river passed La Bahia, which men would later rename Goliad. Gonzales grew up seventy miles due east of Bexar, and fifty miles north of Gonzales sat Mina on the edge of the Hill Country. The major future settlement would land between the Lavaca and the Trinity, but as of 1800 that stretch of territory sat virtually uninhabited except by a few tribes of Koshatta, Karankawa, and other native peoples. Above the Trinity almost no settlement appeared except at Nacocdoches some fifty miles from the Sabine. Meanwhile, all of that vast empire north and west of the settle area was the home ground of the feared Comanche.
Primal forces of earth itself created this Texas, ripped it apart in the separation of the continent, then drove it back together in a geological metaphor for the human history to come. Indeed, even as the first European men ventured north of the Nueces to find that rich land of gentle breezes and tall waving grass, the strains in the earth's crust continued their epochal battle to shape the land. But then came men with their own ideas about shaping a world above all that terrestrial turmoil, men with younger traditions than those of tectonic stresses, but just as deeply ingrained in them as were the shifting of the plates beneath their feet. They, too, carried in their blood a compulsion for change, for destruction, revolution, and rebuilding, only theirs was not the patience of the eons. The primal forces that drove them wanted metamorphosis within the scale of a lifetime rather than over uncounted millennia. They came because the earth itself made this Texas a lure. They stayed because of what they saw they might do with it. And inevitably, they warred among themselves in the conflict of their dreams.
Chance and geography placed Texas at one of history's crossroads. At the dawn of a new century in a New World, that intersection was about to become very busy indeed."
----- William C. Davis, "Lone Star Rising: The Revolutionary Birth of the Texas Republic"
"The country seems like a bowl, and when a man sits down the horizon surrounds him at the distance of a musket shot. There are no groves of trees except at the rivers.... In traversing 800 miles, [no] mountain range was seen, nor a hill nor a hillock three times as high as a man."
----- Pedro Castaneda, one of the soldiers who accompanied Coronado on his expedition across the southwest United States from 1540-1542, describes the first European encounter with the incredibly flat Texas Panhandle
"But it so happened that a man by the name of Burleson, from the Austin country of Texas, had a herd of cattle just behind mine. With my assistance his herd had been saved from capture and the two herds were very close together each night. Burleson had gone through to Ft. Sumner some weeks before, and was there awaiting the arrival of the herd. The herd on account of delay, was late in getting in, and Burleson, being very uneasy about the cattle would make trips down the trail about once a week, as far as he could venture with a small party.
On one of these trips he met the ox-wagon, and Mexicans with Loving. He at once returned to Ft. Sumner as fast as a horse could take him and got the government ambulance and doctors, meeting the ox-wagon some fifty miles down the trail. The doctors dressed Loving's wounds and returned with him to Ft. Sumner, where he appeared to do well for a few days, but the wound in the arm would not heal, the one in the side having healed.
On another of Burleson's excursions down the trail I met him some seventy-five miles below Ft. Sumner, in rather a peculiar way. Knowing we had to pass through some broken country before camping time, it was my usual custom to go ahead, generally alone, to reconnoiter, to ascertain whether any Indians were present or not, to prevent surprise. On this evening two or three hours by sun, I had gone into these brakes a mile at least north of the trail it being my custom never to follow the trail on such excursions. While slipping around through the brakes, I saw a man coming into the hills. I was perfectly sure it was an Indian and maneuvered around keeping out of his sight, aming to cut him off from the brakes and get him. This man seemed to be very cautious, peeping from one hill to another, but coming in my direction.
When he got close enough I discovered he was a white man. I then got my horse and rode in open ground. Strange to say, I rode some little distance in the open before he saw me. However, I had worked around until I was almost behind him and he was interested in looking ahead. When he did see me, he started to run, but when he saw me making signals he halted and allowed me to overtake him. He was so anxious about the herd that it was some time before I could get any definite information.
I told him that Loving had been killed by the Indians some hundred miles below. He said, "Loving is at Ft. Sumner." I said, 'Impossible, he was killed by the Indians.' He says, 'He is not dead; he is now in Sumner.' He then related the circumstance of meeting the ox-wagon getting the ambulance and taking Loving to Ft. Sumner, saying he thought he would get well. He said Loving had sent a message to me should he find me, to come to Sumner at once. We returned to the herds and caught the best animals we had, and about one hour by sun, I started. After riding all night I reached Ft. Sumner about two hours by sun, making the distance of about seventy-five miles, in fourteen
hours. I soon met Mr. Loving, who was walking around feeling well with his arm in a sling. He felt confident he would recover, yet I did not like the looks of the wound. The old post doctor being at Las Vegas on a court martial, had left the young doctor in charge who assured him it was all right. After resting two or three days, Mr. Loving asked me to go to the mountains and recover some stock which had been stolen from us several months before, six or eight fine mules and some saddle horses. The stock was scattered from in behind Las Vegas to San Jose on the Pecos River, below Sante Fe. I was gone about ten days and recovered all the stock.
When I reached within thirty miles of Ft. Sumner, I met a courier hunting me, saying that Mr. Loving had sent him for me, that he was very sick, that the arm from its long neglect and the excessive heat had become poisoned; gangrene having set in, necessitating amputation. He didn't want the operation performed unless I was there, fearing he might not survive the operation. I left the stock in charge of the hired man and in a few hours reached Ft. Sumner. The next morning the operation was performed, and he came out from under the choloform in good shape and then rallied for some forty-eight hours, when the arteries commenced to leak. They then had to re-chloroform, take the arm apart and re-tie the arties. He then revived from the chloroform, but gradually sank from that time on. While he had a great and strong constitution, he had gone through more than a man could stand, and twenty-two days later, died. He was buried at Ft. Sumner by the officers of the garrison, who showed us a great kindness.
In October 1867, I returned to Ft. Sumner from Colorado and took his body placing the metal casket in a wagon drawn by a pair of good mules and returned it to his home, in Weatherford, Texas, something over six hundred miles, where he was buried by his own lodge of Masons, and where his body now rests."
----- Charles Goodnight, as told to J. Evetts Haley
"Texas is a powerful word, and its power is magnified within the state. Attaching those two syllables to all manner of things -- and people and creatures -- lends them a certain authenticity and Texas-ness. That slice of bread isn't just toast. It's Texas Toast. That song on the radio isn't just country. It's Texas Country. That creature isn't just a toad. It's a Texas Toad, also known by its not-as-catchy scientific name, Anaxyrus speciosus."
------- MANNY FERNANDEZ, "When They Say 'State Your Name,' She Says: 'Yes, It Is'", New York Times, February 14, 2017
We wanted to come [in 1869] to a new place so our children could grow up with the country. I came willing (my husband said he could live ten years longer in Texas); and I have never regretted it one moment, but oh, how sorry I was to leave our Mississippi home where six of my children were born; four came with us, two were left back in Shady Grove graveyard. We finally got to a place in Texas now called Morgan [Bosque County]. It was then the Nichols Place. Then on to Dr. Russell's on Steel's Creek.
I remember well what a dinner we had. There was a large dish filled with turnips and the greens cooked together with a large square of beef that looked exactly like streaked bacon. I thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted, so I handed my plate for a second helping.
Dr. Russell killed a wild turkey soon after we got here that weighed twenty pounds dressed. We could hear the turkeys gobble every morning just before day. We bought a beef weighing 800 pounds for seven dollars. We had pork but no dainties. I made all my own soap. I did all my own washing, made all the clothes for the family. Kept them clean. They never went with holes in their clothes or stockings...
Women, they stayed at home and did the work. I would work hours at night after I had put my little children to bed. Sometimes I could do more at night than I could in daytime.
-----Letter written by the mother of John A. Lomax, quoted in "The Adventures of a Ballad Hunter," 1947
"The Texas Ranger is not so handsome as an eight-dollar-a-week dry-goods clerk, but he is more courageous than a Numidian lion and tougher than a Mexican burro. His language might sound a little barbaric in a London drawing room, but he can successfully ride a broncho pony and kill a Mexican horse thief at five hundred yards with his eyes shut. His manners are not exactly Chesterfieldian, but this deficiency in etiquette is more than offset by the aestheticism he displays in scalping an Indian, He may not be up on the tariff question, but he can follow a blind trail at a gallop and never miss the way. It is possible that he cannot tell the difference between the hypothesis of atomic evolution and a lunar eclipse, but he knows a "rustler" at sight and can name half the fugitives in Texas. Taken altogether, the ranger is a tough case and most of them have been born on the headwaters of Bitter Creek, where the natives are 'wild and wooly and hard to curry.'
The further you go on this Classic Stream, the tougher the citizen. Underneath this rough exterior the Ranger hides a heart as simple and guileless as a child's and a soul whose tenderest chords are instantly touched by human misery or woe. He cleans his gun, washes his shirt, and repairs his saddle on Sunday, but he will share his only dollar with a man in want and throw his last biscuit to a hungry dog. His salary is meager, and he does not profess to love his country as dearly as he does a candidate for the Legislature, but he will tackle a bunch of rustlers single-handed, and round em up, too. He never saw the inside of a college but he has been the advance courier of civilization and has made his life and property safe in Texas. Half the time he receives no credit for his work. He does his duty all the same. Short-sighted Legislators grumble and growl when they are called upon to pay him his pittance, and every year cut down the appropriation. Penurious taxpayers insist that he is a burden upon the State. He returns them their stolen horses and cattle, brings to justice the man who robs them on the highway, and guards their houses day and night.
The Ranger is hardly ever out of the saddle. He is the original and only "solitary horseman" who has been scouring the plains in search of Indians ever since the dawn of the dime novel. He is Young America's beau ideal of border chivalry. The Ranger can ride harder, fight longer, live rougher, and talk less about it than anyhting that walks on two feet. He wears a sombrero and spurs, thus accoutred, and with a two dollar government blanket, he will defy alike the rains of summer and the snows of winter. he generally dies with his boots on, and as the State does not furnish rosewood caskets and cemetery lots for her fallen rangers, his comrades wrap him up in and old blanket and,
In an unmarked shallow grave,
They lay him to rest;
His saddle for a pillow
His gun across his breast"
----- Alexander Edwin Sweet, "Texas Siftings," 1882
“THE TEXAS RED ANT.
There are several kinds of ants in Texas, but the red one comes most into public notice.
Like all red-headed animals, this ant is of a very irascible turn of mind. When angry, the red ant knows no bounds to its rage, and respects no person or part of a person. It shows its temper most at picnics, but it has been even known to bite a good little boy on his way to Sunday school. Except, perhaps, the wasp, the red ant is the least amiable of insects.
There are a great many different sizes of ants, assorted as if manufactured to suit the different tastes of different people; but the sting of the smallest of them is large enough to satisfy the most demanding; at least, the party who gets stung is usually willing, in the heat of the moment, to swear that it is as large as a tenpenny nail. The most common and unpopular kind of an ant is an unhappy medium between extremes. Although he does not live and have his nest in the busy haunts of men, he is disposed to be rather familiar at times. To begin at the front end of the ant, he has two feelers growing out of the bumps of mirthfulness on his large, full forehead. These feelers are used in shaking hands with other ants.
Like the man who has his quarrel just, the red ant is doubly armed, having for a mouth a pair of pincers that will bite off the corner of an iron safe. At the southern end of him Providence has provided him with a javelin not unlike the hip-pocket weapon of the wasp, and which he uses with both celerity and liberality when occasion offers. At barbecues and picnics, when man tramples on the rights and property — the hearths and homes of the ant, that insect is very apt to take part in a joint discussion ; and usually a delegation of ants, with a reprehensible lack of modesty, will climb upward under the clothing of the seeker after rural joys, and seizing a piece of him in their unmerciful jaws, shake and tug at it as the boarder does in his efforts to masticate the spring chicken of the city boardinghouse. Having securely anchored his head, the ant humps himself, like unto an irate cat on a fence, and then drives several yards of envenomed sting into the leg of the unsuspecting excursionist, who, for a moment afterward, is undecided whether he should climb a tree or take off his clothes and go in swimming. He usually compromises by dancing the Can-can and using language not intended for publication, but merely given as a guarantee of good faith.
The way a single red ant can make a lazy man get up and move around is truly wonderful. Solomon must have had such a scene in his mind when he told the sluggard to go to the ant.
The ant does not work during the winter months, but remains at home and sits by the fire all day telling lies about the peculiar winters they used to have when he first came to Texas. It was for a long time a disputed point as to whether ants worked at night, until a scientist from Boston received light and other experience on the subject, when he was visiting Austin last year for the benefit of his health. He procured the services of the hotel clerk to aid him in his researches. Armed with a walking-cane and accompanied by a lantern, they went out one night and found an ant hill. The scientist brought an eye-glass to bear on the ant hill at short range, while the genial hotel clerk stirred up the ants' nest with the cane. Soon the doubts of the scientist as to the late working hours of the ant were removed. When he returned to his room, upward of twenty healthy specimens of an ant, with a Latin name a yard long, were removed from his scientific anatomy with a pair of tongs.”
----- Alexander Edwin Sweet, “Texas Siftings,” 1884
"When the Indians robbed houses they invariably took all the books they could find, using the paper to pack their shields. They knew, as well as we did, the resistance paper has against bullets. Paper offered more resistance to a bullet than anything to be had upon the frontier, unless it was cotton. The Indians knew this and stole all the books and paper they could find ...
Their shield was made by forming a circular bow of wood two or three feet across, over each side of which was drawn untanned buffalo hide from the neck of the buffalo, the toughest and thickest they cold get. They filled between the hide with paper. In times of action, the Indian had this on his elbow and always aimed to keep it at an angle between you and him. Very few of the old fashioned rifles would penetrate these shields. The rifle I carried then , and still have, would knock a hole right through them at any angle. I once shot an Indian down on the Quitaque. I did not kill him, but he dropped his shield. Between the folds of hide was a complete history of Rome, and the boys had considerable fun passing the sheets around and reading them.”
------ Charles Goodnight, as quoted in the Panhandle-Plains Historical Review, 1928
"Texas is a den of thieves .... a rendezvous of rascals for all the continent."
------- Horace Greeley, 1850
"I reached some plains so vast, that I did not find their limit anywhere I went, although I travelled over them for more than 300 leagues ... with no more land marks than if we had been swallowed up by the sea .... [T]here was not a stone, nor bit of rising ground, nor a tree, nor a shrub, nor anything to go by."
----- Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in a letter to the King of Spain on Oct. 20, 1541, describing the Llano Estacado, somewhere on the southern great plains (i.e. the Panhandle) of Texas
Woodrow Call: ...and if that ain't bad enough you got all them Greek words on there, too.
Gus McCrae: I told you, Woodrow, a long time ago it ain't Greek, it's Latin.
Woodrow Call: Well what does it say in Latin?
[Gus blusters some gibberish]
Woodrow Call: For all you know it invites people to rob us.
Gus McCrae: Well, the first man that can read Latin is welcome to rob us as far as I cam concerned. I'd like a chance t' shoot an educated man once in my life."
----- dialogue between Gus McCrae (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow Call (Tommy Lee Jones) in the television mini-series "Lonesome Dove"
"We have a saying in Texas: the rooster crows, but the hen delivers the goods."
----- former Texas agriculture commissioner Jim Hightower
"During the long Texas drought of the 1950's a joke ---- probably already as old as the state ---- was told again and again about a man who bet several of his friends that it would never rain again, and collected from two of them."
----- western author Elmer Kelton, who lived most of his life in San Angelo
"I have the honor to report my arrival here with the camels. They are in good condition, considering their long confinement on shipboard and the tossing upon the sea that they have been subjected to and, with the exception of a few boils and swollen legs, are apparently in good health. On being landed and feeling once again the solid earth beneath them, they became so excited to an almost uncontrollable degree, rearing, kicking, crying out, breaking halters and, by other fantastic tricks, demonstrating their enjoyment of the liberty of the soil."
----- Major Henry C. Wayne, writing in 1856 after delivering camels imported from Egypt to Texas for testing as an alternative to horses and mules for the Army.
"The first fictional Texas movie appeared in 1908. It was made in Denmark, of all places, and it had the ultimate Texas title, "Texas Tex." The Great Northern, a film company located in Copenhagen, used "genuine" American Indians, members of a Wild West show on tour, to add authentic color to "Texas Tex." Since Great Northern had offices in New York as well, "Texas Tex" was distributed in the United States and billed as an "American story for Americans."
"Texas Tex" mixed scenes of Western life such as capturing and taming wild horses with routine melodrama. A bad cowboy and his sidekick, a Sioux Indian, steal Texas's horses and abduct his sweetheart. In the woods the cowboy tries to kiss her, and she resists. Then the Indian kills his partner, hoping to have the girl to himself. He ties her to a tree, but Tex arrives just in time to coldcock the Indian and reclaim his sweetheart."
----- Don Graham, "Cowboys and Cadillacs"
"I once punched cattle on the T-Bar Ranch. As we followed a long string of white-face cattle across the bed of an old alkali lake reflecting the moon's light, while the wind swept across the plains and the coyotes howled from the head of Laguna Rica, I wanted to answer the forces of nature, and did answer them, in wild-half maniac compositions of my own. In such times and for such reasons are cowboy ballads born."
------- R. L. Smith
"The story of the first Texas pardon is this: a woman was convicted of murdering her husband and was sentenced to be "erected [?] by the neck until dead, dead, dead. Sam Houston was President of the Republic and pardoned the woman with the chivalrous statement that 'when all the men in Texas that need hanging get hanged, then it will be time enough to start inflicting that punishment on the women.' "
----- Traces of Texas (me) around a campfire in Terlingua, 2012
“Of the world's four great cuisines ----- French, Italian, Chinese and Texas ----- only the latter has a recipe beginning “First, dig a three-foot-deep-hole ...”
----- Jerry Flemmons, writing in his column in the Fort Worth Star Telegram
"The air was full of ice needles that drove into the exposed flesh and stuck, but did not seem to melt. The snow seemed to parallel the ground in its flight, yet the plains grass was covered by it in a few minutes and it rolled along the ground with the wind. That wind didn't turn aside ... There wasn't a hill between us and the North Pole and that wind must have come all the way ---- and gathering power at every jump."
----- J.C. Tolman, describing the 1887 Christmas blizzard in Palo Duro Canyon
"Whether your destination is heaven or hell, you always have to change planes in Dallas."
----- Kinky Friedman, musician, author, and former Texas gubernatorial candidate
"It was so dry once, the fish would crawl up out of the creek and hang around the back door, waiting for us to throw out some dishwater. Some years it got so bad out here we had to gather 'em all up and douse 'em with tick powder."
----- Warren Klein, Hill Country rancher noted raconteur
"Achtung! Alle touristen und non-technischen lookenpeepers! Das machine is nicht fur fingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen und poppencorken mit spitzen sparken. Das machine is diggen by experten only. Is nicht fur gerwerken by das dummkopfen. Das rubbernecken sightseeren keepen das cottenpicken hands in das pockets. Relaxen und watchen das blinkenlights."
------ Sign on sausage machine at Wurstfest in New Braunfels, 2015
"We take great pleasure in announcing to our readers in the upper country, that the Overland Mails which left San Antonio on the 26th [July] under the contract entered into between the government and James F. Birch, Esq., of Sacramento, arrived on the 31st, at noon precisely, in charges of Mr. James E. Mason, the party having made the trip in the unprecedentedly short time of 34 traveling days.
The event naturally created the greatest enthusiasm among our people, and was hailed with a salute of 100 anvils, the firing of crackers, and the general congratulations of the citizens. It was looked upon as the most important event which has ever occurred in the annals of San Diego."
----- San Diego Herald, September 5, 1857
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.