Medium 9781574415322

Cowboys, Cops, Killers, and Ghosts

Views: 2876
Ratings: (0)

This Publication of the Texas Folklore Society has something for everyone. The first section features a good bit of occupational lore, including articles on cowboys--both legendary ones and the relatively unknown men who worked their trade day by day wherever they could. You’ll also find a unique, personal look at a famous outlaw and learn about a teacher's passion for encouraging her students to discover their own family culture, as well as unusual weddings, somewhat questionable ways to fish, and one woman's love affair with a bull. The backbone of the PTFS series has always been miscellanies--diverse examinations of the many types of lore found throughout Texas and the Southwest. These books offer a glimpse of what goes on at our annual meetings, as the best of the papers presented are frequently selected for our publications. Of course, the presentations are only a part of what the Society does at the meetings, but reading these publications offers insight into our members' interests in everything from bikers and pioneers of Tejana music to serial killers and simple folk from small-town Texas. These works also suggest the importance of the "telling of the tale," with an emphasis on oral tradition, as well as some of the customs we share. All of these things together--the focus on tradition at our meetings, the fellowship among members, and the diversity of our research--are what sustain the Texas Folklore Society.

List price: $34.95

Your Price: $27.96

You Save: 20%


25 Chapters

Format Buy Remix

Preface by Kenneth L. Untiedt



I’ve always said that the backbone of the Publications of the Texas

Folklore Society series is miscellanies, collections of articles on a wide variety of topics—or at least four or five that can be arranged in chapters. This volume is just such a miscellany, and it has something for everyone. The first paper I ever presented at a TFS meeting was on lore in the law enforcement field, and Chapter 1 of this book features a good bit of occupational lore, including a unique, personal look at a famous outlaw, followed by two articles on some of the people who stand on the other side of the law, cops and attorneys. You’ll also find a few papers on cowboys—both legendary ones and the relatively unknown, forgotten men who worked their trade day by day wherever they could. Articles in other chapters cover many of the customs, rituals, legends, ghost stories, and treasure hunting tales that make up the lore of Texas and the Southwest. You’ll learn about a teacher’s passion for encouraging her students to discover their own family culture, country churches and unusual weddings, bikers and their customs, somewhat questionable ways to fish, and one woman’s love affair with a bull.


Jerry Young - “Recalling a Texas Legend: Samuel Thomas ‘Booger Red’ Privett”





Thomas “Booger Red” Privett is a Texas legend who doesn’t fit the mold of the hard- drinking, hard-fisted, fast-on-the-draw, womanizing Texas cowboy of Hollywood and pulp westerns.

Thomas Privett was a teetotaler and a devoted family man. He was a gentleman with a horribly scarred faced. His work clothes were ducking jeans and a chambray shirt. Booger didn’t measure tall by some standards, but his five feet, five inches dominated the world of bronc riding during the first quarter of the 20th Century.

In 1915, The San Francisco Chronicle identified Booger Red as

“. . . the famous Texas cowboy known from the Atlantic to the

Pacific.”1 Foghorn Clancy, a chronicler of early rodeos, assessed

Booger Red this way: “For more than a quarter century, Booger

Red was regarded as the greatest bronc rider in the world.”2 Booger

Red’s home town paper, the San Angelo Morning Times, extolled him as “the Paul Bunyan of Outlaw Horse Riders.”3 Reality and legend often become indistinguishable in the Booger Red saga, but the legend tips closer towards reality by his championship record. “He took firsts in bronc-riding contests in San Angelo and Fort Worth.


Courtney Elliott - “The Legacy of Bill Pickett, The Dusky Demon”



DUSKY DEMON by Courtney Elliott

For what reason would a cowboy run his horse full-blast after a calf, bail off sideways onto its head, then pull the animal to a halt?

One explanation for such eye-catching behavior could be attributed to either the cowboy’s real life experiences, or to the sport of rodeo in which he vigorously competes. Both of these motives were true for Bill Pickett at one point or another. He fought an uphill battle while participating in a pastime that was dominated by white men. It surely was not easy for him to gain respect from his fellow competitors when his ethnicity was discovered to be that of an African American. Coming from the most humble of beginnings, he persevered through it all to develop a rodeo event so that generations to come would remember and cherish the cowboy way. Steer wrestling has become one of the most unique of the rodeo events, stemming directly from an incident that happened not in an arena, but on the range. Bill Pickett, a native Texan and the first African American to make it big in rodeo, left a remarkable legacy by founding the steer wrestling event, which is still vigorously competed in today, worldwide.


Len Ainsworth - “Day Work Cowboys in the Depression Era”




Dust from the trail herds had long since settled, and the open range was also gone. But “day work” cowboys were needed for ranches large and small during the years between the last two world wars. They were needed for riding pasture fences, doctoring sheep and cattle in the screwworm season, moving livestock, and sometimes for running pumps when the windmills stopped turning as summer winds forgot to blow. They were needed in even larger numbers for roundups.

Roundups were holdovers of the earlier days before fenced pastures, when men from various ranches gathered cattle and sorted them out according to brand and owner. Even after cattle were held in smaller enclosures numbers of cowboys were still necessary for gathering, branding and marking stock, and sorting out animals to be sold, separated, and moved. Some ranches still drove cattle to nearby markets or shipping facilities, and needed part-time help for the drives. Many ranches still had large pastures that required several riders to gather the livestock. But those ranches couldn’t afford to maintain a large crew at all times, so temporary help was needed. Hence, the “day work” cowboy was a fixture for several years throughout the west.


Robert J. (Jack) Duncan - “Red Overton, Somervell County Cedar-Chopper"



CEDAR-CHOPPER by Robert J. (Jack) Duncan

If they made a film about Red Overton, I don’t know who they could get to play him—now that John Wayne and Robert

Mitchum are permanently unavailable. Maybe there’s a stuntman out there who could pull it off, but I really doubt it.

Red Overton was a larger-than-life backwoodsman who lived in Somervell County, Texas. He was a big, raw-boned man with big hands. Some called him “Bear Track” Overton because of the size of his feet. Red stood six-foot-two. And he was as tough and gnarled as the cedar (actually juniper) growing on those rocky

Somervell County hills.

Red was a quiet man. He didn’t have much formal education, but he was wise in the ways of the woods. In the 1920s and 1930s,

Overton was a post cutter: he cut cedar posts for barbed wire fencing and sold them for a few cents apiece at a nearby crossroads store. Sometimes he traded them for cans of Prince Albert pipe tobacco, from which he rolled his own cigarettes.

Red Overton’s full name was Ebra John Hardy Overton. He was born on January 12, 1893, in Randolph, Alabama. He moved to Texas as a very young child with his family. He died on


Chuck Parsons - “Folklore of Gunfighter John Wesley Hardin: Myths, Truths, and Half-Truths”




AND HALF-TRUTHS by Chuck Parsons

John Wesley Hardin was born in Fannin County, Texas, in May of

1853. He was too young to fight in the Civil War, but was the right age to mature as one of the Unreconstructable Rebels. The study of that period makes Texas post-Civil War history so fascinating. In spite of being the son of a circuit riding preacher, he ignored the sixth commandment, the one that says: “Thou Shalt

Not Kill.” He killed his first man in 1868 in Polk County; he killed many more all over Texas, Indian Territory and Kansas, before being finally captured in Florida in 1877. He was tried and convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to twenty-five years in Huntsville Penitentiary, and was then pardoned in 1894 by Governor Hogg. After some time spent in Gonzales where he passed the bar exam and became a full-fledged attorney-at-law, he drifted west to Junction, then on to Pecos and then on to El Paso.

At the time El Paso was wild and wooly, just what he liked. He could not avoid trouble, and John Wesley Hardin was shot to death in the Acme Saloon in August 1895. Contrary to what many of the


Scott Hill Bumgardner - “Houston Cop Talk”


HOUSTON COP TALK by Scott Hill Bumgardner

Every occupation or walk of life seems to have unique terminology.

I plunged into a world that was full of unique slang and terms that have entered the realm of oral tradition. In September of 1976, I became a cadet in the Houston Police Department’s academy. My career as a Houston Police Officer and Sergeant spanned more than twenty years, until I retired in 1997. Even in the academy my fellow trainees and I were exposed to a few of the terms, but the real enlightenment began when we were assigned to the department’s patrol functions. Some of this jargon is commonly used in other police departments. Several of these terms have been used in police novels and film portrayals. But, I believe many of the terms I include here were born on the streets of Houston, Texas.

The following paragraph is an example of Houston cop talk. It is written in the descriptive vernacular an officer might use to detail what happened during his day of work to another officer. The slang words are underlined.


Jerry B. Lincecum - “Jury Selection the Old-Fashioned Way”



OLD-FASHIONED WAY by Jerry B. Lincecum

Anyone who has reported for jury service and made it to the voir dire phase may have wondered how attorneys decide whether to strike or accept potential jurors. With the literal meaning “to speak the truth,” the French phrase voir dire denotes the preliminary examination the court may make of potential jurors to determine competence or bias. Trial lawyers know that jury selection is an art, and today in publicized or important trials, highly trained consultants in jury selection are hired by opposing counsels. These modern day specialists are trained in social psychology, and they make a careful study of every person on the list of potential jurors. The purpose is to ascertain, as far as possible, how the lives of a potential juror might influence that person’s decision in a given case.

However, social psychology as a specific field of knowledge applicable to jury selection has been codified for only a few decades. How did “old school” Texas country lawyers handle jury selection back in the pre-WWII and mid-20th century era? This essay will address that question in two ways: (1) by making a case study of several thousand 3 ϫ 5 cards belonging to a Sherman,


Veronica Pozo - “The Texas Biker Sub-Culture and the Ride of My Life”



RIDE OF MY LIFE by Veronica Pozo

The idea for this paper was inspired by my then-fiancé’s newfound interest in joining a bike club in 2012. My initial response was surprise and confusion. Who was this man whom I have been dating for the past four years? In my opinion, he was nothing like the stereotypical bike club member. After all, a bike club was just another name for a gang filled with drug dealers, pimps, and murderers. Right? My future husband definitely does not fall under any of those categories, but I have to admit that he has always had a passion for motorcycles. That man is like a little boy in a candy shop the minute he steps foot into a Cyclegear, and the more miles he puts on his bike, the closer he is to solving his problems. He once said to me, “Whenever I ride, I leave all my stresses and worries of life behind me.” I did not understand what exactly he was talking about until he took me for a ride for the first time. After that first experience, I had to agree with him. The adrenaline rush is hard to express in words, but I get the same feeling every time I hear the sound of a motor. Therefore, my increasing passion for riding, along with my intimidations and suspicions of bike clubs, motivated me to do some research of my own. After spending some time with the BikerBoyz-BikerBabez, I realized that my initial thoughts concerning the biker community could not have been more wrong.


Jenson Erapuram - “Texan Knanaya Catholics and Their Wedding Customs”



WEDDING CUSTOMS by Jenson Erapuram

“You are Knanaya? What is that?” I have heard these questions many times in my life—from Texans, other Americans, and a great number of Indians, too. Surprisingly, I have been asked this question mostly from people I met during my stay in Kerala, a state in India which happens to be home to the largest number of Knanaya Catholics and

Jacobites in the world. Since most people are unfamiliar with the terms “Knanaya” or “Southist,” it is not a surprise that most people have not heard of the history or customs of the Knanites. The history of the Knanites is vague, but it is one that begins more than a millennium ago. The Knanites, throughout their migration from Babylon to India to other parts of the world including Texas, have carried their customs with them—some customs having undergone modifications through the ages, of which the most important are observed at one important milestone in a Knanite’s life; it is a milestone which may be considered important in the lives of many people all over the world across all different cultures: marriage.


Sue M. Friday - “Hemphill: Revisiting Small-Town Texas”




When I was a little girl in the 1950s, the town of Hemphill was magical, a movie set for a turn-of-the-century film. Thriving shops surrounded the large courthouse, men in khakis and overalls, their

Stetsons pushed back, played 42 under a large old cedar tree or sat on the bench talking politics and chewing tobacco. Women in print dresses and lace-up black shoes carrying pocketbooks on their arms met and visited. Only skirt lengths and the dusty pickup trucks lining the curbs were truly modern. Exchange them for longer dresses and horses and wagons and my great and great greatgrandparents would have felt right at home.

My sister Patsy and I stayed on my grandparents’ farm every summer to get away from the polio epidemic in Shreveport. Saturday was town day. Grandma gathered up her butter and eggs,

Grandpa loaded tomatoes and peas, and off we went to peddle produce and purchase the few things the farm didn’t provide.

While Grandma shopped, we went with Grandpa to Charlie Rice’s feed store. “Get those girls a cold drink!” he would tell a helper who went to the drink box and slid out a 6 oz. Coke for me and a


Alex LaRotta - “Música Tejana Recording Pioneers”



Unique to Texas, amongst its diversity in cultures, geography, and folklore, is the independent recording industry born from America’s post-World War II economic boom. What follows is an indepth documentation and history of the Tejanos that pioneered a statewide recording industry, independent of the monopolistic

“big five” record company collective of New York and Chicago.

Starting with Armando Marroquín’s first locally produced conjunto record in 1945 and going up until the end of the independent era with the synthesizer-driven Tejano boom of the late 1980s, this study will focus on the peoples, places, genres, and recording technology throughout Texas within this forty-plus year time frame.

Texas, naturally, was a popular destination for record company talent scouts during the advent of “folk music” record production during the early twentieth century—tall tales of the singing cowboy, Mexican balladeer, and African-American bluesman helped steer interest to the Lone Star borderlands. It wasn’t until the late


Lucy Fischer-West - “‘But Miss, My Family Doesn’t Have a Saga!’”



HAVE A SAGA!” by Lucy Fischer-West

I have been telling stories for as long as I can remember. More specifically, I have been telling my story since the third grade. My homeroom teacher, Miss Ross, was also the librarian, so I was surrounded with books. I came from a home filled with books and scant other furniture except for the antique bookcases they were kept in. It wasn’t that we could afford rare or expensive antiques; those bookcases had been acquired at a second-hand shop in the northeastern United States, where my father spent his first years after arriving in the United States from Germany, landing in America with about five dollars in his pocket in 1912, at the age of twenty one.

By the time I got to 3rd grade in El Paso’s Zavala Elementary

School, I had already gone through Kindergarten, and first and second grade at Escuela Agustín Melgar, a small primary school across the Mexican border in Cd. Juárez where my mother taught.

When Miss Ross gave us the assignment to write the story of our lives, I couldn’t imagine completing it based on my short existence. So, I started by telling my parents’ story. Over forty years later, I began Child Of Many Rivers: Journeys to and From the Rio


Gretchen Kay Lutz - “Living an Urban Legend: Galveston Ball in the Early 1970s”



BALL IN THE EARLY 1970S by Gretchen Kay Lutz

“What brings you to the Treasure Isle?” The interviewer for the

Galveston Independent School District smiled sardonically. He had a good idea why a young married woman right out of college was looking for a teaching job in Galveston. The interviewer presumed

I was the wife of one of the new medical students at the University of Texas Medical Branch. I was one of the scores of young teachers who came to Galveston not because the district had a reputation for good schools or because Galveston itself was a pleasant place to live. I was in Galveston to put my husband through medical school. Teaching in Galveston would be just one of the sacrifices I was willing to make to see my husband become a doctor.

Galveston in 1970 was not what it is today. George Mitchell’s restorations on the Strand and Tilman Fertitta’s Landry Company developments on the Seawall had yet even to be conceived. Always decadent, never much for middle class respectability, Galveston had lured tourists with elaborate, albeit illegal, gambling casinos where famous entertainers played. When the state of Texas shut down wide-open Galveston in 1950, all that could rightly be termed the


Marissa Gardner - “The Truth versus the Legend of the Interstate 45 Serial Killer”




The citizens of Houston know all too well what it is like to live in fear of a serial killer. Between 1971 and 2006, there were thirtytwo homicides and six disappearances that occurred on, or in close proximity to, the southeast side of Interstate 45, which runs through Houston. The victims were all females ranging from less than ten years old to over thirty years old, and their bodies were found raped, beaten, and even decapitated. Four of the bodies were discovered close to each other in fields now known as “The

Killing Fields,” and some bodies were never found. These horrendous crimes were shoved in the faces of Houstonians daily on billboards along Interstate 45 which showed the missing victims’ faces. There were also frequent news broadcasts pushing the idea of the murders being the work of a single serial killer, and still today many Houston residents believe that is the case.

However, the idea that one person got away with this criminal activity for over thirty years and is still out there waiting to take more lives is unreasonable. Facts not widely known are that one man was convicted of four of the murders, and another is suspected by police to have committed some of the other murders. In addition, several other suspects are believed to have been involved, and there have been multiple arrests related to the events. Though there is not solid proof that the murders are the work of more than one person, evidence indicates that there were multiple killers, and probably just two serial killers involved.


Francis Edward Abernethy - “Ghost Towns of the Big Thicket”


GHOST TOWNS OF THE BIG THICKET by Francis Edward Abernethy

This was back in 1960. Somebody told me that there was going to be a big Josey party on Saturday night at Bleakwood in the high school gymnasium. It sounded like an occasion too special to miss, especially since I was heavy into collecting East Texas folk music at the time. Of course, I had never heard of Bleakwood, even though I had spent the better part of my life in East Texas. I studied a road map but never did find it, which raised a few suspicions, but I returned to my informant and he gave me some pretty good directions—and I took my twelve-old-daughter, who at the time, knew pretty well everything that was worth knowing.

We arrived that Saturday night in the general vicinity. It was

June and the evenings were long with sunset, but I drove on through and was a couple of miles beyond Bleakwood before I realized my error. I turned around, and this time carefully retraced my trail until I did finally come to a scattering of houses and off to the right of the road saw a rambling frame building, completely out of place where it happened to be, but looking like a gymnasium with a large number of cars parked on the far side. Sure enough, I had found Bleakwood, or what was left of it.


Stephanie Mateum - “The Ghost Lights of Marfa”



They only come out to play at night. They tease—bright lights that dance in the dark, flirting with the spectators that come from all corners of the world to see them perform. They mask themselves briefly in the darkness with their games of hide-and-seek, disappearing for several seconds in the night before popping back into view. They are unidentified lights, the “Ghost Lights” of Marfa, a phenomenon that appears in the Western Texas horizon with no formal announcement, no cause, no explanation. Every year, hundreds of scientists and thrill-seekers trek to Mitchell Flat, the dangerous terrain above which the lights appear, to seek the answer to the question that skeptics and believers have yet to answer: Is there life in the Marfa lights?

The lights have been described to look like many things by many different people, though they are typically described to have the shape of an orb or basketball, and the colors in which they present themselves differ depending on who you talk to. Hallie Stillwell, a former Presidio County teacher who has viewed the Marfa


Jennifer Curtis - “Beyond Texas Folklore: The Woman in Blue”



IN BLUE by Jennifer Curtis

Many strange tales lurk in the legends and folklore of the southwest. One of the strangest is one of the earliest: The Woman in

Blue. Briefly, in the early 1600s, mission fathers in Texas were asked to investigate a report made by a nun in Spain who said she had visited the area and preached to Indians—while she was in a state of prayer, in her village in Spain. In 1629, a group of Indians came to one of the missions and asked to be baptized, stating that a woman in blue had directed them there. The Custudio, Alonso de

Benavides, went to Spain the following year, 1630, to meet with the young nun, Marie de Agreda, who had visions of herself speaking to Indians and whose order wore a blue cloak. She knew the

Indian sign language, could describe some of the people, and seemed familiar with the country.1 The mystical idea of bilocation, being in two places at the same time, and the documentation of the accounts at the time, both in Texas and in Spain, have added to the mystery and the endurance of the tale.


Load more


Print Book

Format name
File size
2.21 MB
Read aloud
Format name
Read aloud
In metadata
In metadata
File size
In metadata