2073 Chapters
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Medium 9781574416558

“The Ethological Approach to Folklore.” Paisanos: A Folklore Miscellany, PTFS XLI, 1978

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

The Ethological Approach to Folklore

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Evolution, comparative anatomy, fetal development, and parallel physical reactions all indicate man’s physical relationship with the rest of the animal kingdom. Ethology is the study of our behavioral relationship. That is, not only are all animals constructed on the same general pattern, but they also act alike and from the same motives.

Everything for animals begins and ends with the food chain and with the problems of getting enough to eat. Animal behavior patterns are genetically selected to insure the group of fish, lizards, crows, monkeys, or men of having no more members than it can provide for over a long period of time and of maintaining these numbers in stable harmony. Folklore is one result of these genetically transmitted behavior patterns which man inherits from and holds in common with his animal ancestors. These behavior patterns—particularly sociality, territoriality, dominance, and sexuality—are modified by thought processes to fit the survival margin of his environment and are transmitted to the social group by symbolic language and example. The results are traditions and folklore which the society establishes in order to promote a stable social union.

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“Snakelore.” Paper Presented at the Eighty-Second Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, Sherman, Texas, April 10, 1998

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Snakelore

[Paper presented at the Eighty-Second Annual

Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, Sherman, Texas,

April 10, 1998]

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And the serpent said unto the woman, “Ye shall surely not die [from eating of the tree of knowledge]; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Soon thereafter, however, God discovers their transgression and asks the man, “Who told thee that thou was naked?”

And shamelessly the man said, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.”

And the woman blamed it on the serpent: “The serpent beguiled me and I did eat.”

And God put a mighty curse on the serpent: “Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, and they shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise their heel.”

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“Dobie’s Only Child: The TFS in 1926.” Paper Presented at the Seventy-Fifth Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, San Marcos, Texas, March 30, 1991

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Dobie’s Only Child: The TFS in 1926

[Paper presented at the Seventy-Fifth Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, San Marcos, Texas,

March 30, 1991]

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Calculating Calvin Coolidge was the president in 1926. Dan Moody had defeated Ma Ferguson in the Texas governor’s race that year, and both candidates had taken strong steps to curb the political power of the Ku Klux Klan. Patriotism, prosperity, and prohibition were the three planks that Texas politicians stood most firmly on.

And everybody felt prosperous except the farmer, who was raising more and getting less.

By 1926 the Twenties were in full roar, and the culture shock suffered by that decade’s elders must have been massive. Few times standing so close together have such a sharp line of distinction as that which existed between pre- and post-WWI. The world before

WWI had been Jeffersonianly rural with all the conservative moral values of that way of life. The post-war Twenties were urban and in direct reaction against all reliques of Victorian morality.

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The Texas Folklore Society: 1943–1971, Vol. II, PTFS LIII, 1994

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

154 The Way Things Were

Preface: to Volume II, in which the author attempts to rectify errors in Volume I

[from The Texas Folklore Society: 1943–1971, Volume II,

PTFS LIII, 1994]

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I open this volume two of the history of the Texas Folklore Society with the errata sheet for volume one because one must confess his sins and rectify them before he can cleanly enter the portals of the next world—and sin again.

Charles Hagelman—back in Houston, Texas, for over ten years but still writing on Northern Illinois University letterhead—pointed out that on page 144 I referred to April 21 as Texas Independence

Day (really March 2) instead of San Jacinto Day. Hagelman also thought that the picture of the western star labeled “Wm. S. Hart” looked like Buster Keaton. It does, in fact, but that is illustrator

Charles Shaw’s area, and I will not take issue. Jack Burnett Kellam, artist-poet-musician of Zellwood, Florida, who has written a book on his longtime friend John Henry Faulk, noted that Frank Dobie

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“Give the World a Smile Each Day.” What’s Going On? (In Modern Texas Folklore) PTFS XL, 1976

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Give the World a Smile Each Day

[Originally, photographs and text by Francis Edward

Abernethy]

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I’ve been doing some serious looking around in the world of religious music, and I believe that modern gospel music is pulling ahead of the rest. University campuses are fielding large groups of young people singing modern up-beat religious songs that have a cool sound and a lot of youthful exuberance, but both the songs and the singers need some seasoning before they can be considered as influential factors in church singing. My favorite religious music,

Sacred Harp, hangs on with celestial tenacity, but it is rare and hard to find. I gave up on First Church singing years ago. Singing there is a formality presided over by huge multi-throated monsters of braying brass that drown out all attempts at human singing and the making of joyful noises. That leaves the field to gospel music and its singers, whose numbers are considerable and increasing.

Gospel music is hard to define for the non-gospel listener, but the Sunday singers know exactly what the music will be when they read that the county singing convention “urges all lovers of gospel music to attend” the fourth-Sunday singing. They know that gospel music is not “a passage from one of the four Gospels, chanted at

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“Dusting Out.” Features and Fillers: Texas Journalists on Texas Folklore, PTFS LVI, 1999

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Dusting Out

Dallas Times Herald

Sunday, November 28, 1982

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During the early years of the Depression the Jim Talbots lived in a two-room shack on Grandad’s Washita River ranch in the Texas

Panhandle. Jim was Grandad’s cousin and he helped out on the place and he was peg-legged. He was a big strong man and he wore this regular strap-on peg leg, and I would have given my toy tractor to have seen him take it off and put it on again. As I remember the story—or imagined it—Jim Talbot got caught in the crossfire in a train robbery at a railroad station and stopped the bullet that eventually cost him his leg. That scene is as vivid in my mind now as it was fifty years ago.

Jim’s family consisted of Jim and Pearl and their three kids—an older girl and a little boy, and Frances, who was seven years old and my age. Girl that she was, she was the only child to play with for miles and miles of Panhandle plains, and she helped to keep away the high lonesomes that always hung over the prairie. Frances was red-headed and completely freckled and ready to explore the far reaches of any barn or plum thicket or rat’s nest. Neither of us could imagine a world without the other, and I loved her dearly.

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“Blowing Away in the Panhandle.” The Family Saga: A Collection of Texas Family Legends, PTFS LX, 2003

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Blowing Away in the Panhandle

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During the good times of the 1920s, Grandad bought a large ranch on the Washita River in the Texas Panhandle. His dream was to have his four sons living near him and working on the ranch. Between the hard times of the Dust Bowl and the drouth, his dream for his family came apart in the process. Dad lost his car business in Shamrock in 1929, and we joined Grandad for a while.

I do not know how long Dad and Mother stayed on the ranch.

It was less than a year. The main story to come out of that time is

Mother’s time of departure. As a city girl, she had not wanted to move to the ranch in the first place, and the ranch was five miles from the mailbox and seventeen miles from Canadian, the nearest town. Mother told this story; Dad never mentioned it.

The bright time of her day, as she remembered, was early morning as she lay in bed and watched a mockingbird in its nest in a wild plum tree near her window. She watched the bird build its nest, lay the eggs, and eventually hatch them. She always stayed in bed through the baby birds’ early morning feeding time. This was her only escape, she says, from the high lonesomes of the barren plains of the Panhandle.

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Between the Cracks of History, Preface to Between the Cracks of History: Essays on Teaching and Illustrating Folklore. PTFS LV, 1997

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Between the Cracks of History

[the Preface to Between the Cracks of History: Essays on

Teaching and Illustrating Folklore, PTFS LV, 1997]

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I wonder if folklorists follow historians like gleaners—or cotton strippers in west Texas—and collect the leavings from academic historians, all the tales and songs and traditions that the historians allow to fall between the cracks? Or that historians sweep under the rug? Or drop? Or choose to ignore?

Historians research, document, and file the facts of a happening. They are supposed to get the details right, but sometimes in following the letter of the investigation, they lose the spirit—which falls between the cracks of history where it is pounced on by the ever-lurking folklorist, who scarfs it up like a hog on a mushmelon.

Maybe its not just historians who let pouncable things fall between the cracks. Maybe folklorists follow doctors around for their droppin’s and leavin’s, and find out that urine relieves bull nettle burn and that tobacco eases the pain of a yellow-jacket sting and that chicken soup is as good for the flu as anything doctors prescribe. And maybe folklorists follow wildlife biologists and conclude that if they hear an owl hoot in the daytime, that owl is watching a buck walking. I hold firmly to that latter belief, by the way, and when the owl hoots I can see vividly in my mind’s eye a big, old mossy-horned buck easing his way through a pine thicket.

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“Running the Fox.” The Sunny Slopes of Long Ago, PTFS XXXIII, 1966

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Running the Fox

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An East Texas fox hunt is more than a hunt. It is a convocation that binds its following together with closer than Masonic ties. The wine is drunk and the bread is broken, but no blood is spilled. The race is the thing, and it is the running of it that is the measure of its significance, not the reward in the end. And the pursued is as important as the pursuers.

Two pickups with pens in the beds pull over to the side of a two-rut, red-dirt road and cut their lights. Men get out and talk and argue for a while, then open the gates to the pens and the hounds spill out—red bones, blue ticks, black and tans, lemon spotted. They scatter in the darkness, each yelping his own personal cry. Then the men wait until pretty soon an old bitch hits a hot trail and in singles and in groups the pack hearkens to her until all are pounding through the woods, pursuing the same quarry. The men get back to their trucks and drive the country roads, stopping silently to listen every few minutes, hunting the best seat in the house to hear the music of the pack. When they find that particular hilltop, they stop, build a fire to cut the chill, and listen and speculate and talk. This continues till the fox trees or goes in the ground.

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“The Golden Log: An East Texas Paradise Lost.” The Golden Log, PTFS XXXI, 1962

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

The Golden Log: An East Texas

Paradise Lost

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I first heard the following East Texas story, with its Paradise Lost theme (A1331), ten years ago from a student of mine at Woodville,

Texas, High School. She told it with only the scantiest of detail, and I do not remember whether she accepted it as fact or as fantasy.

More recently Walter Lavine of Ruliff, Texas, told me a variant of the story; this time the setting was across the river in Louisiana. I have been passing this tale on for several years, every time I discussed the sources of Paradise Lost. In comparison with the first version I heard, current versions have grown; but this has been a growth in detail, not a change in essence.

There used to be a place where the sawmill and the commissary were on one side of a big, deep creek and the settlement on the other. But the people never had any trouble getting across because there was a big golden log spanning the creek and it was easy to walk across.

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Prefaces to the histories: The Texas Folklore Society: 1909–1943, Volume I, PTFS LI, 1992

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Preface: In which the author attempts to justify his verbosity and the length of this history

[from The Texas Folklore Society: 1909–1943, Volume I,

PTFS LI, 1992]

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This book had a beginning that was simple enough, almost accidental. At the end of the 1984 Huntsville business meeting, Jack

Duncan and John O. West asked that all the Society’s programs be published in some upcoming miscellany. This was a simple enough request. They wanted to know what folklore topics members had been interested in and had been talking about since that first TFS gathering in 1911. When I returned to the Society’s office I immediately set Marlene Adams, then the TFS secretary, to typing up all past TFS meeting programs for inclusion in the next PTFS.

The stack of programs made an impressive list and one that activated the typing of another list, the tables of contents of PTFSs that followed the programs. I was prompted to making this second list because I wanted to know the relation of the publications’ contents to the meetings’ contents.

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Preface to Singin’ Texas, Texas Folklore Society Extra Book #18, 1983

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Preface

[from Singin’ Texas, Texas Folklore Society Extra

Book #18, 1983]

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Singing is as natural to some people as scratching a tick bite—and just as compelling. They catch the rhythm of their walk and hum or think a song to go with it. They sing to the click-clack of windshield wipers. And a mood switched on by a beat or a breath of wind or a good looking woman yearns for expression in a howl or a moan or a shout. Some people have to sing. They don’t have to sing to somebody; they sing to and for themselves. They sing to express joy and to get a little beauty in the monotony of their lives or to jack themselves out of despair or to make the blues bearable. They love and they want to groan because of the ache of it, but they sing

“Born to Lose” instead. This is why, like the poor, music will always be with us, and folk music has been with us longer than any other.

Theoretically folk music could go back to man’s animal beginnings and to his animal kinfolk. The rooster crows the message that he is in control of his territory. The coyote howls out his challenge to other dog coyotes that might be considering moving in on his ground. And the range bull rumbles and bellows his warning to those who might be thinking about invading his harem and domain. The sounds that these male animals make when they are announcing their mastery of their territories are not the sounds they make under ordinary circumstances. These are their songs, and they have a recognizable structure and some melodic variation. The male animal sings “This Is My Country!” and tells the world that he is the king of his mountain; the female who is sexually ready sings back “I’m in the Mood for Love,” and like Nelson Eddy and

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“Songs of The Depression.” First-Timers and Old-Timers: The Texas Folklore Society Fire Burns On, PTFS LXVIII, 2012

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Songs of The Depression

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Beans, Bacon, and Gravy

I was born long ago, in 1894,

And I’ve seen lots of hard times, that is true;

I’ve been hungry, I’ve been cold,

And now I’m growing old.

But the worst I’ve seen is 1932.

Refrain:

Oh, those beans, bacon, and gravy,

They almost drive me crazy,

I eat them till I see them in my dreams,

In my dreams,

When I wake up in the morning,

A Depression day is dawning,

And I know I’ll have another mess of beans.

We have Hooverized our butter,

For blued our milk with water,

And I haven’t eaten meat in any way;

As for pies, cakes, and jelly,

We substitute sow-belly,

For which we work the county roads each day.

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

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“Rural Customs in ‘The Specialist.’” Paper Presented at the Seventieth Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, Jefferson Texas, March 28, 1986

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Rural Customs in “The Specialist”

[Paper presented at the Seventieth Annual Meeting of the Texas Folklore Society, Jefferson Texas,

March 28, 1986]

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Periodically I stumble across an old piece of vaudeville-style humor bogged down in the morass of my office files under the “Miscellaneous” label. I always discover it with pleasure and surprise, as if

I’ve found an old friend of my youth. It is Chic Sale’s classic “The

Specialist,” and I read it again with laughter and run off copies to send around to my friends, some of whom remind me that I sent them copies on my last discovery. “The Specialist” is two-generations-old outhouse humor, so a truly appreciative audience, one with first-hand experience with this venerable institution, becomes increasingly hard to find.

One reason for my continuing enjoyment of this semi-scatalogical outhouse humor is that it was an indelible part of my own growing up, not only because it was there that I first discovered strange and what turned out to be everlasting internal murmurings as I studied the ladies’ underwear section in the Sears & Roebuck Catalog, but as it figured in other dramatic incidents during what I considered then to be very uneventful times.

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“Back in the Ought ’Sixties.” Celebrating 100 Years of the Texas Folklore Society, 1909–2009, PTFS LXVI, 2009

Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt and Kira E. Mort University of North Texas Press PDF

Back in the Ought ’Sixties

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I (an English teacher whose academic field was Renaissance drama) became a folklorist in the 1960s, and I am going to tell you about a few of those dear souls who stood in loco parentis and showed me the way.

This all started over coffee and moon pie—at five cents apiece, I might add—in the Lamar Tech faculty lounge, in 1959. The subject of the Texas Folklore Society came up, and a colleague told me that

I should join up with that group. And fifty years ago I did. The following Easter, in 1960, I took the Greyhound from Beaumont and went to present a paper at my first meeting in San Antonio.

I was much impressed with the Menger Hotel, but I was much suppressed by the boisterous jollity of that Thursday evening’s TFS gathering at Casa Rio, when I lately arrived. After dinner, people sang. I sat in the last tier, hugging the shadows. Members were in full cry when I crept out and went back to the hotel to go over my paper for the fiftieth time.

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