5) David Crockett
David Crockett was a texas hero. He was supposedly a famous bear hunter, but he was best known for his ability to hunt raccoons/coons–he could just walk into the forest and hunt one down right away. He famously wore one of their pelts on his head at all time, and was almost viewed as the god of the forest.
When the mexican army was closing in on the Alamo, he was there fighting amongst the ranks of the Texan Militia. When the mexican army began to prevail among the ranks, the legend has it that he was one of the last ones to go down fighting. He’s seen as a symbol of bravery and the raw spirit that made up the Texan revolution. However, a legend floated around the Mexican camps that Davy didn’t actually have a last stand. Supposedly the found him hiding crates with a few other men; he begged for mercy but they stabbed him to death with their bayonets.
This story was provided by my Texan friend Ben Butler. He told me this story after I asked him to tell me some folklores. He knew the story really well, and told it in a very heroic, storybook way.
I think this story is very typically texan, reflecting their pride in being a texan, in the whole ordeal of the Alamo, and the fact that Texas used to be a Country. It definitely reflects the whole texan mindset and culture really really well.
The informant is a second year student at the University of Southern California, studying History. He is from Chicago, IL, and he lived abroad in Rome when he was younger. At USC, he is involved with student affairs and television production.
This piece describes one of his father’s, who was raised in Texas, “Southernisms”: folk sayings that invoke themes from the American South.
“Southernisms are a commonly accepted feature of dialect. So, my dad will occasionally say things like “You can lead a horse to the water but you can’t make him drink.” Or, my favorite and the one which has stuck with me my entire life is, “Well, better get my chest high waders on cause the bullshit is flowing deep in here.” So, and I’m not sure why that started happening, uh in my family, but I do know that it’s something my grandfather used to say. Um, so what’s likely is that it was transmitted through my father to me.
And I remember the, it’s always used whenever I—I make any assertion that my dad wants to challenge. And also, one time when literally when our stump pump stopped working and our drains overflowed during like a really heavy period of flooding, so our basement flooded. So there was my dad in his chest high waders. So I said, “Hey dad!” Because I was like five or six. “You’d better get your chest high waders on because the bullshit’s flowing deep in here!” And he laughed and then told me never to say the word “bullshit” again because it was a bad word.”
So aside from you making an assertion, are there other contexts where you would say this?
“Um, okay. Um, as a—as a, uh expression of almost sorrow or disappointment. For example, the 2016 presidential election, whenever Donald Trump opens his fat cheetoh mouth. That’s immortalized for the archives, that’s good to hear, uh, whenever Donald Trump opens his fat orange mouth and says something, my immediate reaction is, “Better get the chest high waders on cause the bullshit’s flowing deep in here.””
This piece expression definitely relies on an understanding of ranching practices, common to Texas, in order for the expression to be fully appreciated. The audience needs to know what chest high waders are normally used for in order for the expression to achieve maximum effect; while those unfamiliar with waders can infer from context, they miss the full context.
“The other thing I remember is my grandmother on my dad’s side, when we would go eat dinner with them, well first of all it was called ‘supper.’ ‘Dinner’ is lunch and ‘supper’ is supper and there would always be at least three meat dishes on the table. So you’d always have, like, venison, there was always fried fish, and there was usually like ham or a roast as the third meat. And then for dessert there were always at least three choices for dessert. And the saying was, ‘You have to clean your plate.’ So . . . yeah, I never felt that great after eating there. So full. But ‘you have to clean your plate.’ If you put it on your plate, you have to eat it. So then you just learn to put less on your plate, unless you’re just gonna make yourself eat it. You can’t throw anything away.”
The informant was a 50-year-old woman who works as a middle school teacher teaching English, dance, and history to 7th and 8th graders. Although she has spent the last 19 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area, she grew up in Lubbock, Texas and Austin, Texas. She is also my mother, and this interview took place over Skype one afternoon when we were talking about things she did when she was growing up. She learned it from both of her grandmothers who “both grew up in the Great Depression and during the war when there wasn’t a lot of, when they used coupons to get their food.” She thinks this proverb is “about not wasting any food. And they didn’t have iceboxes, or well they had iceboxes which didn’t keep the food as well.”
I included the details about central Texas supper because it struck me as interesting and unusual that there always had to be three different kinds of meat on the table. I have no idea why this might have been, but it seems like it was a pretty hard and fast rule. I also thought it was interesting that different people refer to different meals differently, even if they reside in the same country. I agree with the informant that “Clean your plate” is probably related to the time period in which the two women grew up. In addition to there being the Great Depression and WWII, food was generally less abundant in all times before this one. I have often heard this saying in American households and I think it reflects the negative attitude most people have towards wasting food.
My informant told me a story that his father told him once as a child:
“My father tells the story that when he was a small boy he lived with his family in Dallas Texas in the 1930’s. Back then local Texans and Native Americans didn’t get along real well. My grandfather used to tell my father that the “Indians” have so much money from oil on their reservations that they all drive brand new Cadillacs. And when the car runs out of gas they simply leave it by the side of the road and walk away from it and just buy another one with a full tank.”
My informant said that his father was a slightly racist man, and although he would never admit it, he did tell stories such as this one that showed it. He said that his father told this story only once or twice when he was younger, but he remembered it because he believed it to be true.
This piece of folklore shows the racial tension between the Texans and the Indians there at the time. There was clearly a bit of resentment that went into the telling of this story. It seems like this story was meant to put down the Indians by painting them to be less economically responsible than the Texans.