USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Texas’
Contagious
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Magic

Legendary Figure: Davy Crockett Fountain

Context: The informant is among two peers of mine who grew up in Texas. My peers began sharing and comparing amusing and humorous pieces of folklore from their hometowns, as well as discussing how the folklore has worked to shape their families’ beliefs and southern values.

Text:

Informant: Okay, so one of my branches of family is from a place called Crockett, Texas, which is a small town near Jasper, Texas, which is a small town near Tyler, Texas, which is a small town near nothing. And, in Crockett, Texas, the claim to fame is that there is this water fountain that David Crockett… and if you know anything about Texas, you know that David Crockett is a Texas history folk legend… took a drink out of one time. And that’s why the whole town is named after it! So, the first time I ever visited that part of my family, I was like six. Everyone was making this big deal about it. They were like, “Oh, we have to go see the Crockett Fountain.” So, I thought it was going to be this gorgeous fountain. No. It was like this… this tree? I just distinctly remember there being a family of bugs living in the water, and my family being like, “Drink from it! Everyone drinks from the Crockett Fountain!” And I was like, “No.” I think you’re supposed to get like good luck or something from it because you’re drinking from the same place as the folklore guy. Everyone is like, “David Crockett took a drink here, so you should, too!”

Informant’s relationship to the item: The informant found this piece of folklore regarding Davy Crockett and his legendary fountain to be very amusing. He expressed disbelief that people would believe in its magical properties, or that he could somehow earn good luck from drinking the same water as Davy Crockett. He did not seem to understand why someone would be willing to brave the sanitation risks in order to take part in an old and seemingly unfounded superstition. The Crockett Fountain clearly holds a lot of significance for the informant’s extended family, as they found it important to organize a family outing to the legendary site. While the informant did not personally share their beliefs, he was able to recognize the site’s importance to his family members. Additionally, the fountain’s association with Davy Crockett, a legendary frontiersman, solider, and American politician, is clearly significant to Texas citizens.

Interpretation: The Crockett Fountain in Crockett, Texas serves as a prime example of folklorist Jame George Frazer’s theory of sympathetic magic, particularly contact or contagious magic. His theory describes the belief among folk groups that certain objects contain magic or good luck that can be spread through touch. Another example of this concept would be when people wear or use lucky items during tests, sporting events, or theatrical productions because they believe the items contain magical properties that will improve their performances. The famous site also reveals how some superstitions have legends associated with them. The spring’s association with David Crockett, the American frontiersman and politician who has become a legendary figure in many southern states, reveals the root of its significance to the people of Texas. His military service in the Texas Revolution and his death in the Battle of the Alamo has framed his existence as being synonymous with Texas folklore.

Works Cited:

To read more about James George Frazer’s theory of Sympathetic Magic, refer to:

Dundes, Alan. “The Principles of Sympathetic Magic.” International Folkloristics, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999, pp. 109-118.

Folk Beliefs
Legends

Texas Mythological Creature: Jackalope

Context: The informant is among two peers of mine who grew up in Texas. My peers began sharing and comparing amusing and humorous pieces of folklore from their hometowns, as well as discussing how the folklore has worked to shape their families’ beliefs and southern values. An excerpt of their conversation can be found below.

Text:

Informant: So, I grew up in Texas and there are a lot of different mythological creatures concerning Texas wildlife. And one thing that people talked about a lot was the jackalope, which is a combined animal of an antelope and a jack rabbit. And it came up a lot when I was going on school field trips to go camping. We went on these camping trips called O.L.E (Outdoor Learning Explorations), and they would tell us not to go out alone at night because the jackalopes would come after us. And so, that really terrified me, so I didn’t go out at night because of the jackalopes. What’s interesting is that people would have these things, like taxidermied jackalopes, on their walls in Texas, and I was like always so confused about why they had jackalopes on their walls. Like, how did you hunt it down? Could you not have died from a jackalope attack? And what’s interesting now looking it up is that it is the state mythological creature of Wyoming, so I guess it’s not just a Texas thing. But yeah, I really thought the jackalope was real until super recently when I Googled it because it was such a big part of my childhood.

Informant’s relationship to the item: My informant seems to be fully indoctrinated into the mythology of her home state; even though she is 20 years old, she only discovered recently that the jackalope is not a real creature — a testament to the large role it plays in the childhoods of children who grew up in her community in Texas. The presence of manufactured taxidermy jackalopes in people’s homes likely added to her confusion about the state of the jackalope’s existence. Additionally, the informant describes growing up in fear of attacks from the jackalope — a fear that was taken advantage of by figures of authority in her life in order to keep children in line.

Interpretation: It is interesting to hear how adults use the existence of the jackalope, as well as its purported vicious nature, as a scare tactic to keep children in line. The creature appears to serve a similar role in tight-knit southern communities as early fairy tales did, which were geared toward teaching children both moral and practical lessons. Belief in the creature, or at least knowledge of its legendary status, seem to be deeply ingrained in the psyches of Texas citizens. Additionally, the practice of cryptozoology, or the act of hunting for legendary creatures appears to be associated with the rumored existence of the jackalope. The manufactured  taxidermy jackalopes found in people’s homes probably add to the folk belief in their existence. Also, the fact that taxidermy jackalopes are a widespread folk item in Texas means that jackalopes, and the product made in their likeness, are likely an important aspect of Texas’s (and, apparently, Wyoming’s) tourist economies.

Works Cited:

To read more about the legend surrounding the jackalope, as well as the man who first created the legendary creature, refer to this 2003 LA Times article:

Oliver, Myrna. “Douglas Herrick, 82; on a Whim He Created ‘Jackalope’.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 23 Jan. 2003, www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-jan-23-me-herrick23-story.html.

 

 

Folk Beliefs
Humor
Legends
Narrative

Matthew McConaughey arrest story

Content:
Informant – “Have you heard the story of Matthew McConaughey’s arrest? It’s a local legend at this point. So McConaughey lives up in Westlake. And apparently, one night, he was making a lot of noise so his neighbors called the police. When the police arrived, they went around the back of the house and there was Matthew McConaughey, completely naked, smoking a joint and playing the bongo drums. Imagine being the officer to see that. McConaughey is living his best life.”

Context:
Informant – “I don’t know if it’s true. I think it is. I don’t know where I heard it from though. It’s like a famous story in Austin.”

Analysis:
I think the story is so popular because it humanizes an A-List celebrity. Here’s a critically acclaimed actor, someone we put on a pedestal, breaking social norms and restraints and generally acting ridiculous.

Legends

Haunted House in Crockett, Texas

Collector: Do you have any ghost stories you could share with me?

CW: Yes, when I was a young girl growing up in my hometown of Crockett, Texas there was a house located on the edge of our town that everyone believed to be haunted. It was a very old beaten down brown house with all the windows boarded off. It was said that a very old man who we called “Old Man Hinkle”, lived there but no one had seen him in years, so everyone thought he had passed away and his ghost haunted the house. However, when me and friends would go by the house it was always very spooky. We could hear noises coming from the house but never any lights or anyone coming in or out of it. I remember one time some kids from our town claimed to have gone inside one night and saw a ghost in there but who knows if that was true. Another time  I was near the house and could hear what sounded like screaming but I never saw a ghost or went inside the house. 

Collector: What impact did this haunted house have on your childhood?

CW: It was my favorite thing on Halloween. On already such a spooky night for us kids we would always sneak off and go by the house. It always felt like such an adventure and was very fun for me and my friends. 

Collector: Did the whole town believe the house was haunted?

CW: All the parents knew that it was just an abandoned house of course, but for us kids it was widely believed and everyone seemed to know about it. 

Collector: What do you think about the house now?

CW: Well, since I do not believe in ghost I don’t believe it was haunted or anything. But, when I go home to visit my family in Crockett I sometimes go by it and it gives me fond memories especially of my Halloweens growing up. I also wonder whether or not the kids in Crockett still believe it is haunted or know about “ Old Man Hinkle”.

Context: This informant is a sixty five year old woman that was born and raised in Crockett, Texas. She has moved around the world since leaving Crockett to go to college. However, she still frequently visits the town. This performance was collected in person at her home in Palm Desert, California

Analysis: This legend is an interesting one because it sounds a lot like ghost stories and haunted house stories seen in popular culture. It has all the aspects of many movies and television shows, like a small town, scary house, and kids wandering near the “haunted house”. It seems to be a unique part of her communities folklore and a unique part of my informant’s childhood.

 

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Magic

Henrietta’s Pacing

I’ve always thought of this friend as an interesting guy, but we’ve only ever joked and traded some silly stories from high school. He’s hinted at coming from a large and established family in Texas, although I’ve never really gotten much more than that. This project was a great opportunity for me to find out a bit more, as I, too, share ancestral lineage from the South, and have always been interested in unique little stories of haunted houses and ancient apparitions.

The following was transcribed from a recording taken in class and shared among three or four other classmates. Though the background buzzed with chatter from other students, the spooky nature of this story made me feel very still inside.

“I come from a big ranching family, and we go back – our family history dates back to like 1853 in Texas. So from the early, early days of the state. And our family is still in-tact and everything, very close together, and the ranch is still there. So um, there’s a lot of history to it in South Texas. So with that there comes a lot of ghost stories and whatnot. Um, so there’s a lot of reports of people seeing ghosts in the main house and stuff like that. The house itself is as old as the ranch, so very, very old. It’s a hundred an- we just celebrated it’s a hundred-and-sixty-fifth anniversary. Well actually, excuse myself. The ranch is a hundred-and-sixty-five years old, and the house just turned a hundred. So, yes. Very, very old. I’m a sixth generation out of seven, in terms of family members, so there’s been that many people that have gone through the house. Four generations lived in the house their entire lives, um. So naturally, the ghosts aren’t always the same. The ghost that I saw is… Let’s see. The ghost that I saw or rather heard or believe I heard at least is – I was going to bed in my room which is on the first floor, and uh, the floors are made of wood on the second floor. So my room is right under this room we call Henrietta’s room which is the room of the matriarch of the original generation, the first generation. So in Henrietta’s room – it’s the biggest one in the house. It’s basically like the original one. And it’s also where most of the ghost sightings and experiences are seen is up, up in hers. So my room is right below. And I haven’t had any encounters like visually. But the one I have had is I was going to sleep one night, and I was trying to go to bed. I was the only one in the house, and um, the thing is the house is very, very big, and it’s kind of a rarity to be the only one in the house. Normally there’s at least 2 or 3 other people staying there. And I was the only one there that night, kind of taking care of the house before I left the next day. I was going to bed and I heard this creaking above me, as if someone was walking around on the wood. Um, on the second floor. AKA, Henrietta’s room. And I didn’t think much of it before I realized I was the only one in the house. And I thought, ‘oh, is there an intruder?’. And I got really, really scared, um, cause those things can happen. But there’s also a lot of security. So then again, nothing so much. But I listened really closely, and the footsteps were going in a circle, as if they were just plodding around the room. And they were just going in an endless circle, and the steps were very, very slow too. Like, a very slow walking pace, basically. And I was listening to these footsteps going in an endless circle. I think eventually I fell asleep, but it was interesting that being my first ghost experience. And basically having to accept the fact that there’s a ghost walking around above me. And I just went to sleep comfortable, knowing that it was a ghost and not an intruder. So that was nice for me.”

It is rare for a ghost to be preferred over another human being. However, if the ghost is a loving relative in a lineage that values family and tradition, then it makes sense to prefer its presence to a possibly violent intruder. This piece breaks the American stereotype of all ghosts being malevolent beings hell-bent on revenge and retribution. Instead, it offers a different outlook on the world of the supernatural – that ghosts come out when they think no one is home and simply go about their business. Perhaps Henrietta craves the nostalgia of her old room, and comes back to enjoy the sights and scents whenever she can. Little did she know her great-great-great-great-great grandson slept soundly below.

Legends
Narrative

The Mammoth Shrimp: A Legend

In Galveston, Texas there’s this restaurant that has a huge giant shrimp as, like, I guess a statue or whatever and apparently, like, late in the 1800’s they went fishing and they literally caught this, like, huge giant shrimp that was like 4, 5 feet tall and like 6 feet long and, like, they caught it I guess and that’s what their whole, like, restaurant is, like, surrounded by, like, that whole superstition – or not superstition – that, like, the whole legend of that huge giant shrimp actually swimming in and living in the ocean right outside Galveston.

The Informant, my housemate, is an Econ major at USC. He was born and raised in Texas. The Informant told me about this local legendary catch at around midnight on 4/22 while he played PlayerUnknown’s Battleground, an intensive online battle royale game. When I asked if he thought the legend was true, he responded that he didn’t really know. All he knows is the restaurant’s fried shrimp is “fucking amazing.”

https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/canadian-fishermen-shrimp/

Considering the largest shrimp on the planet are about the size of a person’s arm, this legend is almost absolutely false. In fact, this is eerily similar to a viral news story in 2013 that reported a 320lb shrimp caught along the Canada coast. Snopes declared this false, however, and showed that the photo was clearly doctored to replace a large catfish with a shrimp.

I enjoyed the story. I think it’s convenient to have the rumor be set in a time where records of such a catch would be spotty at best. When I was listen to the Informant speak of the huge giant shrimp of Galveston, I immediately thought of Randy’s Donuts here in Los Angeles, a drive-through donut shop that wields a massive 26-foot donut as a sign. Sadly, there’s no 26-foot donut either, with the largest one ever at 16-feet.

Holidays
Humor
Rituals, festivals, holidays

A Texan Christmas

Informant Info: The informant is a 20-year-old female who was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. Her mother is Caucasian, and her father is Hispanic. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and works for Walt Disney World.

 

Interview Transcript:

Interviewer: Do you have any major holidays that you celebrate? How do you celebrate it?

 

Interviewee: My family has celebrated Christmas the same every year since my brother was born almost 25 years ago. We start Christmas Eve as you would any holiday by prepping “dinner” for around 3 o’clock. We all get in our Sunday best and eat Christmas Eve dinner as a family. After dinner, dessert, and a lot of laughs we sit in the living room reminiscing old Christmas memories. My personal favorite is the one my Grandaddy used to tell about how ecstatic I was to receive a hot wheels toy at a mere 3 years old. After story time we each open a few presents which are the same every year. We start with our matching Christmas jammies and we all change into them immediately. Then my grandma hands us each three boxes. One has pistachios (And uhh..I don’t know the origin of that one). One has a check. And the last has an ornament she found earlier in the year that reminds her of us. After we hang our ornaments on the tree we write our letter to Santa. Each sibling alternates writing it each year and since there’s 4 of us we get a pretty decent break! Last we set out milk and gingerbread cookies for Santa and hang up our stocking, including ones for our fur babies. Then we all go to sleep and wake up not so bright and early Christmas morning!

 

 

Analysis:

Within this one family, there are several interesting pieces of folklore, that I was unfortunately not able to fully get out of the informant. Her family seems to hold on to old traditions and memories, yet the origin is unclear. She says that her family has been doing this for at least 25 years. By the sounds of it, many of the traditions, such as the matching pajamas or the pistachios, fall into the genre of practical jokes. She claims that she loves everything about her Christmas and plans on doing the same thing for her kids, once she has a family of her own. In addition, this tradition seems to share similarities on a macro level, such as a large family dinner on Christmas Eve, writing letters to Santa (a common folk tradition), hanging ornaments, and leaving out milk and cookies.

 

Gestures
Humor
Initiations
Life cycle
Material
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

The Red Lady

Title: The Red Lady

Category: Folk Object

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

The “Red Lady” is a large red bong used by a select group of the theatre community at Trinity Valley High School in Fort Worth Texas. None of the students know the exact origin of the object, they believe that it was purchased by the school’s theatre department for use in one of their shows many years ago. The “Red Lady” has been passed down from senior to senior in the theatre department as the years have gone by. The “Red Lady” is given to a trusted member of the group and it’s their responsibility to care for and keep the secret of the object— While still maintaining its hiding place on school property.

Context/Significance:

Ms. Keller was fortunate enough to have earned the “Red Lady” her senior year of High School and was abel to share this story with me. She said she earned it because she was known for smoking marijuana and for being an excellent “chill” actress of her senior class. When it cam time for her to graduate, she then passed the bong down to a rising upperclassman.

 

Personal Thoughts:

We had something similar at my high school on the cheerleading team. The senior captain was in charge of the “spirit stick” all throughout the year and for maintaining the level of excellence that our team had achieved that previous year. I wound’t say a “sprit stick” and a bong are extremely similar, but they could be used as motifs to describe the same sort of seniority earned possession.

Legends
Narrative
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Hell’s Half Acre

Title: Hell’s Half Acre

Category: Legend

Informant: Julianna K. Keller

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 20

Occupation: Student

Residence: 325 West Adams Blvd./ Los Angeles, CA 90007

Date of Collection: 4/09/18

Description:

Back when the Southern cattle drive was still active in the Central/Northern region of Texas, the end of the Chisholm Trail could be found at the end of town in Forth Worth Texas known as Hell’s Half Acre. The reason for the name is due to the activity that took place on this strip of land.

After a long and difficult cattle drive, cowboys used to bring their lives stock back into town right down the middle of Hells’ Half Acre. Exhausted from their journey but craving the company of women, these cowboys would hire prostitutes along the strip and eat, drink, gamble, and whore their way through town until they ran out of money.

Upon loosing the money that they’ve just earned, these cowboys would then be forced into going on the cattle drive again from where the train lets off. The land was nick named Hell’s Half Acre after all the misfortunes men had had on that very spot.

Context/Significance:

As the importance of Fort Worth as a crossroads and cowtown grew, so did Hell’s Half Acre. It was originally limited to the lower end of Rusk Street (renamed Commerce Street in 1917) but spread out in all directions until by 1881 the Fort Worth Democrat was complaining that it covered 2½ acres.

More than any other factor, urban growth began to improve the image of the Acre, as new businesses and homes moved into the south end of town.

Personal Thoughts:

At this point in time, Hell’s Half Acre is more full of hipster bars and coffee shops than cock fighting or bawdy halls. Tailored boutiques and tourist shops line a well kept and preserved cobblestone street, littered with the tattered remains of history. The cartel drive is still somewhat active and every morning and afternoon, specific time is set aside for when the cattle cross pastures through the street.

For a town once built by livestock, it’s not surprising that much of the area’s pride comes from it’s seedy past in the cattle drive industry. The town conspires together to maintain its fame and even labels it’s self as “Cow Town USA.” Whether it’s entirely true or not, the county sells and maintains its tourist industry under that marketable phrase.

Customs
Festival
Game
Gestures
Holidays
Material
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Homecoming Mums

Title: Homecoming Mums

Category: Clothing/Object

Informant: Rebecca Reinehr

Nationality: American, caucasian

Age: 21

Occupation: Student— Food Service Industry, Medical Group Volunteer, etc.

Residence: Austin, TX

Date of Collection: 4/14/18

Description:

Homecoming mums are worn by high school students and differ from person to person based on status, gender, relationship, etc. The practice is most common in Southern high schools- Texas in particular.

Homecoming mums are meant to be received as a gift from someone significant to the person wearing the object. An individual might receive a mum from the following persons: A friend, an organization, a parent/relative, a significant other (boy friend/girl friend), homecoming date, etc. A person is not limited by the number of mums they can give or receive and some people (women in particular) will often even make them for themselves if they want to be sure to have one for the day.

Typically, the age of the recipient and grade level will determine the size of their mum. Women’s mums are always larger, but Seniors mums are also usually larger than underclassman mums. Seniors mums are also sometimes made will all white ribbons, decorations, and flowers.

Mums are ornamental fake flowers that are usually around 6-8” in diameter and are attached to a back that has ribbons surrounding the flower on top, and dangling ribbons with  decorations and letters. High schools in the area will have custom ribbons made with the high school logo or mascot as well. These ribbons and materials can be bought at craft stores in the region and even larger nation-wide craft stores will seasonally carry these items in their fall season. An example of stress that sell these items include, but are not limited to: Hobby Lobby, Michaels, Grocery Stores, etc.

Mums worn by women typically have ribbons extending to a yard in length and are worn via safety pin over the heart. Men’s mums are approximately half a yard in length and are worn on their arm attached to a ribbon garter. These objects will often include materials that make them distracting and challenging to wear all day. Attached items may include: bells, whistles, mini-LED lights, trinkets, stickers, etc. Sometimes a person may receive more than one mum and will either attempt to pin them all to their shirt, switch them out during the course of the day, or pin them to their backpacks.

Homecoming mums are worn on the day of homecoming to class and then later to the game. These flowers are also usually worn to a pep-rally that day before the homecoming game. Each mum is expected to be personalized with inside jokes, hobbies, or resemble the receiver’s/giver’s personality.

Mums may also be given by a parent’s club of an activity or sold in smaller forms by a student organization. Examples of smaller mums are: Finger mums, hair mums, children’s mums, etc.

Mums are usually kept and hung on bedroom walls by high school students. Women will often compare mums in class and use it as an almost competition to see who can get the most.

Mums can add up in expense quickly. While all of the items individually are fairly cheap— the main flower only costing around a dollar or two. But as is the slogan for Texas, “Everything’s bigger…” the more trinkets, ribbons, and bells that can be fit on are better and considered more impressive. Small, simple mums usually cost around $40 where larger and more intense mums can range in the $100-$200 range.

Context/Significance:

Mums are a very specific tradition, popular only in Texas (and parts of Oklahoma) and are huge, ginormous corsages. The NCAA recognizes the University of Missouri as the official place of birth of homecoming. In 1911, Mizzou athletic director Chester Brewer encouraged alumni to attend the game, and he gave them incentive to attend by having a huge celebration around the game that included parades and rallies.

At some point not too long after this first homecoming celebration in Missouri, the tradition of a boy giving a chrysanthemum to his homecoming date as a corsage was born in Texas. For decades, mums were simple, comprised of just a small flower with perhaps a few ribbons.

In the 1970s, homecoming mums became more elaborate and have continued to grow to the mammoth size they are today. Now they include a huge flower (albeit a silk flower has replaced the real chrysanthemum as the centerpiece), tons of large ribbons, charms, bows, bells, cowbells, stuffed animals, perhaps the high school mascot, and even LED lights in some cases! Even guys have their own version of the mum, called the garter – an elastic band worn around the upper arm that has the same features as the mum only on a much smaller scale.

Personal Thoughts:

Mums are also not only worn for homecoming. Mums are sometimes given as decorations for the home. Before coming to USC, I made a USC themed mum to hang on our common room door in my dorm room. Expecting mothers may also receive baby shower mums that will hang on the door of the delivery room. These are often themed for either a girl or boy and have baby trinkets and ribbons attached (sometimes even baby toys or pacifiers).

My cheerleading team sold mums the week of homecoming and provided a service for gentleman to order mums from our organization to be delivered the week of homecoming. At the game, each cheerleader also received a mum to wear on their leg for the game as athletes are not allowed to wear mums on the field. The football team will often wear a small carnation pinned to their uniform. The presented homecoming court will also remove their mums during the half-time ceremony.

Personally, I also just love them. Upon graduating high school, I tallied up a total of around 12 large mums and a few other smaller mums that I pinned to a bulletin board. They’re a fun way to remember that year’s homecoming celebration, friendships, and interests over the past four years.

Image:

136075_4663510476166_856328853_o

Annotation:

For additional history behind homecoming mums, see:

https://www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/

MLA Citation:

“HISTORY OF MUMS.” The Mum Shop, www.themumshop.com/history-of-mums/.

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