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.
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.
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.