Tag Archives: Texas

Making and wearing “mums”: Texan high schoolers’ expression of school spirit

Text:

AC: “In Texas, there’s this tradition where, it usually happens around Prom or Homecoming or a major dance, and it’s usually a thing with girls who get together and they make this “mum.” It’s kind of similar to a corsage except it’s like a giant ribbon, and you can put anything on it. Like a tiny sequin to a giant teddy bear or stuffed animal. It’s usually made with the colors of the school and has letters and motifs and stuff like that. People go really crazy for it. You can make it for yourself, but sometimes you can make it for your friends and give it to them the day of the game or something like that.”

Context:

The informant is a 20-year-old college student from Texas. AC said that the tradition of making and wearing mums was very popular among mostly girls at her high school and around Texas in general. She described the process of making mums as an ornate crafting project which girls would often do in groups for fun. Because their creation from scratch is so time consuming, some people also buy their mums. AC said that many girls made their own mums, but some girls made them for their friends as a platonic gesture of friendship. Most girls pinned them to their clothes, but if the mum was particularly big or if a girl received multiple, some people would pin them to their backpacks or just carry them around. She said that it is traditional for girls to carry their mums around with them all day on the days of big sports matches or school dances, and interprets them as an expression of school spirit.

Analysis:

I think that the tradition of making and wearing mums is a way to show school spirit, like wearing school colors or making posters cheering on athletes at sports games. For some people, the amount of care which goes into the creation of these items shows that they take pride in their school and see it as part of who they are. The accessories are a vehicle for expressing one’s taste and personality, where the items people choose to decorate them speak to the person’s identity. People can use symbols to signify their belonging to groups such as sports teams, but also to convey things such as their religious beliefs (with symbols like the cross), or to show their social status. Merely wearing one shows a sense of connectedness with the community, both with individual’s peers and with the previous generations who attended the school and partook in the tradition. I imagine that some people participate just to be a part of the social ritual and fit in. Wearing a mum can identify someone as a member of the in-group, whereas not wearing one can indicate that a person is in the out-group. Regardless of people’s motivations for participating, wearing and making a mum identifies individuals as members of a group, creating a common experience and tradition which people from a certain school, or Texans generally, can bond over.

It’s interesting that girls make mums for one another as expressions of platonic endearments. I think that this kind of homosocial celebration is rare in co-ed schools, where often extravagant practices like “promposals” can demonstrate a culture of heteronormativity. I imagine that the practice of giving a friend a mum is normalized because it is traditional. Still, social tension could erupt from this practice. I would expect that girls compete over whose mum is the best. Moreover, it can reinforce or reflect social hierarchies, since a girl receiving many mums indicates her popularity.

Spanish Moss

Context: This story is meant to be told as part of a performance. Usually children or campers, the group will all collect a piece of Spanish moss. They will then slowly start peeling off the layers of the moss, eventually revealing the red strands mentioned in the story.

T.A. : Okay so going up there’s a lot of Spanish Moss around where I lived and I was always told that story behind Spanish moss. And this is like a campfire story that we would always tell. You would pick up Spanish moss from the ground end and um when youre telling the story, you’re peeling the Spanish moss. You can get to the center of it. And I’ll tell you the secret now. And you peel the Spanish moss, and in the center it looks like a piece of red hair. Like Red hair at the very center of it, and that’s, so you peel back. The stuff and it looks like, uh, a strand of hair. It’s red, it’s like very red. Spanish moss isn’t red, it’s like green. Um, but the story that’s told with it, it’s like this Native American girl who’s, who is the daughter of a chief. And she had this gorgeous, long red hair. It was beautiful, it flew in the wind and she was very much desired. Um, but she was in love with this other man, and she wanted to marry this man in the tribe, but um, all these other guys wanted her and her father was like no, you need to marry this guy, dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, basically, and, um, so then one day when she realized that she, like, would never be able to be with the love of her life, that she was, you know, too beautiful, or her hair was too luxurious. Like, she, she didn’t care what she looked like, she just cared that she loved this man, and was tired of other men being like, ‘no, like you’re mine because of this.’ So, yeah, basically she was tired of being, of people being like ‘no, you have to marry me because you’re so beautiful,’ dah-duh-duh-dah-duh, and all this stuff, and her dad was like ‘you have to marry these guys that want to marry you.’ She just wanted to marry the one that she loved. And so she goes to the edge of this cliff. Um, it’s like a plateau. So there’s like a valley underneath it. And she takes her hair, and takes like a stone or something like that, like a sharp knife—
P.Z. : Something sharp.
T.A. : Yeah, and she grabs her hair and cuts it off. And all of her hair falls into this valley and onto all these trees. Right? And she throws herself off the cliff and kills herself. Um, which is tragic end to the story. But also, but she cuts all her hair off, throws it into this valley, and then at the end of the story, at the end, by this point you see the red strand of hair and it’s now —
P.Z. : Under the moss?
T.A. : Spanish moss. You see all of her beautiful long red hair still in the Spanish moss today.
P.Z. : And it’s like the original story of —
T.A. : Yeah, of like why it’s there.
P.Z. : And you heard this in your hometown?
T.A. : Um, so like whenever, my family’s a big camping family, and like going through summer camps and stuff too, it’s a campfire story people tell. So you’d pick up Spanish moss off the ground, and you’d go oh have you ever heard like the story about Spanish moss? And then you tell it.
P.Z. : And Texas… What part of Texas?
T.A. : I’m from southeast Texas.

Thoughts: This was the first time I encountered a modern myth. It was also one of the only pieces of folklore I collected that included a sort of performance with the story telling. I thought that this was fascinating because it took an everyday item found in the area and transcribed deep value to it based on this creation myth. It also was fascinating that it remains popular for people of all ages to hear and tell this story, as it can be used in any group setting when one is outdoors and encounters this very common flora.

Donkey Lady Bridge

Context: Donkey Lady Bridge is located on the east side of San Antonio, and is a popular story amongst children that often becomes an inspiration for dares. The bridge passes over a creek.

G.G. : So, my story, it like comes from San Antonio, where I live. It’s basically um it started in the like the 1800s, some people say 1900s, like 1950s, but a lot of town folk say it’s like 1800. Basically, um, a farming family lived outside of San Antonio back then which is now on the east side of San Antonio.
P.Z. : Alright, so older, it was more spread out.
G.G. : Yeah. So like basically the farmer set fire to his home, murdered his children and left his wife horribly disfigured. And so and the wife, she survived, but her fingers were melted down to stumps creating hoof-like appendages, leaving the skin on her face charred and gave her an elongated, donkey-like appearance. And so, grieving the loss of her children and betrayal of her husband, she haunts Elm Creek and those who try to cross ‘cause like there’s a bridge. So that’s why we call it Donkey Lady Bridge.
P.Z. : Okay so it’s like a particular bridge in your hometown?
G.G. : Yeah I actually took my sister out to it.
P.Z. : Is there like, are there supposed to be noises when you’re here? Are you supposed to see something…?
G.G. : Uh okay uh, okay so —
P.Z. : Or is it just, sort of like, you said you brought your sister there..?
G.G. : Like, you’re supposed to hear her, you know? And I feel like I heard a different story of it like the story that i heard whenever I was like a kid. And like everyone hears it because it’s like it’s from our town. And so it was kind of like um, it was kind of like this love affair and the family, I guess the man tried to get rid of his family by setting the house on fire or something like that…
P.Z. : Some sort of affair —
G.G. : Yeah and so that’s why he killed his whole family but then like she obviously came back and like haunted him and she killed him and stuff. And um oh there’s also this, no, no I’m getting that confused with something else. Anyway yeah so now she like kind of protects that area by Donkey Lady Bridge. She doesn’t want anyone coming onto her land because that’s like where her children and her house was, you know? She doesn’t want any of the other farmers because I guess he was a big man in the community so that’s why she haunts that area, guards that area. So Donkey Lady Bridge, you’re supposed to go there and park. And then she’s also because there was also something about her that she ran out and drowned in the river too. That was another story of her and so like you’re really supposed to go out on a rainy night and then um park your car at the bridge and you’re supposed to hear her, just hear donkey noises, hear like the hooves or something, you know or something that’s just there. And that’s pretty much it, I don’t think there’s ever been any reported sightings or anything like that.

Thoughts: I grew up in a fairly urban area, so to hear of a story relating to a specific creek or bridge was a new experience. I thought that it was interesting that just one storyteller could personally recall multiple versions of a singular legend. Also, it was interesting that this has become a sort of story to bond the community, like when she mentioned that she brought her sister to the bridge to show her where the popular urban legend took place.

Lady of the Lake

AJ: It was a dark, dark night. It was very late and very cold in Dallas. A guy was driving home from work along White Rock Lake when he sees a lady. She’s wearing a white dress and is soaking wet. He pulls up next to her and asks “Do you need help? Do you need a ride?” She says “Yes, I live on the other side of the lake.” He drives her around the lake and pulls up to her house. He asked the owner of the house if he could bring her inside, but when he looked back in the car, nothing was there.

All that was left in the back seat was a puddle. He described her to the man who lived there and he told him that she was a woman who had lived there years ago and had drowned in White Rock Lake on her wedding day. She appears to people in the shallows of the lake or on the road asking for a ride.

Me: How did you hear about the Lady of the Lake

AJ: I guess like family friends? When we would have family nights, my dad and all his friends who grew up in Dallas talk about it. She’s supposed to be bad luck too, so they warn us about going out late and seeing her.

Me: Do you believe in her

AJ: Kind of – I don’t believe that I’ll ever interact with her, but I’ll believe that someone died in the lake and haunts it. Especially when I’m near the dam. That’s where I’m like ‘If I were to see the lady of the lake, it’d be here’.

Personally, I want to know more about the Lady of the Lake before I believe in her. Spurned women ghosts tend to come from other places – why did she just happen to drown on her wedding day? If she had been killed by her fiance or had more of a reason for being a ghost, I think she would have a more interesting story.

Eyes of Texas- UT Austin Anthem

Main Content:

I: Informant, M: Me

I: So the Longhorns [University of Texas Austin] founded in 1881, have a song called the Eyes of Texas which was originally more of a baudry song sang by crooners and country folk. We adopted that and we sing that at the end of every game [football]. Win or Lose, when everybody is exiting the stadium the Longhorns put their horns up, this is the symbol for the horns [I love you in American Sign Language but thumb is wrapped in on top of ring and middle finger-in order to make the horns of a Longhorn] and we sing “The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live long day” and at the end of it, it says “the eyes of Texas are upon you, til Gabriel blows his horn” 

M: Uh-huh

I: Gabriel is the angel in heaven and is the god of war, the angel of war. So we chant that at the end of every game to send everybody off the field. There is a whole tradition behind that, that is carried only by the Texas Longhorns

Context: My informant went to the University of Texas Austin and was a proud Longhorns fan and football supporter. Thus, he went to many games and participated in this custom.

Analysis: An important distinction to make here is that the song, “The Eyes of Texas” is not the folklore here. That song is copyrighted ‘authored literature.’ What is folklore however is the practice of using that song along with hand gestures at the very end of each football game. The performance of the song with the Longhorns ‘sign’ and rest of the supporters is the actual piece of folklore. This displays how authored literature can be taken and made a part of folklore. This performance allows for a display of pride in their identity as Longhorns, especially that this is done no matter if they win or lose to send their players off the fields. It’s as if to say, we support you and are proud no matter what.