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The Texan Myth and Tradition The Texan myth goes back, according to Joseph Leach, to pre-Texas, when the woolly frontiersman began to push beyond the fringe of civilization. Sectionalism played its role, and the fact that the frontiersman had to wrestle with elemental obstacles made him into a natural folk hero. Half-horse, half-alligator, he could outsmart, outfight, outdrink, outcuss, outride, outshoot, and in time outlove any other two-legged critter alive. He evolved as Daniel Boone, Mile Fink, Davy Crockett, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry. If he was reallike Davy Crocketthe was lionized in polite parlors. The taller the tale, the greater his fame if not always his credibility. Naturally he came to Texas, and naturally the tall tales drifted back. At that Choctaw Bluff tavern after President Jackson had engineered his defeat, Davy Crockett, who was not a drinking man, probably never said, “Tennessee can go to hell! I’m goin’ to Texas.’ ” But is doesn’t matter whether the story is apocryphal. It’s the sort of thing you want to believe. It tells you that here is a fiercely independent American who can carve out his The writer is a professor of history. This article is adapted from his presidential address before the Southwestern Social Science Assn. convention in Dallas this spring. 12 The Texas Observer Joe B. Frantz own destiny, come wild animals or backwoods brawlers or even Andy Jackson. Sam Houston could not have possibly enjoyed the convivial and the amatory prowess with which myths have credited him. Not, and ‘had time and energy left for statecraft. But we want to believe that Old Sam was also Big Drunk and that he blazed a trail of blue-eyed Indian offspring nine months removed from each camping site. Unless we confuse patriotic enthusiasm with ancestral piety, let’s accept the story it’s the way we would have preferred Old Sam to be. It took a special breed of wild-eyed devilLucifer, Satan, Mephistopheles, Lord Harry, Old Nick, or Old Scratchto populate and propagate God’s Country, and we wouldn’t disturb one impious hair. So they came to Texas, feeding on that special feeling for the West. Lord Byron found the American Westerner romantic, and Thomas Carlyle had to hear all about Jim Bowie and the Alamo, while Edward Everett Hale thought the only way to, dispose of Texas was for New England to emigrate to the Southwest and out-populate and out-vote those thieves already there. He called his pamphlet by a title which Esquire et al. would still buy”How To Conquer Texas Before Texas Conquers Us.” All this pro-and-conning accomplished was to con Americans east and north of Texas into swallowing a myth that continued till that recent sad November day. Whether you looked on the Texan as a relief from a golden chain of Harvard Phi Beta Kappa keys stretched across an endless sea of grey vests with Rogers Peet labels, or thought that Texans were pleasant buffoons, a bit tiresome but sill good for some extravagant yaks, or petted Texans the way you might a cavorting Eskimo husky; whether you were impressed with the private airplanes, Olympic-sized swimming pools, forty-foot fireplaces, or ranch females built with all the reassuring solidity of an Anheuser-Busch draft horse, or whether, like my thrifty Illinois father, you always felt a. bit superior to those Scripture-quoting Texans who spouted waste-not, want-not slogans while cotton wore out their black land, rivers carried their farms to the Gulf, their farm machinery rusted and ruined for want of simple upkeep, their Negroes rusted and ruined on a diet of conbread, syrup, and grease, their Mexicans’ insides exploded on corn, hot chilis, and amoebic dysentery, and their bankers refuged credit to rehabilitate acres that cried for comebackregardless of how the non-Texan viewed the Texan, he gloried in some aspect to him, commercialized and exploited him where he could, and steadily built the myth. All this would have been tolerable if Texans hadn’t begun believing their own publicity and forgetting their true heritage. THE HISTORIC ESSENCE of Texas and the Southwest is not monolithic conservatism or ,white-Anglo-Saxon purebred Protestantism. Nor is it liberalism or Spanish-sponsored Catholicism. The historic essence of Texas is its universalism and its diversity. The Texas of our forefathers was a giant corral into which strayed human animals of all types and shapes and nationalities and beliefs. It’s not just that Texas has been under six flags. The Texas of the period to which we pay high patriotic homage especially between the coming of the Austins and the onset of statehood, approximately a quarter century following 1820 represented a conjunction of forces that have been at work since man first stood erect. Texas has its shrines, its Alamo and its San Jacinto and its Declaration of Independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos. And who were the native Texansthe only native Texans participating in those events? They were Mexicans who had joined the upstart gringo Texans in seeking freedom from internal tyranny. Among the gringos the Southern states contributed a aka kom. iiawaii To Members of Texas AFL-CIO The greatest vacation bargain ever offered to our members and their families Departing Houston-Dallas June 20, 1964 8 DAYS IN HONOLULU 3 DAYS IN SAN FRANCISCO 3 DAYS IN LAS VEGAS 15 DAYS FOR ONLY $399.50 DEPOSIT OF $50.00 WILL RESERVE YOUR TOUR Texas AFL-CIO offers all members and their families a wonderful opportunity for a HAWAIIAN HOLIDAY at a phenomenal price $399.50. That’s right $399.50 which includes air transportation round tripHouston-Dallas back to HoustonDallas, deluxe hotel accommodations, sightseeing, etc. Also free champaghe on plane, and a sumptuous party in Honolulu \(regular Reservations are coming in daily and the aircraft is filling up rapidly. Make your vacation plans now and join this Flying Houseparty to our 50th State. For additional informationapplicationsbrochures contact: Tour Director, Texas State AFL-CIO, Box MM, Capitol Station, Austin, Texas. Don’t be left on the Mainland while your friends are basking in the sun in Waikiki.