Shelby County, Texas,
communities might have passed into history without as much as a footnote
if a singing cowboy had not popularized a marching and dice playing
chant by East Texas soldiers.
Bobo and Blair, two
farm communities on the old Houston
East and West Texas Railroad, achieved fame when Texas Ritter
borrowed the soldiers’ chant, “Tenaha,
Timpson, Bobo and Blair,” for his popular song.
The soldiers’ chant was used by a National Guard Unit composed of
men from Shelby County who discarded the familiar cadence of "hup,
two, three, four" in favor of "Tenaha,
Timpson, Bobo and Blair," their home towns.
Dice players also took up the chant to make the point of ten on a
pair of dice and others argue that the popularity of the saying began
with a conductor on the HE&WT
line, which passed through Shelby
The conductor supposedly called out the various destinations along
the way to Shreveport, and the alliteration of "Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo,
and Blair" made it a favorite of passengers.
Historian Robert S. Maxwell of Nacogdoches
claims that the song had little to do with the HE&WT
other than through the recording by Ritter that made the towns and
the railroad line famous.
Hale of The Houston Chronicle remembered that, as a young soldier
in World War II,
he watched crap games in Italy.
R.R. Morrison, commanding officer of Company B, 3rd Texas Infantry
of the National Guard, said an outfit was shipped together from Shelby
County to France during World
War I, but just before being shipped out, some of the soldiers
got into a crap game. One was trying to make his 10 point and yelled
"Tennyhaw!" Another soldier from the unit, betting on the shooter,
yelled "Timpson!" Others, used to hearing these names, called "Bobo"
Hale wrote, "Morrison told me that the Tennyhaw cry went overseas
with his company and fell on fertile ground. It spread, big time,
among dice players who’d never been to Texas."
As time passed, Tenaha
and Timpson remained
viable towns in Shelby
County while Bobo
and Blair faded as rural communities. Tex Ritter’s familiarity with
the four towns came from his knowledge as a boy growing up in neighboring
Bobo got its name from John Henry (Billy) Bobo, who opened a sawmill
in the community. while Blair was first known as Blair Switch, which
was likely named for an engineer for one of the trains.
Bob Bowman's East
30, 2008 Column.
Published with permission
A weekly column syndicated in 70 East Texas newspapers