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Traditions

by Bob Bowman
Bob Bowman
A friend who recently moved to East Texas from Ohio says he is aghast that city residents here are allowed to burn leaves in their yard whenever they want.

Where he came from, he contends, leaf-burning is decidedly against the law and people are prosecuted and sent to the stocks. What my friend doesn't realize is that he's bucking an old East Texas tradition.

Trying to take away the privilege of burning leaves in the yard is tatamount to arresting a child for selling lemonade on a hot summer day.

Yes, there are municpal ordinances on the books prohibiting yard fires, but I don't remember a city enforcing them, except in places like Houston and Dallas, where they stopped honoring East Texas traditions a long time ago.

A good example is the dog leash law. One of the hottest controveries that ever erupted in East Texas occurred in the sixties when several cities decided that dogs ought to be stopped from running loose on the streets.

It sounded reasonable, but the muncipal planners forgot one thing: East Texans consider their dogs members of the family.

One city went through considerable anguish in trying to pass the leash law. Hundreds of dog-lovers marched on City Hall, suggested a community hanging for the city manager who had proposed the law, and threatened to kick out of office everyone who voted for such a vile ordinance. The council held its ground, however, and the leash law was enacted.

The council's courage reminded me of an early Lufkin mayor who campaigned to pen up hogs that were running loose in the downtown area. When he was elected, he had the police round up all loose pigs in town. They were penned in an enclosure a few blocks from the downtown business district.

The trouble was, the pigs kept getting loose. In desperation, the mayor had the pigs put in the city jail, where they couldn't dig out. This idea was abandoned, too, when the prisoners, in the words of a reporter, "gave cause to complain."

Another tradition that is dying a slow, agnozing death in East Texas is running deer with dogs. For as long as I can remember, some East Texas hunters have used dogs to chase down deer before shooting them (the deer, not the dogs).

However, the folks in Austin who enforce our game laws felt that this type of hunting was unfair to the deer, not to mention the hunters without deer dogs.

So they proposed an end to the practice. And, sure enough, the dog/deer folks didn't take it lying down. They did what any self-respecting hunter would do. They burned down the woods and the deer habitat, probably on the theory that if dogs can't chase deer, the deer aren't worth having anyway.

We once had a state representative in Lufkin who was as popular as anyone who had ever held the office. He had been reelected several times and it appeared that he could do nothing wrong. That is, until he changed the dates of the squirrel season.

At the next election, voters turned him out quicker than a minnow can swim a dipper.


Bob Bowman's East Texas
March 28, 2011 Column.
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers

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(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of almost 50 books on East Texas history and folklore. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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"All Things Historical" archive >

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This page last modified: March 28, 2011