by Mike Cox
Sam Houston, General Phil Sheridan, Tascosa
and Traveling salesmen jokes
Stephen F. Austin was the father of Texas, Sam Houston
was its uncle. Texas’ “Uncle Sam” won the battle that counted when he defeated
Santa Anna at San
Jacinto, and he continues to win the battle of the anecdote. Austin may have
been a critical figure in the state’s history, but Houston lived larger and longer
and left a much richer legacy of stories.|
A couple for instances:
the late 1950s, Garland Adair gave the Texas Memorial Museum a note written by
historian J.T. DeShields about Sam Houston:
“Of course every school boy
knows the story of San
Jacinto as told in the books,” DeShields wrote. “But there is in the Southwest
a fireside tale about it which deserves to be better known.”
“The night before the battle Santa Anna sent a flag of truce
to the Texan camp with a summons to surrender and offer of pardon. Grim Gen. Sam
Houston heard the message and said to one of his aides: ‘Tell him to go to hell!
Put that in Spanish! And the aide, translating the answer into the language of
the Spanish military diplomacy, made oration as it appears in the books: ‘Gen.
Houston says that you will have the kindness to present his compliments to Gen.
Santa Anna, and inform him that Gen. Houston regrets to be constrained to reply
that if Gen. Santa Anna desires our company it will be necessary for him to condescend
to give himself the trouble of coming and getting us.’”
original message to the Mexican general had not contained any verbal artistry,
Houston definitely had a way with words.
Later in his career, serving
as governor shortly before Texas seceded from the Union, Houston encountered one
of his political enemies in the capitol.
“Howdy do, sir,” Houston said
formally, though coolly.
“I never knowingly speak to scoundrels,” the
opponent replied to the governor.
“You perceive that I do,” Houston said
as he walked on.
(The late Texas tale teller J. Frank Dobie told that story
in the late Houston Post on Aug. 27, 1954.)
on Sam Houston
Baby Boomer who has ever struggled to figure out a new cell phone will appreciate
Arthur MacArthur, father of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, told his
son about being on hand in the 1870s when General Phil Sheridan negotiated a peace
treaty with the Indians.
After the peace pipe had been passed, Sheridan
tried to impress the Indians with the awesome technological power of the U.S.
and the futility of opposing American expansion.
Where the red man had
only canoes, the U.S. had mighty steamboats plying the Mississippi, the famed
Civil War general said.
Having said that, Sheridan asked his interpreter
whether he had made his point.
“General, they don’t believe you,” he said.
Then the general told of the ever-expanding U.S. railroad system and how rapidly
Americans could travel in comparison to Indians on their ponies.
the interpreter said, “General, they don’t believe you.”
told of Alexander Graham Bell’s recently invented telephone.
“I can talk
into a little black box and the Great White Father in Washington will hear me
and answer,” the general asserted.
At that, the interpreter remained silent.
Sheridan ordered him to tell him what the Indians thought of his last revelation.
Still, the interpreter remained silent.
“What’s the matter with you?” the
Slowly chewing his tobacco, the interpreter replied:
“Well, general, now I don’t believe you.”
MacArthur told that story, which could have happened in Texas, in his 1964 memoir,
“Reminiscences by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.” |
now the site of Cal Farley’s
Boys Ranch northwest of Amarillo,
had the reputation of being one of the toughest towns in Texas during its heyday
in the early 1880s.|
Bonham poet and all-round character Macphelan Reese
told this story in 2000:
A dusty cowboy (so bow-legged they’d have to
bury him in a base fiddle case) rides into Tascosa,
already high enough to have a nose bleed, and ties his horse in front of one of
the town’s numerous saloons.
Tromping inside, the drover orders a beer
and drinks about half of it before noticing that the floor is covered in sawdust.
He observes to the bartender: “I’ve been in saloons all over this country and
I ain’t never seen one with sawdust on the floor.”
The bartender replies:
“That ain’t sawdust, that’s last night’s furniture.”
salesmen jokes used to be common when drummers traversed Texas
peddling their wares. Now, thanks to box stores and the Internet, the class once
known as rangers of commerce is virtually extinct.|
But the humor has survived:
A traveling salesman driving through East
Texas runs over someone’s coon dog.
Being a dog lover and decent sort,
he goes to the nearby farm house, knocks on the door and tells the woman who answers
that he’s accidentally killed their dog.
Shaking her head sadly, she tells
the salesman he’d better go break the news to her husband in person.
out back in the barn,” she said. “And listen, make it easy on him. At first, tell
him it was one of the kids.”
© Mike Cox
- December 10, 2005 column
Books by Mike Cox - Order Now|| |