in East Texas like to
say they live behind the "Pine Curtain."
The Pine Curtain is not like the old Iron Curtain during the Cold
War days. No one tries to shoot you if you desire to flee the eastern
third of the Lone Star State, but in the pines you might indeed
get shot if you get caught trespassing. (Well, that's not really
legal unless a land owner were in fear of his life, but a good lawyer
Augustine could argue that a landowner with a shotgun became
frightened when he found someone poaching deer on his place.)
This coniferous barrier is actually evident to anyone from West
Texas who heads eastward. Suddenly the land goes from flat,
open farmland to pine forest. The farther east you go, the taller
and thicker the pines. Indeed, if you are headed east beyond the
Sabine River, the pine trees continue on through Louisiana, Mississippi,
Alabama and Georgia.
As is the case with any region, those who live behind the Pine Curtain
add their own nuance to our common tongue. Not to mention accent,
which is far different from say, someone living in San
Angelo. Of course, Pine Curtain people speak English just like
most of us, but their dialect and use of words definitely would
stand out at the upcoming Royal wedding.
in the mid-1980s, the ladies of the Woodville Women's Study Club
published a small booklet they called, "Can We Talk." For whatever
reason, they didn't think a question mark was necessary for the
"Every area of the country has developed its own specific expressions
which are so graphic, vivid or charming that they need to be preserved
for future generations to savor and appreciate," the booklet's brief
compiled in the book are "particular to East
Texas piney woods." Some they believed originated behind the
Pine Curtain, other expressions came from the South as the forebears
of present East Texans moved westward to settle in the right hand
of the state (looking down from above).
"No matter where they came [from]," the introduction continues,
"here they stayed and were used--and are used."
A longtime student of Texas talk will recognize a lot of the expressions
in the booklet as common anywhere in Texas, but some do seem particular.
A few examples:
"He hasn't got the sense of a summer coon." True enough, in following
its mating instincts or searching for scarce food, a raccoon does
not do its best thinking in the warmer months.
"Lick that calf again." Translation: "I don't understand. Could
you repeat what you just said?"
"Turning over dry goods and chinning." Acquaintances visiting at
the store, their topic leaning toward gossip.
"As tight as the bark on a hickory tree." They might turn over dry
goods, but good luck on the proprietor making a sale.
"Don't worry about the mule, load the wagon." Focus on the job at
"Got no more nature." Can you say Viagra?
"In bed with the doctor." Describing the status of someone very
ill with the flu or some other disease who is under medical treatment.
"Sick abed" is another way to characterize someone with severe health
"Funeralized." Having gone through the often extended rituals that
follow in the sad event that having been in bed with the doctor
leds to a bad outcome.
"Friendly as two strange bulldogs." Actually, not so much.
"Got all over him." A way to describe someone's reaction to an offensive
or disturbing statement or behavior, as in, "What he said about
his biscuits got all over him."
"Tail over the dashboard." Being annoyed, a reference to how a horse
would feel if his tail got tangled over the dashboard of a buggy.
(No, back then a dashboard was not where your speedometer and gas
gage could be found.)
"Shoot a button." An expression of scorn.
"All wool and a yard wide." An honest, loyal, standup person.
"So crooked he has to screw his socks on." The opposite of being
all wool and a yard wide, even if the socks happen to be wool.
"Not worth a mashed bullet." See above. A mashed bullet, obviously,
is one which has been fired from a gun and hit something--or someone.
"Fair off." What happens when the sky clears up.
"Carry." Transport, as in, "She carried me to the doctor last week."
"No bigger than a washing of soap." Not much, easy to carry somewhere.
"Prissy prune." Miss Manners on steroids.
"Plow mule in a buggy harness." Someone not particularly fitted
for the job at hand.
"She couldn't decorate a tin barn with a bucket of red paint." Clearly
not the Martha Stewart type.
"I didn't go to school just to eat my lunch." You can't pull that
on me, I'm smart. And now you're better prepared for your next venture
behind the Pine Curtain.
"Texas Tales" February
7, 2018 column
An award-winning author of more than 30 non-fiction
Cox is an elected member of the
Texas Institute of Letters. A long-time freelance writer and public
speaker, he lives near Wimberley in the Hill Country. To read about
more his work, visit his website at mikecoxauthor.com. He can be
contacted at email@example.com.