East Texas and Wildcatters

J Cullen reporter at eden.com
Tue Sep 29 15:36:58 PDT 1998

Dear Doyle,

Thanks for the post, which makes some good points.

What I meant was that the more East Texans shed their Southern customs when they crossed the Sabine, the better. I realize that populism was one of those Southern customs they brought with them, but at least according to historian Larry Goodwyn the Texas populists in the 1890s made some efforts to include black farmers in their political movement, which was a radical posture for the time. Of course, many of those populists reverted to racism and segregation when the movement collapsed after 1896 (although others joined the Socialist movement).

As for a radical tradition in the West, I believe there was an effort to unionize cowboys in West Texas that resulted in a strike in the 1890s or early 1900s. I don't know much more about it, but I think Elmer Kelton wrote about it. However, I'll grant you, the ranchers have not been seen as generating much of a progressive movement.

There is more of a radical tradition in South Texas, but La Raza Unida veterans are graying. Still, they are a potent force and their presence at least has helped to moderate George "Shrub" Bush.

-- Jim Cullen

>Hello everyone,
> J Cullen writes Tuesday Sept 29,98:
>"I agree with you that the best parts of Texas have to do with its
>western heritage, not its southern heritage -- and there is a
>progressive populist streak in Texas that is often overlooked, which
>elected and re-elected Ralph Yarborough to the Senate in the 1950s and
>1960s but got overcome by the reaction to the civil rights movement in
>the late 1960s."
>I think your terminology about western and southern influence on Texas
>is all mixed up. The populist were "East Texans". Meaning along the
>Louisiana border, because that is where the agriculture was, and the
>population center was. The western influence meaning cattle, and the
>great empty desert stretching all the way to California isn't a
>political radical tradition. That Yarborough was elected was because of
>"East Texas". That is why I think people can't figure Texas out
>sometimes. My family was East Texas hill country red dirt farmers.
>Going back to the beginning of the century. They had to leave Alabama
>because they fought for the north in the Civil War (about 25% of the
>south fought for the North at one point or another). What they
>experienced was a great depression in 1909 when my Great Grandfather
>lost his farm in "West Texas", and the hard times in the twenties which
>my Grandfather weathered. By the way though my Great Grandparents were
>destitute they lived out their lives on other family members farms. It
>was charity that family did then. That ended in the 60's when the last
>of the family gave up, and went into the cities.
>J Cullen
>Since then many of the conservative Democrats have become Republicans
>but progressives managed to elect candidates such as Jim Hightower, Jim
>Mattox and Ann Richards in 1982, '86 and '90. Unfortunately, Richards
>proved to be a disappointment as governor and her move to the center
>contributed to her defeat in 1994. But Mattox, who gained his stripes
>taking on corporations as attorney general from 1983-1991, is now the
>only Democrat leading in polls for statewide office.
>I saw a vast migration into the state of a lot of northerners. When I
>grew up the accent was strong, and now you can't hardly find anybody who
>is Southern sounding anymore. A lot of those migrants are republicans
>by the way. You are talking democrat politics now when you talk
>Richards. Not the radical streak that is also present in Texas. Also
>not to forget that besides the white southerners along East Texas, there
>is a huge amount of native hispanic peoples who are every where in the
>state. They too have their influence upon things. Certainly not
>Western Swing, but radical politics in south Texas.
>J Cullen
>I agree that the Sons of the Pioneers are classical music, but they were
>a California group. Bob Wills, of course, was the King of Western Swing.
>My Grandfather really wanted to sing, but being religious he went around
>to revivals, and sang hymnals, and that sort of thing. He was quarter
>Cherokee by the way. If you listen to the Sons of the Pioneers you hear
>a lot of that revival music still in their repartee. Both Bob Wills,
>and the Sons of the Pioneers were thirties style "radio" music.
>Stripping away the "country" to incorporate into big business style
>media like we have now. Most of the music recorded then was pretty wild
>stuff. Gene Autry wrote and recorded a song celebrating Mother Jones
>when she died. "She was a true friend of the Working man". The music
>of those times celebrated work, and working class struggles mixed in
>with their bible thumping passions. The big business took the country
>out of the stuff except as when the country suited their interests.
>Merle Haggard is allowable, but not a lot of pro labor singing. Instead
>all that stuff went over into folk singing, and got associated with
>colleges and died a death of a thousand sweaters.

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