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2014-01-09

Folklore society releases new book

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Texas Folklore Society has been around since 1909, and aims to continue collecting, preserving and sharing the folklore of Texas and the Southwest for another 100 years.
Membership includes newsletters and opportunities to attend the society's annual meeting, held in a different location each year. Members can submit papers on folklore topics for presentation at the annual meeting. These papers, and other collections of folklore, are compiled into a hardback publication that is mailed out to members in December of each year. To anyone interested in Texas history, these books far exceed the membership dues in value.
The TFS publication for 2013, entitled "Cowboys, Cops, Killers, and Ghosts," edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt, includes a wide variety of reports, including one by Tarpley resident Lee Haile entitled "There's Gold in Them There Hills - or, Silver at Least." The selection relates stories Haile has heard about old Spanish gold and silver mines in the area. It will give you a case of gold fever, for sure.
Other selections include several on legends and language in various occupations, a sampling of cultures from bikers to tejanas, urban legends and more.
I particularly enjoyed reading Lucy Fischer West's "But Miss, My Family Doesn't have a Saga!" West, a teacher in El Paso, discovered that her students did not have a good sense of time - as in historical time. Some of them, she admitted, weren't even sure what century they lived in.
To remedy the problem, she asked her students to write their family sagas and tie the events that happened to their family members to something that was going on nationally or globally.
Students who began by saying they had no family sagas eventually turned in reports on ancestors who fought with Pancho Villa, providing him with food and other support. Others fought against Villa, sometimes hiding in a hole dug in the middle of the pig pen and covered with boards to survive one of his raids.
They told of grandparents who became successful business owners or military heroes. Some discovered stories of romance - a grandmother who fell in love with a grandfather because he wore glasses and she thought that meant he was intelligent; a grandmother who was pushed across the Rio Grande in a large tub by her sweetheart.
One student discovered that one of his ancestors was a martyr in the Mexican Cristero War. He and other martyrs were later named saints.
"Imagine that," said West, "starting a school year with students who don't think they have a family saga, and having one student discover that he's related to a saint!"
The TFS annual publications, with their wide range of writers and subjects, reflect a truism many people fail to realize. We all have history. History is not limited to what someone has decided is important enough to put in a big thick book which students are required to read in school.
Our personal histories are as important, if not more so, than wars and elections.
Being a member of TFS, and reading their books, should encourage lots of people to write down their history - at least the parts of it they don't mind other people knowing!
TFS encourages grandparents to pass the family saga down through another generation.
Effective Dec. 19, 2013, the UNT Library/Portal to Texas History has digitized and put online 60 of the projected 62 books in the Texas Folklore Society collection for free access. Complete text with pictures can be read at no cost, and purchased, if desired. The Portal to Texas History is a website used by researchers and is available without membership.
To browse the collection, go to http://texashistory.unt.edu/explore/collections/TFSP/browse/
Researchers and other interested persons (TFS members and non-members) are now able to read the full text of the Texas Folklore Society's books from PTFS #1 "Round the Levee," published in 1916, to PTFS #58 2001: "A Texas Folklore Odyssey," published in 2001, as well as four of the Extra Books series.
Memberships in the Texas Folklore Society are $15 for students, $25 for individuals and $30 for families, and are available online from the society's website. Or, send dues to the society at PO Box 13007 - SFA Station, Nacogdoches, 75962-3007.