Notes and Documents
WILLIAM A. OWENS*
This chapter is part of Tell Me a Story, Sing Me a Song ... A Texas
Chronicle, the third volume of my autobiography and also the third
in my collection of Texas folk music. The scene described here oc-
curred in the summer of 1938. The remainder is a summation of coun-
try church music of the time, and its place in Texas folk culture.
William A. Owens
N THE FIRST YEAR OF MY RECORDING I STOPPED AT A BRUSH ARBOR AT A
country crossroads somewhere between Crockett and Madisonville.
All over the South, as they had for more than a hundred years, the
faithful were coming together for revivals, for a week or two of remind-
ing each other of the Lord's mercy, and Satan's wiles. I stood outside
at the back and breathed again the mixed smell of drying willow
leaves, of oak sawdust six inches deep on the ground, of coal oil flares
shedding their reddish glow toward the outer edges of darkness, on
men and women scrooched together on oak plank benches, on children
asleep on patchwork quilt pallets. Services had started and the preach-
er, a white-haired, white-bearded man in white shirt and black trousers,
was talking. At the moment his voice was quiet, gentle for a revivalist.
From what he said I knew he was Baptist, probably Primitive or Land-
mark. At the proper time he would shout in anger, not at the sinner-
for him there would be compassion-but at the devil and his power
to drag the sinner down.
*William A. Owens is dean emeritus and professor emeritus in English at Columbia
University, and is the well-known author of A Fair and Happy Land, Texas Folk Songs,
and Three Friends: Bedichek, Dobie, Webb. His forthcoming book, Tell Me a Story,
Sing Me a Song ... A Texas Chronicle, will be released by the University of Texas Press
in the spring of 1983.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 86, July 1982 - April, 1983. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101209/. Accessed March 1, 2015.