Texas and the South
WALTER L. BUENGER
A FEW YEARS AGO IN PLAINVIEW, TEXAS, I LISTENED AGAIN TO THE
s tories of my mother's family, the Coxes and the Thompsons.
While the landscape of the South Plains certainly does not look south-
ern, I finally understood that these were southern people and this a
southern place--with a Texas twist.'
One great-grandfather grew up in Mississippi during the Civil War.
For four years he hid his favorite horse from marauding troops. Near
the end of the war great-grandfather heard about another batch of sol-
diers who were stripping the neighborhood clean and responded by
leading his horse into the barn and cleverly covering it with hay. The sol-
diers never found the horse, but they set the barn on fire, burning it and
the horse to ashes. William Humphrey, a novelist from Northeast Texas,
insisted it was a "feeling of identity with the dead which characterizes
and explains the Southerner." That was why families told and retold sto-
ries such as this one about my great-grandfather. Stories bound families
not only to their departed ancestors, but to a separate and distinctive
South. Another Northeast Texas writer, William A. Owens, asserted that
in the early twentieth century "hatred of Yankees and carpetbaggers had
diminished only a little" in his native region and that this passion passed
from generation to generation through stories. Yet after hearing the
story of the horse and the burned barn many times, that day I realized
* Walter L. Buenger is an associate professor at Texas A&M University. He is the author of
Secession and the Union in Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984), co-author of But Also
Good Business: Texas Commerce Banks and the Financing of Houston and Texas (College Station: Texas
A&M University Press, 1986) and Texas Merchant: Marvin Leonard and Fort Worth (College Station:
Texas A&M University Press, 1998), and co-editor of Texas Through Time: Evolving Interpretations
(College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1991).
'On how stories determine identity see William A. Owens, "Regionalism and Universality," in
Don Graham, James W. Lee, and Wilham T. Pilkington (eds.), The Texas Literary Tradizton: Fiction,
Folklore, and History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983), 69-79. In the same volume also see
Norman D. Brown, "Texas's Southern Roots," 40-45 and James W. Lee, "The Old South in
Texas Literature," 46-57. For a starting point in comparing Texas and the South see Frank E.
Vandiver, The Southreest: South or West? (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975).
VOL. CIII, No. 3 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY JANUARY, 2000
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed December 6, 2013.