The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984

Book Reviews

patience and sympathy that he managed to capture and save so much
of the folklore of Texas before it was lost to radio, a world war, mod-
ern mobility, television, and the urbanism of our times.
Tell Me a Story is a narrative account of Owens's collecting days,
and the narrative is arranged around the various groups who made up
Texas-Mexicans, Germans, Czechs, Swedes, Cajuns, Italians, and of
course the blacks and the Anglo-Saxon Protestants who brought the
dominant culture of the South to Texas. In the sections devoted to the
various groups Owens does more than tell of his experiences in the
field; he tells, briefly and clearly, who the people are, how they came
here, and something of their impact upon modern Texas. He prints
the songs of the various cultural groups, translations when needed,
and reflects upon customs, language, and habits of mind.
One of the book's best features is its sharp focus upon the individuals
who sang for Owens. There is Madame Trosclair from the Cajun
country of Louisiana, who suddenly blurts out, "You know the devil
was in Houma Monday night?" She tells how the devil showed up at a
dance "just like a natural man," but in the commotion he caused, "he
got scared and ran away." When Owens asked Madame Trosclair
whether she had seen the devil, she replied, "Plenty folks I believe
seen him." Then she declares that his appearance in Houma was a
good thing: "People'd got rotten in Houma. They cleaned up a lot
since Monday night" (p. 137)-
Though Tell Me a Story is the third volume of Owens's autobiog-
raphy, it is different from the first two-This Stubborn Soil and A
Season of Weathering-because one learns less about Owens than
about the people he meets. The focus in this volume is on the people
of Texas. In the first two books people are seen in their relation to
the narrator, but in this book the narrator lives in the people he
meets. Read together, the three volumes tell the story of William
Owens's life from 1905 to 1941, but they also tell a great deal about
Texas during the period.
North Texas State University JAMES W. LEE
Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. By James M. Mc-
Pherson. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982. Pp. xvii+694+
xxxii. Preface, illustrations, maps, tables, figures, notes, glossary,
bibliography, index. $29.95.)
Can we ever fully understand the Civil War era? Considering the
enormity, complexity, and outright contentiousness of recent scholar-


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 28, 2016.

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