Texian Stomping Grounds Page: 9
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ON THE JEFFEBSON ROAD
at half-mast. The Negro boys, only, would stand back against
the night, eyes round with worry, tongues silent in watering
mouths. Theirs was the hard job; they always had to wait for
the leavings, the likker in the pot.
After supper, the men who had fought with Forrest, Lee,
Joe Johnson and Kirby Smith would drift in to form a large
group by a favored fire. There, surrounded by the dark of the
tall timber of the bottom land, filled with ghost-like shadows
from many fires, all dancing in mingled, mystic confusion, a
good war would be re-fought. It was the little things of war,
the humor which formed the woof between the tragic warp of
war, like the patter of rifle fire between the grim roar of cannon
in action, that were re-lived on these evenings. Good soldiers
never die; they simply fade from life. And after war, good
soldiers remember only the living incidents; the tragedy fades,
with the fight.
Late would be the hour when these groups would begin to
break. First to call attention to the lateness would be the older
Negroes. With solemn faces grown sulky after the labor of the
day, they would clear the ground on their side of the fire, spread
ancient tattered patch-work quilts. On these, with only brogan
shoes removed, they would stretch weary bodies. They would
upturn gnarled, calloused, black feet in a ragged row before the
warm glow of the nearby coals, looking in profile for all the
world like snooping buzzards on a fence row at sunset. Soon
the older of those across the fire would take the hint, light a
shuck, and, with it lifted high, choose a careful path into the
It was in connection with the pioneer camp fires, I think,
that the expression "light a shuck," to make a quick departure,
originated. In the early days, corn was carried as the principal
food for man and beast. It was carried unshucked in the wagon
beds. Selected shucks were placed at convenient places by all
fires. On leaving one camp fire to go to another, a man was
usually blinded by the light of the fire he was just leaving. On
turning his back to the fire, he found the surrounding woods
pitch dark. To penetrate this blackness and give his eyes a
chance to accustom themselves to it, so as not to fall over dead
Here’s what’s next.
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Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964. Texian Stomping Grounds, book, 1941; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67663/m1/17/: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.