The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990 Page: 29
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Colonel Edward M. House: The Texas Years
challenges of a similar drama and magnitude seemed to exist for House
and his generation of Texans. He could not repeat the exploits of these
heroic figures, but was burdened with their legacy and with the ex-
ample of his father. Dreaming of great achievements, he did not know
how to fulfill his vague fantasies, how to close the gap between desire
At some point in his youth House began to shape his ambitions to fit
his talents and circumstances. He discovered that he found pleasure
and even exhilaration in the mastery and manipulation of other people,
that he enjoyed creating situations in which he controlled their emo-
tions. He also discovered that he relished practical jokes that empha-
sized physical discomfort and embarrassment and involved a flirtation
with violence and death. Years later he recorded the details of these
youthful escapades with loving care.7
As a boy in Texas, House and his companions put a Swedish contrac-
tor, who had come from Houston to paint some buildings on his fa-
ther's plantation, on a gun-shy horse. The contractor was thrown from
it twice, once when he fired his own gun and again when the rider next
to him fired both barrels of his shotgun across the back of the Swede's
horse. The following day, on a dark, cloudy night, House and his
friends took the Swede on a "snipe hunt" on the prairies near Houston
and sought to lose him in the open, trackless space. At Hopkins Gram-
mar School in New Haven, Connecticut, which he attended from 1875 to
1877, House enjoyed fooling "an overgrown, stupid lad whose father
had more money than discretion," and he developed a more subtle,
manipulative form of practical joke, embodied in a chess game he and
another boy played. He recalled:
One night I suggested that at supper we should get into a heated discussion
regarding our relative skill at the game [of chess], and finally agree to play one
game, the loser to treat the entire house to a dinner and the play. Excitement
ran high. Studies were suspended and all crowded about us to watch each
move. Toward the middle of the game when a wrong move would give it to
either of us, I got up to get a drink of water. In doing so I tilted the table and
scattered the pieces. I humbly apologized and thought I knew how to replace
the men. Everyone of the boys knew just where the men were, but no two
agreed on the exact position of all the men. We wrangled for half an hour, and
I suggested that we begin another game. Wilkie [House's co-conspirator] de-
clined saying he had me beaten and thought I upset the men on purpose. I had
the sympathy of the crowd because I was willing to play again, and visions of a
feast and a play dominated their feelings."
7Ibid, 6-8, 17-22, George and George, Woodrow Wzlson and Colonel House, 8o-81.
S"Memories," 6, 7 (Ist quotation), 8, 17 (2nd quotation), 18 (3rd quotation)
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 93, July 1989 - April, 1990, periodical, 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101213/m1/55/: accessed December 16, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.