The Good Stories are where you find them.
September 29, 2014
THE GOOD STORIES are out there.
It’s just that they aren’t always where we look.
It’s not that they’re hiding, it’s just that many of the good stories have been locked away in somebody’s mind for a long time.
They’ve been handed down for generations.
My greatest fear is that the good stories will die away before the one who possesses them last takes the time to pass them on.
I have written a lot of nonfiction in my time.
I have written a lot of historical fiction.
I know how to research.
First it was museums.
Then came libraries.
And finally I found the greatest resource of all: the oldest man whittling and whistling on the courthouse lawn.
He may not know the story.
But he knows who does.
I was in the quaint little town of Salado, researching a magazine article on Sam Houston and the controversy surrounding Texas when it appeared that Civil War would break out with the next gunshot, and the guns were already shooting.
There was no courthouse.
But there was a lawn.
And a bench.
And an old man.
We sat together for a spell, and this is the story he told me.
Sam Houston was a disturbed man.
Across the Southern cotton fields, he could see the early warning signs of a nation torn apart, a civil war that would be anything but civil.
He rode across Texas preaching the same message to anyone who would listen to him. Texas had fought so long to become a part of the United States, and, at time, the battles had been so bloody.
Now he was pleading for Texas to stand solid with the United States and not be tempted to follow the South when rebels and rabble rousers broke away to form the Confederacy.
Sam Houston made one of his most fervent, impassioned pleas against secession on the balcony of the Shady Villa Inn in Salado.
When his final words had died away, a big old burly Brazos River farmer elbowed his way to the front of the crowd and yelled, “But General Sam, we can whip them damn Yankees with cornstalks.”
Houston took a deep breath.
He smiled wistfully.
His voice softened.
“Son, you’re right,” he said. “We can beat them damn Yankees with cornstalks. The trouble is, them damn Yankees won’t agree to fight with cornstalks.”