Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Monday, 3 October 2011

"This is the Barbecue we had last night": some hunting grounds of Texas


The Avengers of Little Myrtle Vance, and the Villian brought to Justice -- Parade around Public Square
: photo copyrighted 1893 by Frank N. Hudson, Paris, Texas (Library of Congress)


Public lynching of Henry Smith, accused of killing Myrtle Vance, County Fairgrounds, Paris, Texas
: photographer unknown, 1893; image by WhisperToMe, 4 March 2011

Filibuster against anti-lynching bill. Washington, D.C., 27 January. Members of the bloc of Southern Senators who have been filibusting against the anti-lynching bill for the last 20 days and are still going strong, left to right: Senator Tom Connally, of Texas, Senator Walter F. George, of Georgia; Senator Richard Russell of Georgia; and Senator Claude Pepper of Florida
: photo by Harris & Ewing, 27 January 1938 (Library of Congress)

A welcome sign at the entrance of Throckmorton, the county seat. The Perry family's longtime hunting camp is situated on a vast, 42,000-acre ranch that reaches into Throckmorton and two other counties: photo by Miguel Juarez/The Washington Post

Paint Creek, Tex. — In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance.

“Niggerhead,” it read.

Ranchers who once grazed cattle on the 1,070-acre parcel on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River called it by that name well before Perry and his father, Ray, began hunting there in the early 1980s. There is no definitive account of when the rock first appeared on the property. In an earlier time, the name on the rock was often given to mountains and creeks and rock outcroppings across the country. Over the years, civil rights groups and government agencies have had some success changing those and other racially offensive names that dotted the nation’s maps.

But the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp.

When asked last week, Perry said the word on the rock is an “offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”

But how, when or whether he dealt with it when he was using the property is less clear and adds a dimension to the emerging biography of Perry, who quickly moved into the top tier of Republican presidential candidates when he entered the race in August.

He grew up in a segregated era whose history has defined and complicated the careers of many Southern politicians. Perry has spoken often about how his upbringing in this sparsely populated farming community influenced his conservatism. He has rarely, if ever, discussed what it was like growing up amid segregation in an area where blacks were a tiny fraction of the population.

In his responses to two rounds of detailed, written questions, Perry said his father first leased the property in 1983. Rick Perry said he added his own name to the lease from 1997 to 1998, when he was state agriculture commissioner, and again from 2004 to 2007, when he was governor.

He offered a simple version of how he dealt with the rock, followed by a more elaborate one.

“When my Dad joined the lease in 1983, he took the first opportunity he had to paint over the offensive word on the rock during the 4th of July holiday,” Perry said in his initial response. “It is my understanding that the rock was eventually turned over to further obscure what was originally written on it.”

Perry said that he was not with his father when he painted over the name but that he “agreed with” the decision.

In response to follow-up questions, Perry gave a more detailed account.

“Ever since, any time I ever saw the rock it was painted over,” Perry said.

Perry’s version of events differs in many respects from the recollections of seven people, interviewed by The Washington Post, who spoke in detail of their memories of seeing the rock with the name at various points during the years that Perry was associated with the property through his father, partners or his signature on a lease.

Some who had watched Perry’s political ascent recalled their reaction to the name on the rock and their worry that it could become a political liability for Perry.

“I remember the first time I went through that pasture and saw that,” said Ronnie Brooks, a retired game warden who began working in the region in 1981 and who said he guided three or four turkey shoots for Rick Perry when Perry was a state legislator between 1985 and 1990. “. . . It kind of offended me, truthfully.”

Brooks, who said he holds Perry “in the highest esteem,” said that at some point after Perry began bringing lawmakers to the camp, the rock was turned over. Brooks could not recall exactly when. He said he did not know who turned the rock over.

Another local who visited the property with Perry and the legislators in those years recalled seeing the rock with the name clearly visible.

“I thought, ‘This is going to embarrass Rick some day,’ ” said this person, who did not want to be named, fearing negative consequences from speaking on the subject.

The hunting camp was simple in the 1980s, just a cabin with a long table for cleaning fish and deer, a few bunks and a porch set along a riverbank in Throckmorton County. There was a sprawling pecan tree and a water tank for showers, an arrangement that got more elaborate as the years went on.

-- excerpt from news story by Stephanie McCrummen, Washington Post, 1 October 2011

6' Tall Flower Planter of Rick Perry Head

6' Tall Flower Planter of Rick Perry Head, $4,500: e-bay advert

Rick Perry's latest controversy is actually decades old, but the name of his family's hunting ranch is sparking fury among voters and fellow politicians.

The Texas governor's 1,070-acre camp in West Texas reportedly had the name "N-----head" painted in large letters on a rock at its entrance for many years, according to The Washington Post, and Perry used to take visitors to the ranch for years before painting over the slur.

The ranch was first leased by Perry's father in the early 1980s, and Perry added his own name to the lease twice, once in 1997 and again in 2004.

Racially charged names were not uncommon after the pioneering of the remote areas of Far West Texas, and the state had to make a law in 1991 to rename places with offensive monikers.

Fellow presidential candidate Herman Cain, the only African American running for the Republican nomination, was outraged by the news.

"My reaction is that is very insensitive," GOP contender Cain said on ABC's "This Week."

"Since Gov. Perry has been going there for years to hunt, I think that it shows a lack of sensitivity for a long time of not taking that word off that rock and renaming the place. It's just basically a case of insensitivity."

"[There] isn't a more vile, negative word than the N-word, and for him to leave it there as long as he did, until before, I hear, they finally painted over it, is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country," Cain added on "Fox News Sunday."

-- International Business Times, 2 October 2011

The body of mentally retarded 17-year-old Jesse Washington after he was beaten with shovels and bricks, castrated, had his ears and fingers cut off and finally burned alive. His body is here hanging on display in Robinson, seven miles from Waco, where the lynching took place.
Front: "Charred corpse of Jesse Washington suspended from utility pole. May 16, 1916, Robinson, Texas. Gelatin silver paint. Real photo postcard. 5 1/2 x 3 1/2"." Back: Reverse of postcard, bearing the advertising stamp, "KATY ELECTRIC STUDIO TEMPLE TEXAS. H. LIPPE PROP." Inscribed in brown ink: 'This is the Barbecue we had last night my picture is to the left with a cross over it your son Joe."
: photos from Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America (plates 25 and 26); image by Peter Isotelo, 23 February 2009


Conrad DiDiodato said...

Why is there a necessary (but not sufficient) relation between Republican presidential candidates and their Texas ranches?

TC said...


The hard science has tended to support the view that the Texas wing of the party has always had a few loose pellets in it... but what's a close range blast or two in a turkey shoot, between, er... I believe at the time they were called "acquaintances".

(The victim in that case survived, after various complications including a heart attack, reporting however he had not received an apology from the shooter...Never apologize, never explain, says the small print on the ranch gate...)



grim grim grim -- thanks again for keeping it (al too) real. . . .


light coming into clouds above shadowed
plane of ridge, motionless black branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

that therefore is, which is
possible matter given

motion, nature connected to
position, measured it

white cloud moving across pale blue sky,
triangular plane of peak across from it

TC said...


No arguing with all

that therefore is, which is
possible matter given...

light coming into clouds above shadow

over here now too.

And so good morning to you, out there on the edge of it all.

Marcia said...

From the Edge: Rain in San Antonio this morning. Not sure that Perry's prayers had much to do with it, though.

TC said...

Marcia, good for you. Wish we could ship you a few million barrels. Of rain, that is.

No, the benison is probably not Perry's doing. I understand he's training his sights right now on exorcising Mormons.

Elmo St. Rose said...

drought is a problem in Texas
and so it the broad brush

racial violence also had less
dramatic consequences...

the story was the "old nigger
Bohannon" was told by white friends
that he would be burned out
if he didn't abandon his property
and of course he did, a story passed down from a father to a son
who became a doctor to a Yankee who
moved down South.

the photos from the past don't
correlate with the present and
Perry had nothing to do with the
dramatic photos you presented of
course that doesn't mean he should
be President

TC said...


If the legacy of the past is painted over with a slap-dash coat of whitewash, does the past then not exist?

An ethos, passed down through the generations.

Self determination, the right to bear arms.

Texas politics, historical.

See that third photo from the top: Tom Connally's filibuster against the anti-lynching bill.

Dragged kicking and screaming out of the Stone Age into 1938, in a six foot tall planter.

Elmo St. Rose said...

past is prologue
but there was the civil rights
movement...and there was Lyndon
Johnson from Texas who used
power and political skill to pass the Civil Rights bill because it was the right thing
to do. It twasn't the Kennedys.

most people my age here remember
acts of racial violence of white
on black...and from the standpoint
of race relations, historically,
this was a progressive county

there are still areas in this state
where blacks are made to feel

the last lynching in this county
was in 1963, not 1938...people
live and work close together...
the Arkansas Razorbacks have done
more for race relations than any
except perhaps the Methodist Women
who were for decency

Eisenhower sent the troops to
Little Rock and was right to do
it but the public school system
there is now failing...and people
actually move to Little Rock to
send their children to the good
private schools(religiously based)

yes there exists the potential
for violence and violence based
on race...and people are quite
heavily armed...but unless there
is social breakdown there is law
and order and civil rights

TC said...

The Washington Post interviewed a number of black residents of the general vicinity of the Perry "Niggerhead" ranch.

The consensus was, we have always stayed well away from that place, out of fear.