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Critical Race Theory Rides Again

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Where is Governor Abbott when you really need him? True, he has to spend a lot of time at the border. Priorities are priorities, however, and when you have as many as he does some are going to slip through the cracks. In this case the Governor and his posse thought they had suppressed the notion that the Alamo had something to do with white guys wanting slaves to do the hard work.

Then, a few blocks north of the shrine to Texas liberty, Critical Race Theory somehow found a home at the Witte museum. Not only that, but the “Black Cowboys: An American Story” exhibit occupies a space next to the room dedicated to the Old Time Trail Drivers Association. As many readers will know, its members’ recollections fill the thousand plus pages of The Trail Drivers of Texas (1925) by J. Marvin Hunter, the founder of this newspaper.

According to the exhibit, the Spanish and Africans had developed techniques for working cattle herds from horseback long before they transported them across the Atlantic. These techniques were established in New Spain by the late 1500s and spread north into south Texas by 1800. The Mexican cowboy, the vaquero, was likely to be a slave, mulatto or mestizo. As the Texas journalist, Claude Stanush, put it, the first Texas cowboys were Indians. The Anglo cattle business subsequently started in southeast Texas, with its deep pastures and reliable water.

In 1860 the U.S. Census counted one-third of Texans as Black, most enslaved, including 20 in Bandera County. Not until after the Civil War did a situation arise which demanded an improvisation: the cattle drive. George W. Saunders, the driving force behind the Old Time Trail Drivers Association, reports the following in Hunter’s book.

“At the close of the Civil War the soldiers came home broke and our state was in a deplorable condition.

The old men, small boys and negroes had taken care of the stock on the ranges and the state was overstocked but there was no market for this stock.”

The first drives began in 1867; the frenzy began in the 1870s. There were good years and bad years.

The trail closed in 1895. The exhibit estimates that one in four trail drivers was Black. Many went on to careers as cowhands, ranchers and farmers. Some branched out, like Myrtis Dightman, the “Jackie Robinson of Professional Rodeo.” Or Old Bill Pickett, who turned a rodeo stunt (bringing a bull down by biting its upper lip) into a career in Black cinema. Others joined communities of emancipated slaves in the Freedmen’s Settlements, like Black Jack’s Peninsula, where we now go to see the Whooping Cranes. Jack was among those who warned Samuel and Mary Maverick, his former owners, that their cattle had too much wanderlust.

So you can see Critical Race Theory at work here. You can imagine woke teachers dragging white boys and girls into those rooms. These youngsters probably thought they were going to see their favorite dinosaur. Instead, they are forced to learn that not every cowboy looked like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood or George Strait.

Governor, your duty calls you. (Full disclosure. One of Mr. Denyer’s distant and long departed relatives, Dillard Fant, is included in

Hunter’s book and his portrait hangs in the Witte.)

Tom Denyer has resided in the county since 1979.