Hide, Horn, Fish, and Fowl: Texas Hunting and Fishing Lore

By Bronner, Simon J. | Western Folklore, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Hide, Horn, Fish, and Fowl: Texas Hunting and Fishing Lore


Bronner, Simon J., Western Folklore


Hide, Horn, Fish, and Fowl: Texas Hunting and Fishing Lore. Edited by Kenneth L. Untiedt. Publications of the Texas Folklore Society LXVII. (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 201 1 . Pp. x+ 367, preface, contributors vitas, index. $41.95 cloth.)

The Texas Folklore Society produces handsomely packaged books in its publication series that are on timely topics in folklore studies, and this volume on hunting and fishing lore is no exception. It still seems odd to me that hunting and fishing lore is a relatively "new" topic in folklore studies in light of its longstanding tradition and rich expressive variation in story, song, and custom. A special issue of this journal on hunting and fishing introduced by Jacqueline Thursby (2004), the book Wild Games edited by Dennis A. Cutchins and Eric Eliason (2009), and my study Killing Tradition (2008) were all published just since 2004, each making note of the slim folkloristic bibliography of hunting and fishing folklife. The Publications of the Texas Folklore Society under the leadership of J. Frank Dobie (1888-1964) and Mody C. Boatright (1897-1970) deserve a footnote for featuring some of the earliest folkloristic essays on the topic, however, and there is an association evident in the pages of the series beginning in 1916 of hunting with the state's heritage (see Miles 1961).

A difference in tone with this volume from Texas is an admission by the editor that despite the "inclination to hunt for wild game and fish stream and open waters ... we no longer need to do so for our basic survival" (ix) . The early essays address in one way or another a "passion," "drive," or "appeal" of the hunting and fishing experience to six men and at least one woman, Mary Margaret Dougherty Campbell, who does valuably add to the understudied haul of women's narratives about hunting with her observations on the roots of women's hunting in ranch life. Yet in her essay and the ones by the men the answer to the question of what drives people to hunt in the modern world, or this corner of it, is elusive. Several mention hunting's function of providing bonding with one's father (and in John Wolfs memoir, a quashing of hunting by wives upon entering marriage) , and others give references to communing with nature and coming-of-age as a man. But generally in this section and in others, writers are more interested in relating their stories than in reflecting upon or interpreting hunting practices. Occasionally there is an instinctual argument that hunting is "in the blood." The effect of the animal rights movement does not enter into the conversation and neither do the ecological considerations of the loss of wilderness and the rise of suburbanization. There is an awareness of the power of narrative in relating values and social memory, if not of the comparative analysis of hunting and fishing texts, performances, and contexts.

The analytical-sounding title "Pranks in Hunting Camp; Or, the Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Ancient Rites Practices in Bucolic and Fraternal Settings" by Robert Flynn appears out of place among the lively reminiscences indicated by first-person narrative chapter headings.

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