The Come-and-Take-It Duck

Dissolving into the late afternoon heat, a sweet stench of rotting fruit thickened the air, rendering it palpable as withered petals fading and dropping from the passiflora.  Torpid among the vines, bees buzzed erratically, seemingly ambivalent about their task. Like the bees, I’d come to work, but I suspected none of us would be disappointed when darkness brought labor to an end.

After days of rain, alleyways between the rows of melons, tomatoes, and eggplant remained soggy: rich in puddles, and riddled with crawdad chimneys. Though good for still-ripening figs, water was bringing an end to the abundant tomato crop. Soggy as the ground, their skins splitting, fruit fell to the ground or fell to pieces at the first hint of a touch. Finding still-firm tomatoes required concentration, and the development of a rhythm: search, test, pluck, bucket.

Intent on harvesting, lost in thought, I heard only the buzzing of the bees until a voice caught my attention. “You better watch your bucket, there, ma’am.” Startled, I looked through the vines to find a man peering at me: an old man, in jeans, wearing a cap that advertised his allegiance to the local farm and ranch supply. “Your bucket,” he said. “You better tend to it, or them fellers gonna get your best t’maters.”

Turning, I saw a half-dozen ducks pushing their bills into fallen fruit, or pulling rotted tomatoes from the vines. Not content to rummage on the ground, the largest duck had walked up to my bucket and was busy trying to dislodge a whole, blemish-free tomato. “Stop that,” I said, pulling away the bucket.

Undeterred, the duck advanced. When I picked up the bucket and set it in front of me, the duck followed, circling around my legs to make another grab for the tomato. A snapped bandana only made him hiss before he attacked the bucket again. Finally, a tomato rolled to the ground. Before I could make a move, he’d squashed it with his foot, and began to eat.

Unwilling to admit defeat by a duck, I made one last, irrational grab for the remnants. At that point, he lowered his head, made an unearthly and entirely un-duck-like sound, and stood his ground.

The folks watching the confrontation laughed. The fellow who alerted me to the duck’s presence laughed, too. “Now, that there, ” he said. “is a real come-and-take-it duck.”

Only a woman in platform sandals, a couple who’d arrived in a car with Kansas plates, and a Greek family who’d come for figs but stayed for tomatoes, seemed puzzled. Every Texan within earshot laughed even harder, and stood a little staighter. They knew their history.

Long before an 1835 skirmish broke out between Mexican soldiers and Texian militiamen at Gonzales, tensions among various factions in Texas — Spanish royalists, Mexican revolutionaries, Anglo settlers, and waves of independence-minded and land-hungry immigrants — had led to remarkable changes.

Before signing the Treaty of Córdoba on August 24, 1821 (the treaty which formalized Mexican independence), Spain had granted Moses Austin permission to found a colony of Anglo settlers in Texas. Austin died on June 10, 1821, but on his deathbed charged his son, Stephen, with the task of carrying on the work of colonization.

Though reluctant, Stephen agreed, and immediately found himself embroiled in complexities. Agustín Iturbide, chosen by the Mexican revolutionaries as a military leader, decided to celebrate independence from Spain by dissolving the Mexican Congress and declaring himself August I, Emperor of Imperial Mexico.

Although he re-signed Austin’s colony into law on January 4, 1823, Iturbide was forced into exile on March 19 of that year by a group of army officers which included Antonio López de Santa Anna.  With Iturbide’s abdication, the colony law was annulled, but Austin once again managed to have it reinstated, and his three hundred family colony became a reality. By 1832, Austin’s colonies alone had grown to 8,000 people, despite Mexico’s imposition of immigration limits in 1830: a result of rumors that the United States might be thinking of annexing the region.

In 1835, a caretaker government headed by Valentín Gómez Farías eliminated the law limiting immigration to Texas, and lifted restrictions on land speculation. As the number of new settlers increased, so did the level of discontent: particularly where taxes and tariffs were concerned. The reopening of customs offices at Velasco and Anahuac was particularly irksome.

The history of battles, surrenders, retreats, and trickery at both ports is complicated. Suffice it to say that, when Mexican General Martín Perfecto de Cos made known his intention to arrest William Barrett Travis for his role at Anahuac in June of 1835, and asked the Texans to hand Travis over, they were unwilling to do so: irking the Mexicans in turn.

Two months later, Stephen Austin returned from his own stint in a Mexican jail. Suspected of inciting insurrection among the colonists after presenting President Santa Anna with a proposal to grant Texas separation from Coahuila, he returned to Texas via New Orleans only after being freed by a general amnesty in July, 1835.  In his absence, many had come to favor a clean break with Mexico, partly because of Santa Anna’s annulment of Mexico’s 1824 Constitution. Federalist in nature, it had guaranteed certain rights to the states, and its annulment caused many to believe their rights would be further curtailed.

On August 20, the the citizens of the Jurisdiction of Columbia circulated a broadside calling for a Consultation to be held at Washington-on-the-Brazos on October 15, 1835 to discuss escalating friction with Mexico, and consider options for more autonomous rule for Texas.

Fully aware of restlessness among the Texans, Mexican authorities began taking steps to prevent real trouble. A first step was reclaiming armaments which had been made available to the colonists.

On January 1, 1831, Green DeWitt wrote to Ramón Músquiz, political chief of Bexar, requesting a means of defending Gonzales colonists against hostile Indians. On March 10, James Tumlinson, Jr., a DeWitt colonist at Bexar, received and signed for a bronze cannon meant for Gonzales, given with the stipulation that it would be returned upon request. When the Mexicans asked for the return of their cannon  in September, 1835, the colonists declined.

This either is, or isn’t the actual “Come and Take It” cannon, displayed at the Museum in Gonzales ~ Opinions differ

After learning that Gonzales was refusing to surrender the cannon, Domingo de Ugartechea, military commander in Texas, dispatched Francisco de Castañeda and a force of a hundred men to retrieve it. Castañeda’s meeting with the Texans was less than successful. When he requested the cannon be returned, the Texans pointed to the gun, about 200 yards behind them, and said, “There it is. Come and take it.”

After a few days’ worth of maneuvering, the Mexican forces skirmished with the local militia, led by John Henry Moore. Though Castañeda and his men retreated, the event was reported across the country as the first battle of the Texas Revolution. While hardly a significant battle (two Mexicans were killed, and one Texian suffered a bloody nose after being thrown from his horse), the encounter did serve as a potent symbol of the final break between American colonists and the Mexican government.

For their battle flag, the Texians adopted a design created by Cynthia Burns and Evaline DeWitt: a single black star, an image of the disputed cannon, and the phrase “Come and Take It.” There are suggestions the flag also may have been carried by Stephen F. Austin’s volunteer army to the siege of Bexar. As DeWitt colonist Creed Taylor recalled:

About this time, on the tenth, I think, Stephen F. Austin arrived at our camp and was given quite an ovation. All looked upon the great man as a wise councilor and a safe leader, and so he was unanimously chosen as our commander-in-chief with the title of general.
To heighten the excitement and arouse further enthusiasm, at this juncture the general received a message from Colonel Cos, at Bexar, saying that he was coming to Gonzales with a large force to recover that cannon. When this news was circulated among the boys their enthusiasm was raised to the highest pitch. “Let them come and take it,” became the cry.

Like Goliad garrison commander Phillip Dimmitt’s “bloody arm flag,” raised in the quadrangle of Presidio La Bahia in December, 1835, both the “Come and Take It” flag and cannon soon gave way to other symbols of a new Texas Republic. Even so, though the flag is only a memory and the cannon’s provenance is questionable, the realities they represent still live.

Here are only a few examples of ways in which the Gonzalez battle cry, now 180 years old, lives on:

Over the bar at Frank, Austin, Texas ~ Photo by Seth Anderson
As a personalized Texas license plate
The speckled sea trout, gone Texan
I wasn’t born Texan, but I got here as fast as I could ~ with the help of Come and Take It Movers
A yard sign of solidarity during the great Blue Bell ice cream battle

And, of course, there was that duck.

Eventually, a truce was declared in The Great Tomato War of 2015. As the ducks and the tourists wandered off, I went back to picking, but the old man lingered, leaning on a post.

“You know,” he said, “it’s prob’ly a good thing that duck didn’t show up in Gonzales when they were squabbling over the cannon.”

Curious, I stopped picking. “How’s that?” “Well,” he said, “think about it. If that critter had wandered past the cannon, instead of yelling ‘Come and take it,’ somebody might’ve yelled ‘Duck!’ and things could’a worked out a whole lot different.”

Comments always are welcome. 
Apologies to those who are receiving a second email notification of this post. 
After publication, it disappeared from my files entirely, and didn’t appear on my site. I had a record of it only because of the email notification I received, which was dated June, 2015.   Others let me know that the links in their emails weren’t clickable. Since I didn’t want to lose the post,  I decided to alter the title slightly, and republish.

99 thoughts on “The Come-and-Take-It Duck

  1. Curt, this just has been a mess. Posts have disappeared from my draft files, or have new dates on them, and I have no idea what’s up.

    But, here’s your comment from the other version of this post. I’ve probably confused everyone beyond words with re-publication, but I had to do something. There may have been a better solution, but I wasn’t willing to wait around for a Happiness Engineer to show up.

    “Fun post, Linda. It parallels somewhat the post I just did on the Bear Flag Republic of California, with the California effort pattered somewhat after the Texas effort.

    Those were aggressive ducks. I trust that they were domestic, used to people. –Curt”

    I thought about the parallels between this and the California flag when I read your post. It’s interesting how many similarities do exist, for a variety of reasons (the mission system and the role of the Franciscans in both California and Texas comes to mind).

    And yes, they were domestic ducks, accustomed to life on a you-pick-it-farm with lots of traffic and lots of city folks who let them get away with more than they should!

    1. Hi Curt, If this were indeed a “domestic” duck – as in Farm Animal – his fluffy butt would’ve been sent off to freezer camp for having an undesirable genetic trait (as in, excessive aggression): No responsible farmer would want a drake exhibiting behaviour like this in the flock and no hen would want to be under a drake with “manners” like that…
      Of course, with “tame” animals being hand-fed in urban situations, this is the expected scenario (first one to the food wins and most aggressive rules): any hope of positive breeding results go out the window and, as you discovered Linda, look out for everyone else! My inclination would’ve been toward duck for dinner… Just kidding (sort of; )

      1. Oh, I think you’re too hard on the duck. After all, he never made a move toward me. He only wanted that tomato. Had my attention not been drawn to him, he could have grabbed it and gone, iwth no one the wiser. Of course, if I’d not noticed, and engaged him, I would have been minus a story, too. A good story beats a plump tomato every time.

        Honestly, I saw him and the rest of the flock every week for the rest of the season, and there weren’t any problems. As far as I know, even the kids are safe from them. When the ducks get tired of being harassed, they’d just head to the pond.

        The ones I really don’t like are the Muscovys that wander some of our neighborhoods. They’re the ones who have to compete for food, and it does make them — assertive. They certainly have learned that the back doors of restaurants are fine places to hang out. It’s no wonder they’re multiplying like they are!

        1. One thing though, at least Muscovy ducks are AMAZING fly catchers. Up here, Canada Geese are the biggest problem. Too bad there’s not some way to make use of all the animals being “artificially” fed, and then becoming an overpopulation problem because they’re not going back into the food chain (if you get my drift?). A hard reality perhaps but, as the saying goes… “Nature abhors an imbalance”

          1. We’re dealing with that down here with deer — as is Bill, of course. We had a terrible problem with feral cats, too. It seemed as though there were hundreds, although of course there probably weren’t. Then, coyotes began to be spotted in the neighborhood. Strange — I haven’t seen a cat wandering in some time.

  2. When I was a youngster on the farm, I feared the goose more than the bull. And even now, when I walk across campus I take geese warnings very seriously. But I have never had such an encounter with ducks. Having read this, though, I will be more circumspect around them!

    It is interesting to note how many folk understood the historic reference. Is it the case that Texans generally are quite literate regarding their history?

    1. I’d never been around geese until I moved into this area. There are several bayous and ponds around, and someone, somehow, decided that geese would be a nice addition. They’re big, assertive, and can really put the hurt on you. As for ducks, I’ve never known any who were quite as in your face as that white one. The mallards are sociable as can be, and most of the domestic I’ve known have been well behaved. At least you could shoo them away. Not this guy.

      The answer to your question about Texans and history is complicated. For one thing, it depends on which Texans. Those who are born and bred here, who have roots going back to the immigrants — or even earlier — certainly are well informed. In many cases, Texas history is their family history. That makes a difference.

      Newcomers? Not so much, I suppose. It takes time. When I first moved here in 1973, I didn’t know a thing about the state. But I liked it, and circumstances put me in close contact with “real” Texans, so I learned.

      It is true that things like “Come and take it” resonate. And there’s another battle cry I’ll be writing about. Everyone knows “Remember the Alamo” — but it’s mostly Texans who know the importance of “Remember Goliad.”

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Gary. I do love writing historical posts.This one was especially interesting, because there’s so much disagreement among sources about almost everything: from what happened to the cannon, to who sewed the flag, to the number actually killed at Gonzales.

      In fact, I even found discrepancies in such things as the year Austin was imprisoned in Mexico. You’d think that would be cut and dried, but not so. In some cases, articles in The Handbook of Texas Online that contradicted each other. Check and double-check, for sure.

  3. Ducks can be pretty aggressive and rude! Those bills can be tough on veggies and the forearms of little girls, as my daughter can tell you! Geese are ten times worse. Glad you didn’t have to fight a rude goose for tomatoes–you have about even odds of beating a goose. I love the Presidio la Bahia. I drive by there pretty often, and have stopped in many times. What a great history we have! Thanks for the great piece, all the best to you!

    1. I learned my lesson about the strength of duck bills with mallards, Justin. Of course there are hundreds around here, and now and then I’ve made friends with a few. Hand feeding them is fine, until you’re not quick enough, and they snap at your fingers — just as a reminder to get back to business, of course.

      As for geese? I keep my distance.I know some people keep them for pets, but I’m still cautious.

      I’m so happy to hear you’re another fan of the Presidio. I stayed there in July, in The Quarters, and have a series of three posts coming up about the experience. As a matter of fact, the “owlets” that showed up in the Etheree in my previous post were a poetic adaptation of the Presidio owls. Some say one of the owls is Fannin, but that seems implausible — except at 3 a.m., in the quadrangle.

      By the way — the magazine looks great. It’s clear that Rockport has changed since the years I spent so much time there. One of these days I’ll make it down.

  4. I intended to get away from etymology, but the conclusion of your article wouldn’t let me. Some linguists believe that duck the noun came from duck the verb, given the way that ducks duck under the water to search for food.

    I remember from childhood that there was a Disney cartoon in which someone tries to warn Donald Duck by yelling “Donald, duck!” Unfortunately for Donald, he thinks someone is merely calling his name, so he fails to duck and gets hit by a flying object.

    1. Duckologists classify just like botanists, of course. A duck isn’t just a duck. Some are dabblers, like the mallards, and some are divers. Dabblers are good walkers, who feed on or near the water’s surface, while the divers don’t walk well at all, but can swim like crazy, and get their food farther below the surface.

      Of course, that leads to another question: which came first, the dabbler ducks, or people who dabble in anything from the arts, to science? One thing’s for sure — every time I see a group of mallards dabbling, I laugh.

      Donald, Daisy, and Huey, Louie, and Dewey — staples of childhood. I’ve not watched any of their cartoons for some time, but I remember them being both smart and funny. Poor Donald. He always was getting himself into something, and then sputtering. I think the Roadrunner probably took lessons from him.

    1. Well, thank you for that nice compliment, Mother Hen. I do enjoy history, and I enjoy turning names, places and dates into stories that can be shared and remembered.

      One of my own history teachers did the same — maybe that’s where I got hooked. I certainly remember most of my class projects, which is a sure sign of a teacher who got me engaged with the subject matter.

  5. Well, I’ll be dang. This has been a “mild nightmare” because this is now the third time to comment. My comment flew due to internet connection loss and the second one left when WP said there was no post here and your blog even posted it and then whoosh, it was gone.

    Anyhow,I liked the article and now I have a new slang phrase to use. I don’t recall reading or hearing about “come and take it.”

    I’m too tired to write my entire comment again. Sorry.

    1. This just wasn’t a good morning for WordPress, Yvonne. You can’t imagine how stricken I was when I posted this entry, and it just disappeared. Goodness. I use the editor to compose, but I swear I’m going to start saving each post as .txt and .doc files before posting them from now on.

      Anyway, it looks like we’re back in business, and I’m really glad that you liked the post. Keep your eyes and ears open. I’ll bet there’s a business — or someone — in your area that’s using the “Come and Take It” phrase. As a matter of fact, I can see potential for using it for pet adoptions. Texas dogs and cats deserve a good, Texas slogan for their adoption programs, don’t you think? “Come and Take Them!”

  6. My husband used to tell stories about the aggressive ducks and geese on his family farm. Your descriptions of the duck encounter (and the rest) reads like a storybook. Wonderful! And thanks for the history lesson. One of the best trips we ever took was to Texas.

    1. I’m glad to hear that your trip to Texas was a good one, Jean. It’s a great, big state, full of great things to see and big-hearted people.

      That duck was something else — I don’t have a smart phone with a camera, but I do carry a little pocket-sized camera with me from time to time, and I was glad I had it that day. I’ve been sitting on the story for some time, but it had to be written. I couldn’t stand to have that photo go unused, let alone the rest of it.

      That come-and-take-it-duck might even make a decent children’s story. I’ve never done anything like that, but we certainly have the main character.

  7. Linda, I’ve always heard ducks and geese can be quite aggressive. I’ve even heard that country folks sometimes acquire a small “flock” to prevent thieves from accessing their homes!

    Thank you for a most interesting lesson in Texas history. I was an adult when I lived there, so I didn’t have the benefit of classes in the who’s who and what’s what — what I picked up was bits and pieces that were, nevertheless, fascinating. I love how Texans love their state and refuse to become a rug for anybody to walk on! And of course, the names live on in the cities and counties across the state.

    What an arrogant and demanding duck that found you and your tomatoes! He sure wasn’t going to back down, was he?!

    1. I don’t know about ducks, but I’ve heard that geese make pretty good watch animals. Guineas do, too. They’re smaller, of course, and not so likely to inflict real damage, but noisy? There’s nothing that can beat them for putting up a racket. But you’re right — that white duck was pretty close to the top of the scale when it came to aggressiveness. Or determination.

      I was in the same place as you. I arrived here as an adult, with not much more knowledge of the place than what I’d learned from movies — and those aren’t always the best source. Once I moved here, I started reading and listening, and the more I learned, the more interesting it became. There still are great gaps in my knowledge, but I’m working on it.

      It seems as though I’m constantly finding new place names associated with the state’s history. This time, it was DeWitt. I used to spend time in DeWitt County, without a clue that it was named for Green DeWitt, whose daughter helped design the Come and Take It flag.

    1. Terry, one of the great things about the internet is that we all can be teachers, and we all can learn. Granted, we need to approach this modern marvel with a critical eye and a certain scepticism — not everything on the interwebz is true. (Quelle horreur!) But the opportunities? They’re endless.

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the story!

  8. And we thought we had it bad with our groundhog and deer! You remind me, though I didn’t see it myself, that the women who came to install our new shades had a pet duck in their truck. I’m just glad they didn’t let it loose on our few remaining tomatoes! The Texas “Come and take it” story puts me in mind of your funny/sad//sad/funny comment my way, as I thought immediately of “come and get it,” the time-honored call to come to dinner . . . or to eat a hot dog in that Austin bar. Priceless.

        1. In my indignation earlier, I neglected to say thanks for the lesson today (shame on me): Unfortunately, my knowledge of Texan history has been limited to what I’ve gleaned from old movies and, obviously, from what I’ve learned from your post, is far from straightforward.
          And yes, ducks – well, Mallards at least – DO like fruit – and are just as much fun to watch eating Red Currents as when they’re dabbling (not that my mother thought so; ) Our birds were well-behaved and friendly [like Bill’s pigs; ], so repeated episodes of socially unacceptable behaviour was abruptly and finally “dealt with”.

          1. Well, that certainly went into the wrong spot, but while I’m here, on “certain days” I recall hearing “Come and get it, or I’ll throw it out!” (Of course food gets cold fast up here on the “other side” of the Great Lakes, hey?; )

          2. Most of my experience has been with mallards, but now that I think about it, they’re fond of salad, too. I’m wondering if the ducks at the farm ate blackberries from the bottom of the vines, too. They clearly liked the figs that began falling from the trees near the end of the season — or, more accurately, the ones that got tossed to them after the mockingbirds had done their damage.

            I did have a rooster in Liberia that had to be “dealt with.” It was a sad day when my neighbor bought him for $10 (as I recall) but it did bring peace to the neighborhood and dinner to a Sunday table. There’s a solution to every problem, including overly-vocal roosters!

            As for Texas — well, I’ve learned to appreciate the people and the history. There is a lot of misinformation and silly stereotyping out there, but I suppose that’s true for every group in the world. Some of the funniest sayings I’ve ever heard have been about Texans. We just laugh, and go on.

    1. The Great White One aside, ducks can make good pets. I had a friend who moved to Houston from the Panhandle, back in the day. Way back. They moved into a home in what’s now the Museum District, and promptly dug a pond in the backyard for his pair of white ducks named Donald and Daisy. The ducks went to school with him in the morning, and then flew home. In the afternoon, they’d fly over to the school, and walk home with him. It’s a true story, told and re-told by family members, and supported by photos.

      “Come and get it” was our call to dinner, too. Both my grandmother and mother both used it, although I’ve been trying to remember them using it on Sunday, and I don’t think they did. It was Sunday, after all, and “come and get it” just didn’t suit the good china and special food on the table.

  9. Once upon a time, we had a German Shepherd named Grif who lived in our back yard. From somewhere came a duck to our house and he was added to our back yard. One morning I woke to a commotion going on. Hopping out of bed without glasses of course, I looked out the window and saw Grif with the duck’s head in his mouth. I yelled at him but he just stood there, so hopping mad, glasses on, and nightgown clad, I went out to make him mind me and drop the duck. To my amazement when I got close to him I could see the helpless look in his eyes as that duck continued holding onto Grif’s tongue! I understand your come-and-get-it duck!

    1. What a tale, Oneta. But, given my experience with this duck, I can believe it. “Cat got your tongue?” was a common enough expression, but “Duck got your tongue?” is one I never would have imagined. I wonder how that particular encounter started. If the duck was defending itself, it certainly picked a great technique.

      Whether on a front porch or the internet, one good tale leads to another. Thanks so much for adding yours.

  10. I love your historical stories dear Linda. Always they are so interesting and enjoyable to read. I agree with most of comments, if you were an history teacher, I am sure, you would be the the best one and all students would like to be your students. Me too :) Thank you, have a nice week and day, love, nia

    1. I’ll bet you were one of the best students, Nia. Your curiosity about the world makes me think so — you like to learn about what’s happening around you. Your camera proves that!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my little story, and the history behind it. Thanks so much for coming by to say so. Have a good day, and a good week, too. You know we’re thinking of you and your country.
      ~ Linda

  11. I had no idea that ducks liked tomatoes. But I’ve spent little time around them and most of the time it’s been near water and not crops.

    Here in MA we don’t have any sayings, that I am aware of, with the same sort of history. We do have the original Tea Party and Paul Revere. Don’t Tread on Me is the NH saying that is the most like Come and Take It.

    Did Texans originally call themselves Texians?

    1. Truth to tell, Steve, I had no idea about the duck/tomato connection myself. It may be that, as residents of a rather large picking farm, they’d just developed a taste for them. There certainly were plenty around. I never asked if they liked any of the other crops, like the blackberries. I suspect they went for soft and juicy: tomatoes, fallen figs, over-the-hill squash.

      As for Texians, that was a name common during the period when Texas was a part of Mexico. The wiki says, “Texians were non-Hispanic white residents of Mexican Texas and, later, the Republic of Texas… While the term “Texian” continued to be used for a brief period of time to refer to residents of this region after its annexation by the United States of America in 1845, residents of the US state of Texas soon became known as Texans instead.”

      When you mentioned Paul Revere, the first thing that came to mind was a line I’ve always associated with your state — “One if by land, two if by sea” — and Longfellow’s poem.

      “Listen, my children, and you shall hear
      Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
      On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
      Hardly a man is now alive
      Who remembers that famous day and year…”

      That was one of the poems we memorized in school. I always thought the rhythm suggested a galloping horse. Now that I re-read it, I’m struck by how well the last lines have aged.

      “So through the night rode Paul Revere;
      And so through the night went his cry of alarm
      To every Middlesex village and farm, —
      A cry of defiance, and not of fear, —
      A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
      And a word that shall echo forevermore!
      For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
      Through all our history, to the last,
      In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
      The people will waken and listen to hear
      The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
      And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.”

      1. I can certainly understand, given the history, why the “i” was dropped from the name. Maybe it’s just the familiarity, but Texans sounds better.
        We are known as Massachusettsans which is not as easily pronounced but better than another term growing in popularity.

        We had to learn the poem as well although, to be honest, it’s all I can do to remember the first few lines much less all those stanzas.

        I would be very happy to have a few figs, fallen or not, right about now.

        1. Now, that gave me a laugh. Local terms of endearment can be so creative. I know a Massachusetts blogger who goes by the name of Masshysteria, which is pretty creative, too.

          We had such a good season for figs this year. You could have eaten your fill. Since I prefer mine still sun-warmed, fresh from the tree, I made plenty of trips out to the farm to pick enough for two or three days. Lucky me, to have such a farm only fifteen minutes away. I’m already eager for next season.

  12. Fascinating tales, history and motto. You have such a way with words, and Texas history is rich and unique because of its south-of-the-border ties. I find these posts delightful lessons.

    1. How nice to see you, Sammy. You and your posts have been missed, although I suspect you’re having yourself a fine time out there in the world.

      Texas does have a rich history. Before the Spanish and Mexicans, there were the French, and after them, there were the Germans, Silesians, Italians, Irish, and assorted Scandinavians.All of the groups maintained their social and cultural traditions to one degree or another, but all were Texans, and proud of it. Still are, as a matter of fact.

      I love writing these posts. There’s always something new to discover — I’m glad they delight you.

      1. Linda, were the Silesians part of Bohemia in what’s now the Czech Republic? I’m just beginning to trace my paternal grandparents origins, and I found the location, Bohemia, in a family snippet referring to Czechoslovakia, then found Silesians in an online article today as well as your response to me.

        1. Here’s an article that helps to clarify the issue, at least when it comes to Texas Silesians.

          I was in Panna Maria last December, and you’ve reminded me I wanted to go back when the scenery was a little more — scenic. I’d best get after it, or it’s going to be December again. I did meet a couple of people who described themselves as Silesian rather than Polish, but they seem to be the exception. I have a pile of brochures in my stack, and I see I just missed the annual homecoming dinner — the second Sunday in October has come and gone. Ah, well. There’s always next year!

          1. Thank you for this link! My lord, I have a lot to learn!! Just studying one state for its geology, geography, history and current culture is fascinating let alone seeking our roots. You are like a reference library for me. i love it – keep going through your stacks.

  13. Yep, things sure could’ve been different. I wonder how often the old man hides in the garden waiting to bait someone with the “Come and Take it” duck name, and then later follows up with his little war joke? Did you also wonder the same? Hope the ‘maters were worth the war, Linda. (Seems we both had a little technical hiccup with our posts. Looks like you have it all cleared up? I’m late to the party, as usual.)

    1. It never crossed my mind that the guy would be pulling something, Wendy. The give and take about the duck wasn’t all that uncommon. You can hear the same kind of conversation at any country gas station, or café, or feed store. There’s a real pleasure in conversation still to be found in rural Texas, which is part of the reason I enjoy it so much.

      I’d love to take you over to Blessing, to have dinner at the Hotel there. You get a plate,fill it from pots on the stoves, and then sit down at big tables wherever there’s an open seat. You never know who you’ll be eating with, but everyone talks to everyone else. Clearly, people are plugged in — there are construction guys, oil and gas men, businesspeople passing through — but I’ve only seen one smart phone in use all the times I’ve been there. Men hang their hats on a rack, and there’s peach cobbler every dessert.

      Now that I think of it, when they refill the pans of fried chicken or macaroni and cheese, the women do sometimes say, “Come and get it.”

  14. I was captivated reading this, how fascinating to hear the history surrounding the “Come and take it” cannon!!! I never heard of it before.
    As for that duck, well, who knew they loved tomatoes to the point where they’ll fight you for one, I didn’t know they even ate them, y’see…a gal never fails to learn an interesting fact or two here! I did enjoy the ending.

    The ducks that live at the rescue are pleasant, the geese, however are not. No wonder spies use them as guard dogs!
    Sorry to hear of your gremlins, it is frustrating when they kick in! xxx

    1. Even many residents of Texas don’t know about the cannon, snowbird. There are so many things in the world that remain hidden, except to those who have a direct connection to them. I still remember my sense of surprise when I came across the hedgehogs on your blog. As far as I knew, hedgehogs were semi-mythical and mostly literary — as in the croquet game in “Alice in Wonderland.” But there you were, rescuing the cute little things, in real life. I was astounded.

      In the course of responding to comments about that duck, it’s occurred to me that he was less nasty than obstinate. He was acting much like a two-year-old who’s been told, “No!” We all know how that goes.

      I have another reader who finally had to dispatch a goose. I can’t remember now if he was sent off to another home, or “sent off” for good, but at least she was relieved of his presence.

      Oh, the gremlins. I swear I can’t figure this one out. I found two more drafts that had been given publication dates of June, 2015. At least it’s fixed, and I know to check that my own settings haven’t been overridden.

    1. Oh, my. I’d noticed a pause in your story, and wondered. I’m glad to see you pop up, and certainly hope any glitches were your computer’s, rather than your own. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, too. History is so interesting, whether it involves nations or states, or individuals, like your own.

  15. What a fun post! I enjoyed how you combined the duck story with the history lesson.

    The geese and deer all try to eat our apples before we get them–so far we haven’t had any problems with ducks.

    1. I was thinking today about something I said earlier: that in Texas, so much state history is family history. It really is true, and that’s what makes Texas history so much fun to learn. When people tell stories about their ancestors, they’re telling stories about the people who landed at Indianola, fought at the Alamo, or trekked in from other states, and those stories aren’t told in classrooms. They’re told over domino tables, or in kitchens, or across a fence.

      Even my gr-gr-gr-grandparents came to Texas. They left fairly quickly and went back to Iowa, but I have a a couple of letters between grandma and one of her friends — they camped on the blackland prairie east of Dallas/Ft. Worth.

      I had no idea geese would go for apples. Deer? You bet. Of course, my experience is that deer will eat almost anything, particularly if it’s something tasty that people would like to have for themselves.

      1. Interesting. . . state history may not be as closely linked to family history in states in the East because many of the famous events happened much earlier in the former colonies.

        1. I’m sure that’s right. I knew one woman whose parents arrived at Indianola in a ship from Germany, in the mid-1800s. She grew up hearing them tell the tales of their ocean journey, and then of walking across the prairie by ox-cart once they’d arrived in Texas. In the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t that long ago.

  16. Another fantastic post. Oh, I’m in love with the whole presentation of it, from the frame, to the narrative, and that little joke at the end. Thanks for the history lesson!

    1. Thanks, Alex. It was really fun to construct this one. Either story could have stood on its own, but knitting them together helped to make the history more palatable — even though it’s quite interesting all on its own. Spoonful of sugar, medicine, and all that.

      I’m tickled you enjoyed it. I still have a fish tale to tell. Now that I’ve managed this, I think I might be able to do it. I’ve told the story innumerable times, but writing it seems harder for some reason.

  17. Awesome story Linda, loved it beginning to end especially the last paragraph. Wished all battles were settled with just bloody noses.

    As I was reading the duck story and your brave confrontation with the thief, it reminded me of a duck story we had to read over and over when we were kids. It was about young Lenin and how he walking home with books and was attacked by ducks and books dropped into the mud. But of course being brave and thirsty for knowledge young Lenin picked up the books even as he was being attacked by the ducks. It may have been geese though I am not sure I am remembering it correctly.

    1. Ah, hagiography. George Washington couldn’t tell a lie after he chopped down the cherry tree, either. Or so I was told, while I was growing up.

      Whether ducks or geese, that’s a great instructional tale about young Lenin. I never thought I’d approve of something he did, but I have to confess I do approve of fighting off the flock on behalf of books. It’s amazing to think of you as a young Soviet kid — perhaps even carrying your Lenin story in your red school bag!

      I’m so glad you’re here, and that your kids are getting other sorts of reading material. Now, if we only could find a way to limit aggression to the occasional bloody nose. I don’t like having so many blogging friends having to contend with real terrors.

  18. If only we had leaders with such courage and pluck,
    To lay down the law to terrorists and ducks.
    Alas, we elected a a president to vex us,
    Who never has heard “Don’t mess with Texas.”

    1. It’s clearly unfair to the white duck, and I don’t want to minimize recent events in too many places in the world, but I can’t help this second version of your wonderful lines:

      “If only our leaders had courage and pluck
      to lay down the law to terrorist ducks….”

      Lest you think that’s a crazy thought, German fashion designer Philip Plein has something just for you. Honestly, I don’t know what’s with these fashion folk. When Vogue came out with their oil-soaked-models-on-the-rocks after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I lost what little interest I still had in them.

      As for “Don’t Mess With Texas,” I’m sure President Obama has heard that motto. My favorite versions are here, here, and of course here. If only there were a campaign to stop people from creating other sorts of messes — ones less easily cleaned up.

    1. Well, thank you, coffeegrounded. It’s always fun to have another Texan around, and I’m pleased that you stopped by. While I’m not a native Texan, my gr-gr-gr-grandfather fought here during the Civil War (with the 34th Iowa) and then he and my grandmother came back after the war. They set up shop just outside Melissa, which is your neck of the woods, but they decided to go back to Iowa. No one seems to know why, but so it was.

      Thanks again for your kind words — nice to meet you!


      1. Linda, I fell over when you mentioned Melissa. My in-laws live at Blue Ridge, my nephews live in Anna.

        We may not be natives, but one things for sure, you’re more knowledgeable than most natives from these parts. :)

        Here’s my history lesson of Texas. I arrived her while in high school (father was transferred with his work). I left and moved home to Colorado the day after graduation. Less than a year later, i moved back, marrying my high school sweetheart. The marriage failed, and eventually I remarried. My husband was transferred with his job to Little Rock, onward to Tulsa, and guess what…back to Texas. God evidently thinks I should be a Texan. LOL. ;)

        1. Amazing, these connections we find. I was up at Parkhill Prairie, east of Melissa, a couple of years ago, taking photographs of that piece of land, so very similar to where my kin would have camped. Then, I went up to Kansas, and found the ghost town where my grandmother’s friend moved. One of these days, I want to write about that, too, especially since I have some correspondence between the women.

          I came here first in 1973, and worked at the Medical Center in Houston. After moving around for work and education, I came back in the early nineties, and have been here ever since. I’ll probably never leave. I even have a plot under an oak in a family cemetery waaaaay out in the country. Granted, it’s not my blood family, but it’s part of my Texas family. What’s not to like?!

        2. My grandmother and her sisters were born and grew up in Anna, Texas, at the turn of the century. She was born in 1900. In 1964, we journeyed to Anna from California to meet the family; I was 14.

          The biggest deal in Anna was the annual Baptist-Methodist baseball game. The day we visited and had “supper” at 3:00pm, a fire burned a barn. All 500 people who lived in Anna came out to watch it burn, including us.

          My Baptist grandmother fled to Dallas in 1920 and was considered a family rebel. Her stock went way down t when she married Jimmie, a Jewish businessman from New Orleans who built the first parking garage in downtown Dallas. He had an 8th grade education.

          I understand that Anna is now part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis.

          1. Oh my! Such a small world. Yes, Anna is quickly becoming part of the Metroplex. There are new housing divisions cropping up everywhere. You would not recognize the area. Pizza Hut, Sonic, you name it, it’s there or on its way.

            1. I just turned up the connection between Anna and Melissa. It’s the railroad, and the men who developed it. I put the information in my response to Cheri.

            2. Interesting! … And speaking of Melissa and Anna, I drove up Hwy. 121 today. Hubby’s folks sold their home at Blue Ridge and are moving further out between Trenton and Leonard. (Hwy. 121 is now known as The Sam Rayburn, part of which is now a toll road.)


          2. Cheri, I think we’ve stumbled into the land of Serendip. This is so interesting.

            I hadn’t heard of Anna, so I looked it up. Both Anna and Melissa were established along the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. Melissa came first, in 1872. Anna was established in 1883.

            The connection with the railroad made me wonder about the town names. Farther south in Texas, the towns of Edna, Louise, and Inez were named for family members of the Italian Count who helped develop the railroad. I wondered if Anna and Melissa had the same kind of connection. In fact, they do. From the Wiki entry for Melissa, Texas:

            “The town is believed to have been named for the daughter of a railroad executive, George A. Quinlan (1838–1901) of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. There is some disagreement about this, as others argue that the town was named after Melissa Huntington, daughter of C. P. Huntington, another well-known railroad executive.

            “Anna, Texas, is named after Anna Elizabeth Quinlan (1878–1952), the only daughter of George Austin Quinlan and his wife Mary Kate Saunders (1851–1884). Quinlan, Texas, is named after George Austin Quinlan himself.”

            George Austin Quinlan is buried here in Houston, in Glenwood cemetery. You can see his grave and his very impressive statue here, about eight photos down.

            I had to laugh at your 3 p.m. “supper.” I think that’s what my Swedish grandparents would have called a “little lunch”. Dinner was at noon, then there was a little lunch, and then there was supper. We never had a barn burn down, though, and I don’t remember anything like those baseball games. Anna was a happening place.

  19. (Let the dog bark). I’ve been by to chuckle a couple of times, but haven’t had time to tell you how funny this is. It appears here in TX we live and wear our history daily. What a quacker. (More and more floating pads of ducks are showing up each morning on the lake.)

    Are you keeping up with the new battle of the Alamo between the DRT (who bought and saved the Alamo from being paved over – and collected documents and relics – protected the whole thing for years) and the Bush land commish/state? Court battle over the collection which the state confiscated and changed the locks on the library. There’s good reason DRT is defensive and overly protective – the state has done grabs before and actually sold relics even though the families donated with understanding that they alway be kept for the public in the museums – in writing.

    My grandmother went up to Austin and jerked some family pieces out of the museum just in time. It’s great the state is going to finally give money to the Alamo, but the state needs to cooperate and not grabby stomp and dismiss. It looks like the state will use eminent domain to reclaim land that is now tourist shops and put back the courtyards/build a visitor center for the new Phil Collins collection. People on both sides died and are buried under those streets and sidewalks. (It creeps me out that they want to have parties, weddings and serve drinks on the grounds where the graves are.) DRT tried to buy them for years, but priced too high and San Antonio refused to close the street. Fingers crossed it all comes out well. Oh, OK, Have to get the dog…again…

    GREAT story – perfectly written

    1. I’ve been enjoying more mallards, too, Phil. The ospreys are thick just now on the other side of the lake. I think they must not have divvied up territories yet. But “mine” is back on his accustomed mast, and the one that hangs out on the big power transmission line close to Blue Dolphin is back in place. Between that and the pumpkin trees on 2094, all’s right with the world.

      I have been following that scuffle between the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the General Land Office. The DRT has a nice blog titled “Inside the Gates,” and their most recent post is an open letter to the Commish, signed by more than a few luminaries in the fields of history and archiving. You can read it here if you haven’t seen it.

      I hope all works out well, too. I hadn’t been to the Alamo for several years, but when I was in the area last Christmas, I was stunned by the amount of development around the Riverwalk and etc. Whatever happens, it would be nice to have a little respect shown, to the site as well as to the people.

      Speaking of things turning out differently, it’s interesting to ponder the difference between the Alamo and Presidio La Bahia. Sometimes, private ownership isn’t such a bad thing.

      Thanks for the good words about the little tale. Next year, we’ll have to tag-team that duck!

  20. Ducks can change history! I am not surprised their stubbornness and willingness to stand their ground can create havoc. And a good laughter every so often. I very much enjoyed this history lesson coupled with your own experience of today.

    1. Stubbornness and a willingness to stand one’s ground often creates havoc — and not only for ducks! The good news is that chaos can be comical. It’s such fun when we’re granted an opportunity to laugh: even at ourselves!

      And heaven knows there’s enough in the historical records to keep us all laughing, whether it’s family history or history on a larger scale. I’m glad you enjoyed this little bit.

  21. Yet another interesting, and amusing, post Linda. I know quite a bit about “come and take it” farm animals. But I didn’t know anything about that bit of Texas history.

    1. It was a funny experience, even at the time. Texas history can be amusing, too. When the boys marched off to confront and defeat Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, they marched to the accompaniment of an Irish drinking song, played by the Davis boys, a father and son fiddling duo.

      And just by chance, I came across another bit of amusement you may enjoy: P.G. Wodehouse’s “Love Among the Chickens”. I first read it years ago, and though Wodehouse isn’t for everyone, I found it just as funny this time. Inside the linked article there’s another link to a very nice online version, so you can dip in and see if it suits you.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, and for your nice comment. I figure a little history never hurts, and a little laughter always helps, so by that measure, your appreciation and laughter are a perfect reward. Many thanks!


  22. That’s what’s so great about telling stories…! Seen through the lens of a good story, History, Math, Science, and other lessons are made so much more palatable. I learned more about science from reading Marvel comics (Fantastic Four, Spider-man, etc.) than what I did at secondary school. In that regard, I’ll always be grateful to Stan Lee and his team at Marvel Comics.

    Another great post, Linda. Well done!

    1. I’ve never read the comics you mention, but I’ve had the experience. I remember the first time a book by Loren Eseley fell into my hands. I discovered there was such a thing as a naturalist: and that most of them seemed to have nothing in common with my 10th grade biology teacher. Their view of the world was, shall we say, somewhat larger.

      Here’s to learning, however we do it — there’s no end to the wonderful things left to learn, or the stories that can help with the process.

  23. And you even have a photo of this duck with its tomato! Fantastic tracing of the history of that phrase, Linda. And it started with a duck ;-) I’ve never heard the term “Texian”, but poking around a bit it sounds better than “Texasians” or “Texonians”!

    1. At the time, I just had my little point-and-shoot, Nikki, but I’d tucked it in my pocket to photograph the native clematis that were blooming. Once the contretemps began, the duck was so intent on his tomato that getting a quick photo was easy. I should take that as an object lesson, and be better about keeping my camera with me.

      Even now, “Texian” can be found here and there. There’s a local Texian Brewery, a Texian pipeline field services firm, and a Texian “army” that tailgates at Houston Dynamo soccer games. It’s all in good fun — and a way of proclaiming allegiance to the state and its history even if you just arrived from Cinncinati two months ago.

  24. I love slogans – they have a great deal of power and wisdom. My favourite ( Buddhist) one, to be repeated grimly to oneself when life seems to be falling apart around one’s ears, is: “Regard chaos as extremely good news” ( Chogyam Trungpa) . That duck must have absorbed the “come and take it” slogan via its dna! Great history lesson, and very funny story.

    1. That slogan of Chogyam Trungpa reminds me of the apocryphal Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” What I didn’t know about the “curse” is that a better translation from the Chinese is, “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a man in a chaotic period.” The Wiki says that the expression originated from Volume 3 of the 1627 short story collection by Feng Menglong, “Stories to Awaken the World.” Two views of chaos — that’s pretty interesting.

      I think anyone who lives with animals has funny stories to tell. They’re such inviduals, and they certainly can be as quirky as any person. We tend to expect it from our cats and dogs, but the duck was an unexpected treat.

    1. Sue, I’m so glad you enjoyed the story — and the history. Our country’s so diverse, and the histories of the states so very different, there’s no way for any of us to “know it all.”

      I still remember my first trip through Florida, and my complete amazement that there were so many dairies and fields filled with crops. I guess I thought the state was Orlando, citrus groves, and Key West!

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for your comment. You’re always welcome!


  25. Ha! What a funny story. Thanks for the colorful history lesson. I had no idea.

    I can just see you standing up to that thieving duck.

    1. You think I did good with the duck — you should have seen me take on the plumeria thieves. A tomato is one thing, but plumeria? No creep with a truck and a trailer’s going to pull that off!

      I love the history. Those early Texans were good at coming up with creative flags. Gonzales’ was great, but wait until you see Goliad’s.

  26. Oh Linda, what do I love the most? The marvelous, trademark, closing of the circle with the modern day launching into a fascinating history? Or pure and simple the tenacious duck, so very determined to grab the best of the tomatoes. Hey, he knows his stuff, what can I say? I’m glad you won and I think your friend is right — Had the duck been a key figure of history, oh, the stories those books would tell!

    1. Just this past week, a fellow who lives aboard a boat in one of our marinas told me about his experience of having a white, domestic duck move aboard. He doesn’t know why he’s been so honored, but he said the duck has quite a personality, and is more than willing to sit in his lap, or sleep in the cockpit. When I told him to keep an eye on his tomatoes, he gave me quite the quizzical look. When I explained, he just rolled his eyes and said he hoped he could keep the veggies safe.

      Who knows? There may be more history yet to be written — or another duck story soon to be told!

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