Willie, Kinky, and Ludwig Play Luckenbach

(Click image for a musical version of the sign)

Whether you’re hoping for cold beer, down-home music, or a sense of being part of a hallowed tradition, Luckenbach, Texas can fix you right up.

Rooted in the earliest German migration to Texas, Luckenbach takes its name from Jacob Luckenbach, who sailed from Bremen with his brother August and other family members on board the Johann Dethardt. Landing at Indianola near the end of December, 1845, the family arrived a month or so later in Fredericksburg: settling on part of the Fisher-Miller land grant obtained by the Adelsverein in 1844.

Luckenbach obtained both a town lot in the new village and a ten-acre lot southwest of town, where he built the family’s first home. After becoming American citizens in 1852, the Luckenbachs sold both Fredericksburg properties and moved twelve miles southeast, to the site that later would bear their name.

The history that followed is filled with disputes and contradictions: so much so that two historical markers have been erected in the town. What isn’t in question is the role played by the Luckenbach and Engel families in its development.

When the first post office opened in 1854 (or 1858) under the name South Grape Creek, William Luckenbach was postmaster, and Mrs. Albert Luckenbach, née Wilhelmina Engel, established a store and saloon. The post office closed for a time, then reopened in 1886 with August Engel as postmaster. Engel renamed the town Luckenbach, then passed on his position as postmaster to William Engel, who opened a larger general store. When William died in 1935, his son Benno carried on the family’s postmaster tradition.

Over the years, the town rose, flourished to a degree, declined, then rose again: but in 1970, its demise seemed certain. By that time, Benno Engle had retired, and he was ready to let go of certain other responsibilities. His newspaper ad read: “Town For Sale — $30,000, including the general store/post office/saloon and about 10 acres.”

By the time I waltzed across Texas for the first time, in 1973, the post office, general store, dancehall, and collection of really fine shade trees that constituted downtown Luckenbach already had sold to a friend of a friend. Houstonians turned up their noses at Hondo Crouch and his business partners, calling them a collection of “eccentrics, oddballs and kooks.” In truth, the description was accurate. Still, out in the country, their eccentricity was a selling point, and Hondo’s town took a turn for the better.

Hondo liked to call himself an “imagineer,” and imagine he did. 

[He imagined Luckenbach] was an old west fairy-tale-like principality and gave everybody titles. He… proclaimed himself Mayor. He made Marge [Mueller] the Sheriff and appointed ambassadors to foreign countries.
The trio began to use the nearly-abandoned buildings as a backdrop for anything that smacked of mirth and diversion: “Hug-Ins”, a Luckenbach World’s Fair, a Ladies State Chili Bust, a Mud Dauber Festival — and daily sessions of song-picking, domino playing, and beer drinking beneath the 500-year-old oak trees.

Dominos, beer, and Mud Dauber Festivals might have kept things entertaining enough for the locals, but destiny was calling. Jerry Jeff Walker arrived in town in 1974 with the Lost Gonzo Band in tow, ready to record Viva Terlingua, and the Luckenbach nation was born.

By the time Bobby Emmons and Chips Moman wrote their own Luckenbach classic in 1977, Hondo Crouch had passed away, but Luckenbach was established. Today, Waylon, Willie, and the boys still bring tears to the eyes of expat Luckenbachians everywhere.

One of Luckenbach’s best qualities always has been a willingness to accept even the quirkiest traveler who makes pilgrimage to the spot. As the sign says, everyone is someone in Luckenbach — but it should add that every someone is welcome: no matter how inscrutable or strange.

That kind of attitude made Luckenbach a perfect venue for Kinky Friedman’s political fund-raisers during his quixotic run for Texas governor. I suspect no one living in Texas in the mid-to-late 70s can forget Kinky, his Texas Jewboys band, or the satirical — and hilarious — songs that poked fun at everything that could stand a little poking. The thought of today’s feminists being exposed to Kinky’s “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed,” amuses me no end.

But the Kinkster, as he’s affectionately known, is more than a joke. Agree or disagree with his politics and proposals, his various campaigns — for Kerr County Justice of the Peace, for Governor, for State Agriculture Commissioner — were real. His support of the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch between Kerrville and Medina is equally real; his name, his money and a portion of his family’s land have been dedicated there for years.

Still, irony and biting satire are his stock in trade, along with the careful cultivation of a larger-than-life persona. Given his style of humor, his willingness to skewer pretentiousness in all its forms, and his devotion to animals, I can’t help wondering if he ever encountered the newly-established Journal of Animal Ethics, with its entirely serious proposal for revising language vis-à-vis animals.

Kinky and Willie, all cleaned up

Edited by Professor Andrew Linzey, theologian and director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, the journal found its first editorial widely reported in the press, condeming as it did the use of such terms as critters, beasts, wildlife, and pets.

Linzey and his co-editor, Professor Priscilla Cohn of Penn State University, also hoped to see the elimination of such phrases as sly as a fox, eat like a pig or drunk as a skunk. Contending such language is unfair to animals, they suggested “we will not be able to think clearly unless we discipline ourselves to use more impartial nouns and adjectives in our exploration of animals and our moral relations with them.”

After I finished pondering whether dumb as a rock still qualified as acceptable language, I did some exploring.  Pete Wedderburn, a British veterinarian and newspaper columnist, mounted a defense of the editorial. As he said, “In a journal that explores how society’s attitudes to animals are changing, it makes sense to use the most objective language possible.” He went on to cite the editorial’s contention that “language is the means by which we understand and conceptualise the world around us” and proposed that “our existing language about animals is the language of past thought.”

Perhaps. But as Ludwig Wittgenstein, an earlier philosopher of language, famously said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

The increasing propensity of academics, bureaucrats, politicians, and promoters of various causes to arbitrarily impose new meaning on words or phrases, or to declare them unacceptable, results in an impoverishment of language, a diminishment of expressive possibility, and a wholly regrettable constriction of the worlds in which we live

Certainly, societies come to occasional consensus about the need for linguistic change — think of once-common ethnic slurs which are in the process of disappearing — but arguments in favor of “more impartial nouns and adjectives” or more “objective language” suggest a refusal of the natural ebb and flow of language; its delightful complexity; and even its own existence as a living entity worthy of respect.

“The English language is nobody’s special property,” says Derek Walcott, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. “It is the property of the imagination. It is the property of the language itself.”

Those who declare “You can’t say that,” or “You must say this” are seeking control: seeking to limit our worlds even as they constrain free thought. To condemn the banning of books while allowing the dilution and constriction of our language without protest is more than ironic, and it does carry consequences. Lewis Carroll couldn’t have been more prescient when he tucked this exchange into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

Even in Luckenbach, a place where philosophers tend toward the home-spun and academicians sometimes pass themselves off as bikers, they understand Wittgenstein and Walcott. When Hondo Crouch styled himself the Imagineer and invited others to participate in his imaginings, he signaled to the songwriters, singers, poets, and beer-drinkers under the oaks that, in Luckenbach, their words would be honored: not censored, not shamed, not ridiculed.

In the midst of it all, Willie Nelson – rebel, raconteur, and imagineer extraordinaire — occasionally took to the stage to sing Cole Porter and Robert Fletcher’s gentle, melodic tribute to the freedom-loving of the world. I don’t think Willie, Cole, or Robert would mind my little version, and I suspect that Ludwig would love it.


(Click for the tune that goes with the words)
Oh, give me words, lots of words that are crying to be heard,
Don’t fence me in!
Let me write with the wide-open style that I love,
Don’t fence me in.
Let me hear truth singing in the evening breeze,
Listen to the language of the cottonwood trees.
Never read a sentence, but I ask you, please
Don’t fence me in.
Just turn me loose
with some rhythm and some rhymin’ underneath my Texas skies.
Forget PC —
let me edit and re-edit till a thought takes wing and flies.
I want to write through the night til the dawn commences,
Gathering words as though I’ve lost my senses,
I can’t bear your prissy or pretend offenses –
Don’t fence me in.

Comments always are welcome. Photos, except where otherwise indicated, are mine.

85 thoughts on “Willie, Kinky, and Ludwig Play Luckenbach

  1. Loved the music Linda! I’m sitting here playing them over and over. But your story is equally wonderful. Haven’t been to Luckenbach, but it sounds like my kind of town.
    As far as language, I have to agree with Humpty Dumpty! If I say it, it must be so. (Just kidding) I’m feeling a little silly today.

    1. There’s not much of a town there, Kayti. Compared to Luckenbach, Danevang looks like a metropolis. But there’s a lot of fun to be had: the laid-back sort that doesn’t really tax anyone. Besides, there’s all that good music that rewards listening as well as dancing.

      I laughed to think of you Humpty-Dumpty-ing. Somehow, I don’t think Maty would let you get away with that. Dr. Advice? Maybe. At least you’re not feeling Red Queenish — although, all things considered, you might have reason enough to be proclaiming, “Off with their heads!”

  2. In the early days, when the wind blew free, and the ranges were open, nobody thought about fences. Cowboys. buffalos and cattle roamed the praries without barriers. It was prohibitive to think of building fences. Then came the barbed wire and the rest is history.

    Being yourself a Texan, you must be proud in living in one of the largest states of the Union. As a matter of fact it was the largest state, before the purchase of Alaska from the Russia.

    Willie Nelson’s song sure brings back a lot of memores. That’s my kind of music.

    Historians of Texas must like you a lot. There are so many stories, names, and dates about the history of Texas, that it is almost like taking a lesson of history and literature at the same time.

    Been only one time to Houston, Texas for only two days. Besides the hotel and a courtroom, I couldn’t grasp much of the city. From your blog posts, I almost feel like a natural born Texan. Thank you for all these entertaining stories about Texas past.

    1. Honestly, Omar? The size of Texas isn’t so much a source of pride as the people are. There are a lot of big hearts in our state, and a lot of big dreamers. (Some people say there are big idiots, too, but we’ll save that for another day.)

      On the other hand, the size of the state does mean it contains a wonderful variety of landscapes — prairies and piney woods, coastal marshes, and mountains. You could spend a lifetime exploring the state and never see it all; I’m sure of that.

      It was interesting to compare the size of Panama with Texas. It seems your country is 480 miles in length, and 110 miles across at its widest point. That amazes me. Texas is roughly 875 miles east to west, and 800 miles north to south. No wonder it feels like it takes forever to get across it.

      For a few years, I lived right in the heart of Houston. I loved it, but that was many years ago, and the city has changed: as have I. I still go in from time to time for exhibits or events, but I’m much happier living where I am.

      I’m glad you found so much to like, here. I’m certainly not surprised you like Willie!

  3. “Lets go to Lukenbach, Texas, Waylon and Willie and the boys…”
    An early and favorite song that had us all heading to the hill country. It was this album and song that introduced me to Jessie Colter,and her fabulous album, “I’m Jessie Colter,” an album I still own. And play.

    The Outlaws are drifting away, now that Merle has died, although we do have the last CD he and Willie made.

    Love this line: “…a place where philosophers tend toward the home-spun and academicians sometimes pass themselves off as bikers. ”

    Yup.

    1. It’s hard to believe that Jessie’s in her seventies. Of course, now that I think of it, all of us are moving along. Still, she’s like Joan Baez, or EmmyLou Harris. I tend to think of them as they were back in the ’70s, rather than being in their 70s.

      I’ve always enjoyed Colter’s work — nice to see we have that in common. And you might be interested in reading about Emmylou’s new work with refugees. She’s always been quiet, but committed. I didn’t realize she had worked with the Jesuits before, but I certainly trust her judgment when it comes to joining forces with organizations.

      Ah, those academic sorts on Harleys. I’ve always thought they’d make a great chapter for a book titled “I Passed For Blue Collar.”

  4. Boy, did this blog entry bring back some good memories. In 1990 my husband and I took a trip to Texas to go to a Romance Writer’s Convention and we spent several weeks afterward kicking around the state. My husband was a huge Willie Nelson fan so, of course, we had to go to Luckenbach. I wish I had a video of Don walking around on that post office porch. It was like he was in a sacred church. We had the best time on that trip and we met quite a collection of characters every where we went.

    1. From what you say, my reference to people making pilgrimage to Luckenbach was right on — at least, as far as Don was concerned. It’s great that you had the time to really explore, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m not surprised you met some characters. There are some real gems hidden around the state — and I’m serious about that. They may be crazy as coots, but even the craziest and crustiest can be pretty approachable.

      Now, I have to ask — who was the romance writer? Was it you, or Don? Or both? That’s really interesting. For some reason, I’m thinking the convention must have been in Dallas or Fort Worth. I don’t know exactly why, except for all that DFW big hair.

  5. I first thought of Luckenbach as a very nice German cake. As it turned out, I wasn’t too far of the mark. Never been to the US except through Paris Texas, No Country For Old Men, and the classic, The Last Picture Show.
    Thank you for improving my knowledge and understanding of its culture. Texas in my mind’s eye was always about cowboys and gun slinging. The best and most memorable song that I link to the US is still, ‘Do not forsake me, oh my darling.’
    In Australia too are towns with German names, Heidelberg is one that comes to mind.
    Brokeback mountain, is also a movie I remember seeing some years back.
    Thank you, Linda, for this glorious piece of writing and history.

    1. Gerard, it tickles me that you mentioned Paris, Texas. I’ve spent more than a few evenings there, as it made a convenient stopping point when my mother and I were driving from Kansas City to Houston. They have a Braum’s ice cream parlor: a chain which is pretty good. They seem to be mostly in Oklahoma, but one slipped over the border.

      Not only that, there are a handful of people I’ve known who went to Paris, Texas to get married, since they couldn’t afford to go to Paris, France. Romance finds a way.

      And speaking of romance, I haven’t thought of “Do Not Forsake Me” in years and years. I’m pretty sure I remember it from the radio, as I don’t think I ever saw the movie.

      I’ve learned so much about Australia from you, it’s only fair that I should return the favor with a bit of Texas lore. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    1. It’s changed a bit now, having been publicized so much that it’s on the “must see” lists for a lot of tourists. Like the beach at Galveston, it may be that a weekday in winter is the best time to visit. Those are the days when you’re most likely to run into someone who still uses a hundred-year-old recipe!

  6. Linda, your poem is the best part here, Made me laugh and it’s so good and truthful. I’ve newer been to Luke——- but I’ve talked to lots of red-necks that have gone to hear the music.

    1. I had such fun with that, Yvonne. I’m glad you enjoyed it. I do like parodies (remember the cat carols?) and sly humor, so when I can pull off a little of it, I’m happy.

      One thing about Luckenbach I’ve noticed the few times I’ve been there: it’s a grand mix of people. The rednecks and the city slickers get along just fine. Sometimes, they even dance with one another. Music can be a great equalizer and barrier-breaker, it seems.

    1. Thanks, Bob. It helps when you have such treasures as that sign and that magazine cover to start with. I thought the Willy-and-Kinky take on “American Gothic” was classic. That’s the artist who deserves credit. I don’t have the magazine any longer, but this reminds me that I ought to search it out online and see if I can find who to give credit to.

      ADD: That was quick. It was the January 2002 issue. And here is more information on the cover, in the context of an interview with Kinky.

    1. Thanks, GP. It amazes me that it’s been over forty years since I first went to the “new” Luckenbach. In some ways, it’s like a living history museum, albeit one that doesn’t replicate the past, but incorporates it into the present. As difficult as it is to contemplate, one of these days Willie isn’t going to be with us any more, but I suspect Luckenbach will go on: transforming along the way.

  7. What an interesting history. I wonder how many places there are kind of like this? I suspect quite a few. People are just odd enough to stake their claims about anywhere. Luckenback has been fortunate to have some good exposure.

    Many little weird places have back stories that would be funny and interesting if we took the time to dig for them. Thanks for putting this one together.

    1. The first “other place” that came to mind was the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. I think of it as the hippie/acid rock equivalent to Luckenbach’s outlaw country.

      But there are other Texas places, more family friendly, that have tradition, history, and good music behind them. Schroeder Hall is one; Crider’s is one that provides rodeos and a dancefloor. One of my favorites is the Swiss Alp Dancehall. The Czechaholics are playing there this weekend, and you’re bound to hear a good polka — possibly sung in Czech.

  8. If anything the title drew me like a magnet to metal. In general, this post made me smile.Maybe that’s what I would do if I won too much money, I would buy a town. It’s not something that you hear all that much nowadays.

    1. I changed the title three times — if that’s what got you here, I’m glad I did!

      Town-buying does seem to have given way to island-buying. Thirty grand for a town’s a real bargain, compared to the prices being asked for private islands in the Caribbean. But there’s another difference that occurs to me. When Hondo bought Luckenbach, he hoped to bring people together. The island-buyers are trying to keep people out. That’s quite a difference.

      1. It’s probably why it’s an island, a place unto itself. We were built for community and relationships. I’m glad it took you three tries with the title.

  9. What a paean to freedom of expression! And what a euphonious phrase: “prissy or pretend offenses.” On the other side, one expression that I do wish we could find a substitute for is “to kill two birds with one stone.” A few years ago I thought about alternatives. “To get two birds in one picture” might have been the best I came up with but it doesn’t seem likely to win anyone over. Maybe we can hold a contest to replace the avicidal phrase.

    Two weeks ago at the Art Institute of Chicago we saw the original “American Gothic.” Probably only the “Mona Lisa” rivals it in the number of parodies it has inspired.

    1. “Prissy” is such an evocative word: at least, for me. When I hear it, memories of a few prissy people I’ve known surface immediately. It certainly fit well here.

      That’s a good point you raise about those two birds and one stone. I spent a little time trying to come up with an alternative, and couldn’t. I found someone suggesting “mill two grains with one stone,” which sounds good initially, but one millstone isn’t going to grind much of anything. I suppose that’s part of the power of idioms. They express something that doesn’t have an exact equivalent.

      Another one that’s inspired some good parodies is Munch’s “The Scream.” Visual humor can be wonderful, but as we’ve discussed before, knowledge of the original’s necessary for a parody to delight.

        1. When “prissy” came to mind, I was pondering what I think of as the new Puritanism. It occurred to me that Prissy might, in fact, be derived from a Puritan name, as “Pru” came from Prudence. When I looked up a list of Puritan girls’ names, Priscilla was there.

          This site says that Priscilla is a “Roman name, a diminutive of Prisca… It has been used as an English given name since the Protestant Reformation, being popular with the Puritans. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow used it in his poem ‘The Courtship of Miles Standish’ (1858).

          I found “Miss Prissy Diamond” as a minor character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “The Minister’s Wooing” (1859), and “Priscilla” in Hawthorne’s “The Blithedale Romance” (1852). It seems reasonable that the nickname might have come into favor during that period, and that it later was adopted to refer to puritanical girls generally.

  10. Thanks for that great article about Luckenbach. It’s a place I – living in Fredericksburg – visit quite often. The last time, btw, by bicycle . The local bicyclists have a great route, called the Luckenbach Loop.
    What I always smile about is that Luckenbach (Pop. 3) has an “uptown” and a “downtown”. ;)
    Thanks also for the wonderful music.
    Have a great day,
    Pit

    1. What a great description of your ride, Pit. I certainly enjoyed all the photos — and envied that waterfront property just a bit, myself. I did grin at the reminder that Luckenbach has an uptown and a downtown. Do you suppose anyone over there thinks of Fredericksburg as Luckenbach’s “suburbs”?

      I wondered while I was writing this whether the property in Fredericksburg town that Jacob Luckenbach had was an early Sunday house.It makes sense, but I just haven’t explored that yet.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the story!

      1. LOL re Luckenbach being considered a suburb of Fredericksburg! ;) Glad you liked my account of that ride. I need to do that again (soon).
        We need to find out about that property of Jacob Luckenbach’s here was a Sunday house.

  11. Sad to admit, but I never made it to Luckenbach. Not that I didn’t want to, mind, but never found the time for wandering around while I was working in Texas.Some day, perhaps I’ll remedy that.

    In the meantime, I love the musical selections you’ve chosen here, and I especially love your parody. From what I gleaned during my years there, you’re 100 percent correct, too. I do love the independent spirit of Texans!

    1. Every time you mention that you didn’t get to do this or that while you were working here, I feel a little sad. You clearly need to come back, and enjoy some Texas: history, food, music, people, art, nature, food, music… Of course, there are parts of the state I still haven’t seen. Like you, I’m eager to make up for some of that.

      It occurred to me today that the parody needs to be set to that tune. I can think of a use or two for it — might be fun. It’s not in the public domain, though, so I’d have to do some exploring on whether it even would be possible. It certainly has been covered, revised, used in advertising campaigns, and so on — right up to 2016. The rules for parody are different… I suppose I’ll just let it simmer on the back burner, and enjoy the fact that you like it as much as I do.

      1. You’re so right…I do need a trip back! And this time, I’d like to bring Domer with me. After all, he’s a Native Texan, and his Spanish is waaaay better than mine!

  12. I loved your story Linda! And I agree with “Don’t fence me in”.

    It’s good to know that the verbal celibacy of the PC crowd hasn’t caught on in Texas.

    1. I’m still laughing, Terry. I love the thought of a linguistic wild west, with adverbs shooting it out at the Parenthetical Corral, and some sloe-eyed and just slightly promiscuous modifiers hanging out at the bar. There may be possibilities here!

  13. I wonder if Kinky Friedman and Ludwig Wittgenstein have ever been mentioned in the same blog post before…

    Great post. Like most people, probably, I was introduced to Luckenbach by Waylon and Willie. The delightful history of the place was unknown to me before this post.

    1. Actually, I’ve linked them before — but I’m such a fan of both, I have quotations from them scattered through my archives, and even on my About page. Honestly, I think they would have liked one another.

      Of course, philosophy and general weirdness aside, there’s a lot of really good music to be had in these parts, and that’s one of the best things about Luckenbach. It was good for a lot of people when the song gained popularity. Once the government closed the post office, and that long tradition ended, there was a need for something new to help the community coalesce — and they got it.

  14. Doggone. Thought maybe you were kidding about the Animal Ethics editorial, trying to stamp out expressions like “sly as a fox,” etc. but I clicked on the link and the fish scales fell from my eyes.

    I absolutely believe in treating animals humanely, limiting experimentation on “guinea pigs” to whatever’s absolutely necessary, etc.
    But “busy as a beaver,” “eager beaver,” “gentle as a lamb,” “bright-eyed & bushy-tailed,” all seem like pretty good compliments to me.
    I know they’re not all positive, but I think a lot of these expressions point out similarities or commonalities, between us and the rest of the animals sharing the planet.

    I thought your statement was excellent — “The increasing propensity of academics, bureaucrats, politicians, and promoters of various causes to arbitrarily impose new meaning on words or phrases, or to declare them unacceptable, results in an impoverishment of language, a diminishment of expressive possibility, and a wholly regrettable constriction of the worlds in which we live.”
    I just hope when you say “constriction” it wasn’t bias showing (a coded attack on pythons?)

    Seriously, this was such an interesting article! When you can work Wittgenstein and animal ethics into a story about Texas, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Kinky Friedman, you’re just way ahead of the pack!

    1. No python bias here, although, when I was living in Liberia, there were drivers seriously biased against them. If we came upon one lying across the road, they would refuse to go on until the python moved, convinced as they were that the big snake could wrap up the taxi or van and toss it into the bush. They were more experienced with pythons, so I wasn’t going to argue.

      Idioms, metaphors, analogies and even simple, felicitous turns of phrase are fun and creative ways to push the boundaries of both language and imagination. We seem to be forgetting that sign and symbol are not the same thing, and reducing language to one-dimensional signs impoverishes everyone. I suppose that’s why I dislike emoticons as I do.

      I enjoyed your inclusion of “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” in your comment. That was a commonly heard expression during my childhood, and it still makes me happy to hear it.

      As for bringing Kinky, Ludwig, Jerry Jeff and Willie together in one post — well, it’s just one more indication that John Muir’s words apply to more than flowers and stars: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

  15. Recently watched a PBS special about The Outlaws — another one of those fabulous super groups that coalesce now and then. Your comment about aging reminded me of the brouhaha when Clinton was elected about us having a President who was younger than Mick Jagger.

    You make an interesting point about words influencing how you think. Language influences thought in profound psychological ways.

    People get so hung up on words, right words, wrong words. Words are just words. It’s the intent behind them. As Mr. Dumpty understood, it’s all about who is the master.

    1. It won’t be long before nearly everyone will be younger than Mick Jagger. I wasn’t sure how old he is, so I checked, and found that he’s 72 — with a great-grandchild. In twenty years, we’ll be rocking on the front porch of the home, mumbling something about not getting any satisfaction.

      As hokey and simplistic as it can sound at times, there’s a good bit of wisdom in the advice to be discriminating about what we read, listen to, and watch. Garbage in, garbage out, as the programmers say. Sometimes I wonder what would happen to our culture if everyone took Goethe’s advice to “hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day… in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” Of course, which music, poetry, and art we choose still would make a difference.

      Your last paragraph, with the nice pairing of right words and wrong words, reminded me of a song, which comes paired with a great video here.

  16. To answer your question about where the Romance Writer’s Convention was…it was in San Antonio. I was publishing a 24 page bi-monthly readers’ book review newsletter back in those days. Don had such a great time at that convention. We both did. Being one of the few men walking around he was getting hit right and left. LOL I gave him an autograph book and had him go collecting while I went to workshops. He was never shy and was macho enough not to be intimidated by other female groupies standing in lines with him.

    1. Oh, that’s even better. San Antonio would be a perfect site for a convention. There’s plenty to do otherwise, and some great food. If you haven’t been to SA for some time, I suspect you’d be surprised by how it’s grown. It does have what I consider the best stretch of urban freeway in the world, though: Loop 1604, on the north side of town. If the traffic’s behaving, it’s a nice, curving drive through beautiful new flyover ramps.

      I laughed at the thought of you sending Don to fetch autographs. On the other hand, what an elegant solution. I suspect he enjoyed some interesting conversations while he was waiting in line.

  17. “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.”

    Tractatus is amazing philosophical book… Thank you dear Linda, as always such a beautiful journey into the colours, words, stories, and music… Fascinated me, I loved the music too. Love, nia

  18. A town of characters was Luckenbach. Thanks for the video and the story. I always love to listen to Willie.

    I try, but I can’t keep up with what I’m not supposed to say. I keep trying.

    Imagineer. Very descriptive.

    1. I once had a reader on Weather Underground who called himself an imagineer. I’m pretty sure he had no connection with Luckenbach, but it suggests there may have been someone or some movement that popularized the term, back in the day. He was a scientist who worked in places like the arctic — locations that certainly could have set the imagination whirring.

      As for what’s acceptable and what isn’t, the example of Lanier Middle School in Houston is instructive. When I was in junior high, I memorized Sidney Lanier’s poems, and still remember lines from “The Song of the Chattahoochee.” Today, they’ve removed his name from the school because he fought for the Confederacy.

      The only good thing I can find in the mess is that it produced this piece. It’s satire, but barely!

    1. Crazy, but wonderful. It was a fun post to write — especially the parody. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      After writing about the Johann Dethardt in my post about the German immigrants at Indianola, I was amazed to find that the Luckenbach clan was on board. I had no idea. One thing does lead to another.

  19. I see that myrahmcilvain wrote, ” that crazy little piece of Texas.” Ha! Those of us with Texas kin, know that the word “little” can never be used in the same breath with the word “Texas.” Thank you for posting the video with Waylon’s song. I found myself smiling…a good thing to do after reading too much Brexit, too much Hillary, too much The Donald…

    1. I think in this instance, she was using “little” as an affectionate diminuitive, as in “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.” That ought to make you smile a bit. And if you need a little extra energy, how about a trip to Wembley Stadium, where dire straits aren’t a description, but a prescription? As the man says, “I know they don’t let you stand up in this place, but if you all do it, there’s nothing they can do about it.”

  20. I knew that Texas has a rich German history, and I happily read from the link about a piece of this. I enjoyed your reflections on language and its role in enriching our lives and the danger of “fencing it in.” I agree that our language does limit our world. i recently heard of a woman in a hijab in Wales speaking with her daughter in a language unknown to a man who called her out, demanding that she speak English in England, to which his neighbour responded by pointing out she was actually speaking Welsh!

    Fences both keep people in, and people out. I think Texas was enriched by opening up the gates for the Germans. Certainly, I can imagine ways in which Germans were shaped by the open spaces, etc, but are there ways in which Germans shaped Texas? Or was the immigration pattern too small in the big picture to make much of a difference?

    1. Oh, my goodness, Allen. Yes — the Germans certainly did shape Texas!

      From the beginning, the Germans made up the largest immigrant group in the state, and the German influence endures. We have Wurstfests, Oktoberfests, and Christkindl Markets. Families visit their Oma and Opa. The Lutheranism here is heavily German, not Scandinavian (Danevang notwithstanding). There still are congregations holding German language services, and there are Bach festivals and liturgies galore.

      There’s the Spoetzl Brewery and Schreiner College; the Admiral Nimitz museum, and the Kleburg ranch. Houston has the Melanchthon Institute, and New Braunfels is the home of botanist Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer. There was a Texas-German dialect, although it’s nearly faded out now, but I have friends who live in a stone house built by German settlers, and others who belong to the German-Texan Heritage Society. You could plunk the Blessed Martin down in the middle of this state, and he’d be right at home: he could drink good German beer and talk theology to his heart’s content — in German!

      That’s a wonderful story about the hijab-wearing woman. It’s particularly amusing to me because I have a dear friend who lives in Twywn, Wales. By the time I write out her full address, I’ve exhausted myself trying to keep all the consonants straight — and when she tells me how to pronounce some of those words? No wonder the poor man was confused.

      There is a saying on my Welsh calendar that I like: “Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon.” That is: “a nation without a language is a nation without a heart.”

      1. Thanks for the information. As you may have gathered, our area also has a rich German history, with much of the same corresponding phenomena. The biggest difference is that the first Germans here were Pennsylvanian Dutch/Deutsch, that is Mennonites. Subsequent German waves of immigration were rather happy to move to a town called “Berlin” until the town fathers called a referendum on the name after the first world war.

        1. Just tracing the changes in names is fascinating. There’s a town in Kansas where the post office was physically moved from one side of the tracks to the other, and then back again, even as the name was being changed, and changed, and changed back. And we have a few towns with really strange names, just because the post office got tired of the wrangling and said, “Your town will be known as [fill in the blank].”

  21. I put Willie Nelson on yesterday as I was working on another blog about bicycling across Texas, Linda. As for “Don’t Fence Me In,” it has always been a favorite. “Give me land, lots of land where the starry skies are bright.”

    Right there with you on the word police. Ethnic slurs are just plain wrong but they lost me when garbage collectors became sanitation workers. I wonder if I insult fido when I call him a tail-wagging dog? As always, an interesting post. Luckenbach sounds like my kind of town.–Curt

    1. So you’re another one who fits music to the task. I wouldn’t have listened to Liszt or Mozart while writing this post, even though they do quite nicely for editing flower photos. As for driving across Texas, Asleep at the Wheel is my first choice. After all, “when you cross that old Red River, Hoss, that don’t mean a thing — once you’re down in Texas, Bob Wills is still the King.” I love that Waylon was the one who wrote the song.

      After reading Bill’s post about first names and general politeness, I started thinking about other terms I encountered after moving to Texas. In Berkeley, I’d been well-schooled to consider “sweetie” or “darlin'” demeaning, but when I found a friendly waitress calling me sweetie as she served up some peach pie and coffee, or an honest-to-goodness cowboy tipping his hat as he called me darlin’ — I realized it was far more enjoyable to accept those words than to start lecturing people about how far behind the times they were.

      That’s one of the great things about Luckenbach. No one’s behind the times, there.

  22. There you are then, immigrants are not always the bringers of doom. Sometimes they start something which grows and develops and causes change to the existing order and gives joy to many.

    I agree with your analysis of the importance of language. As you say, language develops and changes constantly and sometimes I am glad it does, sometimes not so much. But I am glad that it is no longer okay among ordinary people to use racist, sexist, discriminatory expressions to hurting and diminish those they are aimed at.

    I also dislike the way “PC” is used. It is a lazy way to describe anything and everything the sayer is opposed to.

    1. It’s true, Friko. So much of the richness of Texas is due to the immigrant communities that developed here: always maintaining their individuality, but also joining together and becoming distinctly Texan. In the same way, a distinctly American culture developed over the years. In my grandparents’ town, the Italians, Swedes, Norwegians, Germans, Czechs, and Croatians maintained their separate customs and cultures, but they all considered themselves Americans. That’s not always true among immigrants today, and that’s where some of the problems lie.

      When I think about racist terms, I have to laugh at how quickly some change has come. When I began varnishing boats, twenty-five years ago, it was relatively common to hear dock workers — or more especially, workers in boatyards — called boat niggers. That seems to have disappeared; I can’t remember the last time I heard someone use the phrase. It’s proof that change can come, but it can’t be imposed.

      As for hurting and diminishing others, one of the best lessons my parents taught me when I still was in grade school was that some people like to build themselves up by tearing others down. It seems that’s true for seventy-year olds, as well as seven-year-olds.

  23. I like that word…imagineer. Not enough people have that in them any more.

    As far as PC, I think it has its place but not to the degree that it has been playing in our world. As with many things, the MSM takes that and plays it for headlines and, what once was market share, now clicks and tweet counts. If people were more respectful of each other PC would not be necessary.

    And relatedly, the Kinkster, as with many folks in the spotlight, has more good in him than people are aware. It seems all too popular to demonize folks without knowing much about them. Although I am not the biggest fan of the human race as a whole, individuals are good for the most part but, for some reason, many people want to see the negative in us and take delight in seeing the popular respected member of society torn down and disgraced. Always the easier path.

    1. The greatest irony of the pc culture is that “political correctness” is itself a euphemism — for censorship. Even the colleges and universities that once were havens for free speech and experimental thought have devolved into mean-spirited, sometimes hateful, and occasionally hilarious bastions of youngsters demanding not to be offended.

      Clearly, the line mistakenly attributed to Voltaire — “I Disapprove of What You Say, But I Will Defend to the Death Your Right to Say It” — has fallen out of favor. When I was growing up, it was emblazoned across the top of our small town newspaper.

      You’re right that the “build up, tear down” phenomenon is common to more than the bungalow-to-McMansion trend in urban housing. Those German Texans gave us more than stone houses and polkas. The German word “schadenfreude” — taking pleasure in the sorrows and misfortune of others — is as useful today as ever.

      1. Yup, you can see it along side the check out line at the super market. It saddens me that they are successful enough to continue printing that garbage. Some will say they read such for amusement, but I doubt that to be the case for most if not actually all. I am quite pleased on the rare occasion that someone actually sues them and wins.

        I don’t think it is a bad thing to make people aware that they have said something that hurts another’s feelings, but the way it has evolved is beyond common sense. And while we are all free to say what we want, it can get out of hand. Both in the over-sensitivity of people and the utter lack of it in others.

        1. Part of the difficulty is that many now believe they have a right not to be offended. It’s been interesting to watch the development of trigger warnings and safe spaces. The demand for a perfectly “safe space” inevitably leads to constriction: life in a smaller and smaller world. It’s a fact that the smallest worlds we ever inhabit are pretty safe, but one is the womb and the other’s the coffin. In between, things are messy, and it’s better to learn to cope with the messiness.

          Your mention of being sensitive to others’ feelings did bring to mind a quotation from Alice Roosevelt Longworth that I haven’t thought of in ages: “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” That one’s made me laugh over the years — particularly since I’ve known a few people who put it into practice!

  24. Love your music and version of the song! Kinky Friedman! Now that’s a blast from the past. And to think, this song I knew about Luckenbach is as quirky a place as one would think!

    The talk about language always intrigues and interests me. It is remarkable how things change over time — expressions once said are no longer politically correct (and for a good reason) and others just don’t make sense! I’m now pondering the IQ of a rock — or maybe that was the point!

    Happy Fourth! I hope it includes some wonderful music!

    1. I grew up hearing the expression “dumb as a box of rocks.” For years, I thought it meant only that someone was stupid. Then, I learned another meaning for “dumb” (speechless) and started pondering. It seemed apt, since rocks don’t have much to say — or do they?

      It intrigues me how completely a song can bring back an entire moment. I know exactly where I was standing when I first heard Kinky’s “Biscuit” song — what time of day it was, who was there, and so on. By the time I heard “They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus, Anymore,” I was pretty sure I’d entered into a new chapter of my life!

      I picked up my first Leinenkugel Summer Shandy at the store last night, and thought of Rick and his bicyclist friends as I did. When I start drinking shandies and iced coffee, it’s a sure sign that summer’s here. Here’s EllaElla’s tips for cold-brewed coffee. Enjoy your 4th, Jeanie, and wave a sparkler or two around!

  25. “The limits of my language are the limits of my world”…perfect!

    And I find myself so very caged in by my limitations, but at least they are still self-imposed. At least I’m free to decide what I’ll say and think and wear.

    I also loved the history of Luckenback, TX which I’ve only ever heard about in a song my first husband loved “…me and Waylon and the boys…”

    1. Self-imposed limits aren’t always bad. They keep me from the occasional rant on social media, for example, or too much ice cream.

      I’ve always been intrigued by the Benedictine order’s vows: obedience, stability, and conversion of manners. When you get right down to it, what we grew up knowing as good manners were nothing more than limits on personal behavior. They may have been inculcated by our parents at first, and we may have chafed a bit under the restrictions, but today we’ve learned how much pleasure they can add to life.

      It’s always fun to learn about the realities that lie behind song lyrics. I still remember how astonished I was when I learned that the “Swanee River” actually was the Suwanee.

      Happy Independence Day, Bellezza. Enjoy those freedoms!

  26. I hope I’m not veering off into unwelcome territory, but what this post brings to mind, in your typically engaging and eloquent way, is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit lately, which is the state of public discourse. There’s something happening here, as the song goes, and what it is ain’t exactly clear, but I’m increasingly concerned about it.

    I tend to think the ease of internet commenting on social media and provision of online commenting by news sources, YouTube, and the like, has had the effect of degrading conversation to a disturbing degree, and it has consequences. (Here’s just one example, which can stand in for many: a comment that appeared below a YouTube recently: “fuk all the lazy entitled blacks and their African president Obama, take our country back, Trump 2016.”) I don’t know what the answer is, but it’s something with which I think we need to grapple, as a society. For one, I think those who offer online public fora need to take far greater responsibility than they do to monitor comments if they choose not to disable the function altogether (which I would endorse).

    The Irish Times had perhaps the most perceptive article I’ve read on this. http://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/una-mullally-hateful-public-discourse-has-consequences-1.2691172. I also thought this piece by the Guardian, analyzing the comments it has received in an effort to determine how to address the issue appropriately, was noteworthy: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/12/the-dark-side-of-guardian-comments

    1. Actually, you’ve veered off into very welcome territory. The concerns you raise are legitimate, and I’ve had continuing (although generally private) discussions over the years about the increasingly uncivil nature of posting and commenting across the web.

      I used to think that ease of commenting and anonymity were the primary culprits. Today, I’m not so sure. When I read comments like the one you quoted (and much worse) I wonder: what kind of person could even say such things? How were they formed? What influences led them to think such behavior is acceptable? Many say we have a cultural problem — and I think that’s right. But what’s the genesis of such terrible behavior? Clearly, there’s no single cause, but as you say: there’s something happening here. As Ms.Mullally points out, there’s a difference between anger and rage, and it’s blind rage roaming the pages as well as the streets of late.

      I will say that, from my perspective, there’s another side to this particular coin, and I could feel myself chafing just a bit when I read the “Irish Times” piece. The nastiness, rage, and inexplicably vile stuff being posted these days can be horrid. But we do ourselves a disservice if we focus only on the perpetrators, and not on our own response.

      Developing the ability to let things lie, to close a page, to refrain from commenting, isn’t an easy task. But there are times when it’s the only way to keep the blood pressure in check and prevent misunderstandings or embarrassment.

      There are times when I read something that is so wrong-headed, unfair, or (dare I say) uninformed and stupid, I hardly can bear it. Generally, I chalk it up to “the rich diversity of human opinion” and go on. It may be that one necessary task is helping people learn how to let go of their emotional responses, and go on. Holding to principles is one thing. Trying to defeat someone in an online battle just for the sake of “winning,” or to reduce anxiety, is quite another. It’s generally fruitless, and often destructive.

      Of course, there’s one other issue. When a publisher of content is dedicated to piling up clicks to pad the bottom line, outrageousness is a boon, and substance a liability. I suppose I don’t need to say any more about that, except that outrageousness breeds outrage, and the downward spiral continues.

      I’m not ready to support the disabling of comments, although I can see value in closing comments after a period of time on opinion sites. Not allowing anonymous comments works for some, and having the ability to moderate comments can be a real boon. The person who commented on my Texas camels post, excoriating me for writing about Jefferson Davis and the Confederacy, certainly had quite a vocabulary, and a rich stash of insults. I sent him an email, telling him if he would clean up the language and eliminate the insults, I’d be happy to post his comment. Of course, I never got the revision.

      That’s one good example of how scale makes a difference. What works for me here isn’t going to be the answer for HuffPo or YouTube. What the answer is, I don’t know. I just try to keep my little corner of the blogosphere attractive, and hope for the best.

      1. These are welcome thoughts, and much appreciated. Ability to moderate comments would help a lot (Facebook doesn’t provide for this, e.g.). With regard to not “getting into it,” yes, wars of internet attrition also do no good. I would just add that the type of comment I noted (and yes, I’ve seen worse) often stands without any reply. A lot of these sites are unmoderated, and/or, as you say, value piling up clicks over anything else. These then potentially become free fora for the worst sort of downward spiraling behavior. I agree with you that each of us needs to be a good citizen, so would say that, for those who host sites, either you must be proactively responsible about what comments are allowed to appear on your site as a matter of respectful civility, or, if you can’t manage that, you should disable comments so you don’t have to moderate. Meanwhile, like you, I work hard (as you know, using the tools you have) to keep my own little corner of the world as respectful as I can.

        1. On a less serious note, when I began spending time online, a friend offered me a link to this Flame Warriors Guide. It’s maintained by some guy in New York, and it’s truly funny. It can be used to diagnose behavior, or for simple amusement. I think you’ll enjoy it. Click on the drop-down menu, and begin anywhere you like. Enjoy!

  27. A lot of our “moral” connotations about animals come from Aesop, which assigned different industries to certain animals. For example, mice were laymen. But even so, things only have meaning because we assign it to them, and it helps society take in more information and subtlety, which the brain needs to stay fully engaged. I think you’re safe with “Dumb as a rock,” but I’ll still be using my idioms how I see fit. Besides, we have no idea what the animals say about us, self-domesticating beasts that we are.

    I also didn’t know Luckenbach was a real place! I knew the song, but for some reason never equated it with reality. What a cool story.

    1. It’s true that my cat doesn’t talk much, but from time to time, it’s pretty clear what she thinks of me. “Bemused tolerance” is the phrase that comes to mind. I was intrigued by your remark about humans as self-domesticating. Vis-a-vis my discussion with Susan, above, it occurs to me that we could have an explanation for certain behaviors here. With tongue in cheek, more or less firmly, I wonder: what if, as a species, we’re beginning to go feral? There’s something worth pondering.

      Luckenbach is a place you’d really enjoy. It’s small, but vibrant, to say the least. You probably could find material for several books there.

  28. How interesting how your great story about Lukenbach moved little by little to another interesting topic : language. “Language is the property of the imagination”, I like this a lot. Your imagination is brilliant, Linda, as is your vast knowledge about so many various subjects. No fences there. A choice of words that I love reading for the images they create and the new world they open to me. Thank you.

    One of my favorite books ever is Henriette Walter’s ” L’Aventure des Langues en Occident”. A fascinating travel through centuries and countries with all the unknown “correspondences” (as defined by Baudelaire in one of his poems) in languages.

    One of my experiences as I went to Texas some years ago :
    I was doing my best to tell a little girl about my country. She was listening to me with great interest and some astonishment and I was pleased…until she asked me : “What language are you actually speaking “? See, the limits of some languages ? Or accents. But that is quite another story. For accents are also part of our own history.

    1. That’s such a wonderful story, Isa — about the little girl pondering your accent. How well I remember my first days on the water, trying to understand the accents of the Cajun boat captains. Even today, when I listen to some of the old-time shrimpers and fishermen from Louisiana, I really have to concentrate to make sense of it all.

      While none of Henriette Walter’s books seem to have been translated into English, not so Baudelaire. It was fascinating to spend a few moments comparing these eight translations of “Correspondences.” It reminded me of something Peter Cole, a poet and translator once said: “Poetry isn’t lost in translation, it is translation.”

      I’m not sure I’d say my imagination is brilliant, but it’s true that it’s active. One thing I’ve learned over the years is that imagination can be developed — it’s not simply a given quality, like brown eyes or an extra toe. I hope to keep developing and nurturing it — I’m glad you enjoy some of the results! xoxox ~ Linda

  29. Goodness me….that’s sounds like a town and a half! What a fascinating, colourful past and present! How lovely that somebody stood up for the animals!!! A fascinating read!xxx

    1. Actually it’s closer to a half of a town — or a tenth. Or a hundredth of the normal town! But it is a fun place, and now that it’s a destination for so many people, I suspect its future is ensured: at least for a while.

      Speaking of the animals, one of my friends who lives in the hill country was telling me about the ring-tailed cat she saw. I’d only heard about them, and wasn’t entirely sure they were real. But they are, and they’re still roaming around. Here’s a bit of information about them for you. I’d love to see one.

  30. Loved this history of Luckenbach. I had heard the name of the town mentioned many times, but knew nothing about it, so I didn’t understand why it was mentioned. I am grateful for the history, and congratulate you on the song.

    1. So nice to see you, Shimon. There are many people who know Luckenbach only through the song, and who may not even know it’s a real town — let alone that it has a history stretching back to the beginnings of Texas. I thought the history was worth sharing, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      I’m glad you like my little ditty, too. I think it has some staying power. A good song certainly can help us get through the day, and if it’s both melodic and amusing — well, that’s just the best.

    1. And you’d find some fine beers to choose from there, too — whatever your preference. I suppose you could visit Luckenbach without having a beer, but that’s an experience I suspect few have had.

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