Posted by: Craig Woolheater on July 5th, 2007
Being from Texas, I can definitely relate.
SAN ANTONIO – Old World wise men told the Spanish explorers what legends to expect in the New World, meaning places like Texas.
There would be “skipodes,” for example. A skipode had one leg but two fast feet. Other monsters were headless with eyes near their shoulders like NFL interior linemen.
Spanish explorers of the New World half-expected to find skipodes or Amazon warriors or basilisks, whose looks could kill, just beyond the next bend in the coast of what would come to be known as Texas.
“Are there monsters in Texas?” asked Rhett Rushing, who is researching the subject for the Texas Folklore Society. He is the staff folklorist at UT-San Antonio’s Institute of Texas Cultures.
The answer is yes.
“But I will not mention elected officials, political candidates, or Houston Astros relief pitchers.”
Monsters have withstood the test of time, passed down in the best tradition of folklore, he said. “Bogeymen serve to warn us away from behaviors that our culture doesn’t want us messing in.”
Mr. Rushing catalogs Texas monsters, some obscure, some celebrated. The Indians told monster stories before the arrival of Europeans. Apaches spoke of a dragon in the Guadalupe Mountains, Caddos of a water monster in the Sabine River.
When the Czechs came to Texas, the vodnik (a vampire who likes slivovitz in his Bloody Mary) came along with them.
“Down near Port Arthur and Sabine Lake, older Cajuns speak of Le Loup-Garou, a werewolf who patrols the swamps and feeds on folks who get lost.”
Speaking of swamps, there’s the Ottine Swamp Monster down in Gonzales County. Ottine’s population is actually a bit skinny to support a hungry people-eater. So, outsiders are always welcome in Ottine. The population is 90, counting the monster.
Mexican monsters would make a big book. Mr. Rushing finds La Lechusa a case in point.
“It’s a human figure with batlike wings. Sometimes it’s an oversized owl. If society wants happy people surrounded by the safety of friends and family, then La Lechusa exists to swoop down and gobble up lonely outcasts.”
Then there’s Bigfoot. He has apparently settled in Texas, where hundreds have spotted him. Call it a hairy-ing experience.
“After 20-odd years as a field-working folklorist,” Mr. Rushing said, “it is my professional opinion that there cannot be many a Bigfoot [plural Bigfeet?] between the Sabine and the Neches, simply because my relatives would’ve eaten or married them a long time ago.”Kent Biffle