Lomax preserves songs
The young man from Meridian, Texas stood in the doorway of the English professor’s office and eagerly awaited the assessment of his treasures by the esteemed master. His “treasures”, a bundle of folk songs written on scratch pads, backs of envelopes and pieces of cardboard. He had come to Austin with his collection of cowboy tunes tied with a cotton string in the bottom of his trunk. Since the age of nine, he had been writing the songs down. His father’s farm bordering the Bosque River and a branch of the Chisholm Trail was a popular crossing for the longhorns being driven to northern markets. In fact, trail herds would often spend several days in the area to rest and drink from the sparkling river. The boy would listen to the songs sung by the cowboys and would immediately write them on what ever was handy.
“Nothing, tawdry, and cheap and not worthy of scholarly effort” was the professor’s grim evaluation of not only the songs, but frontier literature as well. Disheartened, John Avery Lomax went to his rented room and burned his beloved collection of cowboy ballads. He taught for seven years after the cruel reception by the professor and graduation from the University of Texas at Austin. While he was teaching at Texas A and M University for a year, he married Bess B. Brown in 1904. They eventually had four children. Bess died in 1931, and on July 21, 1934, he married Ruby R. Terrill.
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