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Clint Flutewood

Posted by MWBailey on Friday, January 9, 2009

Yeah, That's my costume, pretty much most of the time, for "pioneer dress" events with the dulcimer society during the late fall, winter, and early spring. The setting is the front porch of the log cabin at Independance, Texas, during their "Birthday of Texas" celebration. 

I realize the poncho (actually originally a Native (South) American garment, pretty much the same as a short European cape) is almost a spaghetti-western cliche', but they did use 'em back then. It's unbelieveably warm, even in the most "parky" conditions. Even as early as October and as late as April, it can still get chilly outdoors in the breeze, so the poncho gets plenty of use.

I don't mean to emulate Clint Eastwood (by the way, not the only "spaghetti gunslinger" to wear a poncho, or the first); I had it on hand when it got cold during the my first year of performing with the dulcimer society, and I needed something that wouldn't look idiotically out-of-place with a "pioneer" costume. So... I wore it. Sometimes I wear a low-crown top hat instead of the palm hat, often because I sometimes also feel a bit sacreligeous about trying to look like a Texas cavalryman. (oh yes, they did have cavalry, too)

Wearing the cavalry cord that I Usually keep on the palm hat just doesn't always seem right (I was never in the Service, so...).

Funny thing about the fife and the flute, though; there were doubtless, somewhere in the various colonial groups fleeing from the Mexican army, at least a few fluteplayers and fifers. You just seldom hear of such, but in any case, the fife at least was common in European and American field music and signalling  (the fife and the drum being just about the only things  still recognizably audible after experiencing a musket volley or artillery barrage -- other than more gunfire, that is). By the time of the French and Indian War,  the fife was already in common use. Being as it was a European idea, naturally brought over by the British troops and their German mercenaries (the Hessians), it and teh drum became the preferred medium of battlefield communication. It increased in popularity up until just after theturn of the 20th century (when it was musically superseded by the piccolo, and militarily superseded by the advent of radio and telephone technology. Thus, the fife could have been in use in Texas at the time of the Runaway Scrape, and thus the larger "concert flute" (which is now often referred to as the "Irish" flute) could also have put in an appearance.

The "funny" part is that the instrument that many associate with the battle of San Jacinto is actually the fiddle! Seems that General Sam wanted to parade his troops before the Mexicans, since the Mexicans had paraded their soldiers  in close-order drill to military musicthat same morning.

The story goes on to say that the Texians didnt really "march" or "drill" in real military fashion -- they just sort of strolled or rode around in a semicircle, strung out for several yards behind an equally dangerously undisciplined "cavalry,"  with two fiddlers playing Will You Come to the Bower? on the sidelines, since it   was the only song that the two men actually knew well enough to play it together.

The Texian troops were very rude to the officer in charge of the event, who was constantly cajoling them to get into ranks, and companies, and march like soldiers so that they could "show up" the Mexicans. His remonstrations did little good, and they made him so unpopular that the men finally would have nothing more to do with him and General Houston was thus forced to relieve him of command and have another officer replace him.

The current idea being bandied and volley-blasted back and forth by the Truth Police is that there were no fifes, drums, or brass band at San Jacinto. Ah, yes. The brass band thing; that at least can be pretty much laid to rest. It's a rather aberrant myth that sprang up sometime in the 1950s and 60s. The myth that there was a brass band there became so widely believed that there are even paintings of the Battle of San Jacinto painted around that time (the 1950s-60s) that show a brass trio or quartet marching and playing alongside one or both of the Twin Sisters cannons as theY advanced on the Mexican positon. 

Some textbooks printed during the 1970s show one or several of such illustrations (I know because I used one in 7th grade!). It makes a nice, plucky, romantic image that, unfortunately, is apparently untrue. Same goes for the fife. Where did these myths come from? I honestly am not sure; I don't think anyone is, really.  the most-often-recounted explanation that I've heard is the one about some poem or short story or other mentioning the "the band-" or "the fifes that played at San Jacinto." or something to that effect. "Well, it's in print, isn't it? It must be true!" is unfortunately the mistaken reasoning used in such a case.

But they still have a fife-accompanied color guard in the reenactment. Oh, well.

In any case, the concert or "irish" flute, and the fife were both known back in the 1830s and before in the americas, so they're perfectly viable period instruments. My flute/fife playing are also more popular than my banjo playing, which means that I get asked to play the flute/fife more often than any other instrument (s). Oh, well.

"Clint Flutewood," my left toe...:). Hmmm... If I wear a poncho, why doesnt Clint Eastwood learn to play the banjo? Seems only fair to me, he doesnt seem to want to wear the poncho anymore...

MWBailey, 1-9-09

2 comments on “Clint Flutewood”

rinemb Says:
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 @1:17:07 PM

Interesting info there.  As to the wearing of the pancho, I wore a heavy wool pancho for years in the early seventies.  I bought it deep in Mexico, while fooling around.  It was a thick wool thing-nearly as thick as a horse blanket.  I carried a heavy cotton chord that I used to tie around the pancho at my waist, to keep it from flapping around while on my motorcycle.  Boy, did my wife hate that thing.  last year I pulled it out of my old locker to show it to someone, my wife thought that critter had been buried many years ago.  lol


MWBailey Says:
Sunday, January 18, 2009 @6:31:35 PM

LOL. May that was the screeching I heard...



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