William Jack Sibley
Folks Around the Fire
The people of George West, in South Texas, watch TV and use the Internet just like most do, but when it comes to their favorite mode of entertainment, it is good old-fashioned storytelling. The annual George West Storyfest, founded in 1989, presents several different events showcasing a variety of oral storytelling genres: the Texas State Liars’ Contest, Ghost Stories, Sacred Stories, and Cowboy Poetry, among others. The oral storytelling tradition is strong in these parts because it was home to J. Frank Dobie, Texas’s chief folklorist, who was born in Live Oak County in 1888. Dobie put the passed-down stories he heard about rural Texas onto paper in such books as Tales of Old-Time Texas, Coronado’s Children, and The Longhorns. Dobie Dichos (or “Dobie Said”), Storyfest’s opening night program, now in its fifth year, makes his impact known far and wide. Around a campfire on the grounds of the historic Oakville Jail, listeners will gather while Texas authors read from Dobie’s works or simply reminisce about the narrator who inspired Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy. This year’s authors include Carmen Tafolla, the 2015 state poet laureate, reading Dobie’s “Godmother Death and the Herb of Life;” Bruce Shackelford, an Antiques Roadshow appraiser, reading another, “The Prize George West Steer;” and Andrés Tijerina, president of the Texas Institute of Letters, reading his essay “El Mesquite: La Posta de Palo Alto,” about Elena Zamora, Dobie’s English teacher growing up in Alice, and the influence she had on him as a young man. Texas author William Jack Sibley, whose grandparents were ranchers around George West and knew Dobie personally, conceived of the program and will serve as master of ceremonies. “Dobie was the first—and for a long time, the only—writer who wrote about places and people that I knew of and or had heard about personally,” Sibley said. “It was a real visceral association for a budding writer. A person could write about anywhere,including flat, scrub-brush, hell’s anvil South Texas, and make it as interesting and captivating as ancient Rome or as thrilling as pirate lore.”
Various locations, November 6–8, georgeweststoryfest.org
2015 DOBIE and “DOBIE DICHOS” MISC.:
http://www.texasinstituteofletters.org/TIL%20Sep%202015%20newsletter.pdf “William Sibley says it’s “DOBIE DICHOS” time again in old South Texas! Our Fifth Anniversary! Friday night, November 6, 2015 – begins at 6PM – Oakville, Texas. TIL members reading this year include Andrés Tijerina, Carmen Tafolla and Master of Ceremonies Bill Sibley.”
“NC: I do think the preservation of the folk tales is important. There’s a celebration each year called Dobie Dichos, it’s an evening around the campfire where writers come and read something that they’ve selected of Dobie’s. And it’s a lot of fun, it really is, I have to say. I didn’t know what to expect, and when I went I enjoyed myself a lot. But at the same time, I think of Americo Peredes, whose novel took, I don’t know, twenty or thirty years to finally be published, and in that book there is a character who’s modeled after J. Frank Dobie, and he’s considered a racist.
MHS: Of course, I guess that connects to all that’s going on in the news with the Confederate statues at the University of Texas and schools named after Confederate generals and so forth, and that fight between history and the sense of giving these figures a little too much of a hallowed place that maybe they didn’t deserve.”
William Jack Sibley went to Colorado in mid-June to slog away on the third novel in his “Texas Trilogy” (the other two: Any Kind of Luck and Sighs Too Deep For Words) which he somehow didn’t realize until too late that he had actually committed to finishing! (TIL members are glad you’re doing it!) “Meanwhile,” as W.J. writes (Bill? Jack? William Jack? Let’s go with W.J.) “as founder and co-coordinator of the annual tribute to J. Frank Dobie, DOBIE DICHOS (http://www.georgeweststoryfest.org/dobie_dichos.html), I’m very honored to welcome the following Texas authors to speak this year, Friday, November 6, 2015 in Oakville, TX — Andrés Tijerina, president of the TIL; Carmen Tafolla, Poet Laureate of Texas; Bruce Shackelford, Author and ANTIQUES ROADSHOW Appraiser and Mary Locke Crofts, Author and Dobie interpreter. Come join us for our Fifth Anniversary Celebration! Campfires, chili con carne, pan de campo, cerveza fria and the words of the South Texas master.” “Any tale belongs to whoever best can tell it,” J. Frank Dobie.