Chapter Five: A Valley Lost in Time

                                           Actors put on “blackface” and reinforced a stereotype thought by Whites to be quite entertaining.


A  valley  lost  in  time


The lawlessness and oppression that set the rules for the game board in Navasota during the Reconstruction era and almost one hundred years afterwards were enough to birth a tough and subversive subculture complete with its own music. And sadly there would be decades more of racial inequality and oppression.

By the 1920’s, blacks had won a degree of tolerance and cooperation from many whites who had compromised racial attitudes enough to employ them, as the whole white culture tolerated them as a useful servant class; Perhaps they were human, but to some lesser degree. It was still popular and socially acceptable to tell jokes about them, and make fun of them, and Vaudeville actors would do skits impersonating Negroes for cheap laughs.

Since there were few other kinds of jobs in this agricultural region, blacks still found themselves working in the cotton fields, after over fifty years of emancipation.  Cultural and educational barriers were tougher to hurdle than racial ones and a new kind of bondage became apparent. Having no way to advance oneself except the unfeasible process of higher education became a kind of prison. Knowing that you lived in a prejudiced and lawless society that took deliberate measures to deny you opportunity, and keep you ignorant and dependant was demoralizing. 

Money and guns. WWI presented Black men with their first opportunity to act and serve like American citizens, but gave them only a limited glimpse of equality.

Black families were often married, raised children and buried on a single cotton farm that they never really called home. Every year they worked hard to just pay their bills and then sign IOU’s for the balance due the company store, and thus were forced to stay another year to work off their debts; Debts that seemed to grow out of sight, as crops and health failed and personal needs ate up the occasional profits. It was a vicious cycle of backbreaking, mindless labor, dependency and discontent. The more ambitious of them fled this system and looked for jobs in Houston or Dallas. The blacks that stayed in this merciless racket were often reduced to helpless and hopeless drones.

Used by the Baker plantation in ante-bellum times as the company store, the Greenwood Store in Plantersville was built as a railroad commissary during the Civil War.

The desire to leave became irresistible, and cotton farm owners had to take drastic measures to keep their help. Sometimes the farmhands would slip away in the night, never to be seen again, the tabs at the store left unpaid. Sometimes they would be caught, whipped like criminals and turned around. And sometimes they were threatened and even beaten to death, to teach others not to try and do the same. 

Slavery was bad, yet slave owners were generally very careful not to abuse their property unless absolutely necessary. But free cotton pickers were only useful if they were compliant, subservient. The white “Boss” in the field was the modern equivalent of the Civil War patroller, who kept down slave rebellions and tracked runaway slaves down when they escaped. He was armed and on horseback, and he might whip you if he felt like it. He might kill you if you made him mad enough. Mance Lipscomb saw one shoot and kill a man in the field in cold blood one day. He was never prosecuted. Most blacks who could remember agreed that modern Texas cotton farm life was much worse than slavery had ever been.

John D. Rogers’ company store at Allenfarm, later known as the Tom J. Moore Farm headquarters.

Certainly the memory of the old plantation system was still strong in the bottoms. Jared Groce, the “Father of Texas Agriculture” and friend of Stephen F. Austin, and somewhat ironically a co-writer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, had brought his veritable army of slaves to Grimes County in the 1820’s, and pioneered the institution of Texas slavery at Liendo Plantation in what is now Waller County. He later moved to higher ground in Grimes County and established Groce’s Retreat.   The Groces had raised a coupIe of generations of slaves in the Brazos Valley by the outbreak of the "War of Northern Aggression."  Even if there had been wars fought and laws passed since then, things still looked and worked amazingly the same as they had in those days. 

Annie Mae Hunt recalled in her heartbreaking autobiography that in the 1920’s, relatively speaking, “Washington County was a free country, and Grimes County was slavery.” With the assistance of Ruthe Winegarten, Hunt provided haunting, graphic details of her youth spent in and around Navasota…

“Well it was like slavery times, it was, it was. I worked in the fields down there. This old man had a big bell, and they rang the bell for them to unhook the mules and come to dinner, ring the bell for them to go back out at 1:00, you know that kind of stuff.”

    The Moore Farm bell.

Annie Mae Hunt was just a young woman, but the things she experienced stayed with her to the point of tears in her old age. She recalled how her stepfather had said something considered disrespectful in the field one day and when he came home he was phoned and warned by an informant not to stay home. Sure enough a half-dozen men came up that night intending to whip him and teach him some manner of respect. Her stepfather ran for his life and crossed the Brazos River, and the goons came into their home and ruffed up her mother instead.

“…told her she better get that nigger back, and of course we were standing there trembling, me and my brother and my sister, just like little leaves on a tree when the wind’s going through it.”

With that kind of gift for poetry, even if it chills to the bone, Hunt should have been a songwriter. But instead she went straight for the jugular of white supremacy and became a political activist.  She later wrote in her memoir about that night, when the terrorized little family packed up and left. They fled desperately into Navasota to wait for the train out of town, hopefully to Hempstead, but late that night the boss man and his main henchman found them in town.

There was a man she remembered as “Morrett” that played an especially persistant and evil role in her “little tragedy on a Navasota plantation.” I suspect she was talking about a Grimes County, Brazos bottom farmer with a very smilar name, the son in law of the rebel yelling troublemaker that was the first to be arrested by Frank Hamer.  But someone called “Morrett” and Bud Jones his Black overseer hunted down Hunt’s mother, Mrs. Wilson, and according to Annie Mae Hunt, brutally slapped her around and put her in their car and took her away.  They accomplished this only after fighting off her daughters, breaking young Annie’s arm, and her sister’s nose with a pistol butt. Then they took Mrs. Wilson down to the River and beat her so badly, according to  Annie, that she could not walk for thirteen weeks.  Needless to say, they failed that time in their attempt to escape the Brazos bottoms.

Finally in 1924 Annie got married and her mother discreetly found a safe way out of town.  She passed on to her daughter a sewing machine as she left. Annie had barely gotten used to her mother being gone and having the machine when "Morrett" came and demanded that it be turned over.  He told Annie’s husband he wanted the machine Callie had brought there. Her young and insolent husband shot back, “No, you can’t get that machine.”

Morrett angrily retorted that he didn’t “take nothing off his niggers.”

Annies’ husband, from Washington County, and still too naive to understand what he was doing answered, “I don’t take nothing off White folks either.” Morrett left without the sewing machine, but he was not through with them.

 The very first people to farm the land along this historic place, where two Texas rivers met to make such enviable soil were the Whitesides. James Whitesides settled along the Navasota River during the Republic of Texas era. Pictured below, his oldest grandson Acye Hoxey Whitesides served as a Confederate cavalryman in Hood’s Brigade during the Civil War and was captured at Gettysburg.  He was later shot and drowned while trying to escape a Union prison. This family seemed to have been devastated by the war and left the area.

Acye Hoxey Whitesides at the beginning of the Civil War.

The first big name in modern cotton farming in the surrounding cotton belt around Navasota was Rogers.  John D. Rogers was an industrious and somewhat flamboyant farmer who owned much of the land between Navasota and Millican. Rogers’ grandson and namesake took over the farm when he was only 22 after the death of his grandfather during an equestrian accident. Young Rogers and a partner were inventors and producers of a new breed of “Acala” cotton seed, and gradually their interests and profits gravitated to that. He lived in Navasota and served as the Mayor.

During Rogers’ ownership, there is no great deal of lore or legend about his dealings, good or bad with his farm workers. This is partly because he developed the scheme of prison labor, and his farms were prison farms. Photos of the period show mostly white inmates, being rehabilitated by agrarian lifestyle. It was a fairly quaint picture of old fashioned values solving modern social ills.

John D. Rogers squats comfortably in the center of this political gathering in 1922.

President of the East Texas Chamber of Commerce, and active in politics, John D. Rogers eventually looked to other more satisfying occupations besides farming, and became something of a famous Texas entrepreneur.


   Jimmie Rodgers, second from the left, at a Rogers Farm gathering around 1922. This is when he met Mance Lipscomb and invited him to go on the road with him.

During the mid-1920’s a new family moved into the area and purchased much of the Rogers land. Four brothers who were determined and destined to make a mark on Texas agriculture; Clarence, Steve, Tom and Harry Moore. The last two would create a cotton dynasty and in the process leave a blues legacy not necessarily to be envied. I have known this family for thirty years. And make no mistake,  I write these things with the utmost respect for the various branches of the Moore family that I have come to know and love.

But there is a story that must be told. If the reader doubts my objectivity, give me credit for being there and sharing my first-hand observations.

Although they arrived in the area decades after the White Man's Union had established a rigid caste system, the Moore brothers found a perfect place for their business plan. They loved prison labor and jacked it up a notch. Whereas it is rumored that Rogers did not want Blacks on the property, claiming he could not get satisfactory work out of them, the Moore’s opened up their farm to several types of workers. There was lots of land and at times the prison system did not offer enough help. Many European immigrants and blacks, and a number of TDC inmates were employed. Even German prisoners of war during WWII!

          Inmates, almost all white,  are stationed at the ready at Allenfarm, Texas for another day’s work under the conscription of John D. Rogers.

 It was when young Steve Moore had first come to this area that he stepped in and perhaps saved a couple of lives. Annie Mae Hunt’s foolish and brave husband had second thoughts about his stand with his landlord "Morrett," and having befriended Moore, came to him for help. The young black man had worked for and trusted Steve Moore, and successfully recruited Moore to intervene on his behalf. Steve Moore must have been successful, because Morrett never mentioned the sewing machine again, but still he watched for his opportunity to satisfy his wrath, somewhere out of Moore’s reach.

Annie Mae Hunt alleged that Morrett later found her sister Dora alone and beat and raped her for six hours.  Furious at what had been done to his wife, her husband Buck must have said too much. The overseer Bud Jones came into their home one night and took Buck away. Buck never came home and was never heard from again.  Annie went on to be a mother of nine children and a Dallas political activist. You can read the whole story in I Am Annie Mae.

This intense violence and hardship made Navasota the eye of a lawless hurricane that slung people in every direction.  A heartless place of heartbreak and injustice and psychological trauma, few who drank from its poisonous backwater could stay long. Nobody clings to bad memories or the ground that hosts them. Only the toughest of the tough could call it home. Only those with a mountain of Faith could still find the hope or strength required to stay. And those that stayed, generation after generation, prayed a lot, and some sang a lot, and many of them sang the blues.

  Cotton pickers gathered the cotton in baskets and sacks, then put the contents in wagons which carried the harvest to the gin.

In some strange twist, it is many of Navasota’s white population who are the ones that have preserved the blues, loved them and celebrated them, as if they know just how important they are as documents of a time and a history locked up in the iron box.  Every year I see a handful of the great- grandchildren of these white plantation families, coming back to Navasota to enjoy the Navasota Bluesfest. Ironically these are many of the folks I must give the credit for reviving Trans- Brazos Blues and the story behind them.

Clarence and Steve Moore would fade away from the Brazos Valley cotton scene, but Tom and Harry Moore became legends in their own times. One was so feared that few dared to ever write songs about him. The other brother, the more fondly remembered of the two, has become a blues icon.


“Yeah there ain’t but one thing this black man went an’ done wrong…

Went an’ moved my wife an’ family on to Tim Moore’s Farm…”

                                                                                                   Lightnin’ Hopkins


As the song goes… Lightnin’ Hopkins changed the name a little, perhaps hoping that this would buffer any reprisals. This could indicate the active fear or respect blacks throughout the Brazos bottom had for the name. But the song was already infamous in the bottoms when he recorded it. It was recorded again and again, and in all the other songs, it is sung about Tom Moore.
The old Tom Moore Gin

I had met this wonderful old man long before I had ever heard the song, and I am so glad. In fact I was commissioned to make a painting of his farm, perhaps the most legendary, the most beautifully manicured, the richest, coffee colored soil and the tallest cotton growing in the bottoms. My assignment got me the dime tour that coursed along 25 miles of the Brazos River and spanned over 15,000 acres. I saw old settler’s ruins, purebred Brangus cattle, oil wells, the Tom J. Moore Gin, the Moore headquarters at Allenfarm, the infamous Big Wheel juke joint, and Graball, an ideal ranching community so named because everybody was trying to grab all they could of it. And Tom got most of it. He considered it to be the most beautiful, desirable land in America. A windshield survey took the better part of a day. True to the legend, he was a generous host.

 Reason why peoples like Mr. Tom so well,

Set down to the table, look like the Rice hotel…

                                                         Mance Lipscomb

Tom explained to me that as a young man he rode to work every morning on horseback, from Navasota in Grimes County to Allenfarm in Brazos County, which would have been a harrowing trek over twenty miles and one that required the crossing  of the Navasota river.  Sometimes he could wade across, sometimes he would use a ferry, and sometimes he just had to swim it.  He would have to get up and leave home before Five O’clock every morning to get to the headquarters  before the ringing of the plantation bell at sunrise.

Tom Moore inspects his corn crop, 1982.

Soon in the morning! Captain out so soon,

I don’t be there, somebody else will get my room…


As Annie Mae Hunt had testified truthfully, that bell was rung with military precision, at the beginning of every work day. 


Dinner time come, you get your bread an’ beans

But ring that bell an’ you better catch that whirlin’ team...


It rang at lunch or “dinner time” and again at quitting time which was often at sunset. Everyone, black and white, worked from “can ‘til can’t.”  In other words, from when you could barely see and work, until you could no longer see or work. Then Moore would often have to ride home in the dark.  A man with that kind of schedule had no time for nonsense.


Go to work in the mornin’, stops at one o’clock,

Hold back dinner time but you sure can’t hold back dark…


I rode on a couple of occasions with “Daddy” Tom Moore, as he showed me his spread, LBJ style, driving across immaculate green pastures in his Cadillac. He took great pride in every part of his operation. He supervised every corner of his operation well into his nineties. No weeds were allowed to grow. Roads were well maintained. Buildings were kept covered in fresh crimson paint, and fences and pickets were white-washed whether they needed it or not. His operation should have been preserved as a national historic landmark. Like many old-time fathers of his generation, he seemed determined to prove that his sons would never be better or smarter or tougher, and he never reached the day he was ready to hand it over.  No wonder some black people were afraid of him, even his own sons dutifully deferred to him. Nobody had the guts to tell him to quit driving. One day, while in his mid-nineties, after driving away unconsciously from a little fender- bender, the Navasota cops finally respectfully followed him home and just took his car keys away from him.

He was so tough, I’ll never forget one day when he accidently stood in a bed of fire ants, while showing off a new corral to me. He looked down and said calmly, “something’s on me… damn ants.” His legs were covered with hundreds of hellacious  Texas fire ants up to the knees, maybe even farther. I frantically batted them and brushed his pants, then pulled up his khaki pants to pull off each ant, one by one, never thinking what a spectacle I was making. He was so old I was afraid the bites might send him into toxic shock. “Don’t worry about it,” he said dryly, looking straight ahead, hoping I would not embarrass him anymore. A man on his knees feeling his legs in public was much more of a trial than fire ants. Red whelps popped up all over his shins like a few dozen wasp stings. They had to hurt. He picked up the conversation as if they were mosquito bites, anxious to distract me and show me more of his beautiful, immaculate farm.

Stoically he drove me around a couple more hours, with a few ants still crawling around in his pants. He had amazing clarity of mind and sense of purpose, and loved his farm like no one I have ever met… Perhaps he knew too well what price had been paid in human terms.


Standin’ on the levee, spurs in his hosse’s flank,

Whip in his han’ watchin’, his boys workin’ from bank to bank…


at least six different blues recordings have been made about Tom Moore and his farm.  There are probably scores of different verses. The first was a prison-made recording.  Then Lightnin’ Hopkins recorded it as the “Tim Moore Blues,” hoping the name adjustment would lessen the heat.  In his old age Mance Lipscomb, who may have written it, recorded a couple of songs about the Moores, one called the Tom Moore Blues and another called Tom Moore’s Farm, and even a Tom Moore’s Rag. Whenever he was asked to play THE SONG for the Moores at family get-togethers, he no doubt played the rag. It is known that he had two versions of the Tom Moore Blues as well, one for white audiences and one for black.

Although Mance never worked for the Moores, he lived on farms in every direction of them over the years, and certainly would have qualified as a reliable local informant. Glen Alyn did a good job in his book fleshing out the details. But I’ll share with you just a couple of stories, told to me by witnesses at the time.

The Company Store is another infamous Southern institution made famous by the song by Tennessee Ernie Ford.  Texas cotton farms had their own twist to this system, best illustrated by this firsthand account on Harry Moore’s farm…

Every spring scores of farm workers looking for work would show up at the Moore headquarters. The Company Store with all its goodies was always in the background, and in the back of their minds. Tenants would stand in line to get a grubstake... and the best deal they could. Mr. Harry Moore or one of his bosses would describe their new living arrangement; “There’s the store where you will have a line of credit, if you need it, Here’s your shack, there’s your own little garden, we’ll make sure you have a milk cow for the baby. These are your obligations and the terms, and on and on, so how much do you need today? “

Sitting before the pitiful tenant would be a table covered with stacks of bills. This was no game. Each stack represented a stack of hundreds of dollars. The tenant was encouraged to take what he needed, to get him through until harvest time. The foolish tenant would grab a high stack. Now he owed the operation perhaps five hundred or even a thousand dollars. What he would not think about, desperate as he was, is that he was not allowed to leave until he had paid it back. All of it. He had just sold himself, for a time, to Harry Moore.       

            A typical tenant farmer’s shack.

It was a system of voluntary indenturement. If perchance the laborer became disillusioned with the job, or sick, or had a family crisis and wanted to leave, he was plumb out of luck. If he left before he had settled up, and was caught, it might be his last mistake.


Mr. Tom will whip you, dare you not to tell,

Mr. Harry jus kill you, send you straight to Hell…

                                                                   “Traditional” verse to Tom Moore Blues


To say there was an edge to the place would be fair according to our sensitivities today. But in the 1930’s, this was the labor system all over the South. Tenant farmers on the H. H. Moore farm walked an unforgiving tightrope. It was an insidious but tacitly legal system, but one that constantly required big goons with guns to threaten, beat and occasionally make an example out of someone. If the laborer was an inmate working on the prison farm, he was just a number and had no rights. He had been farmed out and was not even free to negotiate his own deal, and the armed guards riding alongside of him were the judge, jury and executioners. Life and limb got pretty cheap under these conditions.

Sometimes the farm workers became reckless and violent, and sometimes a guard would lob a bullet over their direction to settle them down. On one occasion, in 1930 a farm hand considered this kind of reprimand an insult, and he got even madder. So he left.

According to Elmer Grady Marshall in his 1937 Masters thesis, soon Brazos County authorities were called, as the man had been seen “trying to swim across the Brazos River.”  It was clear that according to the farm, he was not at liberty to leave. Later the Brazos County Sheriff’s office was called and told there was no rush… the subject had drowned while trying to swim the river. Marshall wrote in his History of Brazos County, Texas that the informants failed to tell the Brazos County Sheriff’s dispatcher the subject had been riddled with bullets.

I told this to a former white Moore farm employee, who added an even more haunting story… that in fact something like that happened, but the subject had not been shot, but instead tied securely to a big steel wagon wheel and pushed off of the railroad trestle. Authorities were then called, and told that the man “tried to swim the river.”  In either story, which may be pieces of the same story, no body was ever recovered, and no charges were ever filed.  Dead men, especially dead inmates, tell no tales.          

The Moore Farms were contained in the southernmost tip of Brazos County, between the Brazos and Navasota Rivers. One winding road passed through their collections of properties, connecting what was known as the Allenfarm community with Millican and Brazos County.  These farms were geographically and politically isolated and necessarily grew into personal fiefdoms. The Moores ran their own Justice of the Peace court, and to some degree, were the “Law East of the Brazos,” and enjoyed considerable influence on local lawmen and notable Texas politicians like Senator Lyndon Baines Johnson.  Johnson’s first job after marrying “Ladybird” was to go to work for his father-in-law at a creosote plant on the northern outskirts of Navasota.  He became a lifelong associate of the Moores then. As he rose in power, so did their influence. Texas Highway Patrolmen were known to be shipped out to west Texas for messing with the Moores or their help. Harry Moore was an honorary badge carrier of the Texas Rangers. Since many of the Moore bosses were armed prison guards, problems rarely developed or lasted very long.


Tom Moore tell you, without a smile or grin,

 Stay away from the cemetery, boy, I’ll keep you from the pen…

                                                                                    Mance Lipscomb


Although the Moore’s handy arm of the Law was understandably necessary, it was too often a power that could be abused.  Every season the farms employed hundreds of farm workers who were supervised by scores of bosses. A wide open operation of this scale would have been impossible to run without law and order.

Law and order at the southern tip of Brazos County, around 1922

 But it is safe to assume that most of the guards were white and more than likely racists, if not white supremacists, and law and order became subjective terms. Armed prison guards like this only added to the toxic mix of classes and cultures. Not surprisingly, it is commonly believed that many black field hands, especially TDC inmates, met their demise while employed on the Moore farm.

A witness told me of one incident when a black farm worker had been whipped and went berserk, running away and hiding for days. He had supposedly beaten his wife and nearly killed her, sometime during this scenario. He had to be stopped.  Brazos County Sheriff’s Deputies were perhaps an hour away.  As a prison farm, the Moores had tracking dogs at their disposal and used them. When he was found hiding under a tenant shack, and would not come out, the disgusted Moores and their men emptied their six guns under the house. There was work to do.

The Moores were known to be fair and even generous with their help, if they were good help. They were known to be less than patient when they caused trouble.


Tom Moore will follow you boys from inn ta inn,

Ask for a five dollar bill - haul off an’ give you a ten…


As legends are known to do, the casualty count has risen and risen ever since I began to hear about the abuses out at the Moore Farm.  Indignant and self-pitying TDC inmates, who resented the similarity of their incarceration at the Moore Farm to old south slavery, carried their exaggerated stories all over Texas. Harry’s son Bob was supposedly even tougher and more reckless, and equally feared. My guess is some serious stuff happened out there, and some of it would turn my stomach. But if all the stories were true, then it would have been impossible to hire any help at any price on the Moore Farm. Blacks that I have interviewed who lived on the farm all of their lives, had little but praise for the Moores. The way one old informant saw it, “…they was bad niggers and they got what was comin’ to ‘em.”

The Moores apparently even provided a little friendly family counseling from time to time…


Tom Moore got ways most any o’ you men would like,

If your woman run off, he’ll bring her right back!


 No one, not even the Moores I know, have ever tried to justify the old ways of bygone days, and no one misses them. They were different times, hard times, and ways born in a century of economic and social injustice. But none of us should ever have to pay for the mistakes of our forefathers. Even so-called victims during these days would not want to pay for the damages of their own kin. So on this issue I have to side with people like the Moores, and might tell those who are descended from our father’s and grandfather’s victims; we are not our grandfathers. We are not your enemy. Your perceived enemies are dead. It is time to live and celebrate in the present. Without Divine help, some will never be able to forgive, but there is no reason to let the tragedy continue to taint our futures.

Even if the Civil Right violations suspected on the Moore Farm were probably somewhat exaggerated, the reality beneath still provided ample material for blues songs, which was not lost upon the inmates working out there. The Tom Moore Blues has become a blues music standard, and makes the Moore Farm arguably one of the most famous farms in Texas, and certainly the most famous Texas farm in the world.  Today it has been divided, sold off, and largely dismantled. In a series of setbacks and unfortunate choices, and after around eighty years, the Tom Moore farming dynasty was severely reduced in just a few years.  A single grandson, and personal friend of mine, Matt Moore is still trying to hold what is left of the farm together. Thanks to new cotton species and farming techniques, he may actually save what is left.

One of Harry’s grandsons still owns and operates much of the H. H. Moore farm, carrying on the family legacy. The Moores today are gracious people who have worked hard, looked straight ahead, lived with their past, and prospered in spite of it. Having so much land, and trying to make money with farming is demanding, unforgiving work, pitted against drought and floods and hailstorms and insects and government bureaucratic paperwork, market prices and foreign competition. Some would say these folks have had a lifetime of punishment for whatever advantages they inherited. The Moores I have known are superior people. The old men, if nothing else, picked great, supportive wives to give them sons, that to a man are collectively some of the finest men I have ever known. But it is one of their wives and a daughter that made it into the famous song…


Little bitty woman, weigh ‘bout ninety pounds,

Walk so heavy, (pregnant) till her lil’ gal get out on the ground…


Like much great art, the message of this verse can have more than one interpretation. This might very well be speaking of Tom Moore’s little wife, expecting, waddling in the Brazos soil, the ultimate sign of fertility and prosperity, or the verse could be describing a poor farm worker, picking cotton out in the field even moments before she gives birth to a child in the field, the ultimate symbol of poverty and desperation. And both pictures are true and universal. Neither could have what they have without the other. It is an ancient symbiosis that humanity cannot deny or find blame or shame. They are the two extreme poles of the American ladder of human opportunity. We must come to terms with this, and it starts by facing this music.

When I have visited the Moore farm over the past decades, and come to know the trans-Brazos Culture as I have, it has become plain to me that regardless of what the world thinks or says, it is amazingly at peace with itself. The art from this culture is rich, complex and unpretentious, and seems to have found a true equilibrium based on things like respect, forgiveness, serenity, and yes, love between individuals from a diverse network of races and classes. It has worked itself out, on its own. 

That is why, regardless of perceived injustice, today the Moore name is tantamount to royalty in Blues Valley, among blacks and whites. They have endured every kind of natural hardship and some fairly nasty manmade ones. They have lived with dignity even with a song like that putting their name into the infinite cycle of International music, with less than complimentary little quips, made by TDC cotton pickers for half a century. And it is still a good name that has been earned by the present generation and not something held over from the past.


The Moore Farm should have been treated as a national treasure. Instead the King Ranch is turning much of the historic farm into a grass farm. The old Moore headquarters has been moved away, forever removing an irreplaceable icon of our Blues Valley heritage. May both races walk someday upon the ground there, and like a Civil War battlefield, say never again, and yet be in awe of the times and the extraordinary good and bad that was extracted out of our ancestors, and marvel at what they did, and the universal values that drove them in a world we can only read about.

But when the dust settles, no matter who is farming in the Brazos bottoms, there will always be the blues. Art won. And I cannot imagine what we might know or think without the contribution of Mance Lipscomb, who left his music and a valuable biography. In the end, art endured and prevailed in this epic struggle.

As in all great human struggles, it is not the pain or the profits, but the art that always endures.

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