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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical :

Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair

by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
Archie McDonald, PhD
Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair are communities in Shelby County whose names were appropriated for a plea by crapshooters for good luck when seeking to roll double fives. Similarly, dice throwers hoping for an "eight" would sing out, "Eighter from Decatur, the County Seat of Wise." Later the alliteration in the sing-song phrase "Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair" helped a folk song recorded by Tex Ritter popular.
Teneha welcome sign showing "Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair"
"Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair" on Tenaha Welcome Sign

TE Photo, July 2001
How did the communities become involved with dice and popular music? Robert S. Maxwell's history of the first railroad in East Texas, Whistle In the Piney Woods: Paul Bremond and the Houston, East and West Texas Railway, offers several accounts. First, some believe that stringing the town names together began during World War I when soldiers in a National Guard Unit composed of men from Shelby County discarded the familiar cadence of "hup, two, three, four" for "Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair," their home towns. Dice players took up the chant, according to advocates of this explanation.

Others argue that the popularity of the saying began from a porter in Houston announcing the departure of a train on the Houston, East and West Texas line. The porter called out the various destinations along the way to Shreveport, and the alliteration of "Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair" made it a favorite of passengers.

Maxwell claims that the song had little to do with the HE&WT other than through the recording by Ritter that made the towns and the railroad line famous.

Courtesy of Dr. Francis E. Abernethy, director of the Texas Folklore Society, here are some verses of the song:


On the HE--WT line,
Old East Texas sure looks fine
Drop me off just anywhere (near)
Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair

Here those drivers pound the rails,
Takin' me back to Texas trails,
Bought my ticket, paid my fair,
Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair

Whooooo, waiting for the whistle,
Whooooo, when you hear the whistle,
It means that the stations not so far,
From where we are,

Let'er highball, engineer,
Pull that throttle, track is clear,
There's a gal just waitin' there,
Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo, and Blair.


The HE&WT also was said to stand for "Hell Either Way Taken," but that is another story.
All Things Historical January 21-27, 2001 Column
Published by permission.
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)

Readers' Forum:
Subject: Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been trying to think of Tenaha, Timpson, Bobo and Blair for soooo long. My father, Herschel "Red" Ramsey was born somewhere in that area and used to tell me so many "rip-roaring" stories about his younger days; that little jingle used to rattle around in a long lost childhood memory that I couldn't quite get a-hold of. If anyone remembers him, contact me at freewheelingX4@hotmail.com

Daddy was such a great man, and I miss him. He went on to Texas Tech from there and played for the "Red Raiders" (hence the nickname); then played in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years of the Philadelphia Eagles beginning in 1938. - Carol Ramsey, September 20, 2005
 
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