From TX Gen Web Site
Have you heard stories about how Robertson County came to be nicknamed "Booger County?"
Most dictionaries do not contain a word spelled "b-o-o-g-e-r." The closest word is "b-o-g-y," which means: "(1) an imaginary evil being or spirit; goblin, or (2) anything one especially, and often needlessly, fears." In a similar vein is the word "b-o-g-y-m-a n" or "b-o-g-e-y-m-a-n," which means: "an imaginary, frightful being, especially one used as a threat to children in disciplining them." If conjuring up images of evil and fear is the desired objective, using the word "b-o-o-g-e-r" hardly does it. That's because in recent years the pejorative meaning of this word has come to refer to something entirely different.
Given the above, lots of folks with ties to Robertson County don't particularly care for the term "Booger County." Be that as it may, here are some possible explanations as to how this rather unfortunate nickname may have come into existence.
Big Foot Is Robertson County's "Booger"
Perhaps the most interesting explanation of why Robertson County is sometimes called "Booger County" comes from the files of Bobby Hamilton, who is with G.C.B.R.O. (Gulf Coast Bigfoot Research Organization). G.C.B.R.O.'s website reports three attacks in the county by bigfoot (aka Robertson County's "Booger"). These are as follows:
Booger Attack #1 "In the early 1970s, a Calvert, TX witness claimed that a 'large age man' attacked his home. It reportedly tore off a piece of his roof in its attack on his home. The witness labeled it as the 'Porch Monster' since at one point it was upon his porch when he first heard it. According to this website, 'Locals have referred to this area as 'Booger County' for a long time due to the attacks and so forth of the creature that was roaming around there.'" (Bigfoot "Booger" #1)
Booger Attack #2 "In the early 1970s, an un-named Calvert, TX farmer was cultivating his farm property on the banks of the Brazos River. He thought he noticed something moving along the tree line on top of the river bank. He was making a pass along the tree line in his effort to turn around his equipment, when he became aware of exactly what it was he saw moving in the tree line. He saw an ape man of sorts, and it advanced towards his tractor. It attempted to come aboard his tractor, at which point he bailed off the other side, to get away from it. The creature eventually gave up on whatever it was trying to do, and jumped off the tractor and walked back into the woods. This "booger" was described as being 7 1/2-8 foot tall, brown, covered with hair, and walked like a man, but was more of an ape man in appearance." (see Bigfoot "Booger" #2)
Booger Attack #3 "In the Brazos River bottoms outside of Calvert, again in the early 1970s, an un-named gentleman was riding his horse in some bottoms down by a tree line on the edge of the Brazos river. The gentleman's horse all of a sudden spooked and turned and bolted. He turned to see what could have spooked the horse, and saw an ape like creature in heavy pursuit of them. They escaped the creature and after getting to a safe location and getting his horse calmed down, the man found some gash marks on the horses' buttocks area. It is not known for sure if this was done by the creature or brush during the escape of the pursuit. The "booger" was ape-like in appearance, walked and ran on two legs, brown in color, 7-8 foot tall." (see Bigfoot "Booger" #3)
Indians, Thieves, & Highwaymen Are Robertson County's "Boogers"
The Robertson County Website contains the following explanation:
"Bordered on the south by the Old San Antonio Road, Robertson County saw some of the first settlers to Texas. Early days in the county were filled with savage Indians, and it was not unusual to attend church with a Bible in one hand, and a rifle in the other. Along with the Indians, the Robertson County frontier had its fair share of thieves and highwaymen, thus earning it the nickname of 'Booger County,' a name it lives with to this day."
Robertson County Has Produced "Boogers" Since Early 1870s
In their 1958 book, Hearne On The Brazos, father and son authors Norman Lowell McCarver Sr. & Norman Lowell McCarver Jr. offer the following information in the "Folklore" section as to why Robertson County is called "Booger County:"
"Hearne?" asked the conductor, looking at the tickets the Georgian handed him. The young man and his bride of two weeks nodded. "Hearne, Hempstead, and Hell," drawled the conductor. "Hearne, Hempstead, and Hell."
The year was 1897 and the couple my maternal grandparents. Hearne had been a member of that triumvirate for over twenty years and Robertson County had been dubbed "Booger County" for considerably longer than that because of the "boogers" it produced.
Thus, the McCarvers suggest that the nickname has been applied to Robertson County since at least the early 1870s.
Child Pranksters Are Robertson County's "Boogers"
In her 1982 book, The National Hotel, author Ruth Rucker Lemming offers an entirely different explanation concerning the origin of the nickname. This information was recorded on her tape recorder several years earlier by her brother, Robert Lee Rucker. It is as follows:
"Sitting here in my wheelchair in the Veteran's Hospital in Bonham, Texas, I contemplate on how Booger County got its name. It's a well known fact that old Robertson County, Texas, is known far and wide as "Booger County." Why just a few years ago there were so many families from Robertson County living on one street in the metropolis of Houston that they put up signs in their yards reading "Booger County Avenue."
"There was never but two men who knew the whole story of the renowned moniker of Robertson County; they were Ben Myatt and R. L. Rucker. Ben started the whole shootin' match being aided and abetted by myself."
"A little past the turn of the century, Ben was living out of Bremond where I went one summer to assist him with some dog training. While we were shootin' the breeze one night, he observed that 'tha time was ripe for a Booger scare.' So, he set about making a Dumb Bull. A Dumb Bull is a man-made voice of a Booger, which Ben considered essential. I tried to do exactly like Ben. After some searching, I found a small hollow juniper tree, cut off about a three-foot length and stretched over it, drum-like, a piece of fresh or green cowhide. To make sure it was tight, I fastened it with a solid row of tacks. After it had completely dried, then I made a small hole in the center of the hide and ran a cord about half the size of a writin' pencil through the hole, down the hollow, and extendin' about two feet more. On the string was tied a small, strong stick to keep it from pullin' through the cowhide. Then, I worked a heavy coat of rosin into the string. Ben called the contrivance his lion and when he would hold the string tight with one hand and grip the cord in the other hand, the resultant sawing noise - shrill and coarse - would sound like a real Booger. With a little practice on the string and the stick and the cord, I could produce a sonorous roar that would make the Ringling Brothers' lion sound like a pussy cat."
"The fear generated by the offensive sound soon spread among the inhabitants - people, and livestock. On one occasion, an old Polander was driving a gentle old horse hitched to a single buggy. He thought he heard a noise, which he did. My lion just murmured a light 'meow;' the driver stopped his horse. Then, the lion belted out a pretty good bellow and the gentle old horse gave one powerful lunge forward and broke the shafts loose from the buggy, took off for the tail and undercut, and was not seen for a week."
"Occasionally, during the next several years, I would resurrect the Booger. Once a little old crazy locoed mule fell into a ravine about ten feet deep and killed itself. So, via the pocket knife, I made a few jabs in one shoulder where the Booger had held on with his claws and cut the mule's throat with his claws on the other foot. This convinced the country boys that the Booger had caught and killed him for sure. The Booger did not eat any flesh - just drank the mule's blood and left."
"It was this last touch which proved too much. The people in the neighborhood were literally scared to death. Their children had to walk to school down country roads, so dozens of families kept their kids at home or else moved out, lock, stock, and barrel."
"I could plainly see the handwritin' on the wall. The Booger had to go. Now, he remains in name only. When you get a thing like that rollin', there's just no place to stop halfway; it keeps getting bigger and bigger 'til quittin' is the only way out. I hung the Dumb Bull forever on a nail behind the door, reluctantly cut the old lion's throat, and buried him - facin' [leaning slightly as the gun had leaned fifty years before] East."
Robertson County's "Booger" May Be Something Entirely Different
In her 1992 book Family Traditions, a compilation of articles that appeared in the Calvert Tribune, author Mary L. Smart offers an entirely different explanation about how Robertson County got this nickname:
In Texas, Teen Gets Burial 80 Years After His Death
About 60 people attended the recent funeral of a teenager found dead near railroad tracks in the small Texas town of Calvert. The youth apparently fell, jumped or was pushed from a passing train. Exactly what happened to him likely will be a mystery forever, because he died about 80 years ago.
Until he was buried Wednesday, his shriveled body, which never decomposed, lay in an open coffin in a Calvert mortuary -- an unclaimed corpse that, over time, became a municipal mascot.
In the 1970s, a local reporter, Gracia Thibodeaux, now 58, interviewed an elderly Calvert mortician named Perry Tindall about the body. No one today can find a copy of the newspaper in which her story appeared or any records pertaining to the dead youth. So what little is known about the corpse comes from Thibodeaux's recollection of her interview with Tindall, who died years ago.
"He remembered it was between 1917 and 1923 when [Calvert authorities] found the body and brought it to him," Thibodeaux said last week. Tindall embalmed the corpse, laid it in an open pine coffin covered with a wire screen and set it aside.
The dead youth turned out to have been a 15-year-old runaway, and when his dirt-poor family showed up to claim the body, "Tindall handed them a bill for $108," Thibodeaux said. "They told Tindall, 'Well, for $108, you can keep him.' "
So Tindall stood the coffin in a corner of a back room. "They used to play poker and dominoes in that room, and everybody thought [the body] brought them good luck because his lips were pulled back like he was smiling," Thibodeaux said. "As time went by, I guess he kind of petrified."
Locals dubbed the corpse "Mojo," a Creole expression for good fortune. Over the years, "the funeral home was sold, and sold again, and sold again, and every time it was sold, Mojo went with it," Thibodeaux said.
An out-of-towner recently bought the mortuary and promptly ended the tradition, arranging for last week's Christian funeral and burial in a cemetery near Calvert. He'll eventually get a headstone, though no one is sure what the inscription will say.
-- Paul Duggan