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:
June 16, 2002
80-year-old corpse brings life to a small town
By HOLLY HUFFMAN
Eagle Staff Writer
Mojo, whose real name is unknown, will be buried Wednesday in Calvert.
CALVERT — Inside a four-foot pine coffin draped with a baby-blue sheet and standing upright in the corner of the drab back room of Calvert’s only funeral chapel lies a corpse known only as Mojo.
A window made of thin wire allows visitors to see the face of the decaying, frail Mojo, wearing a black bow tie. He appears almost like a Hollywood creation — something Indiana Jones might have stumbled over in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
His cotton-filled eye sockets slant down to the right as if something in the corner of the unairconditioned funeral chapel caught his attention and then froze in time. The toothless grin spreading across his face gives the impression that the short-statured corpse couldn’t be happier standing there in his pale-blue silk tuxedo.
Mojo has been a Calvert resident since he died while passing through the town 80 or so years ago. Over the decades, he eventually mummified as he was shuffled between broom closets and dank basements.
Each time the funeral home changed hands, Mojo went along with everything else, whether the new owners wanted him or not.
“When you bought the funeral home, you got Mojo,” said Frank Hudson, owner of the nearby Calvert Inn. “It’s a package deal. You got your first customer right there.”
But, finally, Mojo will be buried, a kindness that some say should have happened long ago.
Hudson, along with a handful of other residents, is spearheading the effort to finally lay Mojo to rest at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The group is scrambling to gather the $900 they say it will cost.
No one knew Mojo when he was alive, so it’s hard to say what exactly the Rev. Roderick Jackson will talk about during the graveside service at the Chapel Hill Cemetery, which is off Farm Road 1644 North between Calvert and Franklin.
One thing is certain though, Mojo brought some life to this town of 1,426 people northwest of Bryan.
And, recently, he almost brought an investigation.
The State Commission on Funeral Homes inquired about the body Friday morning after being questioned by The Bryan-College Station Eagle the day before, but commission officials quickly investigated and decided no laws were being violated by keeping a corpse at a business. Officials said there are no laws on the books governing burial.
No solid facts about Mojo — whose real name no one knows — are in the books either.
Most Calvert folks can tell visitors stories about the first mortician to own Mojo and how he pulled out Mojo’s coffin for good luck when they gambled. The residents say with certainty that P.T. Barnum was denied his request to purchase Mojo for the circus. Some believe a rumor that Baylor University wanted to study him. A few even swear they saw the 1970s special edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not in which they say he was featured as the Man Who Turned To Stone.
Fact or fiction? No one really knows. Every tale changes and, predictably, has been exaggerated over time.
Some say he was a hobo, others say a runaway, and most all will tell you he was killed while jumping from a train. Depending on the story teller, his age ranges from young teenager to that of an old man.
But this much is true: He was a teenager. He was black. And he died.
And when his parents, who finally found him in the Calvert funeral home after several months, couldn’t afford to pay the $100 or so to claim his body, the Perry Tindall Funeral Home took custody of him, according to Calvert resident Edith Towns, Tindall’s niece.
For the time being, he now resides in the shabby back room of a storefront funeral chapel operated by the Marlin-based Paul Funeral Home. The Rev. Robert Paul, who owns the business, did not return repeated phone calls.
Towns, 65, said she remembers her uncle and father, who worked together in the mortuary, first taking her to see Mojo when she was about 5 years old. She said she wasn’t frightened by him. To her, he seemed unreal.
“You could go and see it, but they didn’t try to dramatize it,” Towns said, noting that her uncle always treated Mojo with respect. “They didn’t try to make it a publicity stunt.”
When Tindall, who died years ago, sold the funeral home in the 1950s, he detailed in the contract that the new owner would also have to treat Mojo with dignity, she said.
Why her uncle never buried Mojo, Towns said she can’t explain.
“I thought that it should have been done,” she said. “I think he belongs here in Calvert after all these years. He’s just kind of ours.”
Locals quizzed recently were quick to call Mojo one of their own, recanting Mojo tales like cherished memories shared between old friends.
Calvert volunteer firefighter Brent Cain, 32, easily told of his frequent boyhood visits to see Mojo with his Bryan schoolmates who eagerly awaited the “Mojo tour.” At the time, Mojo was stashed in broom closet of Howard Williams Funeral Home, Cain said.
Williams, who Cain described as a tall and intimidating one-armed man, would usher the boys to the closet and hold up the light so they could see Mojo. But as they neared the coffin he dropped the light, leaving the boys in the dark with Mojo, Cain said. As they scrambled from the dark room, they could hear Williams chuckling around the corner.
Gena Cain, owner of MoJoes's Coffee Cart in Calvert, said naming her cart after a local icon has brought her good luck.
“It would all just fit the scene of going to see Mojo,” he said.
So when Cain and his wife, Gena, decided in 2000 to open a coffee stand outside their downtown Calvert Rustique furniture store to increase business in the town known for its antiques, it seemed fitting to name it after his childhood friend.
MoJoe’s Coffee Cart, which is stationed across the street and down one block from the real Mojo, has become somewhat of the town hangout.
“If a museum wanted to grab him and take him, I could see that happening, but there are no museums in Calvert,” Gena Cain said. “I think he definitely should be here.”
When her 5-year-old son asked if he could see Mojo, they obliged and snapped a picture of the smiling boy standing next to the coffin. In the photo, Mojo almost appears to be smiling down on Canyon.
“I’m sad to see him go, but at the same time the story will remain,” Gena Cain said.
But not all of the residents in Calvert are enthralled by Mojo’s plight.
Earlene Carter, who has lived in Calvert for the past 40 years, owns The Red Geranium antique shop just a few stores down from Mojo’s home. Carter said she had heard stories about Mojo for years and customers wandering into her store would often inquire about the mummy. But she always figured that it was an urban legend.
She recently learned he was real and is not thrilled, she said. If the community can come together and bury Mojo now, she questioned, why couldn’t they have done it years ago?
“It doesn’t make Calvert look good,” she said. “It just kind of makes you wonder.”
With her hands clasped together in nervous anticipation, she crept into the chapel Friday morning whispering, “Where’s Mojo?” But she was turned away by Jackson, who told her they had been ordered by the funeral commission to stop allowing folks to view the body.
Ann Cosper, deputy administrator of enforcement for the commission said she was concerned that a funeral home would utilize a chapel knowing that it contained a corpse, but stressed that they had not given the chapel or funeral home any orders. The commission has no jurisdiction over chapels, she said.
“I am amazed that this body has sat there all these years and everybody in town knew it,” Cosper said. “I am absolutely amazed. I am dumbstruck.”
Karol Kowalski, owner of the Wooden Spoon Cafe on Main Street, said she heard about Mojo not long after moving to town 2 1/2 years ago and set out to find him. When she couldn’t — the chapel isn’t open all the time — she figured that it was just a myth.
She said she’s now glad to hear he will finally be laid to rest, but at the same time, sad to seem him go.
“He’s probably the only one in the community whose really stood with us,” she said.
Mojo helped bring folklore to Calvert, she said. After being pushed aside for decades, she hopes that the community will now give him an appropriate sendoff.
When asked, she admits that many people probably think keeping Mojo around for so long is an odd thing to do, and maybe even outright weird. But with an exaggerated roll of her eyes, she gives an easy explanation.
“This is Calvert,” she said.
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