A WEEK AGO this column addressed the subject of The Yellow Rose of Texas: the song lyrics and their origin.
A reader commented that she had always thought the flower in question was the yellow bloom of a cactus that grows in South and West Texas.
Call me silly, but this was upsetting news for me. And it turns out that the truth, as they say, is stranger than fiction.
I wrote that the original was a black folk song with these lines for the chorus:
There’s a yellow rose in Texas, that I am going to see,
No other darky [sic] knows her, no darky only me
She cryed [sic] so when I left her it like to broke my heart,
And if I ever find her, we nevermore will part.
It turns out that some high class espionage was afoot. A beautiful mulatto woman had attracted the attention of the Mexican commanding general, Santa Anna, who pretty much ran a one-man show.
The crucial Battle of San Jacinto was played out without his leadership, since he was otherwise occupied by this turncoat woman.
Meanwhile, Sam Houston was able to lead his revolutionaries with the help of some able assistants.
Houston was a larger -than- life character, as indicated by the title of one of his biographies, Six Foot Six. He was actually quite tall for his era, probably at least six foot two.
Sam Houston was, coincidentally, the only person who ever served as both president and governor of Texas. (Texas was a republic from 1836 to 1845, when it became one of the United States.)
The fact that Houston lived in Tennessee before he settled in Texas probably had nothing to do with the following verse:
She’s the sweetest rose of color this darky ever knew,
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew;
You may talk about your Dearest May, and sing of Rosa Lee,
But the Yellow Rose of Texas beats the belles of Tennessee.
Yes, Tennessee has its attributes, but only one state can claim the Yellow Rose.