I have used this phrase many times, “God willing and the creeks don’t rise”, and I’ll wager that you have, too. I have understood the phrase to mean that I would be somewhere, or accomplish some task unless prevented by some unseen circumstance. Amazingly, there is much discussion about what this really means. Research shows that there are two different opinions about the saying, and both sides are avid that their positions are correct.
Some people have problems with acknowledging a higher power called God, and that this God does not interfere in the actions of man. So, to them blaming God for being unwilling that something happen is unrealistic. However, to those who believe in God do believe that certain circumstances are not allowed by an all-knowing and all-seeing God, for reasons known only to Him, but usually for our protection or benefit. But, this seems to be the lesser of the two arguments.
To many researchers the main quandary is the word “creek” in the phrase. To some the word refers to the Creek Indians, and to others it simply means a stream of water.
Those who believe that the work refers to the Creek Indians point to Mr. Benjamin Hawkins who was the General Superintendent for Indian Affairs between 1796 and 1818 for the U.S. Government. He was the principal agent to the Creek nation. In fact, he became so close to its people that he learned their language, was adopted by them, and married a Creek woman. Who better to write about the risks of the Creek rising in revolt?
Mr. Hawkins was summoned to Washington D.C. by the president in order to discuss a number of raids carried out by the Creek Indians in an area which is now the state of Alabama. It is reported that Mr. Hawkins replied in a letter which read in part, “I will be there for the meeting, God willing and the Creek don’t rise.” It is argued that the word “Creek” is singular, and the “c” is capitalized thus indicating other than a mere stream of water. People who hold this position on the phrase argue that Mr. Hawkins was a very educated fellow and would not make a grammatical error in his writings.
However, people who hold to the view that the word “creek” actually refers to a stream of water because other renderings of the phrase do not capitalize the “c”, which suggests that they didn’t have the Creek people in mind at all. That argues for the more mundane origin – the old time difficulties of traveling on dirt roads that forded rivers and streams. Thus, if the creek don’t rise was a whimsical way of saying that the speaker would carry out some task provided that no obstacles were put in his path such as a flooded creek. It could be summarized as “if all goes well.”
The saying has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson among others, on the usual principle that attaching a famous name to a story validates it. In the 1950s the phrase became popular as a supposedly hayseed utterance, sometimes as and the crick don’t rise to reflect a regional form. It was also used as a sign-off tag line of the 1930s US radio broadcaster Bradley Kincaid.
So, the argument goes on even today as to which is referred to in the expression - does the “creek” refer to the Creek Indians or just a stream of water? Since both arguments have merit you will have to decide for yourself. The message of the saying is the same either way you interpret it.
Source: World Wide Words – Michael Quinion
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Have you ever hear someone say about a person, “He’s as stubborn as a mule?” Or perhaps even you have been called “mule headed” by others. I think we all know what the meaning of the word is, but are mules really stubborn? If someone is stubborn, it means that they are contrary, unwilling to change, or unwilling to do things that are expected of them. Some people say that the stubborn person “walks to the beat of his own drum”.
Mule expert, John Hauer wrote a book several years ago titled “The Natural Superiority of Mules” in which he says that mules are not really stubborn at all. He says that they are simply too intelligent to do stupid things. They also have a powerful self-protective streak. As an example, if you load up a pack mule with too much weight he will refuse to budge. But when you lighten the load to a point the mule feels comfortable, he will get going. Another example – when a mule is exhausted after a long day on the trail, he will stop. Is he being stubborn? No, it’s the self-preservation thing. By contrast, a horse can be ridden to death.
Contrary to popular belief, mules are not slow. Sure, a quarter horse would win a race around a track, but a mule can keep up a nice gait for hours, and would likely win the endurance race against a horse. Hauer says that extreme heat doesn’t affect mules as much as horses. He explains that the large ears, inherited from the donkey side, radiate heat. Because mules do not sweat much, they do not require as much water as horses.
Other mule facts: Pound for pound, they are stronger than horses. They can jump better than horses. Their speed and agility is equal to a horse. They live from five to ten years longer than a horse. Also, their hybrid vigor (they’re produced by mating a male donkey with a female horse) makes them resistant to many of the infections and afflictions common to horses. In addition, they are exceptionally cute and loveable. Hauer says that a mule can do anything a horse can do; they can do some things better; and they’ll love you like a dog. “I kind of consider the mule a super-horse,” says Hauer.
Hauer tells about how mules have carried him with unwavering sure-footedness into the highest reaches of the 12,000-foot La Sal Mountains, through Nevada’s burning desert, and up Colorado’s canyons. They did not get sick, they did not go lame, they never missed a step, nor did they slip on a rock. Whereas on those rides, he recalls watching other riders dismount their horses and lead them along especially treacherous trails. “It never occurred to me to get off. I knew the mule could handle the trail better than I could,” says Hauer.
I remember that in the long-running “Gunsmoke” television series, Festus Haggen rode a mule named Ruth, instead of a horse. Perhaps Festus knew something about mules back then. It’s time to give credit where credit is due. Let’s put a stop to the “stubborn as a mule” myth. The next time someone calls you “mule headed”, just say “Thank you for the compliment”.
“STUBBORN AS A MULE”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 HEMLOCK STREET
PO BOX 511
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972
Embarrassing situations can arise at any time. I am intimately aware of “Murphy’s Law”, being a Murphy myself, and no truer statement was ever made – “If anything can go wrong, it will, and at the most inopportune moment.”
In 1955 I was a 19 year old college student attending Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Since money was hard to come by in those days, I had to work after classes in order to meet expenses. I was hired by the Oakley-Metcalf Funeral Home to live on premises and work as a general flunky. I was paid the awesome sum of $120 per month, plus my room. Seems very puny today, but back then it was a fairly decent job for a college student.
My room was a very small one, right next to the preparation room where embalming was done. My “flat” was probably 8 feet wide by 10 feed long, and contained a bunk bed, a chest of drawers, a chair, and the most important item, a telephone. The telephone was important because we had an emergency ambulance and made calls to accidents, heart attacks, and the like. Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians had not been invented as yet, so funeral homes provided this service.
Oakley-Metcalf owned an emergency ambulance, a hearse, and a transfer ambulance, which was a hearse converted to hold a cot for non-emergency transfers. We usually picked up deceased people with the transfer ambulance, bringing them to the funeral home.
Another employee, Gary, lived in an apartment above the ambulance garage with his wife. Gary was a few years older than me and was the “old pro” at the funeral home.
On this particular occasion Gary and I had driven the transfer ambulance to a Houston, Texas hospital to pick up a deceased person. The round trip of approximately 250 miles was uneventful until we arrived back at the funeral home. A long, sloping driveway led from Mound Street up to the garage in which we parked. I noted as we arrived with the body that a number of the deceased’s family was already at the funeral home milling around outside. Naturally, they watched intently as Gary and I drove up the driveway with the body of their loved one.
We parked the ambulance, opened the back door and rolled the cot toward the back, and eased it down to the driveway. Then “Murphy’s Law” struck. As we attended to several items in the back of the ambulance, we turned our attention away from the cot with the body on it. In that moment, the cot started rolling down the driveway toward Mound Street, gathering momentum. The yelling of several family members brought our attention back to the moving cot.
We both began our chase of the cot down the sloping driveway and successfully caught it just before it reached the intersection. We heard a few choice words from some family members as we rolled the cot back up the driveway and into the preparation room.
There is not much one can say at a time like that. Our boss, Skinny Garrison, had a few words to say to us, but did not fire us as we probably deserved. Gary and I had to face the family again while conducting the funeral, but nothing else came from the embarrassing incident, except that it served to teach me a lesson to be more careful and respectful.
Murphy ’s Law still continues to harass me in various ways, as it always will. After being married now for many years I find that there is a new Murphy’s Wife’s Law – “If anything can go wrong, it will – while HE’s out of town.”
“THE RUNAWAY COT”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972
Who would have thought it? Finding some documents hidden away in a cedar chest for over fifty years has had a negative effect on my ego, sort of like finding out for sure that Santa Claus does not exist. Let me explain what I mean.
I grew up in the small town of San Augustine, Texas. While in school I was a member of the high school band for a total of six years. Our band did the usual and normal things that bands do - play and march at football games, show out at basketball games, march in downtown parades, and participate in band contests. I felt good about our band composed of around fifty members. The high school auditorium was full of people every time we gave a concert. I never heard any complaints from anyone, until now.
Recently two of my class mates, and fellow band members, found some documents in their mother’s closet which shocked me. These old undated documents appear to have been written in the early 1950s. These documents were pages of comments written by band judges at a University Interscholastic League event in which the band participated. Stephanie and Sandra are not sure how their mother ended up with these forms, except that their father was on the school board for many years and perhaps he was given these grading forms by the band director, Geraldine Loving.
On this occasion our band played three numbers, “Front and Center”, “Lustspiel”, and “Shalimar”. One of these was a march piece, one an overture, and the third was a number to be sight-read by the band members.
One judge wrote on his form the following: “This number (Lustspiel) is entirely too difficult for this band to play. It would be unfair to offer detailed criticism. The band has no bass section, the solo coronet plays with a very undesirable vibrato, and the clarinets have no conception of a good tone. Of course, the instrumentation is impossible for a number of this caliber. Certainly the director, as well as the students, should know that they are not producing music. The band should spend at least a year on nothing but fundamentals and in trying to build up its instrumentation.” Not surprisingly this judge gave us a V rating, the lowest. Wow, and I thought we were producing good music!
A second judge wrote: “The ensemble tone of the group suggests that the individual students are not ready to cope with the difficulties of their parts. In my opinion it would be good judgment to emphasize individual technical problems for a time before attempting compositions of this caliber.”
A third judge wrote on his sheet: “I will not attempt to find individual errors as there are too many. I simply suggest in the future, if your band stays within this size and the limitation of the instruments that you now have, not to move into the professional band literature. There are many good easier overtures that your band could handle, and would show your band off far better, especially in contest work. I will not attempt to analyze your second overture….”
I can just imagine how our band director, Miss Loving, must have felt after reading these stinging criticisms of our musical efforts in a contest. She never told her students how bad we apparently sounded.
By the time I graduated high school in 1954, Mr. Kenneth Stephenson was our band director. Apparently we had improved somewhat as I note in the records that some individual awards were given to several band members at contest in 1953. Patsy Ledford received a 1st rating for her saxophone solo, Marialice Boyette received a 1st rating for her trumpet solo, Glenn Anderson captured a 2nd for his trumpet solo, and Carolyn Whitton received a 3rd for her trumpet solo. Take that, you judges..!
Well, now that I know the truth, the ugly truth, the unvarnished truth about our high school band way back in 1951, I feel like just having been told that I was an adopted child….the truth hurts. Well, as it is said, “time heals all wounds”, and with time, I shall recover from this shock.
It should be noted that in 2007 the San Augustine High School band won sweepstakes award at the band contest, which is a first division in all phases of the contest. And the band played on…..
“AND THE BAND PLAYED ON”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
P. O. Box 511
San Augustine, Texas 75972