Holy Ghost Will Set Your Feet a Dancing," said Lynn Lennon, a Dallas
photographer who documented the women and men of the Big Thicket.
"I met some other women who were primitive Baptists, I got plumb
tickled at the foot washings. They still do foot washings at a Baptist
Church near Livingston,
Lennon made seven trips to the Big Thicket. Each time she and a
writer friend Edd Swift visited the area, she took pictures of people in
their homes and on their land. The result is her Images from the Big
Thicket opening at the Houston Contemporary Arts Museum on February 16.
Even the location of the Big Thicket brings some disagreement a-
mong the local people. It's over yonder, or It's up 'round Jasper, or
Honey, you're standing right in it, are some directions.
Roughly, the boundaries of the Big Thicket (or Rig Thick as Rachel
Durham calls it) stretch east from the Trinity River almost to the Louisiana border and north from Beaumont to Woodville, Parts of the Thicket have been designated National Preserve. The property owners can
stay on the land until the time of their death/Then the land will become public property,
"In the Big Thicket 1 saw a part of Texas I had never known," Lennon said, "It was Texas of the 1930's. They have only the land and
everybody had a vegetable garden. We'd always find them there. We
hardly ever left a house without several ears of corn, a handful of
tomatoes or some tender okra.
"In the families I met, the younger people have gone. These older
residents are holding on to a way of life that is part of our past. Many
we visited had no indoor plumbing or gas cooking or heating. Without
television to fill the days, storytelling is still an art. The people are full
of tales and myths of the area but I was impressed with their self-sufficiency and their acceptance and enjoyment of their lives. Their faces
reflect their strength and inner peace."
Seen together, Lennon's photographs reflect the strength and integrity of Big Thicket residents. A woman standing in front of her home
"Do you like redbirds? I do. They fry up so crisp you can eat 'em bones and all."
holding a hammer and a hoe. A woman cooking over a wood stove. A
woman sitting solemnly in a hallway, the wall behind her covered with
"I don't think of the pictures as portraits," Lennon said. "I think of
them as people in their environments. That's what I wanted to show,
things that were different from my experience,"
Swift grew up on the outskirts of towns like Colmesneil, Woodville,
Silsbee, Kountze and Signo, and knew many of the people, so they accepted Lennon and her picture taking. Some were shy at first, wanting
to put on shoes or straighten the house before posing for the camera.
"One dav Edd said there were two sisters who lived together and
we'd visit them. That's how I met Aunt Gersey and Aunt Clemmy.
"In the middle of the photo session with them Aunt Clemmy said, fcI
don't even have my teeth in' and got up and left," Undaunted, Gersey
kept smiling as broadly in the last frame as the first.
"Once a week they'd get all fixed up, call a taxi, have their hair done
in Livingston, go to the grocery store, and take a cab back home."
Another day Swift looked up Pat Brown, a man now in his late 70's