Briar Patch


IN AUSTIN RECENTLY, DURING A public hearing on skinnydipping in Lake Travis, local resident Louis Steinbach testified to attentive city councilmen: “God has the power to destroy this city for its sin…and officials had better realize it.” We do not want to appear soft on sin, but we are of the opinion that if God did not see fit to destroy Austin during the veteran’s land scandal, the insurance scandals, the Sharpstown scandal, and whatever other indiscretions legislators have deemed appropriate to perform, He will be merciful enough to spare us in spite of a few naked frolics in Lake Travis.


MOST MARRIED FOLKS IN TEXAS know that divorce brings no alimony in this state. However, very few well-heeled otherwise super-planner-executive types anticipate the Federal Estate tax that will be due if their spouses die. If those men did, they might buy insurance on their spouses’ lives as well as their own.

Even if dear old Mom departs from this world having devoted her life to the care and feeding of the family without a scrap of outside income or property in her own name, old Dad—if he’s at all in the chips—has 9 months from her death in which to pay what may be a whopping bill. The amount depends on the size of the estate which, according to tax law, is one-half of the couple’s community property plus any separate property owned by the decedent. Community property is defined as everything the couple has acquired in Texas during their marriage regardless of whose name such property may be in except property which has been acquired by inheritance or gift.

Let’s say you get out your pocket calculator and add up the value of all your property. Don’t forget to count your house, real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, cars, objets d’art—the works. If that total is $500,000, at the death of your spouse, $250,000 would be subject to Federal Income tax. There is a $60,000 exemption under current law, so the tax on the remaining $190,000 would be $47,700.

The Federal Estate Tax is a graduated tax. Those what has most, owes most. To-wit:

Value of community property/ Federal Estate tax due

$100,000/ no tax
$150,000/ $1,050
$200,000/ $4,800
$300,000/ $17,900
$400,000/ $32,700
$500,000/ $47,700
$1,000,000/ $126,500


MANCE LIPSCOMB’S MODEST FRAME HOME, situated just outside the Navasota city limits in Grimes County, looks out over mile upon mile of fertile Brazos River bottomland. This is the land of Lipscomb’s birth, the land in which he will most likely be buried, the land which has alternately blessed and cursed him during his 78 years, and the land in which his strangely beautiful music is rooted.

Unlike other Texas bluesmen—notably Blind Lemon Jefferson—Lipscomb’s fame came late in life. Despite a considerable reputation as a songster in the Navasota area, he was virtually unknown elsewhere.

In 1960, after half a century of playing at Saturday night dances, barbecues, and baseball games, Mance was “discovered” and recorded on the spot by Arhoolie Records president Chris Strachwitz and Houston folklorist Mack McCormick. Blues critics immediately hailed the album as a work of art, and a most unlikely star was born.

Lipscomb frankly admits, “I never did think I would become a recording man.” Raised to the fields, he was working under the fierce Texas sun, helping to support his mother and ten brothers and sisters, before he was 12.

Music came naturally to Mance. His father, born a slave in Alabama, was well known around Navasota as a fiddler and his uncle was a talented banjo player.

In an interview last November at his Navasota home, Lipcomb recalled that “When I first started out, there wasn’t much guitar music around. Mostly there was a fiddle or banjo, but there weren’t many guitars.

“My brothers had a guitar, though,” he continued, “and they would let me hold it on my lap if I would go to the store and fetch them some ‘bacco or cigarettes.”

He acquired his first guitar at 13 when a gambler happened through a field in which Mance and his mother were working.

“You know how children are,” said Lipscomb. “They watch every bird that flies. I saw this man coming up across the field—he was a gambler—carrying this guitar. He put it down under a cotton stalk so it wouldn’t get burnt up in the sun, and went over to talk to my mother. They knowed one another—he was a gambler.”

He went on to say that after greeting his mother and exchanging customary small talk, the gambler offered to sell the guitar for $1.50. “Oh Lord,” said Mance, “I thought I was going to have a guitar right then, but Mama said, ‘Where do you think I’m going to get that much money?’ and the gambler told her to pay him the money when she got it. And that’s how I got my first guitar.”

It wasn’t much of a guitar, Lipscomb recalled; its back was full of holes and it had only three strings. “No, it wasn’t much,” Lipscomb said, “but to me it was the best guitar in the world. I just sat out under the trees after dinner and whammed away. I didn’t know nothing about no songs.

“At night,” he continued, “I couldn’t get no sleep for no guitars. I’d dream about those old guitars hanging up along-side the wall and wake up to see that nobody had bothered it. One day my daddy showed up and patched up the holes for me. I must have kept that guitar three or four years.”

Mance was in his mid-teens when he first heard a phonograph recording.

“We didn’t have no record player,” he said, “but the people down the road from us did and we would all go sneaking up to their windows and eavesdrop whenever they played it. These were the old cup records, you’d slip them on a sleeve and they’d go ‘round like a rolling pin.”

The first recorded artist he heard was

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