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Craddock: Eat those peas on New Year's Day

Dec. 30, 2017 at 11:07 p.m.


A brand-new year is just around the corner. I hope you're planning to eat plenty of black-eyed peas Monday.

Frankly, I get the impression not enough folks consumed those good-luck legumes on New Year's Day a year ago. I don't know about you, but I'm glad 2017 is about to exit.

My impression is that many East Texans aren't so much celebrating the arrival of a new year as much as just surviving 2017.

But — and please repeat after me — 2018 is going to be a better year.

Texas statehood

By the way, this week is a special one in Texas history. It was on Dec. 29, 1845, that U.S. President James K. Polk signed the Texas Annexation Act, officially making Texas the 28th state in the Union. We had been our own country, the Republic of Texas, for nine years, 11 months and 13 days.

With statehood came much celebration.

One East Texas newspaper, the Northern Standard of Clarksville, said at the time, "We hail (annexation) with enthusiastic joy as a consummation devotedly to be wished, because it is a harbinger of future prosperity and happiness and a guarantee of national greatness and glory."

Hey, I'm all for prosperity, happiness, greatness and glory.

I'm normally not a superstitious sort, but Better Half and I always start a new year with black-eyed peas, a sure-fire remedy for bad luck. It's said the tradition of eating black-eyed peas for good luck originated in the South during the Civil War.

No one was a better ambassador for black-eyed peas than Elmore Torn. The father of actor (and Longview High graduate) "Rip" Torn, Elmore Torn was hired by the Longview-based East Texas Chamber of Commerce in 1937 to serve as the chamber's agriculture and forestry director.

During the late 1930s and 1940s, Torn hosted occasional "black-eyed pea parties" in the U.S. Senate dining room in Washington, D.C., extolling the pea's virtues to any lawmaker who would listen. He also sent packages of peas to President Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

At his death in 1971, the Longview Morning Journal said Torn "did more than any other man to promote the ritual of eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck."

Another new year's tradition is making resolutions. However, my track record with resolutions is less than stellar. If I'd kept every resolution I made last year, today I'd be smarter, healthier and richer. So, for 2018 I've finally determined that my only resolution is to make no resolutions.

Take time to …

As we start a new year, one filled with limitless possibilities, let me close with something called "An Old English Prayer." I don't know the author, but the prayer reportedly is adopted from Ecclesiastes 3. It goes like this:

Take time to work; it is the price of success.

Take time to think; it is the source of power.

Take time to play; it is the secret of perpetual youth.

Take time to read; it is the foundation of wisdom.

Take time to be friendly; it is the road to happiness.

Take time to dream; it is hitching your wagon to a star.

Take time to love and to be loved; it is the privilege of God.

Take time to laugh, for laughter is the music of the soul.

So, be it resolved … 2018 will be a better year. Just remember to eat some black-eyed peas. And here's hoping any troubles in 2018 will be as short-lived as your resolutions.

— Van "Auld Lang Syne" Craddock's latest book is "East Texas Tales, Book 2," available at Barron's, Gregg County Historical Museum and East Texas Oil Museum. His column runs Sunday. Email vancraddock@sbcglobal.net .

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