Commentary: Tom Hoskins and his ‘Thousand Points of Light’
In my many conversations with random Texans across Texas, I’ve come to realize we are a state of natural philosophers.
Many people have maxims or aphorisms at the ready for every situation. And most have a story to go along with those nuggets of wisdom to properly illustrate them.
Tom Hoskins, a man I never met, but who was a dear friend of a dear friend, made it his late-in-life mission to record all of the adages he came across in a collection he called Hoskilonians: A Thousand Points of Light. He died in 2016, but a year before, gave us the gift of uploading his collection to a website for posterity: hoskilonians.com.
Tom was raised on a cotton farm in the Panhandle, between Lamesa and Lubbock. He said this of his concordance of popular wisdom: “Some of these sayings were frivolous. Some were dead serious. But they all caught my attention and imagination, and I felt they were worthy to be recorded. I do not claim authorship to any except for a few. I either heard them spoken on that dry-land cotton farm or picked them up in my many years in the rag (clothing) business.”
Quite naturally, many of Tom’s maxims deal with farm life:
Your best bull is usually the one that dies.
“Theoretically” means “not really.”
The Lord put white weeds in a cotton patch to remind us who’s in charge.
If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch.
A man’s castle is his truck.
There’s nothing friendlier than a wet bird dog.
There are these on marriage:
Everyone appreciates the funny guy at the party except his wife.
The spouse who snores will fall asleep first.
Daddy eventually comes around to Mama’s way of thinking.
Tom’s concordance of wisdom also has autobiographical stories which illustrate some of the folksy proverbs, like “economy and thrift are great sources of revenue.” But, as Tom points out, this is not always true, as we see in this brief story about his dad:
“My dad, Old Jack Hoskins, liked cattle. And he liked a bargain. I think he liked a bargain more than a cow. On one occasion I accompanied him on a trip to the auction at Lamesa. He bought a few head of cows. He got a great deal on a small yearling steer, about 300 pounds I would guess. I thought he looked different somehow. The steer had an old face.
Most of the old cowboys there were unusually quiet when he came out and hardly anyone bid. My dad was very pleased when his winning bid of $17.00 bought the calf. He liked to buy things cheap, and there were no exceptions.
So we headed home with a trailer-load of auction bargains, including the steer with the old face. I can’t remember what we named the oddball, but we turned him loose with the others.
You can always tell a small rancher because he has a name for every cow. It was in the spring, and there was a lot of weeds and some grass, and the cattle flourished and gained weight. But the yearling didn’t gain any weight or grow at all, though he ate well. So after feeding him for over a year, an old cowboy came by to see my dad. My dad asked him about the calf and Roy said, ‘Jack, he looks like a dwarf.’ My dad asked why he thought that, and Roy said ‘its face looks like mine: old.’
Anyway, he turned his pony out of the trailer, mounted up, and with one throw put a loop over the dwarf’s head in the middle of a bunch. He WAS a real cowboy. He saddle-horned the rope and dragged him away from the motley herd. My dad put him in a different lot and took him to the first auction coming up in Lamesa. Fourteen months after my dad got the good deal, the dwarf brought $15.00 at the Lamesa auction. He weighed in at 300 pounds… And old Jack Hoskins was up there in the stands, quietly biding his time, looking for another great bargain.”
Here a few more of Tom’s collected sayings I’ve selected for your edification. Nothing truer than the last one.
Nostalgia is longing for a place you wouldn’t move back to.
98.6% of all broken-leg ski accidents occur on the last run down the hill.
A “has-been” is better than a “never was.”
A doctor will cure you quicker if you’re poor.
An optimist is a man who doesn’t have all the facts.
Nothing is impossible for the man who doesn’t have to do it.
The fine print is never good news.
Minor surgery is surgery on someone else.
You can’t steal second with your foot on first.
Folding your money and putting it in your pocket is the surest way to double it.
Silence cannot be misquoted.
Gravity will eventually win.
If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.