Posted by Jeff Shanks on 28th November 2011
In my recent Two-Gun Raconteur article on rough-and-tumble fighting I mentioned that one of the figures from Western folklore that might have been a model for Breckinridge Elkins was the Texas pioneer Strap Buckner (Shanks 51). As Buckner is not as well known today as other folk heroes like Paul Bunyon, John Henry, or Pecos Bill it is worth taking a closer look this legendary figure.
Aylett “Strap” Buckner was born around 1794 and was one of the Old Three Hundred, the first colonists that founded Austin in 1824. Much of the little we know about the historical Buckner comes from census records and his letters to Stephen Austin. He seems to have had an on-again off-again relationship with Austin, though ultimately the two became good friends. Buckner was an Indian fighter, but also helped negotiate treaties with the Waco and Kawatoni tribes. He was killed fighting the Mexican army at the Battle of Velasco in 1832 (“BUCKNER”).
Accounts say he was a giant of a man with fiery red hair and matching beard. His great size and strength became the stuff of legend among the early colonists in Texas and a body of folklore eventually began to develop around him. The earliest known written version of the folkloric Strap Buckner appears in the 1877 travelogue of Colonel Nathaniel Alston Taylor. Taylor arrived in Texas shortly before the Civil War and traveled all over the state by horseback, recording his observations on the lives and social conditions of the locals. He heard the story of Strap Buckner recounted by a young man near Buckner’s Creek in Fayette County (Dobie 119).
According to the account of Buckner recorded by Taylor, the big man had the odd habit of good-naturally knocking people down by slapping them on the back. It was said that he had knocked down everyone in Austin’s colony at least three times, including Stephen Austin himself. Although Buckner meant no real harm, his fellow colonists tired of his behavior and Buckner was forced to move away to the La Grange area. There he began to knock down all the members of the local Indian tribe, including the chief. This chief, however, instead of being angry, was impressed by Buckner’s strength and gave him a swift, bob-tailed gray mare as a gift, as well as bestowing upon him the name Red Son of Blue Thunder (Taylor 121-122). Other versions claim that the chief even offered Strap the hand of his daughter, Princess Tulipita, in marriage (“BUCKNER”).