‘Niggerhead’: Rick Perry’s Texas Hunting Camp
A Texas hunting camp leased by Republican presidential hopeful and Texas Governor Rick Perry and his family had a racist name until quite recently, the Washington Post reports.
The 1,070 acre spread on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in Throckmorton County, between Abilene and Wichita Falls, was christened “Niggerhead” long before the Perry family began hunting there or began leasing the property in the early 1980s. The offensive name was painted in block letters across the face of a large rock that stood at the gate to the camp’s entrance. But the name remained for years after Rick Perry and his father arrived. Just how long after is the subject of some contention down in Throckmorton.
“When my Dad joined the lease in 1983, he took the first opportunity he had to paint over the offensive word on the rock,” Governor Perry wrote to the Washington Post in response to a series of detailed inquiries. Responding to further questions, Perry wrote: “My mother and father went to the lease and painted the rock in either 1983 or 1984. This occurred after I paid a visit to the property with a friend and saw the rock with the offensive word. After my visit I called my folks and mentioned it to them, and they painted it over during their next visit. Ever since, any time I ever saw the rock it was painted over.”
But the Washington Post interviewed seven people, some of them Perry supporters, who gave a very different account of when the racist name on the rock was painted over.
Ronnie Brooks, who was a game warden in the area beginning in 1981 and who guided several turkey shoots for Rick Perry while he was a state legislator between 1985 and 1990, told the Post: “I remember the first time I went through that pasture and saw that [the rock],” he said. “It kind of offended me, truthfully,” he added.
“I thought, ‘This is going to embarras Rick some day,'” another local, who did not want to be identified and who visited the camp with Perry, told the Post.
“I was just so taken aback that is was so blatant, so in your face,” a visitor from Dallas who visited in 1990 or 1991 told the Post.
Indeed, of the seven people interviewed by the Post, all said the racially offensive name was clearly painted on the rock in the 1980s and 1990s, with one former ranch hand claiming to have seen it as late as 2008.
That’s well after when Rick Perry began hosting spring turkey shoots and other hunts for his fellow lawmakers and political supporters in the mid-1980s.
“We kind of laughed about it,” one local who visited the camp with Perry told the Post, referring to the painted-over rock. This person, who says he plans to vote for Perry if he wins the Republican presidential nomination, added: “My recollection is that it was several years ago. We were laughing because he had painted it. Because it had always been there. You couldn’t miss it, right there at the gate going in. We laughed about, ‘Rick’s covering his tracks.'”
Racism in those parts runs as deep as Texas is wide. Perry himself was raised during the latter days of Jim Crow segregation. According to the Post, Throckmorton County– which lies just east of Haskell County, where Perry grew up in tiny Paint Creek– was for many years a “virtual no-go zone” for blacks. There were old tales of lynching, and in 1950– the year Perry was born– there was just one black resident there out of a population of 3,600 people. Old-timers recall being greeted by whites with “Morning, nigger!” In Haskell County, Martin Luther King Jr. Day wasn’t even observed until a couple of years ago. It should come as no surprise, then, that many locals don’t see what all the fuss being raised over “Niggerhead” is all about.
“It’s just a name,” Haskell County Judge David Davis told the Post.
Last week, Governor Perry said that the name on the rock is an “offensive name that has no place in the modern world.” His hunting camp has been called “North Camp Pasture” for some time now, but many locals, hunters, cowboys and ranchers still call the place by its offensive old name.
In rural Texas, the old ways die hard. And all too often, the old ways were racist ways. Such is the world in which Rick Perry was born and raised, and that world is now coming back to bite him in the ass.
The political fallout has already begun. Appearing on Fox News Sunday, GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain, who is black, slammed Perry over the racist rock. “There isn’t a more vile, negative word than the N-word,” Cain opined. “And for him to leave it there as long as he did before he painted over it, it’s just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country.”
But Cain himself is no stranger to controversy among blacks. Just last week, he appeared on CNN’s “The Situation Room” with Wolf Blitzer and said that most American blacks “have been brainwashed into not being open-minded, not even considering a conservative point of view.”
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