Monday, October 6, 2008

The Origin of the Term Maverick

This political season there’s be a lot of talk about mavericks, a term that’s come to mean someone who is a rebel or outlaw or, according to Trivia Library, someone who couldn’t be trusted to remain one of his group. Some of you may remember the television series by that name with James Garner as one of the Maverick brothers. But did you know that it is Samuel Augustus Maverick that we have to thank for the term?

Maverick, by this time a rancher, refused to brand his cattle saying, according to Wikpedia, that he didn’t wish to inflict pain. Others suspected that not branding cattle allowed him to claim all unbranded cattle as his own. However, Terrillita Maverick, now 82 and a resident of San Antonia told the New York Times Sunday that it was because he was more interested in land than the livestock on it. Regardless of the reason, the term maverick in the 1800s came to mean any steer that didn’t bear a brand.

According to the New York Times article, Terrillita Maverick is quite miffed at how the term is being bandied about and used in the political arena. Perhaps it’s because Samuel Augustus Maverick helped organize the Democratic Party in Texas after the Civil War or that a later generation Maverick was labeled a communist by the opposition when he ran for congress during Roosevelt’s time or that a recent Maverick was a civil libertarian and lawyer who took up the cause of those scorned by society, his last column at his death attacking the coming war in Iraq. Or that she herself is part of the board of the local American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
Politics aside, it is fascinating to note that the Mavericks of Texas still appear to be Mavericks in name and in deed.

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