LOOKING BACK AT ... Return of the Mud Daubers


On March 19, 1977, at 2:30 in the afternoon, a lone mud dauber flew in low over South Grape Creek, darted around for a few minutes and landed on an empty beer can. The crowd of 8,000 went wild, scaring the daylights out of the nervous little critter who immediately lit out in the direction of Cain City.

You know those people in Luckenbach. Any flimsy excuse to throw a beer party.

The idea for the “Mud Dauber Fest,” or more formally “When the Mud Daubers Come Back to Luckenbach Day,” may have come from a letter Hondo Crouch wrote to Elizabeth Taylor in 1976, inviting the famous actress to come to Luckenbach. For some unexplainable reason, Hondo began extolling the artistic genius of mud daubers.

“If you like mud daubers Liz,” Hondo wrote, “you’ll be ecstatic. Luckenbach is the mud dauber capital of the world. We’ve just got mud dauber sculptures everywhere. Some of it is just breathtaking and some of it is a little obscene so we try to keep it out of sight of the children.

“They will really go all out if you come. We’re resting them up right now (their daubers get sore) but they’ll be out there just daubing away in September.

“I sure hope you can come. A Luckenbach moon can make even an ugly girl look pretty. Think of what it can do for a beauty like you.”

When Hondo died later that year, the resident characters at Luckenbach took the mud dauber idea and ran with it.

“Every March 19, the mud daubers come back to Luckenbach,” spokesman Jack Harmon explained. “They come back — swarms of ’em — all rested up — ready to put their little daubers to work creating wonderful mud sculptures.”

It was no accident that the Mud Dauber Fest fell on March 19 — the same day the swallows returned to San Juan Capistrano in California. The motive was revenge. It seems Texans were still bent out of shape because organizers moved the World Chili Cookoff from Terlingua to Hollywood.

“Everything would have been all right if they hadn’t messed with our chili,” Jack Harmon said.

Luckenbach Mayor Kathy Morgan invited President Carter’s brother, Billy, to the Mud Dauber Fest to serve as Mayor for a Day. A lot of people felt sorry for Billy who had just lost his second bid for mayor of Plains, Georgia.

Opting not to pay the First Brother’s traveling expenses “since it might look like influence peddling,” the mayor instead offered Billy all the beer he could drink.

If you remember Billy, it might have been cheaper to pay his traveling expenses.

But the mayor withdrew the invitation after calling Billy’s home, his service station and his peanut warehouse in Plains and getting no answer.

“That OK,” she declared. “We’ll just have that much more beer to drink.”

The mayor’s office was flooded with offers to take Billy’s place, given the same terms.

The Mud Dauber Fest began when the mayor poured a bottle of melted snow from Buffalo, New York into the creek as a gesture of friendship between Luckenbach and its sister city on Lake Erie.

The relationship between Luckenbach and Buffalo came about because of all the publicity Buffalo received from a contest at the Mud Dauber Fest.

It was a song writing competition about the mud daubers returning to Luckenbach. The winner got nothing. The loser got a free trip to Buffalo in January.

Another event was washer pitching on the beautifully manicured playing surface located in the sticker patch on the high ground along South Grape Creek.

Vendors peddled, among other things, leftover bicentennial souvenirs, giving manufacturers “one last chance to rip off the public.” Ten percent of all sales went to the Hondo Crouch “I told You So” Memorial Fund.

The Mud Dauber Fest drew a large crowd. Beer flowed like rain water through a storm drain, and there was a funny smelling smoke in the air.

The multitude waited all day for the mud daubers. Only one dauber showed up, and he didn’t stay long. Michael Barr is a retired teacher and principal, living in Fredericksburg where he spends time writing books, columns and magazine articles. Contact him at mikbarr@aol.com.