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Biscuits, the Dole, and Nodding Donkeys

Biscuits, the Dole, and Nodding Donkeys
Texas Politics, 1929–1932

In his deeply researched sequel to Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug, a master storyteller of Texas politics brings to life pivotal moments of backroom wrangling, economic crashes, and aftershocks still felt nearly a century later.

Series: Focus on American History

October 2019
480 pages | 6 x 9 | 13 b&w photos |

When the venerable historian Norman D. Brown published Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug in 1984, he earned national acclaim for revealing the audacious tactics at play in Texas politics during the Roaring Twenties, detailing the effects of the Ku Klux Klan, newly enfranchised women, and Prohibition. Shortly before his death in 2015, Brown completed Biscuits, the Dole, and Nodding Donkeys, which picks up just as the Democratic Party was poised for a bruising fight in the 1930 primary. Charting the governorships of Dan Moody, Ross Sterling, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson in her second term, and James V. Allred, this engrossing sequel takes its title from the notion that Texas politicians should give voters what they want (“When you cease to deliver the biscuits they will not be for you any longer,” said Jim “Pa” Ferguson) while remaining wary of federal assistance (the dole) in a state where the economy is fueled by oil pump jacks (nodding donkeys).

Taking readers to an era when a self-serving group of Texas politicians operated in a system that was closed to anyone outside the state’s white, wealthy echelons, Brown unearths a riveting, little-known history whose impact continues to ripple at the capitol.

  • Foreword. Dr. Norman D. Brown: An Appreciation, by Jacqueline Jones
  • Editor’s Introduction, by Rachel Ozanne
  • Chapter 1. Tom Cat Lands on His Feet
  • Chapter 2. Daniel in the Legislative Lions’ Den
  • Chapter 3. A Sterling Victory
  • Chapter 4. The Sterling Years
  • Chapter 5. Texas Again Tangled in Ma’s Apron Strings
  • Chapter 6. Garnering Votes for Cactus Jack
  • Chapter 7. Roosevelt and Garner
  • Chapter 8. The Politics of Relief and Repeal
  • Epilogue. “Pass the Biscuits, Pappy!”
  • Notes
  • Index

Norman D. Brown
Austin, Texas

Brown (1935–2015) taught history at the University of Texas at Austin for nearly fifty years before his retirement in 2010. His many previous books include Hood, Bonnet, and Little Brown Jug and Daniel Webster and the Politics of Availability.

Rachel Ozanne
Austin, Texas

Ozanne holds a PhD in history from the University of Texas at Austin, where she currently teaches. She is also on the faculty of Austin Community College.


“[Biscuits, the Dole, and Nodding Donkeys] deserves a place on the scholar's shelf…Ozanne deserves great credit for bringing Brown's last work to light.”
Journal of Southern History

“[T]his volume fills a gap in the historical literature related to Texas politics. . . . Norman Brown brings to life the personal dynamics that inflected Texas politics—the euphemistically labeled "colorful" characters who dominated the political landscape and wrangled backroom deals to get what they wanted. . . . [He] was keenly aware of the larger contemporary context for his political studies: the state’s oil-based economy, which brought fabulous, untold riches for a few; and its cotton economy, which brought backbreaking, unremitting toil for the many, including almost all Mexican Americans and African Americans. Impoverished whites were little better off than their disenfranchised counterparts, but at least they were a valued constituency of the Democrats, and party regulars gave them their due, if only in a rhetorical way and only right before election day.”
Jacqueline Jones, from the foreword

“In his final book, Norman Brown gives readers a fascinating tour of Texas state politics during the Great Depression. Readers of Brown's earlier work on the 1920s will recognize the late historian's signature gifts for storytelling, humor, and the illuminating detail--all informed by deep archival research and contextualized by Rachel Ozanne's introduction and annotations. A welcome addition to the literature on early twentieth-century politics.”
Keith J. Volanto, Collin College, author of Texas, Cotton, and the New Deal