By definition, a maverick is a "lone dissenter" who "takes an independent stand apart from his or her associates" or "a person pursuing rebellious, even potentially disruptive policies or ideas." The word maverick
has evolved in the English language from being the term for an unbranded stray calf to a label given to a nontraditional person to a more extreme "uncontrollable individualist, iconoclast, unstable nonconformist." The word has grown into an adjective ("he made a maverick decision") and become a verb (mavericking
). Of all the words that originated in the Old West and survive to the present day, author Lewis Fisher notes, maverick has been called the least understood and most corrupted. But where did the word come from?
The word's definition is still such a mystery that Merriam-Webster
lists it in the top 10 percent of its most-looked-up words. All of the origin stories agree it had something to do with Samuel A. Maverick and his cattle, but from there things go amok rather quickly. Was Sam Maverick a cattle thief? A legendary nonconformist who broke the code of the West by refusing to brand his calves? A Texas rancher who believed branding cattle was cruelty to animals? A runaway from South Carolina who branded all the wild cattle he could find and ended up with more cattle than anyone else in Texas?
Samuel A. Maverick was a notable landholder and public figure in his own time, but his latter-day fame is based on the legend that he was a cattle rancher. No amount of truth-telling about maverick
seems to have slowed the tall tales surrounding the word's origination. Maverick: The American Name That Became a Legend
is a whodunit, a historical telling of the man who unwittingly inspired the term, the family it's derived from, the cowboys who embraced it as an adjective meaning rakish and independent, the curious inquirers intrigued by its narrative, and the appropriators who have borrowed it for political fame.
Texas historian (and secondhand Maverick by marriage) Lewis Fisher has combed through Maverick family papers along with cultural memorabilia and university collections to get at the heart of the truth behind the far-flung Maverick legends. Maverick
follows the history of the word through the "Maverick gene" all the way to Hollywood and uncovers the mysteries that shadow one of our country's iconic words. Taken as a whole, the book is a fascinating portrayal of how we form, use, and change our language in the course of everyday life, and of the Maverick family's ongoing relationship to its own contributions, all seen through the lens of a story featuring cowboys, Texas Longhorns, rustlers, promoters, movie stars, athletes, novelists, lawyers, mayors, congressmen, and senators--to say nothing of named maverick brands ranging from Ford cars and air-to-ground missiles to computer operating systems, Vermont maple syrup, and Australian wines.
Ironically, given its literal meaning as unbranded, maverick
is a brand name that helped shape the history of the American West and represents the ideal of being true to oneself.Author:
Lewis F. FisherPublisher:
8.40h x 4.90w x 0.70dISBN:
About the Author
Celebrated San Antonio historian Lewis F. Fisher, whose Maverick Publishing Company was acquired by Trinity University Press in 2015, has published forty-five books on topics ranging from San Antonio's Spanish heritage to its urban development, and from the military to sports, architecture, and multicultural legends. A former member of the San Antonio River Commission, he has written numerous books himself, including Chili Queens, Hay Wagons, and Fandangos: The Spanish Plazas in Frontier San Antonio, winner of the 2015 San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award, and Saving San Antonio: The Preservation of a Heritage, republished in a second edition, and Maverick: The American Name That Became a Legend. Fisher has received numerous local, state, and national writing awards and was named a Texas Preservation Hero by the Conservation Society in 2014.