In So Many Words

Info-Comics by Larry Paros


The Maverick in You

Once upon a time, a certain 19th century lawyer acquired a herd of cattle in payment of a debt. He wasn't much of a rancher, however, failing to carefully tend his stock or even brand it properly. As a result, his cattle ended up all over the place, often mingling with that of other ranchers. People knew who to blame, and he owned up to it. Whenever the issue of ownership of a stray was in question, his men simply invoked the name of the owner. "They're Maverick's," they would say.

By the middle of the century, Samuel Maverick's name was linked forever with those who strayed from the herd, following the dictates of their own conscience. Some think mavericks are odd or eccentric. Henry David Thoreau reminded us however: "If one man in a marching column is out of step, it may look as if he is marching to the beat of another drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Being a Maverick is not without risks however — even for drummers. Far away, in India, the Pariayer was a caste that derived its name from the Tamil parai — huge drums they beat on at religious festivals. When the British occupied India, they drew heavily upon this group to perform their menial work. Their name as well as their spirit was corrupted and ended up describing any despised person or outcast, resulting in our pariahs. We feel affection for the maverick but are repelled by the pariah. Alas, the distinction between the two has never been very clear. One man's maverick is often another's pariah.