Far from tea-party protests and talk-show blather, nobody was joking about Texas secession Saturday at a tiny cemetery in Cooke County.
The Clark family of North Texas knows all about secessionist bullies.
Great-granddaddy Nathaniel Clark was lynched for defying them.
Almost 150 years after Clark and 41 other men died in one of the ugliest episodes in the short history of the Confederate States of America, his family gathered to dedicate a historical marker remembering him and others killed in the "Great Hanging at Gainesville."
L.D. Clark, 87, a retired English professor living in Central Texas, minced no words about modern-day secessionists who fantasize about Texas leaving the United States.
"It's an idiotic idea now, just like it was back then," he said, standing a few feet from his great-grandfather's stone grave marker, inscribed "Murdered by a Mob."
Texas had Washington-bashers back then, too.
The state voted 3-to-1 in 1861 to secede and join the Confederacy.
But the counties north of Dallas and Fort Worth wanted to stay in the Union. Cooke County gave the Union 62 percent of the vote.
A year later, a Confederate military court in Gainesville convicted seven men for resistance. Then a vigilante mob rounded up 14 more and hanged them in what has been called the largest mass lynching in American history.
More men were tried and hanged afterward in Gainesville, and one man was shot and killed in Denton. Five residents from near Rhome were hanged near Decatur.
Some remained loyal to the Union. Others said they were neutral and simply wanted peace. But the Confederacy was not big on the idea of dissent or free speech.
"Every creek bottom in Texas was full of people who were resisting the Confederacy," said Clark, author of a fictionalized version of the incident, A Bright Tragic Thing: A Tale of Civil War Texas.
His great-grandfather "didn't go along with the war and didn't intend to go along," Clark said, adding that Nathaniel Clark was from the "Sam Houston side of the war."
Former Republic of Texas President, U.S. Sen. and Gov. Sam Houston called secession illegal and recommended against joining the Confederacy.
Not every Clark descendant agreed with L.D. Clark.
Ross Dickey, 84, of Arlington, a retired Exxon executive, said that although most of the Great Hanging victims were executed after military tribunals, the deaths of Clark and the 13 other lynching victims were "plain old mob murder."
"I don't think his death was about the Confederacy or the Union," he said. "I think it was a mob full of meanness that set out to do some killing."
L.D. Clark was signing books.
"Secession is a pathetic idea," he said. "It's just ridiculous." Then and now.