These Texas Mavericks Are for Obama

"Nightline" heads South to meet the family responsible for the term "maverick."

October 20, 2008, 2:55 PM

— -- San Antonio, Texas

Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin have laid claim to the term "maverick," a word that was on our minds as "Nightline" headed to the Texas range in a trusty red rental car as part of ABC News' "50 States in 50 Days" series.

We'd heard that the term "maverick" originally had something to do with cows. Actually, not cows -- cattle. There is a difference -- cows are female cattle, as opposed to bulls and steers.

Outside San Antonio we came to the home of one Terralita Maverick, age 82. Terralita lives in a converted trolley car festooned with family history, because the word maverick -- as used today -- comes from her great grandfather, cattle rancher Samuel Augustus Maverick.

Traditionally, cattle was branded to tell who owned it, but something happened with rancher Samuel Maverick's herd.

"My great-grandfather didn't have time to brand his cattle, he gave it to his help, to the cowboys to do, and they did not do it," Terralita said, blaming their negligence on "drunkenness."

And so maverick came to mean unbranded, and from that, a label for standing apart from the crowd. Teams took the name, and Tom Cruise in the movie "Top Gun," and a car and a wine and a weapons system -- the maverick missile.

And of course, two Republican candidates, which Terralita Maverick isn't too happy about.

"I get mad," she said. "First of all, [McCain] cannot be a maverick in upper case or lower case because he's not related to me and he's not independent of his voting record or of the Republican Party."

Watch the story tonight on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET

Uh-oh. At that point we noticed the Barack Obama earrings she was wearing, and the FDR picture in her living room. In Republican-red Texas, she is, as it's sometimes put, a flaming liberal.

"I'm getting that you are an ardent supporter of free speech," I asked. "Would you ever want to tell John McCain to stop using your name or does he not have the right?"

"He has the right to do whatever he wants to do, [or] say, but …I would say, 'Would you be kind enough to consign it to your Biden cliché crematorium?"

Terralita Maverick says McCain's running mate is more of a maverick than he is.

"If I have to admit it, she's more of a maverick than McCain is, yeah, she's a pretty tough old broad, she is, she's been very strong."

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