Saturday, February 28, 2009

Who would guess their descendants would be cousins? & "the great battlefield tour"

Family details can be an absolute mess ....

I am fortunate in the sense that I have had relatives who devoted a considerable amount of time delving into genealogical records. One of my father's cousins traced the male lineage (young ladies, do not blame me for that) back to the 1500s. If you want the precise date and location, tell me, and I will pull out my copy of his papers and check.

On my father's side, I have a direct ancestor who fought in the Civil War. Meanwhile, moving on over to my mother's side, I have three non-direct ancestors who fought in the Civil War. Now then, who has the edge in that competition, indirect ma or direct pa? (All wild-eyed northern boys, by the way.)

Another absolutely, positively fascinating element (at least, to me) in this maze is on my mother's side of the coin. One of those ancestors who participated in the Civil War did so only briefly before becoming a volunteer in a militia unit riding against the Dakota in the wake of the 1862 uprising in Minnesota. At this time, I should like to mention that I have a relative married to an individual who carries Dakota blood, as well as another relative whose spouse has French-Canadian/Ojibwai ancestry. Beyond that, I have been a participant in an Assinaboi initiation ceremony, have sat in a few sweat lodge ceremonies and been among the honored guests at a wacipi. This simply is to say I have extended family members among the Native American community, and am aware of some of their customs and beliefs.

Back to the story before I forget it. This 1862 rider of vengeance later returned to the regular U.S. army cavalry. He did not last long. He was among troopers killed on a patrol in Kansas by a party of Sioux and Cheyenne in 1867. (The Seventh Cavalry on a search and destroy, with George Custer in the lead, discovered the bodies.)

The element which makes the events uniquely special to me is that I visited the exact site (no more than a few meters away, at the most) of his death during what I designated my "battlefield tour." Have you ever stood on the ground where an ancestor went down fighting nearly 150 years ago? Then, scarcely before you have taken another breath, wondered if the ancestor of a modern-day relative might have done the killing? Ain't life a mystery?

Maybe I should have signed on as a deckhand ....

Whether you know or not, it snowed in Minnesota on Thursday. I had about six inches of heavy, wet stuff to throw from my driveway into my neighbor's lawn. He does not care, since his boys build forts and caves in the heaps of snow. Here is a glimpse of my neighbors. Sorry, Diva. (I already told her this one.)

On one side, my neighbor is 97. She still shovels a path through the snow to her mailbox by the street. On the other side, my neighbors have two little boys (nine and four), who frequently are trying to sell me things, mostly stuff from their dad's garage. I usually buy it. Real bargains. A dime here, a quarter there. Is there more to these stories? Never mind. Write the endings yourselves.

Now, where was I? I certainly have a tendency to drift off topic.

Snow. And, cold. (Three degrees Fahrenheit above zero this minute.) Winter has returned to me again and, again, I have become immensely bored with it. The last time this happened was during the winter of 2000-2001. (Time flies when most of it has been spent in the same routine, as mine has, for a couple of years now.) In February 2001, I briefly toyed with the idea of flying to Florida for a week of sun and whatever. I was within the punch of a keyboard button to close the deal. But, I did not.

I decided, instead, to save the money and to spend it (and more) on a "decent trip" that summer. In May, I took an "unpaid sabbatical" from work, departed Sanctuary/Refuge and left on a driving tour (the aforementioned "battlefield tour") that ranged from Canada into Mexico and lasted until well into October.

Much camping with many nights under the stars, a few good motels, a few bad motels, much canoeing, much brandy, some days spent walking and some nights spent sleeping on old battlefields from the days of the "Indian wars." Too much tequila, dancing and a bar brawl across the Rio Bravo del Norte in Ciudad Juarez. (We won; locals, including me, against outsiders. Weird, hah? You fit in where you fit.) Too much money spent on gasoline and potato salad, many historic sites seen, kissed the Alamo, a great sun tan and uncut hair bleached blond once again by the sun -- well, you get the picture. Free Bird.

This is the most beat-up by winter I have felt since then, and I continue to wonder if this, again, will be the year of the traveler. (Do not panic; I think I may have passed beyond the bar brawl stage of life.) Greece and the "wine dark sea" of Mediterranean waters linger on in my mind.

I think if I could be age 18 again, I would skip the Marine Corps, skip college, skip newspapers and a few other distractions, and sign on as a deckhand on a Great Lakes ore carrier. Once upon a time, after an hour or so of drinking beer and mingling with a group of Great Lakes sailors in a Lake Superior waterfront bar, I was asked "what ship I was from." To me, that was an enormous compliment, and another occasion of fitting in where you fit.

Music Note: Listening to 38 Special ....
Specifically, "Live at Sturgis" ....
("Hold on Loosely" -- wanna dance?)


TheChicGeek said...

Hi Fram :) I've been so busy so I haven't had time to visit my favorites.
You're very lucky to have your genealogical records. It's really interesting to find out about our ancestors. I have some American Indian blood in me too but never traced it back far enough. Growing up I was the only blonde with hazel eyes in the family so I get a lot of teasing about the milkman :) I've got high cheekbones though so that is actually very American Indian. I'm mostly Irish and English, French, and about an eighth American Indian. A mutt or as they call it today, "A Designer Girl" :) I like that better.
The battlefield tour sounds like so much fun. I bet that was the trip of a lifetime. When I divorced and traveled from Florida back to California by car with a one-year-old and a five-year-old we passed the Alamo too. We didn't kiss it that was a trip of a lifetime...believe it or not, it was so much fun!

Fram said...

Kelly .... Discovering family history is fun. The best part, to me, is that since these people began arriving in America in the 1850s, so much of their experience remains visible only a few hours drive away, in states like Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. But, starting with my parent's generation, the "moderns" began scattering. One of my cousins, for example, married a Swede diplomat and now lives in Sweden.

I think your Florida to California trip perhaps was more of an adventure than was my excursion. And, you created real family history for your children. Good for you.

You were wise not to give a kiss to the Alamo; it does not return the favor.

Something special ....