It’s poets all the way back #photoaday #project365

Day 230:  It's poets all the way back

230 of 360.

I got this book in the mail today that was published by a Florence Gerald in 1880. She was my great-great-great-great-grandfather’s great-granddaughter. Please don’t ask me to figure out what that means.

She was neither the best nor the worst poet of the 19th century. I can only hope someone will be so kind as to say this much of me in another 130 years.

Here’s an example of her poetry…

The Heart and the Shell

by Florence M Gerald

You wonder why some hearts sing on,
When all life’s coming grace
And all its beauteous tints are gone,
And left but sorrow’s trace.

I pray thee place this pink sea-shell
Close, close unto thine ear;
Now tell me, is the music sweet
Which from its depths you hear?

It sings and sings the livelong day, —
This dainty, coiled shell, —
And yet within its polished halls
No living things doth dwell.

That which did give it life and breath
Is left beside the shore,
Where ever on the sanded beach
The ceaseless waters pour.

Tis empty now, and yet it sings
Ever the same strain on,
Because the heart that once beat there
Is buried now and gone!

And so with human sea-shells borne
Far from their native shore,
With empty hearts they still sing on
And echo ocean’s roar.

Infamous Cousins

It seems my great great great great grandfather had a grandson. Judge George Bruce Gerald was the grandson of Gabriel Gerald, my great great great great grandfather and the first of my line of Geralds to move to Mississippi. Judge Gerald was the son of George Gerald, and George’s brother William was my grandfather’s great grandfather.

Excuse me while I attempt to get this straight in my own head. Gabriel was the father of 14 children (even now I think it would be appropriate to say a prayer for his poor wife), among them William and George. William was the father of Sumpter, who was the father of Albert, who was the father of Claudie, who was the father of Billy, who is the father of Sharon. That’s how I find my way back to this tenuous connection to Judge George Bruce Gerald, who has a marker in his name in Waco, Texas because he shot two men cold dead and then got himself reelected afterwards.

You can read the story here and here.

I stumbled across all of this last night because I was reading Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin. This novel is set in the fictional location of Gerald County, Mississippi. I thought that was hilarious. We Mississippi Geralds are now Tom Franklin’s own personal breed of Snopeses. Somebody has to be, I suppose, and we probably fit the part as well as anyone’s family.

I got so distracted by the words Gerald County that I couldn’t keep reading the book. Instead I Googled Gerald County, Mississippi even though I knew it wasn’t a real place. What I found was this article from Ancestry.com about Gabriel Gerald and his descendents.

Note the description of Gabriel:

(1) Gabriel Gerald was a Baptist Minister of Irish descent. His Father’s name was Fitz-Gerald, an Irish Patriot who, being sought by the British, emigrated to America and settled in North Carolina. To avoid detection (The colonies were still under British rule) he dropped the “Fitz” part of his name and was known as Gerald, which has since been the Family name.
His Mother was of Irish descent but American born. His wife, (2)Elizabeth White was of Welch descent, her ancestors having some to this country from Wales in 1670. Rev. Gabriel Gerald moved his wife and other members of his family by covered wagon from North Carolina to “Amite County, Mississippi in 1810.
He resided about five miles south-east of Centerville, Mississippi where the Old Family burial ground is located.
My source says that his wife and sons. Drs. Robert H. Gerald and Samuel Gerald, along with other members of his family, are buried there. Although it does not say, I assume he is also.
Gabriel Gerald had advanced ideas regarding Christian observance of the Sabbath. For putting into practice some of these ideas, he was tried by Church Officials and temporarily silenced from preaching. He also published a pamphlet on his views, which no doubt did not help his case.
There were 13 children born to them:
(A)Benjamin – 2/23/1774
(B)Gabriel Jr.- 1/13/1775
(C)William – 7/10/1776
(D)Elizabeth R. -12/ 22/1777
(E)Richard L. -3/ 25/1779
(F)Mildred -1780
(G)James – 12/25/1781
(H)Jessie -6/ 30/ 1783
(I)Samual- 1/ 2/ 1785
(J)Charles-11/ 18/ 1786
(K)George 11/18/1786
(L)John- 5/ 21/1788
(M)Robert H -10/ 23/1791
(N)John G -10/ 23/1797

The part about him being a Baptist preacher of Irish descent does not surprise me. I knew that already. I also knew about changing the name from Fitzgerald to Gerald. I didn’t know about the 14 children. I’ve copied the list of their names over just so my nieces can enjoy gawking at the rate of these births and wondering how on earth. The part that really tickled me, however, was “Gabriel Gerald had advanced ideas regarding Christian observance of the Sabbath.”

My great great great great grandfather was a radical. Who knew? I wish I knew just what his ideas were. I wish I could see the contents of one of his pamphlets. I’d also love to know how it came to be that Gabriel Gerald, the rebellious Baptist preacher, had a grandson who ended up as a Judge in Waco, Texas, and who wrote a pamphlet supporting a newspaper called The Iconoclast, that, as far as I can tell, existed to irritate the Baptists.

It’s doubtful that a whole lot of records exist for Great Great Great Great Grandaddy Gabriel. He was an obscure Baptist preacher in an obscure Baptist town. Cousin Judge George Bruce is another matter. He was an infamous public official with practically a blog of his own (note the handbills he passed out when he got angry with people).

So it’s in that spirit that I’ve dug up this gem of an obituary written by Judge Gerald for his friend Brann the Iconoclast. If he were alive today, I would link to his blog. I would be his Facebook friend. I would vote him back into office after he shot someone cold dead in the town square. I think he was brilliant even if possibly slightly insane.

That’s how we like them here. Welcome to Gerald County.

***

PS — I’ve also just located this book of poetry by Florence Gerald, Judge GB Gerald’s daughter. It was originally published in 1880 and has recently been reprinted for its “cultural significance,” something I can tell you no poet would ever expect to happen.

Fear and Loving in Mississippi

Be afraid.

From Cybershot Pics

The Doll, whose name I don’t remember if indeed it ever had a name beyond The Doll, lives. It looks like something of a horror movie. Hollywood might want to pay big money to use it in a movie. Right now, however, it is earning its keep by being dragged around by a 2-year-old girl. She is at least the 6th 2-year-old girl to have the privilege in the 50+ years of The Doll’s existence.

This thing is my sister’s Velveteen Rabbit. You’d think that might mean she just loved all of the hair off of it, but that is apparently not true since she blames our other sister for cutting it off. I can’t vouch for that in the least. The Doll has been bald my entire life.

She did have both eyes the last time I touched her, though, and I won’t have anybody tell it any differently.

From Cybershot Pics

The eyes don’t seem to matter. Neither does the hair. She still gets her share of cuddles, and that’s a pretty good run for 50 years no matter who you are.

Randomstance

I’m working on a big project right now, attempting to meet a big deadline. This means I’m randomly clicking around and looking up things like compost bins while I think through what I need to do next.

Here’s my randomstance hit of the day:

John William HARGER
CCT, Friday, 13 Jan 1967

KOSCIUSKO – Services for John William HARGER, 75, retired textile worker, Kosciusko, MS, held at Second Baptist Church, Kosciusko. Interment in Stonewall cemetery near Quitman with Jordan Funeral Home, Kosciusko, in charge. Born in Clarke Co., near Quitman; lived in Kosciusko 38 years and was brother of Owen HARGER, Quitman. Employed at Aponaug Mill here when it was in operation. Member of Second Baptist Church. Survivors – wife, Mrs. Daisy SMITH HARGER, Kosciusko; two daughters, Mrs. Jewel IVEY and Mrs. H. E. WOODS, both of Kosciusko; three sisters, Mrs. Bessie HILL, Kosciusko; Mrs. Frank COVINGTON, Weed, CA; Mrs. Eva PRIVETT, Stonewall; a brother, Owen HARGER, Quitman; nine grandchildren; 19 great grandchildren.

Don’t know how I got to this, but it’s my great-grandfather’s obituary. I’m not one of the 19 great-grandchildren, though, as I was not born for another 11 months after this.

Mrs. Jewel Ivey, the daughter mentioned, was my grandmother. I don’t know who Mrs. H.E. Woods is. I thought his only other child was Aunt Laura.

I had no idea I ever had a great-great aunt who lived in Weed, California. That’s a detail no family should forget.

Since I didn’t remember how I found his obituary, I went looking for my Mimi’s. Here it is.

Mimi

On Safari

They said they were going on Safari, for which evidently the only equipment required is a pair of binoculars, known around here as a “close up camera.” That’s what Dusty called it when he was their age anyway. No matter that Dusty is 25 now. Some things your family will never let you outgrow.

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I don’t know what caused this look of surprise so great that his hair literally stood on end.

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I suspect it had something to do with the wild animal that followed them home from Safari.

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It attacked viciously.

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They had to run for their lives.

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And guard their food supplies.

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But the creature was no match

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for Safari boys.

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The Cuz Club, 2nd Gen

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When my nieces were little, they created “The Cuz Club” and held regular meetings at my parents’ house. The effort was spearheaded by Jessica, who appointed the officers every year and somehow always ended up as president. It seems inevitable now that she has become a lawyer, having conceived the notion of familial political action committees by about the age of six. They held club meetings for years, until junior high made it no longer cool.

Now the original Cuz Club members are in their 20s and 30s. Pictured above are just some of the current members. They held the Lincoln County 2010 Games Sunday afternoon, featuring redneck bobsledding, among other activities.

Tradition and the Individual Christmas

Tradition is a fluid process, not a fixed point. And so it is that we put away the remnants of another Christmas past, burdened by our efforts to please both tradition and present reality. The one sure thing about family is that it changes. The bigger the family, the more rapid the change. Deaths, births, marriages, divorces, job losses, lost and found pets, aging, illness, career opportunities…so many factors mean that no two holiday celebrations can even resemble each other. Yet tradition demands of us determination to try.

In my family, buying presents for all became a physical and financial impossibility for everyone other than my mother, who defies natural laws to do her part in whatever she does, around the time my older siblings took on their first marriages just as I was reaching my preteen years. That didn’t stop the nicer and more guilt-ridden among us from trying from time to time. I gave gifts like fingernail polish and dime-store bubble bath to my sisters.

I must have bought something for my brothers. I know I skipped lunch so that I would have my lunch money to pay for gifts. This probably didn’t occur to me until about a week before school let out for Christmas. That would have netted me about $5.00 to spend on 5 siblings, my parents, my friends, and the cousins who would reciprocate. I never bought presents for cousins who didn’t first buy for me, and I still today hold firm to that rule. At any rate, I can’t remember any specific brother gifts from my preteen years, but I know I must have done something nice for them. Real nice.

Later, when all of us were grown up, we drew names for a few years. In theory, it is far better to receive one nice gift than a basket load of crappy ones. In reality, it is as well, but drawing names only works if you know who is coming for Christmas. But what if someone extra shows up? What if your brother forgets to tell his wife one year which names they drew? What if your brother shows up unexpectedly divorced one year? What if he has a new girlfriend another year?

Alas, if the family is big enough to require name drawing, it’s big enough to be completely unreliable in terms of knowing who to expect for holiday dinners.

Name drawing had to go, but it did not go quietly. We sputtered around with a few years of Dirty Santa after that. You know the deal where you draw numbers on the spot and pick a present from the pile or challenge someone else for their present in the order of your randomly drawn numbers? Yes, well, you sort of have to know who is showing up for that to work too. Your grownup niece might have told a boyfriend about Dirty Santa at the grandparents’ house, but she didn’t tell the one she brought, nor did she bring a gift to go with him.

Thus, we declared no presents for the siblings or for the grown grandchildren. We only really care about buying for my mother who is the only one who really cares about buying for us anyway, right?

Ah, but then there is the holiday guilt that sets in, and so it is that these our years of no presents are really our years of buying for each other the kinds of things we bought when none of us had any money to spend.

Next year, they’re all getting painted snowflakes made out of baked playdough from me.

This year, as I bagged up Hershey’s Kisses for my brothers and sisters, I thought about the people I’d heard lately complaining that Christmas had been stolen by non-Christians, and the other people I heard pointing out that most of our Christmas traditions come from pagan festivals for the Winter Solstice rather than Christianity anyhow.

Relax, I thought. Christmas doesn’t belong to any one group of people. Everyone is part of the extra traffic, the office collections for office gifts and parties, the tacky decorations all over town. The fun parts of Christmas are about children, and they make it all worthwhile. The religious parts are personal. They don’t have anything to do with the frenzy we make of the holiday itself.

Everything else is about the guilt and stress, and that is freely available to all whether they want it or not.