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Friday, December 31, 2010

You Can't Tell Them Apart

You can't tell them (my sisters) apart, so don't even try!

In this photo, we're in birth-order, not the "proper order" as mentioned previously, left to right: Troy, Gary, Karen, Sharon. This is at our "Uncle B's" place, he being one of our father's older brothers. It's chilly and I am not smirking (as has been suggested), I'm squinting -- bright sunlight is painful! As you can see, Karen agrees.

I have no idea what our ages are, but I'd guess 8/9, 6/7, 4/5 (my sister thinks the lower number, or younger; she's probably right).

"Uncle B" is/was L B Miller -- those are not initials, that's his name. His kids (he and Aunt Lou (Benson) had 9 kids: 3 sons and 6 daughters) always thought it was funny that we called him "Uncle B." I suppose it sounds like "Uncle Bea." Blame our mother for that. Damn Yankees!

It's rather an accident that we four even exist! Dad had come North to visit "Uncle B" (who had come North for factory work) for two weeks. For whatever reason, he got himself a short-term job while visiting, and just never returned to his "hard-scrabble" land in Missouri -- 40 acres in the Ozarks that had never been logged, except for one tree, the "tree rustler" of which was caught in the act and sent to prison, before Dad bought the land when he was 16. Then he met and married our mother, and here we are.

This is at "Dice St," showing the house. We're older here -- this is clearly after I was well into my "growth spirt" and the different parts of my body were growing at different rates. I was in constant pain for a number of years (fortunately, it was a low-grade, rather than excruciating, pain).

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I can tell my sisters apart in this photo. And well, the quality of the photo isn't all that great. But, you can tell that Dad took it -- there is his ever-present shadow in the foreground. But, I *think* Karen is on the left and Sharon the right; meaning, they're not the in "correct" order. Those gunny-sack looking dresses they're wearing proabably are ;-). No, they're made of regular fabric. I think. Whichever, Grandma Brown (Dad's mother) made the dresses.

That is Grandma Brown (née Eunice Jay [or J. or J, I really don't know] Price) with us. She was 65 when I was born, so add maybe 10 years to that to get her age in this photo. She used to pat me on the shoulders, beaming, saying something like, "Oh, your hair is turning so dark! I hope it gets jet-black, like your Grandfather's." It never did get that dark ... and I suppose she was purposely ignoring (because my mother was one of those damned Yankees!) that my mother also had very dark hair (our mother's father was said to be 1/2 Indian, though that probably really meant that his mother was part Indian and part white by ancestry, but was born to one of the few registered "Indian" families left in Indiana).

I ask you, does she not look like a squaw? I asked her once, when I was young, whether she was part Indian; she strenuously denied it (when she was growing up, it wasn't "cool" to be Indian). Years later, at my mother's funeral, I asked my "Uncle B" whether she was part Indian and he said, "Yes, her people were Indian" (which, understanding what he said does not mean he was saying she was "full-blood" Indian). I don't know which nation her people were descended from, but I'll take a wild guess at Choctaw (based on nothing more than where in Tennessee her people lived). It's also through Grandma Brown that we have Jewish ancestry.

That grandfather with the jet-black hair was also part Indian (1/4 according to the family) ... which would be where the jet-black hair comes from. He was 50 when our father was born, and died when Dad was nine, that is, about 21 years before I was born. His name was was Joseph (1877-1936); his father (said to be 1/2 Cherokee) was James. I have no idea when or where James was born, just that he was "old" when he married my great-grandmother, Margaret Elizabeth James (I've also seen her name as "Margaret Isabella Elizabeth James"), and died either before or soon after Joseph was born. I've never seen this image before, but this photo is of great-grandmother "Maggie James" and our grandfather Joseph's youngest sister, "Aunt Zubie" (Zuba Sesile Ward). [ another photo edit: this is the only photo of her I'd seen before today]

Dad is/was Samuel Jefferson Richard Joseph. Technically, he was "Baby Boy," because our grandfather was angry that the clerk wouldn't put all that on the birth certificate, and so told the clerk to just leave it as it was. Fortunately for Dad, the county courthouse burned down and took the records with it.

Our father had an older full-brother named Jackson (I don't know the rest of it), who died as a young child; apparently killed by rats (one always thinks of rats as an urban, rather than rural, problem). As I recall it, Jackson was about two years older than Dad and died at age four.

[Sharon says Jackson lived from August 2, 1925 to September 1929. She thinks he got into some moonshine, which killed him; I don't recall anything like that. As I recall it, the family found him dead one morning; there were bite-marks on his face and it was "all black"]

Our grandparents divorced when Dad was very young (they were going to remarry, and Grandpa had the license, but then died of pheumonia contracted putting out a fire burning down his cabin; he was working as a logger at the time). Dad was aware of seeing hs father only once, when he was four, and Joseph took him to visit his grandmother, "Maggie James." Every time Dad talked about that, he'd mention how enchanted he had been by her "beautiful white hair." So, most of his life, he didn't even know what his father looked like. But, when he was in his sixties, someone who had known his father (I think it was the younger man who had shared the cabin with Joseph) sent Dad a photocopy of a photograph of him. Personally, I think my brother Gary looks a bit like him (I take more after Mom's people).

Edit, and shocker (in that I never expected there to be *any* relationship, as 'Ward' is so common a name):

I was Googling, to try to verify that I had the birth-name of great-grandmother "Maggie James" correct -- and also so that I could link to an photo of her I once found on the internet. Anyway, I happened to come across this page, according to which we *are* related to Nancy Ward; though, in our case the relationship is by marriage rather than direct descent. Specifically, some of our cousins are descended from Nancy Ward's Scots-Irish husband, Bryant Ward. Our grandfather's step-father, Charles Rufus Ward, was a great-grandson of that man Bryant Ward.

Sharon just sent me this photo of Grandma Brown, at about age 88 or 89, to better show her Indian-like appearance; I think I may have been there (home from college) when that picture was snapped:

Edit 3:
Ah! These next two are more like what I had in mind for showing off "The Twins" (that's how my brother and I referred to our sisters, but there came a time when they *insisted* we use their names).

The date on this one is July 1963 -- that's when it was developed, not necessarily when it was taken. But, as the girls were born in January 1961, this date has to be fairly close to when it was taken. That may be the only time Dad got pictures developed in a timely manner. Still, are these not some cute, and happy, kids? Near to far: Gary, Karen, Sharon, Troy.

With this first/top one, as infants, I have to admit that to me they just look like babies (and almost all babies look identical to me); if I didn't already know they were my sisters, I'd not guess it. My sisters usually wore their hair long, but one year our aunt convinced them or Mom that a "Pixie cut" would be "so cute," so that's what's with the short hair in the outside photos. Sorry about my sister's rudeness in the center photo (girls!) -- you know, that is probably the *only* photo of Sharon in which her eyes both are open (instead, Karen's are closed)! Maybe this was one of those take-one-another's-place that twins like to do.

Speaking of twins trading places, they did that once in school, I think when they were in the second grade. As I recall the story, at the first break, the one dragged the other into the rest-room to insist they trade clothes and then go to their assigned classes, because the other's teacher was a right witch.


Unknown said...

I think Karen and I were 4 at tops in the picture out at Uncle B’s.

Uncle L B just didn’t roll off the tongue as smoothly as Uncle B did.

The date stamp on the picture of us with Grandma says June 1974. I am not sure if that was the date of the picture, or when it was finally developed.

Yes, you are correct, Karen is closet to you in this picture.

I think I have a better picture of Grandma showing how much she looks like a “squaw”. I’ll find it and email it to you.

Ilíon said...

My sister is having a "blonde moment" ... I graduated high school in 1975; so, not, Dad just wanted to let the film age well before developing it. (I had a "blond moment" the other day, and we blamed on on the fact that we have blonde genes.)

Unknown said...

Miss Clairol goes right through to the roots some days!

Ilíon said...

Oh, man! So you're getting hit from both directions by "blonde moments" that just gotta do their thing?

cathy said...

How did it end up that you and your brother each had your own twin?

Hmm... "his" own twin?

I'm not even sure where to look that up.

Ilíon said...

I really don't know how it is that my brother and I each claimed one of the twin as our own. Kids!