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At long last, his roots have grown

December 19, 2012
By Ted Rowe , Marshall Independent

In the 10 years before I moved to Marshall, I lived for three years in Ohio, one year in Maine, one year in Connecticut, two years in Nebraska and three years in Missouri. It was a peripatetic existence. I was single, but nevertheless, with each move I had made I had accumulated a little more stuff, some might say baggage. I graduated from moving by using a small car, to moving by a station wagon, to moving by a U-haul trailer. So when I made the move here, I had the mind-set of not planning on moving again.

With the exception of my year in Connecticut, I had also lived in at least two residences and a couple of those places could have been called dumps. The most memorable dump was one in Missouri in an old house that had been made over into several, very small apartments I was in the basement, very damp, possibly moldy, but fortunately I was not allergic to the mold. When I arrived to work, teaching at Westminster College one morning, a colleague asked about the excitement at that old house. I had no idea what he was talking about, but he showed me the morning newspaper where a baby had been found in a trash can behind the house.

Needless to say, I moved out about a week later and into a duplex that had a shared basement. The shared basement was OK with me as I never had any need to go down there. About two months later, it was no longer OK. A couple had moved in next door and they started keeping cats that they let roam in the basement. Eventually they must have had 15 or so cats. You can imagine the odor arising from the deep, not to mention the whining and sometimes even a cat-fight.

My third residence in Fulton, Mo., was a success. Fulton is in the Kingdom of Callaway, the nickname for the county. Supposedly during the Civil War Callaway County had claimed to secede from Missouri and thus become its own little Kingdom. My third residence was next to an old mansion that sat on top of a hill overlooking the town, a residence in which, the rumor goes, Jefferson Davis had once stayed overnight.

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Somewhere in the stuff that I have moved through all of those states I have several letters that were written during the Civil War by my great-great-great-uncle and my great-great-grandfather. The letters were written primarily while stationed in Missouri and sent back to their homes in Ohio, where most of my father's side of the family lived. It would be quite a coincidence if those ancestors of mine had actually been in Fulton, Mo. Unfortunately, the people who might have been able to answer some of my questions about those ancestors are now dead.

My mother and father had only completed eighth and ninth grade respectively, so when I was growing up I never really thought about discussing education by my ancestors. Both of my parents had to quit in order to help support their families. My mother especially was the oldest of five children and only 14 when her father died. Despite their backgrounds, however, my parents both valued and encouraged my siblings and me to continue beyond high school. I should say that it was more like an expectation that we would continue rather than asking whether we wanted to.

When I finally settled on going to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, my parents said, "Did you know that your grandfather (my father's dad) had gone to Denison?" Now that was a true coincidence as I had never known about it before I had made my final decision on a college to attend. I did not have the chance to visit with my grandfather to ask about his experiences.

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In most of the moves that I made, when I arrived it was, "Nobody knows my name." No one else from my high school was at Denison when I went there. The same was true when I moved to Brunswick, Maine, to attend Bowdoin College for graduate work, to New Britain, Conn., to teach, to Lincoln, Neb., for more graduate work, and to Fulton.

When I moved here to Marshall, I at least knew one family, a fellow Bowdoin graduate who had moved here the year before I came, so it was that, "Someone knows my name."

It is quite different once you have lived in the same area for a while - over 40 years in my case here in Marshall. Now it is almost like the TV show, "Cheers," where Everybody Knows Your Name, even though I have no blood relatives within about a thousand miles.

I recently finished reading an historical novel by Lawrence Hill: "Someone Knows My Name." Being where nobody knows my name can be a very lonely existence, almost as if you don't exist. That feeling is the contrast that this novel emphasizes. The story is about a young girl who is captured for slavery in Africa in the 1700s, separated from her family (her parents both murdered by their captors), and shipped to the U.S. She is sold to a couple of different owners, but eventually manages to escape to Nova Scotia and thence to England where she testifies in Parliament to help end the slave trade - a first step before England abolished slavery altogether.

My wish to everyone at Christmas: May you always live where someone knows your name.

Until next time: Oh, Fiddlesticks!

 
 

 

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