Genealogy

When my dad was a little boy, he really liked his bottle…but he was a little bit careless with it as he got a little older. It was time to get him off of the bottle, but he was not very interested in that idea. When he got teeth, he started pulling on the nipple with his teeth, and would bite it off, spilling the contents all over the floor. I’m quite sure my grandmother was frustrated beyond words with him.

One day, in one of Dad’s careless moments, he tossed the finished bottle into the wood box, breaking it, because there was no such thing as plastic bottles then. His mother, who was all done with this nonsense, looked into the wood box…then turned to my dad and said, “That was the last bottle…they are all gone.” I can imagine what was going through her mind…and his. I’m sure she was thinking, “Will he cry…for hours!!” And I’m sure my dad was thinking, “Can’t we get another one?” But after looking at his mother, who looked back at him, stone faced, my dad knew that was the end of the matter. He looked sadly into the wood box, and walked away. I’m told he didn’t cry, nor did he ask for another bottle ever again. I think my grandmother was a wise woman.

While he was a good boy who loved his mom and dad, and respected his elders, my dad was still full of antics as he got older. Like many kids who think they are so grown up, sometimes you just can’t tell them anything. Sometimes they just have to learn things for themselves. Such was the case on day when my dad was sitting at the table…leaning back in his chair. The chair kept rocking back on two legs. We have all been there. Our parents telling us not to rock back in our chair like that, but…really, how many of us ever listened. No, most kids know it all…right!

Well, my dad was no different. His mother had repeatedly told him not to lean back in his chair. On this particular occasion, my great grandfather, my grandmother’s dad, was visiting. My great grandparents had immigrated to the United States from Germany, and Great Grandpa still spoke in mixed English and a German dialect. Then the inevitable happened. My dad leaned back a little too far, and the chair went on over. My dad looked up from the floor, to see his grandpa looking down at him and saying, “So Du bist a Oka Mann!”…which translates to, “So, you are a Big Man!” Somehow…I’m not so sure Dad felt very big…nor do I think he thought it was very funny!!

When Bob was a little boy, his family lived in Montana. When he was 5 years old, his dad would take a job offer in Wyoming, and the family would move to Mills, Wyoming, which is a suburb of Casper, Wyoming. The family lived in Mills from the time Bob was in Kindergarten until about 3rd grade. During that time, Bob was friends with some of my cousins, and for all I know we played together too, since my family spent a lot of time with those cousins, and at the Mills school, which Bob and his family lived across from. Then the family would move out in the country, west of town. But it seems as though our families were crossing paths over and over for many years.

I was born in Superior, Wisconsin, where I lived until I was 3. Then our family moved to Casper, Wyoming, which is where my mom was born and raised. My aunts future husband’s family lived in Mills, and my future mother-in-law did quite a bit of sewing for them. Later my future father-in-law would work with that same uncle whose mother my future mother-in-law sewed for. I am often amazed at the connections that happen without knowing what they will bring to the future of those involved. People you knew years ago and who didn’t seem to have any particular bearing on your future, suddenly do. It makes you realize what a small world this really is.

For a boy from Montana, and a girl from Wisconsin to move to Wyoming and live there for 15 years, go to different schools, and finally meet because his sister worked at the same place as the girl, and then get married and live happily ever after…is amazing. In fact, when I told my mom’s family who I was dating, they all knew his family. Imagine my surprise! You really don’t just assume that your family will know your boyfriend’s family, unless you had grown up around each other for many years, which was not the case with us. Nevertheless, our families were crossing paths all those years, and now they would be forever connected. I guess we all knew good people when we met them.

My mom was a New Year’s Baby, born on January 1st, but too late to be the first baby for that year. Nevertheless, hers would always be a special birthday, and would make for a special party every year for as long as I can remember. We have always gathered at Mom’s house for food socialising, dancing, and of course the annual ringing in the new year with the family beating on old pans with spoons and firecrackers going off in the street. The neighbors don’t usually even attempt to go to sleep until we have notified them of the new year. Then the “happy new year” kisses come, followed by the “happy birthdays” to my mom and the phone begins to ring with friends and family calling Mom, because they know she will be up.

Mom was the middle sister…the 5th child out of 9, leaving 4 on either side of her…3 sisters, a brother, my mom, a brother, and 3 sisters. So she was the middle sister out of all the kids and between her brothers…a fact that got her into trouble more than once, as she and her brothers managed to get into a lot of mischief. They were the three musketeers of mischief so to speak, and Mom thought the world of her brothers. She would willingly defend then against any foe…except her mom, after one incident that earned her a spanking of equal or greater intensity than the one that my Uncle Larry received.

As a beautiful young woman, she caught the eye of a man she had decided was “the most handsome man she had ever seen” and before long they were married and starting their “forever after” together. Dad always treated Mom like a princess, and theirs was a beautiful, solid marriage that would produce 5 daughters…and a family that has grown to 58 and counting.  Dad called Mom, Doll from the beginning, and I don’t remember him ever calling her anything else, in fact I thought that was her name when I was little. Their marriage would last 54 years before my dad when home to be with the Lord…a day that changed our lives forever.

Today, is my mom’s birthday…the 5th since Dad went home. We had her big New Year’s Eve party last night, carrying on with the tradition started so many years ago. In years past there were often times when there were friends of my parents there, or their brothers and sisters, but mostly now the party consists of my sister, me, and our families, along with various boyfriends as they come and go. We always have a good time, and the party usually breaks up about 3:00, and we drag ourselves home to bed, because the party will continue with New Year’s dinner and cake, ice cream and gifts to follow. Simply a great way to celebrate your birthday, I think. Happy birthday Mom!! We love you!!

Have you ever noticed that in really old photographs, the people never smiled? I have often wondered why that is. I mean, I know that there were certain remote tribes of people who were deathly afraid of having their picture taken, because they thought that it stole your spirit. I really don’t think anyone thought that in the 1800’s when these old pictures were taken, so why is it that no one smiles…and some people actually look mad. Even the kids didn’t smile…not one! How do you get that many people to scowl all at the same time?

I know that life was hard in the old west, but it couldn’t have been that hard, or everyone would have packed it in and moved back to the east. The work was harder, so maybe everyone was just tired, still if you make yourself, just about anyone can paste on a smile for a few minutes, especially when you did know in advance that you were going to have your picture taken. I don’t know, it has just always amazed me that people would pay good money to have their picture taken, and then scowl in it, so it looks more like it was a photo for a wanted poster.

But, after giving this question a lot of thought, I think I have finally come up with the answer. I believe that these families like most families these days spent several hours arguing with their darling little ones, and by the time it was their turn, everyone was in such a fowl mood that no one felt like smiling. Wow!! Now if that is the reason, then it sounds just like group pictures of today. I can’t tell you how many times we have tried to get all the kids or grandkids to smile at the same time, much less to stop fighting long enough to avoid putting everybody in a terrible mood. So, who’s to say that those families didn’t have the same problem. Ok, maybe not.

We may never know exactly why all the pictures taken of families in the 1800’s were taken with a straight face or even a scowl, but what we do know is that by the early 1900’s, people realized that the best pictures are taken when the subjects smile, and look like they enjoy life and want to remember this great day. When history looks back on your pictures, what will it see? Why not a smile?

As we go through this journey we call life, this world we live in will go through many changes. As I was looking at old family pictures, and it got me thinking about what a change it must have been to go from the horse and buggy days to the automobile. My grandfather and my Uncle Ted (back seat right two people) I’m quite sure grew up with the idea that cars were going to be around, but my great grandfather (back left) must have been quite in awe over the changes going on in his life. I remember the first time I drove a car, but I had ridden in a car many times by that time, and they were commonplace items. I just can’t imagine seeing a car for the first time as an adult, but that is what so many of our ancestors did. Bob’s grandmother talked often of the changes from a horse and buggy to the car.

When I was a kid, a computer took up an entire room, and nobody had one in their home. Then came the PC, and people started buying them. Pretty soon everyone had one in their house. Now there are laptops, netbooks, tablets, and even smart phones. I remember too, when the only phones that existed where in a building or the occasional telephone booth…remember those. Telephone booths almost don’t exist anymore, because we all have a phone in our purse or pocket, and most of them are smart phones now, so we can even access the internet with them.

So many changes have taken place in in the past 200 years alone, that our ancestors would not even know this place if they could see it. I have to wonder how much of it would absolutely terrify them, if they could step into our time. And what would our thoughts be if we could step back into the old West? Back to the days when the harvesting was done with a horse and wagon, and it took a large group of people to get the job done. Hay was cut down using scythes and loaded in the wagon using rakes and a pitchfork. That was a much harder time in our history, and the harvest wasn’t taken so much for granted. School was planned around it, because the kids were needed to help with the harvest too.

Sometimes, I think we all need to look back in time once in a while, and really see how very blessed we are to be living in a time where much of our work is easy, food is abundant, travel is quick, and staying in touch with people all over the world is a normal, everyday event.

It’s somewhat rare…being double cousins, but it does happen. I suppose it is rare enough that many people don’t even know what it is exactly. It might not even be a exact term, but it is the only one that describes this situation.

When two brothers marry two sisters, their children become double cousins…and that is exactly what happened. My grandfather, George Byer married my grandmother Harriet “Hattie” Pattan on December 24, 1927. Then my uncle, Theodore “Ted” Byer married my aunt, Gladys Pattan on November 2, 1928. Hattie and George would go on to have 9 children, Evelyn, Virginia, Delores, Larry, Collene, who is my mother, Wayne, Bonnie, Dixie, and Sandy. My Aunt Gladys and my Uncle Ted would have one daughter, Margaret. From the moment Margaret arrived, the children of the sisters and brothers were double cousins. And later there would be double second cousins, double third cousins, double second cousins once removed, double third cousins once removed, and so on.

Now as often happens, the children of the double cousins weren’t as close as the double cousins themselves. As the years go by many of the cousins don’t know each other well, or at all. I have been blessed in that for me things would turn out differently. When my girls were little they began bowling with two girls who were also sisters. Little did we know, until my mom heard their dad’s name, that these girls were the grandchildren of Margaret Byer, the very Margaret whose birth began the double cousins in the first place. So, every Monday night, during the winter bowling league season, I get the privilege of spending the evening with my double second cousins twice removed, and their daughters, my double second cousins thrice removed. Margaret’s son Ted and his wife Donna, and their daughters, Jaime and her husband Willie, who also have three children, Kaleb, Kielei, and Haley, and Ted and Donna’s other daughter Jackie. I am very thankful that I have had the chance to know them all these years. They are awesome people. Love you guys bunches.

Grandma's gardenDuring the years of the Great Depression, people had to do whatever was necessary to make ends meet. The backyard garden became a necessity, not a hobby. Hunting and fishing really became a vital part of life, not just a pastime. People had to make their own repairs around the house, rather than hiring it done. People put blankets up for curtains, and made their own clothes. I suppose it was like a move back in time…to the time when their ancestors didn’t have a store to go to, or a repairman to call, so they did what they had to do, on their own. I would imagine that there were a lot of repairs that the repairman would have scratched his head at…just trying to figure out how it ran at all.

While the things the people of the Great Depression era did were a bit unusual, and were an essential part of making ends meet, they were also a part of their independence. They didn’t want a government handout…even when they had to take it, they didn’t want it. They were used to taking care of themselves. Nevertheless, jobs were scarce, and often required the men to travel for work, leaving their wives and young children to run the farm. School became a luxury, because the kids were needed at home to plow, weed, and harvest the crops to put food on the table. Nothing was wasted either. They cooked the feet, tongue, and even brains of an animal for food. They didn’t necessarily kill an animal, if all they needed was the feathers for a mattress. Can you Grandpa by the Gardenimagine plucking the feathers from a goose while it is alive?? I would be afraid it would come after me, but it was well known then, that the feathers would grow back, just like our hair, of course, cutting our hair doesn’t hurt.

Tough times can make or break a nation and it’s people I guess, but if we are a people, determined to make it on our own, and help this nation be great at the same time, then we can be a nation who can handle difficult times with grace and dignity. If we become a nation of people who are willing to sit back and let the government take care of us, then we will be a truly poor nation indeed.

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