highway department

John Clark SpareMy Great Uncle John Clark Spare, who was my Great Aunt Mina Schumacher’s husband, had a lengthy career in the Army, that began when he enlisted in the North Dakota National Guard on June 30, 1916 at the tender young age of 17 years. At that time he was assigned to the Rio Grande River Border Patrol along the United States-Mexican Border, at Mercedes, Texas.  In all, he served off and on from 1916 to 1943. When he wasn’t off fighting in wars, he was able to receive training in the Highway Engineering branch of Civil Engineering at Iowa State College. Following his education, he was assigned to field work, which is where I believe he began his initial association with the Indian tribes in the area, and would eventually change his life forever.

However that may have happened, John did end up being considered a person the tribes would listen to, and because of that, he was invited on November 11, 1936 to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation near Cannonball to give a speech at the American Legion Post Rally. Later that day, an Indian named White Eagle told him that an old Indian named Walking Cloud liked his speech very much and wanted to meet him. As it turned out, Walking Cloud had recently lost his son. He wanted to adopt John in his place…quite an honor. Over the remainder of that year and into the next, Walking Cloud and his wife, Mary visited the Spare home frequently. I would guess that they were getting to know each other better.

The ceremony was set for July 4, 1937 at Cannonball, during the first celebration of the Sundance since it was abolished in 1892 because the government felt the ritual was too torturous. For those who don’t know, the ritual entailed raising a huge pole with leather thongs tied to the top…two for each dancer. Incisions were made in two places on the braves chests and the ends of the thongs knotted into them. The dancers then danced around the pole until the thongs ripped from their chest, as a way of displaying their bravery. The Sundance was able to be revived in 1937, because most of the older Indians had died, and the younger ones weren’t very interested in having the torturous dance kept as part of the ceremony after all Chief Walking Cloudthat time.

John Clark Spare was made Walking Cloud’s son during that ceremony, and given a Chief’s headdress made with genuine eagle feathers, which would be impossible now. Attached to the headdress was a long trailer of brilliant feathers running from the base of the neck to the ground. Trailers were worn by chiefs only on special occasions, Mary had fashioned breeches and a coat of pure white leather for him. Her work was exquisite, especially the bead work that covered most of the garment. After his adoption, John studied Indian lore more than before, and the collecting of Indian artifacts became his beloved hobby.

Caryn Spencer 15 yrs oldMost of us have gone through a time in our lives when we hated our name. We wonder why our parents would have considered such an awful name for their child. It doesn’t matter what the name is either. It could be the cutest name on earth, and it’s owner would probably at one point or another, hate it. As an early teenager, I thought my name was too strange. I suppose I was at an age where it seemed important to blend in with the crowd, and an unusual name simply didn’t do that for me. I often thought I might like to be named Carrie, and yet, I never took that or any other nickname. I guess deep inside, I didn’t really dislike my name at all, but was rather at a self conscious age, and the name seemed as good a scapegoat as any. These days, I love my name, and I wouldn’t want any other.

My mom had told me that she was ok with her first name, Collene, even though most people mispronounced it and called her Colleen, which is not her name at all. Collene is pronounced with a short o sound, while Colleen is pronounce with a long o sound. This was not the name she disliked, however. Mom disliked her middle name, which is Ione. I never could understand why that name bothered her at all, because she didn’t have to tell anyone what it was, so what was the problem. Then again, I suppose that if Ione had been my middle name, I might have felt the same way in those awkward teenaged years. Mom eventually got over her dislike of her middle name, I guess, because she doesn’t mention it anymore. Young Collene Ione ByerPeople usually grow up and decide that those little things don’t really make that much difference anyway.

My Great Aunt Mina Schumacher, however hated her name all of her life. She was baptized Minna Albertina Schumacher, and I guess Albertina didn’t bother her, or maybe it was simply that she told no one what her middle name was, if it did. At that time, like often happens today, people added “ie” to the end of a child’s name and so, Minna became Minnie. Most people thought it was a very pretty name for a little girl, but Mina did not agree. Maybe it made her feel like she was always considered a little girl, and she wanted to be grown up. Whatever the reason, she hated it, and when she became an accountant, she decided that the name Minnie had to go. Her solution was to drop the “nie” from her nickname, and go, simply by Min. Her sisters Bertha and Elsa, and most of Mina’s friends decided that name suited her better than any other, and for them, she was Min from that time on. Mina’s husband, John Spare, who was going by his middle name, Clark when they met, liked the name Minnie, and called her that for some time, but gave in to her need for a more grown up name when they married. Later, when John became head of the Engineering Department of the State Highway Department in Bismarck, North Dakota, the need for a more dignified name arose, so Mina dropped one “n” from her baptismal name and became Mina.

According to Mina’s sister, my Great Aunt Bertha, children should simply be called “Hey” until they are old 007b1 Mina Schumacherenough to decide on a name they really like. I suppose that would be a possibility, and I’m sure she was just joking, but it could also be very confusing, since there could be entire classrooms of children going by the same name. Just think how confusing it would be as the teacher called on her students. I suppose one could say that using the last name would solve all that, but then again, since classrooms back then had all the grades in the same class, including brothers and sisters, that would still be problematic. Having three Hey Smiths in the class would be very confusing. I guess that is why it is your parent’s choice as to your name, whether you hate your name or not.

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