Gene Pool 2
My mother was a Texan. In 2008, at the age of 84, she died from the complications of Alzheimer’s’ Disease. She grew up on various subsistence share-cropper farms with five siblings, William, Louise, Pauline, Thelma, and Robert and although her own name was Alyene, she went by her middle name, Ruth. The oldest and the youngest siblings were boys, leaving the composite unit of the four girls to essentially behave as one middle child.
She never knew how colorful and rich her ancestry had been; but then again would have indifferent anyway because the circumstances of her impoverished environment placed her psyche beyond caring. Her side of the family can be traced to individuals who were in the train of or related by blood to William the Conqueror; including his Admiral William de Novo Villas. Another family line can be linked to the first Saxon Kings and other Viking interlopers who invaded England.
One of my 10th great-grandfathers was John Neville, who settled Maryland with Lord Calvert in1632, while another 10th great-grandfather, John Dods (Dodson), settled Jamestown with Captain John Smith’s Virginia Company in 1607. Having survived the Jamestown “Starving Time,” as well as possibly having “gone native” Dodson’s first consort may have been an Algonquin woman related to Pocahontas. He also may have been among those who resorted to cannibalism when the food ran out.
Then there were the Haynies who settled Virginia in the late 1600s; a family some believe was immortalized in William Michener’s novel Chesapeake. However, there were so many descendants of the progenitor John Haynie, that by the time it filtered down to my 5th Great-grandfather William, there was nothing left to leave him in his father’s Will except his emancipation when he turned sixteen years of age. “Goodbye boy; and good luck, too.”
William, born in 1753, with no choice but to leave home and join the North Carolina militia, fought with the North Carolina Continental line in the Revolutionary War, first as a private, then a lieutenant and eventually as an adjutant to General Nathaniel Greene. He saw action in six battles, three of which: Camden, Cowpens, and Guilford Courthouse, all fought in North Carolina are stylized in the movie “The Patriot.” For unknown reasons, after that the family eventually made its way to Tennessee.
William’s daughter married Samuel Evets Sr. who was then expelled or expatriated from this state for fighting while inebriated (FWI) at a political rally and migrated to Texas. His son Samuel Jr. joined the first Texas Rangers and was there just in time to partake in the conflict with Mexico. That was only after he could kill any Comanche Indian that he could find while riding out on the desiccated Texas Plains. After recovering from a musket ball that was shot through part of his face at the Siege of Bexar, he eventually reenlisted, joined Sam Houston’s Army for Texas Independence, then participated at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Santa Ana was defeated and the Texan’s sent his sorry fascist ass straight back to Mexico. This was a kinder fate than what the Mexican’s had already done at Goliad where they executed all the men in the entire town, or the savage beheading and pike-poling of the victim’s severed heads at the Alamo.
Whether or not Samuel Sr. was one of the famous Tennessee Volunteers I don’t know for sure, but if nothing else and although not quite as notable as the quasi-inspirational lily-livered alcoholic leader, Houston, he followed Houston’s footsteps by eventually becoming a famous Tennessee alcoholic himself. Another curiosity is the fact that if Samuel Jr. had not been wounded several months before the Alamo, forcing him to take leave from the fighting, there is a good chance he may have fought and died there, leaving an equally good chance that I may not therefore be here today. Nice going Sam; taking a hit for posterity.
As a reward after the war, he was given 4000 acres in land grants. Because this land abutted the next county line, he presented himself to those separate local authorities as being his own father, who had the same name, and received yet another contiguous 4000 acres of property. Deviousness, a well-known Evetts trait that afflicts many of the members of the clan, must have originated here with Samuel. Unfortunately, this 8000-acre property, as well as five other grants, are now located near the shale oil and natural gas ranges near Dallas, was completely lost to the family by a series of subsequent early deaths, remarriages, and relinquished inheritance rights.
Little did some of my honorable ancestors know that pig-headedly walking away from the evil stepfather was not necessarily the best choice for my future, as it has caused the currently very unfortunate circumstance of my having to work for a living instead of inheriting oil shares as an avocation. Taking it a step further, it was a family that could have literally owned large parts of Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee as well as Texas; but somehow managed to end up with nothing.
In the latter case I might have frittered away the time swaggering around like J.R. Ewing, in a neurotic, self-directed, self-indulgent soap opera. Outfitted in alligator shit-kicker boots, an oversize Stetson hat, an equally oversized Lone Star belt-buckle I would have nothing better to do than to pace the halls of my sprawling Texas ranch house swilling single malt Scotch and puffing on Cuban cigars. Or if not that, perhaps to sit outside shooting beer cans off a log when not otherwise constantly preoccupied by the trivialities of the daily crises attached to my immediate or extended family’s dysfunctional interactions. Drink a beer, shoot at the empty beer can; and then find out later from my Private Investigator who was screwing my fourth wife.
As it stands now all I have to show for it is a wallet card validating that I am a member of the Sons of the Republic of Texas; a credential that combined with $1.75 buys me a cup of coffee at any good diner. Eventually I stopped being so lazy about sending in the application for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, but even that entree won’t get the land back. Also, by the time the paperwork finally percolated and filtered through that organization’s bureaucratic genealogic microscope, the cost of the coffee had inflated to $2.50.
My Texan grandfather, Arthur McClinton Cooper, was a tall soft-spoken, humorous man who seemed to wear nothing but striped railroad engineer coveralls as he chain-smoked unfiltered Pall Mall cigarettes. This habit colored the calluses on his hands to an un-washable dingy yellow making them look like multi-layered old varnish on knot bumped teak wood. My grandmother, Nora Evetts, otherwise known as Grannie Cooper, deplored this habit, and constantly nagged him about it, which led him to take numerous furtive smoke break trips out to the barn:
- Hey Nora. I’m going out again just to check things over at the barn.
- Arthur; there ain’t any sick animals out there that ain’t been sick in the last half hour. I know what you’re up to.
He enjoyed doing the jig and had a nearly innate talent for playing the spoons; both skills being hand-me-down folk-art forms that I regret never having learned from him. But I was simply too young to really know their cultural or historical significance, or more likely thought that he would probably just live forever. After all, when you are five years old, you think that nobody ever dies.
He owned a subsistence farm, but just before World War II when the Federal Government confiscated his property to build an Ordinance factory, under the aphoristic legal thievery known as “Eminent Domain”, he became a sharecropper which forced him to lease the land from the Moore family to feed his family. Eventually this arrangement failed, and he moved on to become a garage mechanic. Although he did not actually own the garage, my brother Larry and my cousin Byron, thinking that he did, probably kept the poor man broke every time we visited him, by raiding the old tin Coca-Cola ice box as well as the candy counter. Grape was my favorite soda, but the other two were Dr. Pepper addicts. After we drank our fills Granddad always quietly paid the tab when we left to go home, which prompted our mothers to scold us for repeatedly taking advantage of his good nature or having to hear old Granny harping over the lost wages.
He was a laconic man of very few words and rarely spoke unless spoken to. This trait combined with the fact that his responses were usually consigned after the fact of everyone else having rendered an opinion on the subject at hand, tended to make them come out as unanticipated blindsiding Texas proverbs. For example, when my Aunts were collectively arguing about which of us three boys was tallest or who was growing the fastest, when they turned to Arthur for his fatherly take on it, he simply chided them by comparing it to the level of a woman’s pubic crotch. He would say:
- Hell, I don’t know. What’s all the fuss about anyway? None of them little towheads has got any taller than bein’ knee-high to a poontang anyway.
Arthur Cooper never complained, was never bitter about his fate in life and never had an unkind word about anyone he knew. Or if he did have to describe a less than savory friend who may have slighted him, he would once again make it more parabolic with a statement such as: “Why, after all what he done to me, I wouldn’t piss on his head even if his brains was on fire.”
He eventually died of emphysema.
My grandmother, Nora, was a short, fat, mean spirited little woman, who loved to gossip and to indiscriminately criticize. Everyone or everything was fair game; despite her otherwise hypocritically conservative touting of good old fashioned Southern Christian ethics and values. For example, she once told my Uncle Bill that his beer belly was getting too big, a critique, which given the size and shape of her pumpkin like figure was something akin to the pot calling the kettle, black. He would just wink at her and say:
- Momma —just lay off now. Can’t y’all see I’m a tryin’ real hard to build me a nice monument over a dying soldier?
Later in life after his beer gut had fully blossomed over a bloated liver and alcohol mediated shrunken testicles, he announced that the little soldier had finally succumbed to a combination of old age and a chronic overdose of booze.
- Hell, momma. I couldn’t even get it up if Marilyn Monroe herself came a slitherin’ crost my lap.
- Yeah well, if’n Marilyn did come over here right now your whole dang body and not just your dried-up pecker would be dropped dead and pushin’ up daisies.”
Nora’s hypocrisy was also typified by the night I caught her out by herself in the kitchen after she served desert, gobbling up the remnants of a black raspberry cobbler. This was after she had parsed out little portions to everyone else stating:
- Well looks like there just aint enough here to go ‘round for everybody gettin’ even-handed seconds.
So, she solved this difficult problem the easy way. She decided to eat it all.
When she saw me, I thought she was going to choke. She had stuffed so much cobbler into her craw that she resembled a pre-hibernating fat cheek nut-chocked squirrel that simply could not get it all down with one gulp before everyone at the dinner table, in sensing her unusually prolonged absence, might pop into the kitchen to see if she was all right. I guess my grandmother’s sense of perpetually seeking perfection rubbed off on my mother and her three sisters, because I came to believe that there simply was not anyone, anywhere on this planet who could live up to their extremely high but also artificially and personally contrived standards. God help the person who was not in the room to defend him or herself when those five harpies congregated to over-eat and gossip away their boredom on a hot afternoon.
Four sisters: The Perfect Middle Child