Photo: “Our” family reunion of 1902.
“…Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind. Smiles we gave to one another for the way we were…Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line?…” (1974) The Way We Were. Recorded by; Barbra Streisand. Composers: Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch.
There’s much to learn from a simple photograph. I adore antique photos, always have. They are even more special when you find images depicting your own flesh and blood. If you love family history, then you and I could share some time over a few cups of java.
Check out the cover shot I placed above. This is a 1902 family reunion from my paternal side. No doubt it’s from the summer time in Texas, yet there’s all that clothing. Look at all stiff high collars, neckties and gowns that crawl up to the chin, along with the hats. Summers in Texas can reach 100+ degrees easily. How did they do it? In all honesty, the southern tradition was to have an event like this right after church on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe that’s why everybody is in their Sunday-go-to-meetin’-clothes. I see watermelon slices, cakes, pies, etc. And then there’s that guy on the back row, just right of center, swigging a big bottle of….well…uh…Okay, who knows. But remember, church was over. LOL
Being from the south, there is a depth of Confederate soldiers in the family.
Photo: Meet Great Uncle Alexander Ambrose Timmons (1865) Now THAT’S a knife!
Photo: Meet my Great Grandpa Lewis Pinkney Brooks (1866) After the war, he rode a mule from Georgia to west Texas to stay. He found himself to be a cattle drover, pioneer settler, homesteader, 2nd sheriff of Young County, Texas, stage coach inn owner, and Indian fighter.
Yes, sometimes inside family history one can find skeletons which may not be politically correct by today’s self-imposed standards. I’m not one to erase history. In fact, I gaze at it, study it, and recognize the truth of the way we were. We need to see how far we’ve come. We need to discover how and why issues in society arose. We are in need of understanding before we repeat some aspects of our history which may stain us as a culture. We also should value perspectives. One can title a person an “Indian fighter” but often neglects the realities of circumstance. As for my my great-grandfather Brooks, he dealt with the pains of pioneering. Tonkawa and Comanche often raided his barn overnight to steal horses, cattle, and mules. Another time, he and his cousin were building a three-foot herd wall, made of stone, when they were attacked unprovoked. Grave plots had to be topped in layers of large stone to discourage grave-robbing for clothes and jewelry. Outlaws are outlaws, no matter the culture. Yes, it was a lawless wild country in very different times. Only after years of fighting back in defense of his wife and children did peace began to rise.
Pioneer women were of a different breed. They were tough as brass doorknobs while growing and nurturing families in the harshest conditions.
Photo; Meet my Great Grandma Mary Lucinda “Cinnie” Moore-Brooks (1877). She was not a doctor, but performed medical aid for the citizens of the county when needed. There are stories of her alone on foot, in late night hours, traveling to attend to women in labor miles away. Once a young family in a covered wagon, headed for the western frontier, stopped at the homestead asking for medical aid. The couple had a baby who was ill. The family lodged in their house for a good couple of weeks as Mary Brooks tended to the infant. Sadly, the child couldn’t be saved. They buried the baby in our family cemetery on the land. Brokenhearted, the couple got back on the trail and was never heard from again. She was not only a woman of great courage, but a woman of heart.
Photo: Let me introduce you to my Great Aunt Alverse Brooks (1905ish). I don’t know much about Aunt Alverse, I just love her face. I do know she liked to swim in the Brazos River with her sisters. She lived as a single woman. (The men must have been pushed away, or simply stupid.)
Photo: Say hello to my Grandma Bessie Brooks-Brown, with her two sisters, swimming in the Brazos River just below the family homestead (1909ish). This lovely refreshed and digitized shot is nothing but a joy to look at. My grandma is on the left. Notice the swimwear where EVERYTHING is covered. How many layers do you think they were wearing? However, it didn’t keep that guy behind them from gawking in his ten gallon hat. Yes, times were different.
You might be asking yourself, “Why is Alan forcing all these family pics on us?” There’s a method to my madness.
Have you seen those DNA test commercials? How can you miss them? You know the ones where the actor says something like, “I thought my family came from Scotland, so I bought this kilt. Then I had my DNA tested and found out I’m actually German!” Recently I had been given a birthday gift card encouraging me to get my DNA tested. It’s something I always wanted to do. One of my thrills comes from reading family trees. This is a notch above the tree. So, I ordered a DNA kit.
Not long ago I was reviewing some of my medical lab work from a blood and urine sample. There was an indicator of a possible unknown ethnic bloodline hidden in my genes. I was shocked. I do know of some Native American on my maternal side, but I just assumed Anglo-Saxon was the balance of my strand, due to surnames. The DNA test will spell out the surprises. It will be nice to get to know the authentic “me”….or will it?
I find it funny how some of these DNA test ads speak of “…finding the real you”, or “I never knew I was this, or that.” One TV spot had an actor speaking a line similar to, “I ordered my kit because I wanted to know the true me.” Of course, I understand what the meaning is behind such scripted lines. I get it. My issue is the idea of “the true me”.
Lately I’ve been deeply diving into Larry McMurty’s novel series, Lonesome Dove. I guess I enjoy tales of the state from which I call home. Reading of its wilder, unsettled times is a blast. Frankly, it helps me to understand my family in our photos. One main character, a former Texas Ranger and drover from the Texas Republic years, lost a leg and an arm in a shootout with a Mexican train robber and serial killer. After he realized he would live as an amputee for the rest of his life, his bolt, staunch personality changed. He became more withdrawn. I guess you could say the heart of the man shrunk. His words often consisted of how “HE” was no longer who he was, or used to be. He saw his missing limbs as tools that identified his toughness, his persona, and his legacy. It’s not unusual for depression to invade an amputee’s psyche shortly after the vacuum of trauma. Yet, why look at an amputated limb on a table and think, “Hey, that’s me over there on the table?” It’s a terrible mistake that tends to haunt. A disabled vet can testify to this depression-fed mindset.
A leg, an arm, even a DNA strand does not say WHO you ARE. These things do not relabel the soul and spirit of the individual person. After a tragic plane crash, or the sinking of a ship, they do not report, “100 bodies were lost.” Traditionally it’s printed, “100 souls were lost.” One can be robbed of a limb, a featured look, or a physical profile, but the person inside has not been altered on the operating table…unless the individual cuts away at it by choice. Whether I am a burn victim, a man of extreme age, facially mutilated, newly unemployed, or an amputee, I know WHO I am deep inside where flesh doesn’t live, grow, or die. MY DNA doesn’t alter the ME which turns me to the right or the left. My genes have no power over the ME which molds behavior, or makes eternal decisions. No bloodline rules and reigns over the ME who chooses to love, serve, or share. No bloodline from my family tree can measure up to the ME I select in life. After all, flesh turns to dust in a future grave, or ashes spread by the winds atop a west Texas bluff.
Have you ever heard someone’s final words on their deathbed to be, “Oh, how I wish I had a Celtic slice in my DNA strand. I would have been a better person?”
We all have our choices, no matter the accent, skin color, cultural slants, or the soil of our birth. Even a surname doesn’t register the YOU inside your core. The heart is key. It’s what God said He evaluates, nothing else.
I look forward to the DNA reveal concerning the body I host. I know this because of the intake of fuel for the race.
“…Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. – Jesus – Luke 12:6-7 (Berean Study Bible)