I stumbled upon some information about my seventh-great-grandfather in a magazine article. Grandfather Richard More had been one of four children rejected by their wealthy, landowning father, who eventually realized that none of the children looked like him — he thought they resembled one of his tenant farmers, instead. Consequently, my grandfather and his siblings were sent away on the Mayflower. During their first winter in New England, his siblings died.
I learned more about my grandfather in David Lindsay’s Mayflower Bastard: A Stranger Among the Pilgrims, of which More is the title character. After awhile, I put the book aside to work on another branch of my family tree, and my husband picked it up. One day, we were both quietly reading when he yelled out. As my heart rate returned to normal, he explained that he’d found a passage about my grandfather’s “ordinary,” or tavern, in part of his home — this apparently was common in late-1600s Salem. The majority of his clientele had been sailors, a rough group who fought easily and often. One fight came to pass when a sailor denied having borrowed someone’s boat without permission. The accuser responded by beating the sailor within an inch of his life. This unlucky sailor was Thomas Chubb, my husband’s seventh-or eighth-great-grandfather. So 300-some years ago, our grandfathers were drinking in the same tavern. What are the odds?
“Who are you?” I stared at the words on the computer screen. The question came from my father. “What do you mean, ‘Who am I?’” I wanted to type back. I’m your first-born child. I’m the one whose fingers and toes you counted in the hospital. I’m the girl you named after your mother.
My father had given me his old computer, so I’d looked up his e-mail address and sent him a thank-you note. “Who are you?” was the strange response. Something must be up. I phoned my father. As it turns out, there’s another Bill Ryon.
The other Bill Ryon had contacted my father to learn more about our family history, and Dad kept his e-mail address — the one I had mistaken for my father’s. I thanked my dad by phone and e-mailed the other Bill Ryon right back. We shared a good cyberspace laugh.
He asked me about myself. I told him I was married with two young sons. I didn’t tell him about our big plans to go to Walt Disney World until he wrote that he worked at Disney. He offered to take us into the theme parks. A month later, my family was on a plane to Florida. We met Goofy and Mickey — but more important, we met Bill Ryon, a distant cousin and all-around great guy.
So who am I? I’m Bill Ryon’s daughter and Bill Ryon’s cousin.
When we were in the planning stages of fixing up our home, our next-door neighbors renovated theirs. The contractor, Rich Kimak, was always on the job site, working alongside his son, Mike. This impressed my husband, Joe, and a kinship developed among us. We chalked it up to good karma and hired Rich and Mike to do our work.
We talked about our families and our love of the ocean, only three blocks away. One day, Rich said, “You’d appreciate this, being Italian. My wife’s relatives lived in the next town over. Back in the 1930s, they used to cook up a big pot of spaghetti and pour lots of sauce on it. Then with a person on each side holding onto a handle, they’d carry the pot down to the beach on hot days so they could eat near the water.” He shook his head. “Her relatives were something.”
“That sounds like what my husband’s family would do back then,” I said.
Two weeks later, Joe and Rich were discussing saving a few glass blocks from our house for posterity. Joe told Rich about a large factory in a nearby town that recently had been torn down. He said he’d salvaged a few bricks from the site because the building had belonged to his grandfather.
Joe’s comment met dead silence. Then Rich asked, “Not the Mirabelli building on Memorial Drive?”
My husband said, “Yes, it was. That was my grandfather’s.”
Rich started laughing. “That was my wife’s great-uncle.” No wonder we got along so well — Joe’s relatives were renovating our house.
She Doesn’t Take Any Bull
Mary Kathryn McLeod of Coleman, Texas, married a fellow named Nuell Jackson Chamberlain, who lived on his aunt’s farm in McCullogh County. The aunt was a widow who had remarried Kathryn’s father, Clyde. After their wedding, Kathryn and Nuell moved into a house on the farm. They lived 6 miles from her father and stepmother by road, but it was only a half-mile walk through a creek and pasture.
One day, 16-year-old Kathryn waded the creek to visit her daddy. While crossing the pasture, she saw the farm’s bull — the one creature that scared her. There was just one tree in that pasture, and Kathryn climbed it. Unbeknownst to her, that tree was the bull’s favorite place, as it provided the only shade and the only trunk for scratching. The bull lay beneath that tree all day while Kathryn stayed up in her perch.
When Nuell came home from the fields to an empty house, he drove to Clyde’s house to ask if anyone had seen his wife. Naturally, they hadn’t. They started looking and found her in the tree sometime after dark. After Kathryn got down, she told Nuell she was moving back to town, where there weren’t any bulls. She packed her suitcase and had her daddy drive her the 30 miles to Coleman, where he went to work for her uncle, the sheriff, as a cook at the jail. Kathryn filed for divorce after 63 days of marriage, and wed my father two and a half years later. She remained afraid of bulls for the rest of her life.
Charles “Corky” Royall, San Angelo, Texas