Showing posts with label family. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family. Show all posts

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Me And Joe Willy 1942

Here is a picture of me and my playmate Joe Willy taken at my grandparents' place about four miles East of Cruger MS (Holmes County) in about 1942.

Joe Willy was the son of my grandmother's maid, Evelyn. His father worked for my grandfather, who was a county road district superintendent.

I envied Joe Willy because he was allowed to chop wood with an axe and I wasn't.

My grandmother called Joe Willy "Sambo," as a term of affection. Joe Willy never complained, but I could tell he didn't like it.

I learned a lot from Joe Willy and from my visits to Cruger.

I learned, for example, that white people almost never did any actual work. If a white person needed something done, he got a black person to do it. I never saw any actual money change hands in return for work.

White people "supervised." So far as I could tell from watching my grandfather's road crews at work, they didn't need any actual supervising.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Family Memories

We've been a bit busy this past week. Liz and I and my sister in Apex traveled to Charlotte over the weekend to join our first cousin to celebrate the life of my aunt, Mary Katherine [Scroggins] Alderson, originally of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

It was a time to share memories of times past and growing up in Oklahoma and California, and recollections of family members who have passed on.

Sad but comforting to share this time with family.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

John Warner Cox: August 13, 1941 - November 26, 2013

My brother John fought pancreatic cancer for nearly three years. He taught us how to live through such a time. How to seize the day for whatever the day offers. An inspiration to us all. He lived his life from beginning to end with great good humor. When he learned there were no further treatment options, he began planning for the end, including writing his obituary. When I visited him last month in Utah, he was still refining it. Now it is finished and is on line here:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

America's Eleven Nations: A Map

In an earlier post, I made reference to Colin Woodard's article analyzing his breakdown of the eleven nations into which he sees America divided. I might quibble with some of his analysis, but on the whole it seems close to the mark. How would I know? I have lived in and have family connections to ten of Woodard's eleven nations. What's missing? Only New Netherlands. Even there, I have ancestors who immigrated to New Amsterdam about 1628. My wife's ancestors immigrated to Nouvelle France about the same time. And our grandsons are native Americans.

So we have seen it all, up close and personal.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My Great Grandfather Rode With Billy The Kid*

My grandparents never told me about my Great Grandfather. What little I know I have had to dig out from scattered records and stories passed down through other branches of the family.

His name was John Scroggins. He was born in Georgia in 1852. In 1872 he travelled to St. Louis and enlisted in the U.S. Cavalry. He served in the 4th Cavalry Regiment, mostly in Texas. He was in the Regiment during the epic raid into Mexico fictionalized in John Ford's movie Rio Grande, starring John Wayne. After the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876, the Regiment went north to round up Chief Dull Knife's band of Cheyenne warriors in late 1876. He was discharged in 1877.

The next appearance of John Scroggins in available records was in the census of 1880. He and his wife Kate (Wampler) Scroggins were living in Palo Pinto County, Texas with two small children, next door to John's father in law, Roderick Wampler, who was also working on the railroad.

So what happened between 1877 and 1880?

It turns out that on April 4, 1878, John Scroggins rode into Blazer's Mill, New Mexico, with Billy the Kid and a large posse (the Regulators) seeking the assassins of John Tunstall. Not long after the shootout at Blazer's Mill, John Scroggins disappeared from New Mexico.

In Texas, he is said to have worked as an Indian Scout, disappearing for months at a time and on one occasion turning up with an Indian woman and a small child. The woman died and is supposed to have been buried outside the fence of the cemetery in Strawn, Texas. He and his wife had about thirteen children, ran a store for miners at nearby Thurber, Texas and eventually a rooming house in Mineral Wells.

John Scroggins is said by some descendents to have been a hard drinker and a gambler, allegedly drinking up much of the family's profits.

In other words, a typical westerner of the day.

My grandfather, Valentine Scroggins (named for a maternal uncle and a maternal great grandfather) was born in Palo Pinto County April 2, 1886, eight years almost to the day after the shootout at Blazer's Mill.

*Maybe. It fits. So far I can't disprove it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


My grandfather was a coal miner. In Texas. Yes, I know he should have been in oil. But Palo Pinto County in 1902 when he went to work in the mines only had coal. Not very good coal at that.

He only had a third grade education. In Palo Pinto County in 1894, that's as far as school went. Of course, you had a choice. You could send your child east seventy miles to boarding school in Fort Worth. It was a bit far to go by train every day.

My grandfather worked hard. Never made much money. Had a lot of friends and close relations with his family, but by republican standards wasn't a success.

After listening to speeches at the republican convention, now I understand the problem. He wasn't an immigrant. He should have borrowed money from his uncle or his father and started a business.

The immigrant part is a real problem. No immigrants in my family since about 1741.

Ok, the money part was a problem, too.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Fifty-Four Years

A personal note: Fifty-Four Years ago today, Elizabeth and I were married in California. I was in the navy, and it was during the Quemoy-Matsu crisis. I couldn't go on leave to Texas, so she came to California.

We have had many adventures since then, but it seems like yesterday.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Character And Society

New York Times columnist David Brooks sometimes calls attention to the work of social critics with whom I am not familiar. Last March, he published an interesting column centered on the work of James Q. Wilson.

I don't know Wilson's work, but I am intrigued. Some of Wilson's observations focus on what I would call the collective aspect of character. For example: “At root,” Wilson wrote in 1985 in The Public Interest, “in almost every area of important concern, we are seeking to induce persons to act virtuously, whether as schoolchildren, applicants for public assistance, would-be lawbreakers or voters and public officials.”

How can we do this? As Brooks describes Wilson's writings, "When Wilson wrote about character and virtue, he didn’t mean anything high flown or theocratic. It was just the basics, befitting a man who grew up in the middle-class suburbs of Los Angeles in the 1940s: Behave in a balanced way. Think about the long-term consequences of your actions. Cooperate. Be decent."

Follow the dictates of Miss Manners.

Wilson, Brooks explained,  did not believe that virtue was inculcated by prayer in schools. It was habituated by practicing good manners, by being dependable, punctual and responsible day by day. He emphasized that character was formed in groups. “Order exists," Wilson wrote in 1993, "because a system of beliefs and sentiments held by members of a society sets limits to what those members can do.” 

Wilson's views in this respect remind me of the power of what I learned as a young naval officer was "customs, tradition and usage." Very powerful, indeed.

I think this is exactly what Hillary Clinton had in mind in her 1996 book,  It Takes A Village. The book was, of course, roundly condemned by conservatives.

"No, it takes a family," the conservative choir rang out, led by Bob Dole and Rick Santorum.

One of the things I learned from tracing my own genealogy is that, for most of our history, it was impossible to tell where the family ended (parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, grandparents, grandchildren, etc.) and the village began. They were all part and parcel of the same social setting and were mutually reinforcing.

That reinforcement is a major reason families and children under stress were able to survive depression and war in the 30's and 40's. 

But that's another story. I'll pick up the thread sometime soon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Respect Your Betters

I was not quite four years old when I was introduced to the culture of the South. I had been raised in Oklahoma by Texans. I spent a number of my growing up years in Florida and Mississippi, but I really was a westerner, not a southerner.

My Mississippi grandmother tried valiantly to correct my deficiencies by teaching me to show proper respect for my elders, and also to show respect for my "betters."

Betters, of course, were those distinguished by higher social position or wealth. I remember my grandmother paying her respects to the owner of the biggest local plantation by curtseying to him.

My grandmother's lessons never took. I had already learned at an early age that I was an American. I had equals, but no betters.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Years Objectives

I don't do New Years Resolutions.

As Popeye used to say, "I yam what I yam." If there is anything I have learned in more than seven decades, it is that I am unlikely to become a better person, wiser, more handsome, faster, thinner, healthier, more skillful, funnier, or more expressive. Popeye got it about right.

But that doesn't mean one shouldn't set more or less achievable goals for the near future. Some of mine:

1. Finish repairing our house from Irene's destruction;
2. Finish my novel;
3. Organize my photographs;
4. Read War and Peace;
5. Keep blogging.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ghost Of Christmas Past

Today was a lovely Christmas Day. Good friends visited for coffee ( The Bean was closed) and for Christmas Dinner.

It caused me to recollect the first Christmas I remember. It was 1940. My parents divorced in 1938. Mother remarried in August of 1940 to a young soldier in the United States Army Air Corps. We moved from Tulsa to Tampa to begin a new life.

Here I am on the porch of our upstairs apartment with all the Christmas gifts spread out to admire. It appears that two sets of grandparents had a Christmas present competition.

I'm not sure who won the competition, since I don't remember who gave me what gift. But I remember my favorite present. It was the Erector Set leaning against the wall. I spent countless hours building different structures and machines from designs that came with the set.

This was the last prewar Christmas. Never again would there be so many toys.

But I didn't mind. The best thing about Christmas was always the family get-togethers.

By Christmas of 1941, I had a little brother. Oh, yes, and by then we were at war.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sharon Jeanene (Cox) Sechler: Jan 3, 1947- Sep 2, 2011

The last of our siblings, and the first Baby Boomer in the family, Sharon Sechler was a kind and gentle soul with an inquisitive mind. Born in Oklahoma City in 1947, spent her childhood in Anchorage, Alaska and Greenville, MS. After college degree from Mississippi State, including Master's in Education. Missionary work in Czech Republic, Mexico and New York City. Traveled around Europe and Mediterranean.

Leaves three sons, three grandchildren and a grieving husband.

She will be missed.