Think on: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” GEORGE SANTAYANA
In mentioning in passing the other day to an acquaintance that history afforded insight into our future, Tumbleweed was reminded how our education system and even many parents have failed to instill interest in our past. Indeed, the past is but prologue, and to ignore it is – as some say – to relive both the good and bad of it. Heaven forbid that we should relive some of history’s darker moments.
Okay, Tumbleweed admits to have minored in history in college. It’s a fascinating subject, and I thoroughly enjoy engaging in discussions about history. Lately, I’ve found myself caught up in Irish history and the history of the U.S. west in the 18th and 19th centuries. The link between the west and Ireland comes from my ancestors who immigrated from County Kildare to Texas in the mid-1800s. Looking back at Irish history, I’m taken with how it forms a sort of microcosm of the sorts of social, economic, religious, and political upheavals that have marked history throughout the ages.
Okay, ancestry. Tumbleweed is getting there. Have you ever dug out your family tree; not simply who is related to whom but how they lived and what they accomplished? Truth be told, I was blessed by several family members actually writing about their experiences. It’s led me to expand upon their stories by writing a couple of historical fiction novels and even used as a basis for straight fiction not to mention poetry. So, my cousin John Hilliard Dunn’s writings about five Irish brothers leaving Ireland and settling in south Texas to build ranches, farms, smithy and grocery shops, railroads, museums, and churches fully enthralls me. Couple that with John “Red John” Dunn’s book about his experience as a Texas Ranger, vigilante, and more. Then, there’s my cousin Mary Maud Dunn Wright (a.k.a. Lilith Lorraine) of sci-fi and poetry fame. Learning about family in the context of dealing with Comanche, Apache, Mexican bandits, outlaws like John Wesley Hardin, yellow fever, War Between the States, and more has been an exhilarating experience.
So, I’m blessed with a Texas family tree of more than 2,200 folks descended from Lawrence “Long Larry” Dunn in County Kildare, Ireland. And so many have great stories, from my great great grandfather Nick Dunn’s ranching to cousin Red John’s exploits eliminating bad guys to John H’s experiences with railroads and helping build the Panama Canal. All the stories aside, finding old photos has been an amazing part of the experience, as you see family facial resemblances over the years. To see that my great grandfather Frank Evans resembles my brother Glen or I resemble my great great grandfather Nick Dunn (except he had red hair). To see a photo of my cousin Red John as the prototypical Texan from cowboy hat to boots to red handlebar mustache, conjures up realistic images of the west of 150 years ago.
Ancestry? It’s part of our personal history. If you haven’t, I encourage you to start digging. Just sayin’.