Reviews

A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Friday, July 9, 2021

It's 1776. Do You Know Where Your Ancestors Are?


TOF intended to post this for the 4th of July, but the Friday within the octave of the Glorious 4th will have to do.

The World of 1776.

We have previously looked at the worlds of 1920, 1870, and 1820; that is. the Singularity (1870-1920) and the Fuse (1820-1870) that lit it. Technically, we should now look at the world of 1770, but the Revolution is close enough. 

The 1770s were not too much different from the 1820s, except that railroads were not even a glint on the horizon. Frank;in has only recently discovered that lightning and the 'electrical fluid' are the same thing. The Leyden Jar (an early capacitor) was invented only thirty years ago.  But electricity is as yet only a curiosity. For now, the world is powered by wind and solar, and thus is energy-poor, especially for the poor. Messages travel only as fast as a courier on horseback or a schooner. Stagecoaches are the usual means of long distance travel. A few canals have been dug in France, England, and the Germanies, Captain Cook has discovered Australia.six years ago, (The Australians always knew it was there) fourteen-year-old Marie Antoinette has arrived at the French court.and married Louis-Auguste (who will later became King Louis XVI). Rubber has been discovered to remove pencil marks, to the joy of students everywhere. The first partition of Poland has begun. 

Friday, July 2, 2021

The White Family

The Incomparable Marge stemmed from families long-resident on this continent and who participated in most of the American Experience. Her Hammontree ancestors were in Tidewater Virginia by 1723; the Hollands, also in Virginia by 1724. In 1723, the Helms were in Bucks Co, PA prior to moving to North Carolina. The Goss family were in North Carolina by 1755, the Tams in Delaware by 1776. Marlow was born in Kentucky in 1808. Johnny-come-lately Harris, appears in Tennessee by 1819. Margie always got a chuckle out of anti-immigrant agita. As far as she was concerned, they were all immigrants. One of her ancestors had married a Choctaw woman.  

She had ancestors in the colonies; in the Revolution (one collateral ancestor died at Valley Forge, another survived.) They traveled west when 'west' meant the Great Smokey Mountains and rubbed shoulders with Sam Houston and Andy Jackson in Tennessee, They were Southerners who wore blue in the Civil War. They headed farther west in covered wagons, various families touching down at various times in various states: Arkansas, Missouri; Ohio, Indiana; Georgia and Louisiana, converging finally, in the Red River Valley, then Choctaw Nation. Along the way were Confederate terrorists (A collateral ancestor perished in the Great Hanging, when Confederate rangers hanged Union sympathizers in Grayson County, TX), outlaws, sheriffs and posses, and shoot-outs.

And so, we come to the Whites.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Margaret Louise White (1943-2021)

 Margie was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the only child of the late Claude Lee White and Elsie Vera Hammontree. The Whites can be traced back to 1823, in Wake Co, NC, if not to 20,000 BC at the Bering Straits. The Hammontrees can be traced to the late 1600s in the Tidewater country of Virginia. 

Everything you've ever read about the American Experience  happened to her people, from Valley Forge to Horseshoe Bend to Resaca, covered wagons, Indian raids, the Nations, Quantrill's Raiders and other bandit gangs, sheriffs and posses, shoot-outs on Main St (though not the quick-draw face off), and all what have you, 

The Hammontrees did not quite approve of Claude wedding their sister, and the couple had to elope. For one thing, there was a considerable age difference, but also Claude had been married before, to a Bonnie Crawford. (We don't know what happened to her, or if Margie has any half-sibs.)

Elsie died when Margie was six, and Margie was raised by her widowed father, with the help of her grandmother, Ora Vanora Harris Hammontree and a flotilla of aunts, uncles and cousins. 

Margie's childhood home
Her father was a teamster and drove armored cars for a bank delivery service. Sometimes the owner, feeling sympathetic, gave permission for Claude to take Little Margie on his runs, so that the Marge was literally "rolling in dough" in the back of the armored car.

She grew up in a "shotgun shack" near the rail line and recalled riding her trike down to watch the hoboes in the 'Jungle.' This was also the age of 'white only' and 'colored only' signs on water fountains et al., although Indians in OK could use the 'white only' facilities. Nonetheless, Margie grew up having nightmares about the Klan. 

Her father took her hunting and fishing, She was toting a rifle at age 12. In later years, this scandalized her New Jersey/New York co-workers, because she was by then living in urbanized areas. She always liked fishing more than hunting [She didn't like the 'kick' of the rifle.] and learned early on to gut a fish, a useful skill when dealing with management. 

One time, on a picnic, she was menaced by a sidewinder, but her father's friend blew it away with a six shooter. (In case you're wondering why country folk carry guns.) Another time, facing a water moccasin in a rowboat, she levitated into her father's arms. Another time, she was chased by a passel of hogs (yes, passel) and took refuge in a tree. The pigs kept her treed until the farmer, a friend of her father, came and drove them away.

Middle School and the first year of high school were dominated by the 'social clubs,' like the Merry Maids and others. Margie was invited to a few parties by the daughters of oil company executives, but those invitations dried up when they learned her social status. She found herself lumped with two other classmates who, although suitably wealthy, were Jewish. Their common identity was as "the Brains."

Her grandmother had been a Holy Roller. Their meetings, with all their tongue-speaking, scared the be-jabbers out of Little Marge. Other uncles and aunts were variously Presbyterian or Episcopal or Methodist. There seemed no rhyme or reason to it. As far as Margie remembered, her daddy was an atheist.

Then one day, she accompanied a friend to a Catholic Mass and she was awed by the "smells and bells" and the sense of rootedness and tradition. She took lessons and converted, in the process converting also her grandmother. Catholics also spoke in tongues: viz., Latin. Oddly, when her classmates learned she would be going to the Catholic high school the next year, all the snob attitudes changed. She must be something special to be accepted there. 

Sr. M. Philomena, SSM
In the Catholic high school, there were still cliques, but none of them were based on family wealth. Rich kids and poor mingled as jocks, motorheads, etc. This impressed the Marge enough that she finished high school in the convent school and after graduation, joined the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, a  Franciscan order, becoming Sr M Philomena, SSM. Later, when Philomena was demoted, she became Sr M Monica, SSM, the previous Monica having died in the meantime. [The Rule forbade any two sisters anywhere in the world from using the same name.] It was an Austro-Bavarian order and Margie picked up a bit of Southern German, but most of the younger sisters were Caribbean, and a different music informed their voices. This was at a time when the secular world was staunchly segregationist. She learned how to wring a chicken's neck, another useful management skill.

Placed in the mother-house in Milwaukee, she was trained and assigned to elementary school instruction, second and fourth grade in Thiensville, WI. Dealing with children was another skill that would later prove invaluable in management. Later, she was assigned to the hospital in Roswell, NM. No, she didn't see any aliens.

She stayed eight years with the Order but never took permanent vows. She left in 1965 when her temporary vows expired and worked in admissions at Marquette University. The apartment house where she lived was later the residence of Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee Cannibal. It was torn down due to the infamy and no longer exists.

Disapproving of open housing
In 1967, she marched for open housing with Fr Groppi across the 16th St Viaduct, during which she was beset by a mob of thousands of unruly whites. She saw a Jesuit priest kicked and beaten by the whites.

Afterwards, she worked at the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance company. One day, two of her co-workers, Sally Mortenson and D'Arlyn Marks, invited her to dinner at their commune, where, she caught the eye Michael, and the rest is history.

Margie met Mikey at the House
The way it happened was this. Margie took a seat at the High Table directly across from Mike. And she was so intensely pretty and witty that he could not stop looking at her or afterward, thinking about her. She had the prettiest smile on the face of the planet. Yes, it was that old cliche: Love at first sight! The matter was complicated by the fact that both were dating other people at the time.

After a whirlwind courtship, Mike and Margie wed and heighed off the next day for Colorado in the back of a friend's minivan, in which they were constantly threatened by toppling stacks of vinyl records and books. Mike had a graduate assistantship waiting there.

Once in Boulder, CO, ensconced in the Cavalier Apartments, just a couple blocks from the Math department of CU, Margie found a job with an NML agency south of Denver, beginning her lifetime of driving long distances. She loved driving, possibly because her father had been a Teamster. What she hated was traffic jams and would often drive 10 minutes out of her way to avoid a 5 minute delay. She had internalized all the roadmaps long before anyone came up with GPS.

In 1974, 1+1=3, and Sara entered the equation. It was a long, difficult labor that ended in a C-section. They hadn't decided on a name until her gurney was being wheeled past the waiting room and, half-sedated, she gasped out "Sara Margaret."

Late the following year, Dennis was born. There was never any doubt that he would be named for Mike's late brother, so no last minute dramatics. 

Never has a mother mothered so thoroughly. There was nothing they needed that she did not st least attempt to provide. In later years, she would cross the country at anysign of an illness or other need in her children.

Afterwards, she segued into banking at Central Bank of Denver, where she acquired advanced certificates from the American Institute of Banking and for a time became the AIB governor. She wound up at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Denver branch, where she worked in Check Processing (Does anyone remember checks?) and became a computer system analyst, back when "computer" meant mainframe. Along the way, she finished her education at Regis College with a degree in Communications.

In 1976, at an AIB convention in Phoenix, she watched from her hotel room while Clint Eastwood's bus was shot up filming The Gauntlet. In 1978, she took her kids to visit the set for the miniseries Centennial, which was built near Denver. Later, in NYC, she watched them build a faux subway station outside the Federal Reserve Bank for the Bruce Willis flick, Die Hard with a Vengeance.  She loved watching movies, especially indies. It was one of Marge and Mike's favorite joint activities.

When Mike was offered a job in the East, Margie transferred from the Denver branch of the Fed of Kansas City to the main office of the Fed of New York. This meant catching NJTransit at Metuchen or MetroPark, transferring to PATH at Newark, and coming up on the long escalators under the World Trade Center then walking to the Fed. 

She loved New York. Every year, she took her daughter to see the Nutcracker, the Tree, et al. There were trips to the Met, Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, the Museum of Natural History, to restaurants and so on.

The Fed of NY transferred its Check Processing to East Rutherford Operations Center, NJ. Margie planned and conducted Check Processing's move, setting up the rooms, the sorting machines, phone portals, cabling, and so forth. She was known to get on hands and knees under the flooring to check on cable connections.And she had to do this while maintaining check processing operations.

Afterwards Margie mostly worked at EROC, though on some days, she would be expected in the main building in New York. Had she not been assigned to EROC on That Day, she would have been riding up the escalator under the World Trade Center just at the time the first plane hit. As it was, she and her co-workers watched from the EROC as the smoke billowed upward.

Some of her best friends were from her work, among them Julio, who secured tickets to sundry plays, musicals, and operas -- from a revival of Oklahoma! to a modernized version of The Mikado, by way of Carmen.

Mike's job and avocation both provided her with travel opportunities. She accompanied him to Ireland and Scotland, and to Vienna and Budapest. When Mike was tied up conducting a seminar, she took a day-trip to Prague. She toured Italy with her father-in-law and brother-in-law. She also visited various cities within the USA (SFO, LAX, ORD, BWI, DCA, SAT, et al.) often accompanying Mike on a consulting job or to a science fiction con.

The end was swift, gentle, and unexpected. She began to complain about a pain in her hip that gave her trouble walking. The orthopedist suspected arthritis, then bursitis. Then, one day, she could not get up from sitting, it hurt so bad. So, with some reluctance, she let herself be taken to the hospital. [She hated to be a bother to other people.] There, they took an MRI and discovered stage 4 kidney cancer. They placed her in a Skilled Nursing Facility and started a regime of radiation treatments. The doctors envisioned her going home once she had mastered walking and steps. At one point, with a walker, she took 16 steps.

One Monday, Sara took Mike to visit Margie, and she was cheerful, if a bit tired, and they talked for an hour or two. On Tuesday, Mike's cousin [and Margie's good friend] Mariellen went to visit her and found her similarly alert and talkative. On Thursday, the nurses could not wake her.

The SNF summoned the Emergency Squad, but by the time they arrived. Margie was once more awake and conversing with the technicians as they prepped her for transport. Sara and Mike went to sit with her in the Emergency Room, by which time she was asleep once more. When Mike spoke to her, she opened her eyes and they got real big. Then, they closed again. Sean and Danna had come up from Philly and we all went over to the hospital when she was transferred there. 

After a time, Sean drove Mike back to the house to rest. Someone -- Sean, Sara, or granddaughter Noelle -- would come in the morning to bring me back. Mike lay down and, shortly, the phone rang. Mike knew even before he answered what the call was. He had heard the ban sidhe crying before he picked it up. 

Margie's great heart was stilled and the prettiest smile on the planet had faded at last. At least from this material world. She smiles forever in our hearts.

She left was two months shy of her 50th wedding anniversary. It won't be nearly so much fun without her.

Her greatest pleasure lay in making others happy.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Vanishing American

 Land O Lakes once had a likely label on their butter tubs and sticks, It showed a pleasant landscape with an Indian "princess" holding a sample of their product. Keen eyes could make out that the product had the same logo and that, therefore, the image was recurive, ad infinitum, albeit imperceptibly.

This was intolerable to a certain cast of mind, to whom any depiction of Native Americans was repugnant, and so must be expunged. So, the revised logo features the land, only. The Indian has been cleared of the land, again!


 TOF has no objection to pleasant landscapes, only to implicit aversion displayrd toward an ethnic group. He notices that sports franchises are permitted to enshrine Vikings, Buccaneers, Raiders, and sundry other avatars far more threatening and stereotyped than a wee, harmless lassie. But they cannot cheer for and show devotion to an Indian avatar. 

American Indians are not alone in being ethnically cleansed from the public square, of course. TOF gives matters another 15 years before the next generation of Besserwissers begin protesting the absence pf certain groups from advertising logos.



Sunday, May 9, 2021

Happy Mothers' Day, All You Mothers.

In honor of Mothers' Day, TOF will present a parade of Mothers, starting with:


1. The Incomparable Marge, from Tulsa, OK, who is the mother of the TOFsprings, shown here in their cute-and-innocent versions:
Sara, a/k/a Dear in the Headlights
 




Dennis: Wait, What's Going On Here...







 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
2. Elsie Vera Hammontree (1924-1951) of Quinton, Oklahoma 

Elsie and the Marge


From here on, pictures are few. Elsie was the daughter of....

3. Ora Vanora Harris (1901-1967) was born in Chickasaw Nation. She married one of the innumerable John Hammontrees. She mothered The Incomparable Marge after Elsie died young. Ora's mother was...

4. Sadie Frances Holland (1884-1918), who had been born in Louisiana and moved with her parents to Chickasaw Nation in 1898, where the married Charlie Harding Harris. Sadie was the daughter of...

5. Annie Eliza Helms (1861-1939), who had been born in Lee Co., Georgia of North Carolinian parents. She married Henry Thomas Holland in Louisiana, then after his death in the Civil War, moved to Chickasaw Nation.. She was the daughter of...

6. Gatsey Helms (c. 1826 - after 1880) who was born probably in Mecklenburg Co., North Carolina, married Henry Michael Helms there and emigrated to Alabama, then to Georgia.

Further than which, research falters.

TOF, meanwhile, is also the son of a mother; to wit:

1. Rita Marie Singley (1924-1993) a/k/a "The Mut," born in Easton, married Joseph Francis Flynn of P'burg.
Mut, displaying her bona fides as a mother
Her mother was...

2. Helen Myrtle Schwar (1896-1952) a/k/a "Big Mom," born in Nockamixon Twp, Bucks Co, PA, married Harry Francis Singley of Fountain Hill, and moved to Easton.
Big Mom, with her smaller brood: Mut in arms, twins Ralph and Paul below

She was the daughter of....
3. Frances Hungrege (1870-1926) who married Joseph Francis Schwar
Frances: I'll see your five and raise you ten
Big Mom on far right
Born and married in Nockamixon, Bucks Co., she moved to Easton in 1900, She was the daughter of....

4. Magdalena Rieß (1836-1901), born in Niederhausen in the Grand Principality of Baden, emigrated to America in 1852 on the ship Pelican State out of Liverpool for New York City. She settled in the immigrant community in Nockamixon, where she married Conrad Hungege.
Magdalena Riess,
No family shots

She was the daughter of....

5. Franziska Stefan (1799-1856) who lived her whole life in Oberhausen/Niederhausen, Baden [nee Farther Austria]. She was the daughter of...

6. Maria Anna Pflüger (c.1772-1845), whose mother appears to have been 

7. M. A. Schwörer (1729-???) who was the daughter of

8.  Franciska Lang (1710-1771)

At this point, even German record-keeping falters and it may be that some records were lost during the Napoleonic wars. 

This barely touches the mothers of TOF and Marge, who comprise fully half of our ancestry!


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

In the Belly of the Whale: Role Call

 Introducing Detective Chief Inspector Bùxiè deSōuxún

 on the Preview Page

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Sing a Song of Singleys

The Singleys, of whom my mother was a one, came originally from Oberhausen (now part of Rheinhausen) in the Breisgau of Baden. The Breisgau  is the land between the Rhine and the Black Forest, and was formerly part of Farther Austria, i.e., Hapsburg lands far to the west of Austria. When the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved at the end the Napoleonic kerfufffle, the Breisgau was ceded to Baden..

The name Singley has been spelled with a wonderful diversity, both here and in Baden. Among the variants have been Zengley, Zengli, Zängle, Zangl, Zaengle, Zenglin, Sengla, et al.. Die Zange means "pliers," "forceps," or "tongs." The "-li" ending is the southern German take on the standard German diminutive "-lein" e.g. Hans >Hansl.

 

The first Singley of whom we have definite knowledge was 

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Another excerpt

 In the Belly of the Whale.

Introducing the Big Dhik

on the Preview Page (see list in left column)


Monday, January 25, 2021

In the Belly of the Whale: Role Call

 An excerpt from In the Belly of the Whale, a novel-in-progress, can be found on the book and story preview page, linked on the left. It is one of a series of vignettes introducing various characters. These characters may or may not make it into the final draft.

A new excerpt has been posted at the same link.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Ancestor hunting.

Ancestor hunting is not for the faint of heart, and the further back one goes, the scantier the clues that come to hand. Even the Absolute Monarchs of the Enlightenment did not think to keep track of their subjects in as much detail as the modern Scientific State. If they sought you out at all, it was only for tax purposes, in which case the name of the ratepayer and the acreage occupied was sufficient unto. Vital statistics were the provenance of the churches. Compare, for example, the data scraped for the 1790 Census to that of the 1940 Census. 

But as Aristotle recommended, you start with the more certain and better known and proceed toward the less certain and lesser known.

Mary McGovern Cantrel, my grandmother's mother, had parents named as Matthew McGovern and Catherine Dolan on her death certificate, where it was further stated that she was born in Co. Cavan,Ireland, on 6 Aug 1856. . Lewis' Topographical Dictionary states that the "Kingdom of Glan" in Cavan was inhabited by "a primitaive race of McGoverns and Dolans" who intermarried and made moonshine whiskey.The barony of Tullyhaw in which these lands lay was co-extensive with the kingdom of the ancient McGaurans. 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Be Afraid; Be Very Afraid. Please.

"[T]he whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary."
-- H.L.Mencken

 "Never let a crisis go to waste."
-- Saul Alinsky

Psychology Today has told us that "a moral panic is a feeling of fear spread among many people that some evil threatens the well-being of society." It is "the process of arousing social concern over an issue – usually the work of moral entrepreneurs and the mass media." Such a panic does not mean that that there is nothing to worry about. There really were Stalinist agents in the US Government when Joe McCarthy rose to denounce them. (We know this because the fall of the USSR led to many files becoming public -- for a while -- and names were named.) But the panic sets in when people begin to see Russians behind every tapestry or potted plant. It is the panic, rather than a rational caution or skepticism, that leads to overblown responses.

Per Wikipedia, the concept of moral panic was laid out by Stanley Cohen in his book Folk Devils and Moral Panics (Paladin, 1973). He studied public reaction to 1964 clashes in the UK between rival youth groups called “mods” and “rockers”during holiday weekends at beaches in Southern England. From these clashes -- and the media and public response to them -- he developed a social theory of moral panic comprising five sequential stages:

  1. An event, condition, episode or person is defined as a threat to the values, safety and interest of the wider society.
  2. The media then amplifies these apparent threats through inflammatory rhetoric These portrayals appeal to public prejudices, creating villains in need of social control (folk devils) and victims (the moral majority).
  3. The publicity surrounding the threat creates a sense of social anxiety leading to a public outpouring of concern.
  4. Government then responds to the public outcry and frames the alleged threat as being symptomatic of a wider social malaise that must be addressed.
  5. The moral panic and the responses to it transform the regulation of economy and society with the aim of tempering public outrage.

Whoa, What's This?

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