Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Saturday, September 20, 2003


The ancient Greeks believed that as long as someone remembered you, and your name was remembered even through stories, then you were immortal.

Some time ago, I was doing some genealogical research, and found a page devoted to Owen County, Kentucky veterans. I sent my grandmother's information in. She was an army nurse who served in Europe and lost a kidney when a patient who was overwrought kicked her. She died in 1993 of lung cancer, a life-long smoker. Some would say, at 71, she had a long life, considering her service, etc. I say, her parents, who did not smoke, lived into their late eighties/early nineties. If I sometimes seem a little anti-smoking, that's why...I feel like smoking has robbed two of my favourite people of their lives. It's a personal choice...but in this case, a deadly one.

Anyway, NaNa's information is on the page of Owen County, KY: World War II Veterans now, under both her name during service (Broadbent) and her maiden name (Duncan). So...in a way, at least as long as someone keeps those records...she's immortal.

I was also glad to see my uncle Catlett Duncan on the World War I page. But I couldn't find my cousin Cantrill (whom my family took care of before he died). I'm not sure if he was from World War I or World War II (I thought the former). I have his dog tag.

I'm also related to all the Cobbs on the list, descendents of Samuel Cobb, who served in the Revolution. The Tyrus R. Cobb is not the Tyrus R. Cobb who was the baseball player (different death dates), but they were cousins. Cyrus and Tyrus were popular names in the family. Our line mostly had ones like Asa, Ota, and one named after Frances Marion, the Swamp Fox. :) My great-grandfather's father and namesake, Joseph Warren Duncan, is listed on the Civil War for the Union. Owen County was a hotbed of Confederate resistance, with the famous Morgan's Raiders using it as a base. You can tell there are a lot more names on the Confederate side. Another relative, Squire Duncan, is on that roll. There's a family story that says that Mr Duncan (I'm not sure if that was Pa's father or grandfather) had two sons, one joining up for the North, one for the South. He shot the boy going to the south in the leg, so he couldn't join. He wasn't so much against the South as he was wanting them to not to fight on opposite sides. Very practical family. Another branch of the family (I'm not sure which name) apparently spent a lot of that war selling horses to whichever army was going through at the time and then having family steal them back or get them from whatever motley band went by, and resell them again. Even my great-grandfather made it through rented his land out to Revenuers so they could use it as a base to find illegal stills during Prohibition. I suspect that mentality is what got them through the Depression.

One thing about Kentucky...as bad as the Depression was, a lot of folks lived on whatever land their families had scraped by on since winning it in service in the American Revolution, and so they probably fared better than the city folk. Having land to plant vegetables and not much use for a stock market had its uses. Until World War II, everyone in my family tended to live on the land, farming...some big farms, some small. There wasn't a lot of prosperity, but people did pretty well. Families took care of their elderly at home. Not too many people went homeless. Even in Owen County, when I was growing up, sheer stubborness and thrift kept my great-grandparents maintaining a hand-pump in the kitchen and commodes built over slop jars, not because they couldn't afford city water, but they saw no reason for it until my great-grandmother got too frail to carry the jars out. A lot of people still use wood stoves, mostly the older folks, and you hear of fires from that. If a young couple couldn't afford a house yet, the parents set up a trailer on the farm, giving them privacy but keeping family nearby for child care, etc. I remember a trailer fire a few years ago, not in Owen County, where they were working on setting up the electricity for the trailer and in the meantime were using candles. Several children died, and the grandfather was beside himself, since in a day or two they would have had it finished. But generally, that setup works pretty well. There are some who would see that as, well, backwards. I say it makes more sense than piling on debt on a mortgage you can't pay and having to send your kids to day care. Even when I was growing up, although my mother worked and my dad was often away overseas, we specifically came back to be near the family, and I rarely had a non-relative have to care for me. That's just the way things were here...and still are, in some tight-knit communities. There's a lot of good even though it's conservative and backwards, sometimes.

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