Monday, October 27, 2008

What I'm Made Of: Part 1

Since I've moved to NYC I've gotten plenty of ribbing from friends and loved ones about being a city-slicker. To snuff those claims once and for all, I'm going to give everyone in reading distance a little history lesson about old Sethro. I always hesitate about telling my history because its a whole lot about me. But I believe for a man to know himself more fully, he should know where the blood that runs through his veins comes from. A man is made up of his environment, family history -good or bad- and how he lets those things shape him. And to adequately defend my position as a southerner at heart, a little family history is in order, if you please. Ahem.

I'm not going to go through the whole family tree, though interesting to me, I fear it would be the longest blog ever. (Even though I split this up into two parts as-is.) So, I'll present the highlights.

A Brief History of Seth, by yours truly...

The Blood

The Irish aren't called lucky for nothing. My great great great grandfather on my dad's mom side came to this country on a boat from Ireland. The boat, as many did back in those days, swiped an iceberg on its way and sunk, killing 95% of its passengers. My grandpa Morgan floated for a day and a half in the cold Atlantic waters on some debris until he was rescued and taken to the Homeland. My great great grandfather on my Dad's side, from whom I've inherited my last name and my middle name Dee, was also of German-Irish descent and was in the Oklahoma land rush. He was one of the original Sooners and claimed a big chunck of land when Oklahoma was just Indian territory and the President opened it up to settlers. On my mom side, my great great great grandfather was a Cherokee Indian Chief. Mixed in there on her side, in a low percentage, is German, English and even some Scottish. But as far as blood, I'm mostly Irish immigrant and Cherokee Indian. I've even got an Indian blood-card to prove it.

An Okie

I was born in Claremore Oklahoma and spent my younger years nestled in the Keetonville hills, thirty miles west of Claremore. (Garth Brooks lives around there now, very pretty country.) Claremore is the birthplace of Will Rogers and I grew up hearing that name about every other day, since my Grandfather met him and Will was a staple of Oklahoma culture. Now before you go criticizing the Okies you should know a few of the people that Oklahoma has produced: Garth Brooks, Paul Harvey, Woodie Guthrie, Vince Gill, Reba McEntire, Johnny Bench and Brad Pitt, (who also lived the other half his life in Springfield Mo, and went to the same high school I went to when I lived 9 years in Springfield.) to name a few of the top of my noggin. Oklahoma is rich in culture, and good people. It holds a unique culture that not many states have and it has produced some of our finest, brightest and most memorable Americans. It took a brave soul to stake a claim in the Land Rush. (See move Far and Away.)

My grandfather Earl Dee Ward, grandson of the Sooner, was a Rancher and a country music singer and owned a Dallas-esque ranch by a big lake in Oklahoma, and many of my earliest memories are of going to that ranch. On my mom's side, my Grandfather Mallory owned a farm in the rolling hills just east of Tulsa. I learned to schuck corn and fish from that Grandfather and on that side of the family, one could only describe it as a clan. My mom had 9 brothers and sisters, (all valedictorians... what the heck? How'd I end-up with a highchool C average???) and they all had at least 4 kids. The are probably the most hilarious people I've ever met. Even though a few of my uncles are missing several fingers, (which made it easier to pinch large chunks of flesh) their striking wit is still intact and the love of family is paramount. Salt of the earth people.

From age 1-10 I lived in the deep, deep, deep Oklahoma country. I fished everyday, and spent the rest of my time shooting a gun, throwing rocks at hornets nests, and hitting wood-bees with tennis rackets, if I wasn't shooting them... and then all that other country stuff country boys do. Because of my early gun years, I became a dead-eye shot with a rifle and at a Boy Scout rifle contest they almost disqualified me because each shot was a bulls eye. (I had five shots and they could only see one hole.) To this day, if you give me a twelve gauge and fire skeet in the air, I will hit 99 percent of them. That sounds like a bit of bragging, but I ain't lying, people. By age 10, I really could shoot a wood-bee out of the sky. Consequently, I suck with a pistol. Couldn't hit a coke bottle four feet in front of me.

A move to the city.

When I was 10, my dad moved his family to Louisville Kentucky to go to Seminary. These were the faith-building years. I witnessed, first hand, day to day, God providing for us when we had no money and a lot of faith. Things like... my dad not having enough money for gas to Seminary and him walking out to the mailbox to find money in an envelope from some friend he hadn't spoken to in years. It was also the first time I had ever seen a black man. I got off the Uhaul in the middle of that city and went straight to the first black man I saw and started doing the moon walk. My dad came around the corner and laughed as he nervously tried in vain to get me to stop break-dancing. All four black men were clapping and told my dad to let me keep going, "Hey, man, he's just doing his thing." My dad still tells that story.

From the City to Corn.

From there, we briefly moved to the corn fields of Indiana. Indiana was like the Oklahoma in many unexpected ways, but rougher than Oklahoma, if it was possible. It was a rough, rough school. I learned how to fight there. Getting beat up daily does that to you. I also learned that women can also chew skoal. I smoked my first cigarette (unfortunately, sorry mom) there and de-tasseled my first corn-stalk. However, I made a lot of good friends there, even though I was labeled "a southerner," or "hick" to some.

Most importantly, I fell in love with the stars in Indiana. It is a little known fact that Indiana has some of the best starry night skies. Many a night was spent under those stars reading my dad's copy of Carl Sagan's Cosmos by flashlight.

Up next: Into the Deep South...


Stephen said...

Fun read, Seth. Look forward to reading the second part.

Susanne said...

How interesting! Can't wait to read part 2...