Thursday, September 27, 2012
The Preacher’s Corner
You never know when kinfolks may come in handy
When parents and grandparents pass away it is easy to lose touch with the more extended family of their generation—second cousins and the like, so I have been delighted to hear from some folks in that category across generational lines.
Saturday I drove up to Jackson, Tenn., to see the wonderful train museum in the old Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railroad depot. It is owned and operated by the city.
Upon entering, the tour guide on duty asked me to sign the guest book. She seemed interested in my name and wondered if I had relatives in Jackson. I told her that I did in the long ago, and she then asked if any of them had worked for the railroads. When I told her that all my great-uncles on Daddy’s side had been engineers for the Illinois Central, she lit up with pleasure and said she had something to show me.
Sure enough in one of the main display cases was a 40-year-employee’s pass to ride all the passenger trains, as well as a pin acknowledging the long service of my great-uncle Henry H. Winter!
Uncle Henry and Aunt Stella passed away when I was just a baby, but I heard all about them growing up. He and Uncle George Winter were both locomotive engineers on the I.C., and several years ago I donated Uncle George’s long-necked oil can used for oiling the big steam engines to the Casey Jones Museum, also in Jackson.
Uncle George and my grandfather both had gone to school with Casey Jones, and Uncle George’s family knew Mrs. Jones, Casey’s widow who lived on for many years in Jackson
Jane Jones made a sort of cottage industry out of her late lamented husband’s memory. In fact, you could say that, like Elvis, Casey Jones was more famous in death than in life. His home, like Elvis’s is also preserved, and you can see it there, where it has been moved to the grounds of the Casey Jones Museum.
On my Grandmother Winter’s side, three first-cousins once-removed recently turned up, and there is a story to tell here, too.
First of all, only Southerners know about cousins-once-removed, but the distinction is important since in our region the word cousin is a very loosely applied designation of relationship, indicating people who are related to us, or perhaps just people we like. Conversely, Southerners are known to deny kinship with whom very real blood-ties exist, so there are cousins, take ’em or leave ’em, but generally speaking, I am grateful for the few that I have.
My reconnection with the three first-cousins-once-removed I mention came several weeks ago when they phoned from the little museum in the Kentucky town from which our ancestors hail. The one who called, and his wife, had come back for a visit to the old hometown, and to visit his two sisters who live in the area. He and his wife have lived for years in far west Texas, and cousin Sam has spent his career with the Union Pacific Railroad—a great plus as far as I am concerned. They are on my Grandmother Winter’s side of the family.
I knew just who he was, but had not thought of him or his sisters since I was a tiny boy, as his sisters actually lived in my grandparents’ Memphis home when they were going to college and getting started in their careers. Time had passed, and I honestly did not know which set of great-aunts and uncles they belonged to, as small children do not ponder upon these things, and their parents were not about when I saw them.
The subject of the call was to ask if they might have our old family Bible which I had given to the museum they were visiting. I told them I would be thrilled for them to have it, having contributed it to the museum for lack of any relatives on hand to whom to pass it on. I figured the museum would have a stack of old Bibles, but it was kind enough to receive it. My cousins have children to carry on the family name, so I thought all was well, and we promised to keep in touch.
Well, would you believe, the next day I received an angry call, and I do mean angry, from the museum curator? She told me in a very arch tone of voice that no one, and she meant no one had ever “reneged” on a gift to their town’s museum, and that I ought to be ashamed! Well, the more she talked the more I regretted ever having given that Bible away. I figured the museum took the old Bible out of kindness. Nobody in that branch of our family was famous.
I thought for awhile I was going to have to drive to Kentucky to straighten the matter out, but eventually the museum relented. They still have from me an old cane rocker that came across the mountains in a covered wagon, as well as a portrait of my great-grandfather Winter, who was killed in the line of duty as the sheriff in 1888 in true wild-west fashion when Granddaddy was 11-years-old.
But I trust all has worked out well, and I am tickled pink to have some relatives on hand that I had lost track of. You never know when kinfolks may come in handy.
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