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Wisdom from Granddad
~ Fox Northstar
As most of you know, this column is homage
to my Granddad. What you
may not know is he was Mom’s dad, and being
matrilineal, I was raised
by Mom’s side. Traditional, eh?
But, it is Pearl Harbor Day, and I cannot help but think of Dad’s
father. We were never close to that side of the family. Yes, Mom
wanted to be a Navy wife, but only so long as Dad’s postings were
“close to home.” Obviously that didn’t last when Dad got posted to
the Pacific North Coast. Oh well…
I guess it’s time to clue in on the “dark side.” Got to love
Algonquin attitudes…Mom said we would look when we were older (if we
cared)…and she never said a word, or expressed her opinion. Thanks,
Mom! Damned good teaching there!
Okay, back to Dad. Mind you, this is our family oral tradition. If
you have heard different, let me know. Balance does count. At any
rate, Dad was indentured off res, and first chance he got, he
enlisted. Back in the day, the military was the only way off res, and
our only “legal” way to become warriors in our elders’ eyes. [Side
bar-glad to see peace officers and first responders included community
Dad was upset, missed the big one. I think he made up for it, he was
a pilot. Not combat, he flew the unarmed recon photo planes. Yep,
shot down twice…Korea and Vietnam, but never POW (unless you count
Mom). Forty-five years he served, and retired (as a Commander, USN)
after teaching in flying school because they would not let him got to
Kuwait, but Kuwait still gave him the medal as he helped defend them.
I’m grateful we reconciled a bit before he crossed. He made sure that
all the medals in the family came my way. What I didn’t know was I
received them from generations of blood before me and that his Dad was
at Pearl Harbor!
This is how the story goes. My grandfather went in the Navy to get off
res, after the War to End All Wars. At some point, his ship was laid
up at Washington Navy Yard. Apparently, one of the yard dogs of
Lenape heritage rented him a room. Oh yeah, and I think you see it
coming….teen age daughter! Sometimes, my own heritage cracks me up!
Grandfather’s way out with honour, yep you see that too. Y’all are
just too easy…
Part of the deal was grandfather would make USN a career. Not sure of
alternative offers, but would really rather not know. Long story
short (OOPS! Too late!) He was at Pearl in 1941. And something was
watching over him, for sure. A Machinists Mate 1st, he sailed in on
the Arizona in October. For reasons yet unknown, the Mystery was
watching over him. Got to go Paul Harvey on you here….Page 2, and now
for the rest of the story.
In college, I interned at the National Archives. With the tricks I
learned there, I looked up Grandfather's military records. Yes, it was
verified. He sailed in on the Arizona, but was transferred to the
Nevada in November, lucky him, eh? When Dad handed his medals down to
me, his fathers were included. Well, wonder of wonders, there was a
Navy Cross included.
Obviously, as Dad had told me his career, I asked him about that. All
he knew was that it was his fathers. A lot of help that. So I dig
deeper in to the attack on Pearl and the Nevada’s part in it. I was
surprised to learn that the only ship to get underway that day was the
Nevada. Grandfather was a Machinists Mate, and one would think he was
in the “hole” helping make that happen, but Navy Crosses are not
awarded for that. Dad said his father never spoke of it, and Dad
pointed out he never knew of it until going through grandfathers
effects. Unfortunately, it is not so easy to find citations in the
Archives, so the mystery remains, but I have a feeling he may have
been topside, and the attack was at the same time as morning muster.
Did he man a deck gun? I can’t help but wonder what he did that was
so heroic to be awarded the Navy Cross….keep in mind the only higher
award is the Medal of Honor.
This gets me back to long standing family tradition of joining the
military off res, as well as attains “warrior” status. I grew up
knowing did it, and later of grandfather’s doing the exact same. Yes,
I chose the Navy partly because Dad did, but didn’t know he did the
same. Inadvertent traditions got to love it!
And yet, it gets even better. The land I live on has been in the
family for centuries, and recognized by the feds! I damned near fell
over when I got the story. Apparently, one of my Mohawk ancestors
sided with the Yanks, and not the Tories. Mind you, I know the land
owns me, and that is sweet, to care for a small that I legal right to
do so. I like to say I have TITLE to it, and I can pass that along.
I am not the first, and my son will step up….he knows its coming…it
has been handed down patrilineal.
Let me digress, and once again the Archives answered questions. After
the Revolution, there was a program for each vet to get a parcel of
land. Oh joy, tax records…and you have to go backwards, I just love
that. While it took some time, I did uncover the “paperwork”
(microfilm) of the grant I tend. Ancestry alone (pre-Anglo) this spot
is a traditional trading ground. Im half Mohawk, half Algonquin
(Abnaki) and I am on a magical place for that alone. The paperwork
shows the grant was awarded in 1805! Centuries, no matter which road
As this doesn’t seem quite long enough, and in the sake of balance,
got to swing to Mom’s side. Went home to Maine after my annual
venturing off to the GWN, later in the season than I like…had to drive
in the first Nor’easter of the season! So much watching the
flatlanders get cocky then lose it, can’t help but enjoy the fools if
no one gets hurt.
Made an effort to reconnect with a few high school friends and
teachers. The more times I go back, the more I make the effort to
reconnect. I know I’m being guided, but it’s so cool! The visit with
the old PE coach caught me off guard. We were nattering, like we had
never lost touch, and out of his mouth essentially was I had an
interesting life, and I should write a book. Hokey smokes,
Bullwinkle! The last few/several(?) years you have listened to me
ramble are its foundation.
THE FUN HAS YET TO BEGIN! Bring on the dancing girls. The holidays
will have passed when you see this. I hope yours went well, be it
Christmas, Solstice, Hanukah, Kwanza or Ramadan (if I’m wrong on that,
apology offered, being respectful).
Oh yeah, its grandkids drive me crazy day….I do have my Scrooge
moments. Don’t we all? It’s a wee thing called balance…