Tuesday, May 09, 2017

I Am Green Acres

Originally Published on 6/7/10, 2:02 PM Pacific Daylight Time

The saying goes, you never really know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. My grandfather and other ancestors wore work boots and did most of their walking on a dairy farm.

Ah yes, the old farm, where every day was filled with chores, fresh air, and E-I-E-I-O. Or so I thought. A few years back, I traveled to Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray, Utah to get a “grip” on the “udderly” demanding job of my ancestors—a dairy farmer.

The first myth I busted when I walked onto the farm was that of “fresh air.” “Ripe” would be a more accurate descriptor. And just when you got used to the smell, the wind would change direction and bring a whole new array of scents. I learned from my father that this smell was commonly referred to as “the smell of money” on the old farm.

The second thing I noticed was the noise. My old See ‘n Say toy told me that farm animals made noises. What it didn’t warn me about was how startlingly loud and frightening these animal noises could be.

I took a tour of the old farmhouse, barn, and chicken coup, where I learned about the daily life of the farmer, early mornings, backbreaking labor, and the overall lack of hygiene.

Finally, my tour group was led into a warm brick shack with a cement floor. The floor had a trench about 8-inches deep that ran right through the middle of it.

Suddenly, two large sliding doors opened, letting in the natural light. Silhouetted in the light was a man in a grungy baseball cap. Behind him, being led by a leash, was a lumbering black and white spotted cow. Ripples shook through its plump body with each step that it took.

The man in the cap led the cow to a trough, plopped a tin bucket under the udders, positioned a short stool next to the beast, pointed at me and said, “you first.” I nervously sat onto the stool and was soon face-to-gut with what looked like a fat horse. I started to contemplate about my grandfather and wondered how many times he had taken in a similar view.

After some brief instruction, I reached under the cow and began to milk it. After a few tries I heard a long “ting” sound echo from the tin bucket. I immediately felt a sense of family pride and accomplishment. My pride was validated when the man in the ball cap told me that I was “a natural.” I then heard a gurgling sound coming from one of the cow’s four stomachs, shocking me out of my genealogical moment. The cow lifted its tail and I realized what the trench in the floor was for.

So, in the end, I got to connect with my family history in a physical and emotional way, and although I understand the appeal of life on the farm, I prefer the city life.

On an upcoming episode of The Generations Project, college professor, Andrea, retraces her ancestry back to her Irish homeland. While in Ireland, Andrea visits a period-style potato farm to experience, firsthand, what life would have been like for Andrea’s strong-willed great grandmother.

How well do you think you could perform the labors of your ancestors? Did you take over the family business or did you make your own way in the world? Leave us a comment and let us know.

It's Good to Be the King

Originally Published on 5/6/10, 2:51 PM Pacific Daylight Time

Sometimes when people research their family history they discover that they are descendants of royalty. It makes sense. I mean, if one bloodline were to be preserved over the ages, it would likely be a kingly one. Which raises the question, what would you do if you found out that you had royal ancestry?

First things first—get a crown. Nothing says “king” like a big jewel-encrusted crown made of solid gold. Of course, wearing a crown around town would make me look ridiculous—which is why I’d need a floor-length red cape with white-fur trim to go with it. A scepter would be cool, but I have no idea what I’d use it for other than pointing it at people that I’m addressing:

“You! Fetch me a goblet of root beer.” (As king, I would drink everything from a goblet.)

Finally, I’d commission a sculpture to capture my kingliness in immortal marble.

In all seriousness, what a discovery that would be! To learn that you have ancestors who bore a demanding mantle and who could have shaped the course of a people, a country, or even history. I imagine it would bolster one’s confidence to know that bearing responsibility is in one’s (royal) blood.

In an upcoming episode of The Generations Project, Hawaiian native Boyd tries to find truth in the family myth of his royal lineage. See what he discovers and what it means for him and his family.

What would it mean to you if you discovered you were the descendant of kings, chiefs, etc.? Leave your comments below.

And then bring me a root beer.

What’s Your Name? (Who’s your Daddy?)

Originally posted on 4/23/10, 12:02 PM Pacific Daylight Time:

Almost immediately after something is created or discovered it is given a designation, a title—a name. The only exception to this would be the brooding artist who doesn’t want to name their artwork. (Ironically, their piece ends up being titled “Untitled,” so the joke is on them.)

But nowhere are names more important then when they are assigned to people. Some parents name their children after relatives as a way to honor or continue a legacy. Others choose names based on what has a nice “ring” to it. Then there are those who are named because their number is up. I fall into this third category.

My parents named me Dallas. That’s right, Dallas, as in ‘Texas,” “The Cowboys,” and the popular, prime-time soap from the 1980s. I got my name a few hours after I was born. Up until that time, my parents couldn’t decide on a name. They threw around “Adam” for a while but they weren’t sold on it. While still in the hospital, my mother, in frustration decided to go for a walk. Before she left, she threatened my father to “find a name for this boy or so help me!” My father frantically went through the book of baby names but found nothing. His anxiety grew as he heard footsteps coming down the hall and a shadow creep under the doorway. He knew that behind that door was a tired and hormonal woman ready to pounce. In desperation, he plopped the book down and let the pages fall open. He drew his finger and blindly pointed at the page. “Dallas” is where it landed (It could be worse, he could have landed on “Jeeves.” If so, I would have an entirely different career path).

Despite all the quips that come with a geographical name, I am happy that I have it. It is unique, and having a unique name has its benefits. For one, I have top pick of usernames when I create an email address. Best of all, the pressure is off. I have no namesake to live up to! On the contrary, I have the opportunity to create a namesake and legacy for my descendants. I have a responsibility to live in such a way that my descendants will be forced to consider “Dallas” as a possible option to name their kids (and I get to laugh from the sidelines as my progeny’s classmates learn that “Dallas” spelled backwards is “salad” with an extra “L”).

On an upcoming episode of The Generations Project, middle-school teacher John Searcy embarks on a journey into his family history to discover his namesake and legacy. Watch his episode to see what interesting things he finds out about the power of a name.

And speaking of the power of a name, how does your name influence your life? Or do you subscribe to Juliet’s observation that, "That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet"?