heroes


Random quote of the day:

“True heroism is minutes, hours, weeks, year upon year of the quiet, precise, judicious exercise of probity and care—with no one there to see or cheer. This is the world. Just you and the job, at your desk.”

—David Foster Wallace, The Pale King

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Random quote of the day:

“A samurai, even when he has not eaten, wields his toothpick like a lord.”

—Japanese proverb

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else. If it had been possible, he would have settled the matter otherwise, and without bloodshed. He doesn’t boast of his own death or of others’. But he doesn’t repent. He suffers and keeps his mouth shut; if anything, others then exploit him, making him a myth, while he, the man worthy of esteem, was only a poor creature who reacted with dignity and courage in an event bigger than he was.”

—Umberto Eco, “Gods of the Underworld: Why Are They Laughing In Those Cages?” Travels in Hyperreality (tr. William Weaver)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins—it never will—but that it doesn’t die.”

—John Steinbeck, letter to Pascal Covici, January 1, 1941

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Desus and Mero, Beyoncé, or the Marine Corps Marching Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“True heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic. It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost, but the urge to serve others at whatever cost.”

—Arthur Ashe, as quoted by the Arthur Ashe Institute, June 2, 2020

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

I do rather sporadic genealogy research, but I’ve been doing it on and off since I was about 13 so I’ve got some lines a long way back. I generally follow one surname back as far as I can, filling in the maternal lines but concentrating on the paternal surname. It’s not that the maternal lines are unimportant. Quite the contrary, but it’s too chaotic to bounce back and forth. Once I’ve reached a dead end on one name, I circle back trace the maternal lines all the way back until they run out. Often, the best you can do is get the bare bones facts of these people’s lives, but every once in a while you come across a more substantial bit of information in the historical records.

Take, for example, a certain captain of militia ancestor of mine, Capt. James Pennock. He was a Vermonter and died at the age of 39 at the Battle of Bemis Heights in Saratoga New York in 1777. He left behind 14 children. I Apparently, he and his wife got started a few years before their marriage, too, if the marriage date I have is correct. That far back, it’s sometimes hard to tell what records are correct.

He’s buried somewhere in the land around Saratoga. That battle didn’t allow for neat rows and marked graves. They just buried them where they could and in something of a panic. And I’m sorry for that, for my ancestor and all those other fallen who deserved more respect.

But I keep thinking about that poor woman trying to raise 14 kids on her own. Maybe she was relieved her husband was gone and not getting her pregnant anymore? I know she waited 27 years to remarry (to a widower), after she was safely past childbearing age. Can’t say as I blame her. She and her new husband were married 7 years until her death in 1811. I hope they were happy, peaceful years for her. I feel an unaccountable tenderness for this strong Vermonter woman. For all those hardy women of the past who bore so much and got so little credit.

As it turns out my “glorious ancestor” who died at Saratoga was a Loyalist fighting with General Burgoyne. At least before going off to die he secreted his family away from their home in Strafford, Vermont (a divided town) to Margaret’s parents in Connecticut so she wouldn’t be harassed by the Committee of Safety and the Sons of Liberty. The family lost everything, their farms that they had painfully eked out of raw wilderness, and some fled to Canada. Heroic Margaret stayed, and made the best life she and her children could have in the new country.

I’ve been musing about history a lot in the last couple of days, of who gets written about and who does not. Often, that’s the men because their deeds are thought of as being more important. Capt. Pennock may have fought on the “wrong” side in the Revolutionary War, part of the brutal retreat of the Colonials from Fort Ticonderoga, pursued and harassed by General Burgoyne’s troops and his allied Indians, written about so memorably in Diana Gabaldon’s An Echo In the Bone.

Burgoyne’s troops fought on until the Colonials turned the tide on them. That’s when James died, on the same day as General Simon Fraser. James and his brother William, it’s said, were killed by the same bullet. He lost another brother that day, but his 18-year-old son survived to go back home to Strafford, VT. And how do I know all this? Because it was written about, of course.

I don’t minimize James’s sacrifice—he fought for what he believed would be best for his family. James deserves to have his story told. But so do those who are left behind, like his wife, Margaret Seeley Pennock. Unless those left behind manage to get themselves scalped or otherwise made victims of war crimes, they are seldom written about. The super heroic feat of picking up the pieces after chaos and destruction and somehow going on with ordinary life are rarely the stuff of history. I know only the bare bones of Margaret’s life, those details of marriage, of (prodigious) births, of death. I want to know how that woman did it, how she wrested a life for her and her 14 children after being left behind in the midst of shambles and privation. That’s most equally a story history should write. And yet it rarely does. Except maybe in the pages of fiction. Because at this point, conjecture and bare bones are all I have for her.

Thank you, Margaret, for prevailing.

Random quote of the day:

“The only way to abolish war is to make peace heroic.”

—James Hinton, Philosophy and Religion, ed. Charlotte Haddon

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Every hero becomes a bore at last.”

—Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Uses of Great Men”

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“The trouble with super heroes is what to do between phone booths.”

—Ken Kesey, quoted by Wavy Gravy, The Telegraph, 6 November 2001

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Laurel and Hardy, Ariana Grande, or the Salvation Army Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

Random quote of the day:

“Heroism consists of hanging on one minute longer.”

—Norwegian proverb

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Lucy and Ethel, Justin Bieber, or the Kardashian Klan. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.

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