Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bear or Beara

Tom Bear Stutts, or so I was told in my youth.  According to the things I remember Daddy telling me his father was part Indian.  At one point he served as the sheriff in the rural county they lived and farmed cotton in.  He passed away of natural causes and then Daddy had to leave school in the 9th grade to begin to work and help support the 14 children in the family.  Daddy wasn't the oldest, but one of the older ones.  These are the things I was told across the years.  These are the things I grew up thinking were true little tidbits about my long gone grandfather. 
 
It should also be noted, that my father and his family lived next to the Alabama Coushatta Indian Reservation.  I remember several family reunions at the old cemetery when their choir would come in and sing stirring gospel songs under the roof of that old wood frame church.  Once Daddy took me to the Indian Reservation.  We toured like everyone else, except for one strange occurrence; several old Indians greeted Daddy warmly and called him Bill.  Well, Bill is nothing like Clayon so I couldn't understand it.  Daddy just said that was what they called him.
 
I also recall going back to where the old home place had been with my Daddy once.  He took me to visit a very old woman, half blind, named Cordie.  She was so excited when she figured out who we were!  She had been a neighbor and perhaps even some sort of relative.  He showed me the little old falling down house where a man who didn't have legs had lived.  Daddy said that man went everywhere anyone else would go on his hands.  Just swing his torso along. 
 
Now, Daddy never recounted much at all about the war with me.  I know he was infantry.  I know he served in Europe.  He was private first class.  I know he brought back moneyfrom all over.  Had been collecting for years.  He'd occasionally throw out a phrase in German, especially if we were watching an old war movie.  He would say it was really very easy to learn, worked a lot like English.  When the movie about the Battle of the Budge would play on TV, we'd watch.  He'd get rather excited saying how this part was exactly as it was and that part just wasn't real. 
 
I remember jokes over the years about the Stutz Bearcat.  An old make of car.  Daddy said that was the German spelling of Stutts.  Sounded the same as our name, but spelled differently. 
 
Now, many years later Bubba and I drove to attend the funeral of my dear aunt Meryl.  Daddy's sister, R. A., was still alive and there but definitely not herself any more.  Also assorted older cousins of mine.  Among them, Aunt Meryl's son Peanut.  (Another story down through the years was that Meryl's first husband, Peanut's daddy, had been a gangster.  Not a rap star, a real gangster.)  After the services we were walking around the cemetery looking at tombstones and I was sharing with Bubba what I could recall of each person.  My grandmother who always grew lots of roses, had a kitchen full of food, an apron on, and arms out to hug you.  Uncle Peara, who always had plenty of Borden's Dutch Chocolate milk on hand when I'd visit.  Who's wife, Elizabeth, took me downtown one fine day to the drugstore and bought me my Wa Hoo board and marbles.  (I still have it.  Play with the kids on it.)
 
                                
Then we are in front of my grandfather's grave.  Tom Beara Stutts it says on the headstone.  I was starting to tell Bubba the tiny bit I had been told over the years, when Peanut come alongside of us.  I stop and ask him about the spelling.  Daddy had taught me, Bear.  He said, no it was Beara.  A German name.  I asked how much German and how much Indian was he.  Peanut, who has done much family tree work, said he was all German.
 
I was dumbfounded! Flabbergasted! Embarrassed!  My universe rocked.  How could this be?!  Peanuts facts were squewed!!  And we went on to discuss how Daddy loved to tell a tall tale.  But, no, this wasn't conversation from those silly times, this was "tell me something" Daddy talks.  I remember Daddy spelling out the names for Mama and her writing them on paper, storing them in her jewelry box. 
 
I don't know what is what anymore.  Don't know where to begin.  I pushed it back for some time, out of my thoughts.  But here lately it has surfaced again.  I want to know.  To know what to pass on.  But there is hardly anyone alive anymore I can trust to ask.  Peanut had said he'd send me copies of everything he had on the family.  But it never came. 
 
And as bad as I want to know who Tom really was, I want even more to understand why Daddy never once in 16 years mentioned any other alternative.  Did he see things in the war that made him want to distance himself from any link to the Germans?  I know he told me how the infantry walked in front of the tanks spaced so far apart, so if one man got on a land mine, hopefully only one man would be lost....not several in tank.  But he always seemed so well adjusted.  So over it all.    Was he somehow honestly mistaken about his own father?  Or did he just think him being anIndian was more romantic a tale for his daughter?  Did he die before he could straighten it out?  Was our family name ever spelled Stutz?  If so, when did it change and why?  Texas is known for many large German communities.  There should have been no persecution here.  So many questions.  So few answers.
 
Well, one mystery is finally solved from all this;  why I craved sauerkraut and wieners through both my pregnancies, though I almost never touch the stuff any other time.

13 comments:

  1. Things like this can drive you crazy wanting to know or it would me. Very interesting. All I can say is I too have a Wa Hoo board from when my daughters were young. Not as old as yours probably but we loved to play that game. Paula

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  2. Carlene, all of this is so interesting.  Very interesting.  Maybe your Daddy was ashamed of what the German's did and wanted to re-invent himself somehow.  Funny how some of those Indians knew his name, sort of.  I would like to know more about my family history too.  I have some French/Indian in me.  Linda

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  3. Oops Sorry I meant Barbara...  Duh...

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  4. This is very interesting Barbara. I hope you can find out more about him. Helen

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  5. Barbara,
    Genealogy can sometimes throw unexpected findings at you, Barbara. Which can be distinctly unnerving.

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  6. Hey Barbara...we have did the genealogy on both of our families....and it was so interesting what we have found...and like you not many to ask who would know anything...but sure makes for interesting reading LOL...hugs...Ora

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  7. This was very interesting.  I'm pretty sure you could find the answers you're looking for if you're willing to spend some time and maybe some money.  Could you get in touch with the cousin who says he has all the paperwork and get it from him?  If not, you could start a genealogical search of your own or have someone else do it.  You could try putting any names of ancestors, including your grandfather's name, into a search engine and see what comes up.  Lots of times there are other distant relatives out there looking for answers too.  I hope you find out what you need to know.
    Lori

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  8. Barbara- you spin quite a good tale yourself too. I know there are a lot of German descendants in Texas, so maybe there's enough German and Indian in you too- as there are many Native descendants there too.  Whatever you may be- I'm sure it's really interesting!  I love to hear about stories from Michael's Mom about their lives in West Virginia, and his brother has done a lot of searching on the net too.  Michael is part Cherokee, very little- his paternal grandmother was full blood. I'd hold on to your Daddy's stories- they may be true, maybe tales- but either way, you've got special memories.  I do too from growing up- although being adopted at birth- I have no idea what I am.  I think that's why I love to hear family stories so much!  Some day we'll all be a big family and have a reunion with Jesus, so it doesn't bother me as much anymore!  God Bless!!  Carolyn : )

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  9. Now this is something to ponder on as "they" say.
    I have lots of German on my dad's side of the family my madien name is Shcreiber and my grandmothers name was Olga and my grandfather Carl which he changed to Charles when they moved to the city.
    Enjoyed reading this and have missed you.
    Sharon

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  10. Could your uncle possibly have had family who wanted to disassociate from their own Native American heritage, and so they didn't pass on the stories that your dad told? Maybe they were the ones trying to distant themselves from their past.I can see how that is troubling... I'd want to know the truth to, but for now, at least you have the two versions to pass on so that if you never find out the truth, perhaps your children may continue the search after you. I think it is a good thing to pass on family stories and heritage. What an interesting person your dad was. My mother always has told us that her mother was descended from a long ago Indian princess from a region in Canada... could be true. My grandmother had the high cheekbones, she was very short, she was definitely Canadian (spoke with a heavy French accent), and her own mother, as I remember, could not speak English... she spoke Canadian French. I'll bet half the population could boast of some Native American blood. I would like to know more about this as well, but mom doesn't know much more than what I told you, and my memere is long gone from this earth. Thanks for visiting my entry in Nat's journal today! THat was something different for me. I agree, Christmas is all about Jesus, and our waiting in hopeful expectation for his return. Probably why I'm not getting into the tree and the decorations. take care, Barbara. bea

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  11. I pray you will find the answers you are seeking.  It is very important to know if you can find out and I don't blame you for wanting to know more.  Many hugs to you and wishing you a very Merry Christmas!!  
    Lisa  

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  12. Wow this is quite a story. I hope you can find out more so you will know for sure what was what. Maybe you should call Peanut and press for him to send you the papers he said he would send. People get busy and forget to do stuff like that, just remind him.

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  13. I can understand the confusion. There are a lot more Native American/German descendents than people realize. I tend to lean more toward my Native American half than the other. The other half? is German..... and yes it does make up quite a temperment. So I'm half Cherokee and German. I do remember growing up and never hearing much about the German side though. (Hugs) Indigo

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So glad you stopped by! Come 'round any time. ~ Barbara

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