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.