h(is)tory

Pirates to farmers, rebels and half breeds (or fractionals).

The wild. The crazy. The brave. The stupid. The lazy.

Shipbuilders and ranchers. Farmers and cowboys.

Huguenots and other refugees from ‘the man’ .

Names changed to hide faith, to change it

from being ‘foreign’ to more ‘English’.

Some stories kept, and held large.

Others more legend, myth. Whispers and old photos.

 

Ancestry.com is a waste of time when your name started here.

When no one kept records of babies born in farm houses.

When mama’s birthed and worked the same day.

Men kept their faith secret. Their color a red/black lie.

Family photos tucked away, hiding secrets or telling tales?

Circus family or royalty – does it matter? Aren’t they the same?

 

Rum runner, pirate. Shipbuilder. Hero of a ship wreck.

Mongol raider DNA mixing in hidden Jewish blood.

A Russian and a Ukrainian – don’t mix them up!

Irish and Scots. A drop of dreaded English. Creole.

Cree. Kootenay. German. Maybe? French. Ugh.

 

Our history is what we survived to get here. And our story.

He asks – wide eyed to know – are our ancestors cool?

Were they brave? Crazy? Wild? Were they ‘steady’ and true?

Big faith, or small? Did they love their children like you love me?

We tell stories of elders and Residential schools.

We learn words. We share a pride in that big bad blend

that makes us unique. Our history has parts

unwritten and long forgotten.

 

And yet in some place our DNA remembers,

it holds those things sacred that were remembered

down past blood and bone. Into the spirit, the soul –

we remember in a glance a storm across the steppes.

Or a frozen winter tree snapping.

The howl of rage against the storm and rocks, a quiet prayer.

 

In faith we carry part of them forward.

Those brave souls who ‘kept on keeping on’

across ocean, mountain, prairie and steppe.

Through war, hatred, and all the beautiful

and ugly of humankind.

Hands that felt rough equine manes in Asia, Europe and North America.

Feet that felt sand and beaches, rocks and salty wave on many shores.

Hearts that beat, bled and died in every land they chose to love.

A heavenly reunion awaits when we get to hear their tales first hand.

Of ships lost, crops grown, horses rode and loves held deep.

Of faith. Of being faithful. Faith-filled too.

Heroes of the ordinary kind.

Those who said they wouldn’t live to kneel to the ground,

but would die standing. The kind who shook their fist at stormy

skies and naysayers equally. And turned to walk away.

To somewhere new. Somewhere brave.

So many left it all behind and chose to go.

Few treasures or heirlooms. Mostly stories.

Faded dreams and vivid passion. Flaring across time.

I see their faces, faded in photos old, and wonder

about them in color. Alive. Living. Vibrant.

Colorizing our black and white history.

We imagine them from the future,

and wonder if they thought of us?

 

History is often kept by those who feel the bearers of it have value to the future. So many of my ancestors came here and had their names changed to remove the connection to homeland or religion.  So many have no listing on Ancestry or any other site. Family histories are hard to piece together, and yet sometimes we find a treasure. An old stitchery lesson, a diary or a photo ‘no one talks about’ and we see glimpses of an epic worthy history.  Come over to dVerse and see how others are poetically tackling their own history!

Birth of a legend

They say men won the west, they may have but women kept the heart beat alive!

Kokum teaches us that the man is the head but no head lives long without a heart.

A lady of the west she was! Unknown to most, but to us she was magical!

She Who Rides Alone was always brave. Her courage honoured her family.

Side saddle breaking colts! Can you imagine it son? Never saw her astride.

Her wagons always held such good food for her people. A spirit of sharing.

Bucked the pins outta her hair they say, but she didn’t lose her seat! No sir.

She was tall and straight, like a young pine. Her smile like later winter sun.

Jumped fences on that mule! Drove a painted team. Drove field draft too.

Our People kept her ways clear. The Kainai thought us unwise, cowardly.

No drover could meet her courage hauling her wagon loads home.

The Kainai stopped her one day, wanted to take her food. Her horses.

Where’s Nell? Gone to town. Alone? Nah she has the horses with her.

They tell of her grey eyes, like first frost of fall, and then the fire spoke.

It was a befuddlement to them all why she never had no trouble. Ha!

Her skirts they thought hid treasure to take. A woman weak. No warrior.

Like Annie Oakely! Calamity Jane! True grit she showed them injuns.

She did not stop or slow her wagon. Her horses walked like the great ice.

Where she got that gun, Albert he never said to me. He just smiled so sly.

Her voice was soft but strong. A wide willow branch. One word. NO.

They tell it, them who heard it later, that she kept on driving through ’em.

And in her hand the fire spoke, the men’s gun alive in a woman’s hand.

They never seen something like that. That gal Nell held her own for sure.

One shot. One word. She went on. No man fell. No horse fell. Their spirits fell.

We heard the shot, who didn’t? By the time we came a running it was long done.

Their insides became weak like tea water. They never came back here again.

She didn’t say much. Just that she runned ’em off with Jesus and Samuel Colt.

 

 

Brian has us playing with story telling and tall tales. This one is the same story told by two tellers to two audiences. One a cowboy relating the tale around the chuck fire and the other by an Elder of the Cree nation to their young people.  The awe of a young white man met by the respect of a Cree elder. The woman, and the story, are mostly true. Embellished a bit from stories told to me about the mother of my Great Grandmother who came to Canada in a covered wagon and farmed, broke horses and tended her family with grace, courage and love. She was a tall Scots woman, grey eyed and likely to outward appearances quite stern. But she rode horses with abandon, and faced life head on with courage so I suspect there was a spirit there that had a wry sense of humor as well.  The Cree and Kainai (Blackfoot) fought often along their borderlands, with their last great battle being a rout on the home turf of the Blackfood by the raiding Cree. The Canadian West has some rich history, no?

 

Check out the rest of the poets at dVerse!