This is my mother’s father. And I can see my resemblance. We both have the slightly gawky long arms and legs. And the crazy leer in the corner of our eyes.
He was half Injun, half Canadian French. His name was Clyde Gearwar, but everyone called him “Jim” because apparently “Clyde” wasn’t enough Indian-sounding. Go figure.
His father was a full-blooded Iroquois Injun who used to go loco on the booze and beat up the whole family and terrorize them his shotgun. One day when Jim was 16 his father was threatening to kill his mother. So Jim shot him in self-defense, seriously wounding him. Jim’s sister helped to smuggle him out of the country to Canada because they knew their father would kill him when he got out of the hospital.
Later Jim returned to New Hampshire and married my mother’s mother (good old Nanna — what a miserable old coot she was) and they had 3 kids. Jim continued the Gearwar tradition of going nuts on the booze and terrorizing the family with his shotgun. Often Nanna would have to lock herself and the kids in one of the bedrooms while Jim was on one of his drunken rampages. Not daring to unlock the door until Jim finally passed out.
The Clyde “Jim” Gearwar story finally came to a spectacular conclusion in 1946 when an irate husband caught him screwing his wife. And shot him dead outside a local bar. The End.
I finally managed to dig up some photos of my crazy, half-Injun grandaddy, Clyde “Jim” Gearwar (who I had never seen) from a distant cousin. (Apparently everyone called him “Jim” because Clyde wasn’t an Indian-enough sounding name.)
The story on Granddaddy Clyde was: he was raised in a little town in the mountains of New Hampshire. And when he was 16 he got into a physical fight with his Daddy — who was a full-blooded Iroquois — and shot and critically wounded him. Clyde claims he was defending his mother. And his dad was well-known around town for going berzerk on the booze, and beating and threatening to kill his entire family. So no charges were ever filed.
But Clyde’s sister helped smuggle him off to Canada, because they knew if they didn’t, his Dad would kill him as soon as he got out of the hospital. Clyde ended up enlisting in the Army during World War I. And eventually made his way back to New Hampshire where he met my mother’s mother, who made the mistake of falling in love with him (apparently Clyde was a bit of a charming rogue). They got married, and it went downhill from there.
Clyde continued the great Gearwar family tradition of going berzerk on the booze and terrorizing his family. He’d rampage through the house with his shotgun threatening to kill the entire family. My mother’s mother would barricade herself and the kids in one of the bedrooms. And they’d hide out in there until Clyde passed out. My mother said one time she had to sneak out the backdoor to escape from one of his rampages, and run a quarter mile all the way to a neighbor’s house in her pajamas in the snow, and she almost froze to death. They had to put her in a hot bath to keep her from getting hypothermia.
But my mother had some good memories of Clyde, too. He was a talented woodsman, and he built a whole bunch of little cabins on their property with his own hands, that they would rent out to tourists and travelers. And my mother would bring his lunch out to him in the woods where he was chopping trees every afternoon, and they’d sit there eating lunch together. And she was fascinated watching how he built the cabins.
When he was 51, Clyde ended up getting shot in the back and killed outside a bar by a jealous husband who Clyde was having an affair with his wife. No charges were filed because in those backwoods New Hampshire towns they figured if you messed with another man’s wife you deserved to get your ass shot up. And it’s weird how Clyde’s life came full cycle.
And it’s weird when I think: If my mother’s mother hadn’t ended up romancing Clyde a 100 years ago, I wouldn’t even be sitting here right now, babbling on my Facebook page and pounding my Olde English. I wonder where I’d be. I guess I wouldn’t be anywhere. I wouldn’t even exist.
And I’m also told, as a 1-8th Injun myself, that I’m eligible to live on the Reservations and run casinos. And I can guilt-trip the other 7-8ths of myself for stealing my native land.
My mother’s father — who was a Native American Indian — used to go berzerk when he drank whiskey. He’d rampage through their house with his shotgun threatening to kill the entire family. My mother’s mother would lock the whole family in the bedroom and they’d be hiding under the bed, listening to him rampaging through the house, smashing things up and cursing and yelling. Finally, he’d pass out. And they could come out of the bedroom.
Then one day he went off into the New Hampshire mountains by himself with his shotgun and blew his brains out.
At least that’s what my mother always used to tell me as a kid.
Then, a couple years ago, I was talking to my Mom about that incident. And my mother said:
“No, that never happened. My father never committed suicide. I never told you that.”
“What happened was, my father was having an affair with another man’s wife. So the guy shot him and killed him. Shot my father in the back outside of a bar. It never went to trial because back then, if you were messing with another man’s wife? They felt you deserved to be shot.”
But that’s what it was always like in my family. Nothing was ever as it seemed. And the officially-told version of all the family stories, usually turned out to be not true.