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Archive for June, 2010

My paternal ancestor Salome ‘Sally’ Hoy married William Jacob Leicht in Killinger, Pennylvania, the picturesque valley where I was to walk naively past the gravestones that memorialized—for those more attentive than I—the many Hoys whose remains were lovingly interred in that picturesque place. Alas, I was not among them.

I come only lately to the task of remembering.

There were many Salomes, a.k.a. Sallies, in my family. They included my grandmother, who died when I was nine years old. I have only the dimmest memory of her Pennsylvania German baking and cooking and of the way my grandfather lovingly took her hands in his as he and I shared an uncharacteristically private moment before her open casket in Millersburg, the town of which Killinger somehow manages to style itself a remote outpost.

Alas, none of Salome’s children were to be buried with her husband’s name. They became ‘Lights’, leaving behind the Germanic ‘Leicht’ under which they, presumably, were born.

The Leichts were adventurous in more than just this way. They were among the Hoys and hangers-on—the words seems both cruel and appropriate—who moved west.

Born in Killinger’s rolling, fertile environs, the Leichts cum Lights lived out and finished their days nearly four hundred miles west of that cradling valley in a place called Sulphur Springs, Ohio. It lies midway between Columbus and Cleveland and, except for the lack of hills, might have reminded Salome and William of Killinger, whence they came.

By the time the Leichts had accomodated themselves to their new, level, surroundings, their children were trotting off to school and responding to roll call under the family ‘Light’. Germany was a distant memory.

America had not yet been called upon, twice, to save Europe from herself. The migration of a family name must have obeyed more prosaic rhythms. Perhaps Salome’s ‘Dutch’ dialect had no cachet with the young folks. They were American. They were Ohians. Pennslvania, Killinger, David’s Church … these were memories of the old folks.

Something was lost in the exchange. Something was gained. Few noticed either.

It is ever so.

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Sometimes one’s own naivete—or, more precisely, the turtle-like pace of one’s learning—are enough to make teeth ache.

I remember as though it were yesterday the moment in the late 1980s when I realized for the first time the calamitous cost to a society that is incurred when justice is for sale.

My illumination came via a throw-away comment on the part of Dr. John Kessler, a Netherlands-born colleague in Costa Rica, who no doubt did not fully anticipate the ignorance of his conversation partner.

‘When bribes come into play’, John said without a hint of mirth or enjoyment, ‘then only those who can pay get justice. Those who cannot pay are ruled out ahead of time’.

A light came on. On this late afternoon, a hemisphere removed, the Proverb blows oxygen upon the lamp’s feeble flame:

The wicked accept a concealed bribe
to pervert the ways of justice.

Biblical prescription employs an uncanny knack for anticipating dysfunction.

It as though the Tradition’s accumulated voice articulates for all who will listen: ‘You do not yet understand this, but trust me: this leads to that‘.

Wisdom glimpses before time the inexorable path of destruction upon which certain behaviors fix a community. Biblical wisdom does not flinch in calling out the inevitable result.

A bribe is such a small thing. For those who can pay, its convenience is entirely persuasive.

Therein lies the tragedy: For those who can pay …

YHWH, we are told on repeated occasions, hears the groans of those who cannot pay. It is not a good thing to encounter YHWH, bribes paid up, in a dark alley when his little ones have been crushed.

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The most important things happen when nobody is looking. It has ever been so.

Jerry Poling’s winsome and poignant tale of an 18-year-old, skinny-as-a-rail African American boy from Mobile, Alabama making his break into professional baseball in Eau Claire, Wisconsin in 1952 rescues some of those things from the obscurity that persistently enshrouds.

My father was a relief pitcher for the Superior (Wisconsin) Blues that year. He too was breaking into professional ball with a wicked curve ball that by some accounts had the future Hank Aaron stymied. Raymond ‘Cool as a Cucumber’ Baer is not mentioned in Poling’s eminently readable volume. Yet the fact that Dad was on the field during some of the games that Poling narrates provides corroboration of boyhood memories of tales spun that is almost eery in its impact.

Eau Claire, like most of the decent cities that dot the heartland of this nation, was in 1952 capable of racial pettiness as well. Few whites in the industrial core of Wisconsin had met a black man. Aaron, more boy than man, walked uninvited into their lives, struggling to decide whether it was worth all that. But boy could the kid from Mobile hit a baseball. (more…)

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awash in daughters

My ancestor Daniel Hoy waited a long time for his first son. Or at least it seems so, for I am unable to discern whether ‘Valentine’ Hoy (a.k.a. ‘Wall’) was a son or a daughter. Valentine became in July of 1850 the first-born of Daniel and Hanna Werner Hoy as the couple made its their home among the gentle, verdant hills of Lykens Valley, Pennsylvania.

Whatever the gender of the whimsically-named Valentine, it is beyond dispute that Elizabeth thereafter presented to Daniel an impressive run of females.

Some of the couple’s girls, in keeping with the times, were short-lived. For others, Eva Hoy Haelen—the tenacious data-seeker upon whose work I am reliant—could find birthdates but no record of their decease.

Yet the names are there, all of them less gender-ambiguous than that of their older sibling. As these United States of America careened towards an epic and soul-shaping Civil War, along came Louise (1852), then Susanna (1853), then Emma Rebecca (1855), followed by Mary (1857). Mary was still presumably in diapers when she ceded baby-of-the-family status to little sister Hanna (1858), who survived only four years. Hanna was followed by Amanda and then Sarah Jane. All three died just days apart in October and November of 1862, carried off by who knows what hardship as Union troops faced down their Confederate brethren for a second consecutive winter. (more…)

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When I left my beat-up, loyal, and long-suffering Boostaroos on a plane, I seized the opportunity to see if I could match the force-multiplying role they played so well for this long-suffering long-haul traveler and his beloved Sennheiser PXC 450s at a smaller size and weight.

Mission accomplished.

The tiny, Chinese-made FiiO E5 headphone amplifier measurably improves the quality of sound I hear when I play tunes on my iPod or iPhone through the Sennheisers. That’s news enough. What truly astonishes is the minute size and weight of the E5, even when you factor in the handy little clip that sturdies the whole deal by latching it onto a shirt pocket while the airplane meals come and go. Spaghetti sauce never did the old Boostaroos much good whenever they did their slow roll into the pasta end of the pasta-or-fish? conundrum.

The small and long-lasting internal battery is charged via a USB connection, so you can also can the trips to Costco for AAA batteries.

Next up in the Pleasant Surprise Category is another little thing: the price. Twenty clams get this gizmo from Amazon to your door.

I note the opinion voiced my some reviewers that you can do better elsewhere. I suspect they’re right. But for $20 it’s hard to imagine going wrong with the E5.

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Jerusalem must have throbbed with the potentialities of conflict as the city fathers struggled to cope with the relatively unlettered but highly motivated followers of yet another dead messianic pretender.

Put simply and in words easily understandable to those tasked with administering the status quo, these men could not be stopped.

It was not so much that they were assertively dismissive of the authorities. One senses that they were not.

Rather they were so convinced that YHWH had restored the crucified Jesus to life and was even now pulling off similarly unconventional stunts like making a man who hadn’t walked for decades stroll around the city’s streets like you or I would do. The crowds are stirred in the direction of sympathy and enthusiasm. The text has even the religious and civic authorities recognizing that no one can plausibly deny the miracle. (more…)

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Near the end of his legendary life, Israel’s King David stumbles into the folly of subjecting united and victorious Israel to a census.

David’s commander in chief and his counseling prophets immediately sense the outrage of the thing. Alas, it is more clear to them than to us just why this should have been such a bad idea. Likely it represented a lurch in the direction of conventional models of monarchy, with their inflated royal egos, bulging palace pantries, and rapacious demand for enough young women and men to keep them in well-protected luxury even when this denuded farms and villages of needed muscles and fertile home-makers. (more…)

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