Daily Archives: May 2, 2010

Meet the family . . .

The purpose of this posting is to continue to record events in my life that my children may have heard about but don’t have many of the details, and to make a matter of record other events of which they have no knowledge—of course it is a given that there are events in my life that I will not discuss. Hey, I’m no different than everyone else—some things are better kept to one’s self, right up to and including the instant that the last breath is exhaled.

I have told my children to never give all of one’s self to another or to anything else, not to work and not to play and perhaps not even to You Know Who—I have told them to always hold something in reserve, something to build on in case everything else collapses. I taught them that if that advice seems like nonsense, disregard the advice—just forget it. And as for giving or not giving your all to You Know Who, I believe that each of us should hold back a bit there also. There will always be time to settle up at the final reckoning.

Come to think of it, I know I gave that advice to one of my daughters, but I’m not sure I rewarded the other two with such sage stuff. Hey, maybe I felt that the one I told was the only one that needed such advice, or perhaps I felt that she was the only one that needed and would heed such advice—oh, well, no matter—I suppose it’s not too late—I can still give that advice to the other two daughters.

How about that such sage stuff I mentioned? I really love alliteration!

One of my three princesses—the second born of my three daughters—the one that lives, loves and works in Virginia—has for many years urged me to submit to a recorded interview that she would conduct and create a digital video recording for her and her two sisters, and I suppose she would insist that it would also to be a record for posterity. Frankly, I can’t imagine why anyone other than my daughters would want such a document. I fact I can’t imagine why they would subject themselves to the torture of seeing me on film—a little bit of me goes a long way!

If I were to make the video and produce 50 copies—one each for my daughters and the additional 47 copies for friends and relatives—I’m sure that most or all of the extra 47 copies would stay on the shelf or wind up in a thrift store. I can count my friends on the fingers of one hand, and most of my relatives are neither in condition nor position to view a DVD. There may be machines and electric receptacles up there—or down there, as the case may be—but I harbor considerable doubt. Besides, I don’t even know 50 people.

My parents and my siblings and all my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family have all departed for greener pastures. At one time I was aware of a gaggle of cousins, likable people of both sexes, but I have no knowledge as to whether even one has survived. Considering the ages of their parents when my cousins were born, the odds are that many, perhaps most, and possibly all have departed, and at least a couple of them departed for warmer climes. My nieces and nephews numbered thirteen at one time. I can account for seven of them, but I have no knowledge of the others as to how many and which ones may be extant.

I begged out of the interview, but I agreed to blog on Word Press in lieu of submitting to a video interview. I began blogging 15 months ago in March of 2009, and as of this date I’ve posted 168 stories, most of which deal with me, my immediate family, my parents and my siblings.

I have only slightly touched on my siblings and their families, and my daughter asked specifically for postings relating to them. My children have only a limited knowledge of my relatives, and according to that busybody in Virginia, all three of them would like to learn more.

This posting is merely an advance notice of my intention to bore—oops, I mean regale—my viewers with stories about my parents, my siblings and other relatives—aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozen. And be warned and beware—I intend to be brutally accurate in my stories—after all, why not? Virtually all—perhaps all—of those I will introduce have already departed this vale of fears and tears for Elysian fields, those fields that in Greek mythology were the final resting place of the souls of the heroic and the virtuous. And as this point, I will state that some of my relatives were heroic and some were virtuous, but very few qualified on both counts, as you will see when I begin posting them.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized


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My namesake—gospel singer or drunken deputy?

My namesake—gospel singer or drunken deputy?

My earliest memories include scenes and events that I can recall beginning at the age of three—that’s three years, not three days or three months. One item that is seared in my memory is why I was given the first name of Hershel—no, it wasn’t Herschel Walker—I would have been pleased to be named after Herschel Walker, but he began life far later than did I, and his name is spelled with a C and mine isn’t—also he  was a much better football player than I was. Click here to read about my prowess on the gridiron and lack thereof.

Note: In addition to the gridiron, that posting also contains some significant facts relating to the San Antonio Spurs NBA team and one of its star players—that alone is worth a visit to the posting.

This posting is the story of my naming, a story I heard numerous times from my mother and one that I have repeated with gusto over the years whenever the occasion arose, and one that I will repeat with the same gusto should the occasion arise in the future. When I was a little bitty feller—actually I’m still a little bitty feller, just a lot older—my mother told me that when I was born, one of the most popular shows on radio was the Hershel Collins Gospel Quartet, a group featured weekly on a Birmingham, Alabama radio station and beamed to local stations all over Alabama and adjoining states.

The broadcasts were live, of course, because tape recording was still in its infancy. I always felt that being named after a well-known radio personality was in some manner highly complimentary. Many of the boy babies born in that period were burdened with biblical names, and I was thankful to be different. I could just as easily have been named Hosea or Habakkuk or Haggai or some similar name—and those are just a few of the biblical names available in the aitches.

Just as an aside, as a youngster I never went by my first name. Everyone knew me as Mike—Mikey to my mother—and in my teen years those in my peer group would sometimes greet me with Hi, Hershel, are you a Hershey bar? Is that with or without nuts? My standard answer was, With nuts—so eat me, eat me! I do not remember anyone that ever asked me that same question twice. Hey, one has a right to defend one’s self, right? Right? Right!

I was to learn that I was not the only baby boy named after the gospel group leader. Many years ago while stationed at Kelley AFB here in San Antonio, Texas, my wife and I were in the base commissary shopping for groceries, and when we checked out I used a personal check to pay our bill. The young woman at the register glanced at my name and told me that her father’s name was also Hershel. I bet her that I could tell her where he was born, and that I could come close to his date of birth, and I said her father was born in Alabama, probably in the early 1930s.

She said I was correct on the state and close to the date, but she felt that I probably knew her father. The truth is that I did not know him. It was pure serendipity—it hasn’t happened since and it’s unlikely that it ever will, but trust me—it happened that time. And now looking ahead to the rest of this posting, I believe that you’ll agree with me that it’s highly unlikely the girl’s father was named after a drunken alcoholic deputy sheriff—please keep that thought in mind as you read on.

I’m the only surviving member of my immediate family—those that have gone on include my mother, father, one brother and five sisters—oh, and one stepfather, an unusual man, one-of-a-kind that my mother married when I was nine and one that loomed large in my preteen and teen years.

Over a period of 29 years the couple were married twice and divorced once. Between the first marriage and the divorce they were separated several times, separations that were initiated by my stepfather. He also initiated the several reunions, and our small family was reunited. The first marriage lasted about sixteen years, the divorce a couple of years, and the second marriage some eleven years until his death in 1970.

Click here for details of his death and my reaction—it’s an interesting story and well worth the visit.

As is my wont, I have digressed from my original reason for this posting, so back to the story of my namesake. Shortly before her death in 2003, my last surviving sibling asked me whether I knew my namesake, and I told her the story my mother told me, the same story that I told my wife, my three daughters and any others over the years that were willing to listen.

When I finished my answer to her question, she immediately refuted my mother’s story and told me that I was named after a small-town deputy sheriff, one that when not engaged in his official deputy sheriff’s duties spent most of his time in one of the town’s jail cells, sleeping off his constant drunken benders. I didn’t ask why he was repeatedly re-elected by the county voters—however, I deduced that his surname may have helped—the county was probably full of Smiths and most of them would have been his relatives—that’s how it was in rural Alabama counties.

I did not challenge her on her version of my naming—my response was a simple Oh, okay, so that’s where the name came from. My sister was very ill and died that same year. I knew her well enough to know how much she loved life and I knew that she was nowhere near ready to leave it. She was very proud of her two sons, their wives and their children, all successful in their lives and didn’t want to leave them.

I believe that she was deeply depressed, and because of that depression she lashed out at me in frustration, perhaps unconsciously—and on second thought, perhaps consciously—seeking to relieve her sadness by projecting some of it on to me. Such projection is one of the defense mechanisms of repression. How’s this for an example of psychoanalysis? Take that, Sigmund Freud!

I understood her depression and frustration, and while in her presence I accepted her revelation, her version of my namesake. However, I do not accept the notion that I was named after a drunken deputy.

Others may believe that, but as for me, I’ll stick to the version told to me by my mother repeatedly over the years—I’m sticking to her contention that I was named after Hershel Collins, the leader of one of the best-known and best-loved gospel quartets of the time.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Posted by on May 2, 2010 in Uncategorized


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