Category Archives: Hardy Family

Ughy — My Ur Dog

Dad with me, Peter and Ughy.

Dad with me, Peter and Ughy.

My father courted my mother with puppies.  The first was a mixed breed called Pot, who was summarily run over. The second was a black cocker spaniel  named Ughy.  Ughy arrived on the scene four years before I was born, at a time when Mom and Dad were both married to other people, but clearly gearing up to bolt – you don’t give just anybody a puppy, not in my family. And Dad gave Mom two.

My mother’s childhood dog  was Poochie, a terrier who spent his dogs days asleep in the sunny middle of the street in front of their house in Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Unlike Pot, Poochie died in the fullness of time and of natural causes — for the dozen or so years he was on this Earth cars just edged around him.  If this seems extraordinary, consider this: my grandmother never learned how to back up a car.   She didn’t need to.  She only went two places — her beauty salon and  the grocery store — and both her hairdresser and the boy who bagged her groceries were more than happy to turn the car around for her so that she could drive herself back home.  That’s the kind of town Stillwater, Oklahoma was — women could drive cars in one direction and dogs could sleep undisturbed in the middle of its streets.  Of course, if you were a black man and dusk was approaching, you would have been wise not to count on the same degree of insouciance.   We’re talking Oklahoma here and some things don’t  change.

People assign names to dogs; their dog names emerge with time.  Thus Bill’s Fancy became Mary Frances; Luv (allegedly Danish for Lion) became Lovey;  Tennessee’s Waltz became Tenney, which also happened to be the name of the circle we lived on. Ughy’s given name was, improbably,  Lord Ogilthorpe, thence Oggie, thence Ughy, a.k.a, Boodle Dog.  My Grandfather Zant always called him, “Black Dog.”  “Hi, Black Dog,” he would say.  “Come here, Black Dog.” Ughy adored Grandaddy, perhaps because Grandaddy recognized his true essence.  He was, after all, a black dog.

Ughy watching over my bassinet . . . or was he?

Ughy watching over my bassinet . . . or was he?

My mother told the story of how Ughy would drop his toys into my bassinet. She maintained that this indicated a desire on his part to share his toys with me.  I think it’s more likely that he was actually trying to take me out from the air. Then again, he used to bring Mom mice that he had killed and how can that be interpreted other than as an act of largesse?  In his seventeen years, Ughy only bit me once and that was because I stuck my face in his food dish.  I would do the same to anybody who stuck their face in my food dish.  Consider that fair warning.

Growing up, I was convinced that Ughy could talk; I figured he was just holding out.  On weekends, my father would take me and Ughy along on various errands and, while he was in the Hostess Outlet Store or at the roadside corn stand, I would edge closer to Ughy and whisper in his silky ear, “It’s all right.  He’s gone.  You can talk now.”  That’s when parents left kids in the car and no one thought a thing of it.

Golden Retriever with false teeth.  You get the idea.

Golden Retriever with party teeth. You get the idea.

Ughy had two tricks.  He could sit up on his hind legs for hours  while wearing one of my Dad’s white t-shirts, and he would happily circulate amongst party guests, gag teeth clamped  between his jaws, for so long as people applauded. He taught himself those tricks in his spare time, which was copious.

Ughy buried bones in the carpet.  He would dig and dig and dig, creating no hole whatsoever, then deposit the bone in the no hole  he had dug.  There it would remain until someone glanced over at it, at which point he would promptly dig it up from the no hole and bury it in plain sight somewhere else.  Once a kid on our block dared to call Ughy fat and I beat him up.  He was the only person I have ever beaten up and I never felt a shred of guilt about it. Call my dog fat: you’ve crossed a red line.

Ughy was my first dog –  the original dog; the archetypal dog; the Ur dog.The worst thing I could imagine, apart from the death of my mother or father, was Ughy’s demise.  I would lie in bed at night and try and imagine what a world without Ughy would be like.  But then I’d have to stop myself; his loss was too painful even to contemplate.

The last year of his long life, blinded by milky cataracts and wracked by cancer, Ughy was falling apart the way old dogs do: at the seams. During that sad period Dad carried him tenderly up and down the stairs as required.  My husband and I can relate. For the better part of three years we hefted our aged and enormous Golden Retriever up and downstairs, hoisting him into cars and airlifting him onto beds. Recently a fit-enough looking neighbour  told us he had been forced to put his Springer Spaniel down because she could no longer climb stairs.  As soon as he was out of earshot, my husband and I looked at one another, aghast.    “He couldn’t carry a Springer Spaniel up and down stairs?” we asked.

Ughy contemplates his Christmas stocking

Ughy contemplates his Christmas stocking

Every night Dad fed Ughy his green cancer pain pills, stroking  his throat to make him swallow, as he sang:

“Green pills, they taste so good/

when doggies eat them like they should./

Green pills, they taste so nice./

They taste like they’re made out of sugar and spice.”

He sang this to the tune of Green Sleeves.

Then one day it happened — Ughy was gone.  A chasm opened up in the earth and in we fell, only to struggle out, not twenty-four hours later, with the parti-coloured ball of fur and bad news who would become Crocapuppy – the infamous Frances of the Socks.  If Ughy was a true gentleman — and he was — Frances was bitch incarnate.  Life goes on and new dogs come on stream — one after another. And then they die, and you feel like you’re going to die, and then you don’t.

. . .

And then you do.

A sense of foreboding

The Last Resort

The Last Resort

The day I helped move my then 78 year old mother and 82 year old father into The Cedars of Chapel Hill (or, as my father calls it, ‘The Last Resort’), Mother advanced grimly into the elevator brandishing a large kitchen knife  capable of wreaking considerable mayhem on vegetables and meat alike.  It was, as she was careful to point out, extremely sharp. I’m not sure why she felt she had to personally convey it to her new home.  Maybe she didn’t trust the moving company to pack it correctly.  Maybe she wanted an assurance she’d be able to make a break for it.

The facility was new and all around us milled future neighbours, also moving in, although not, it would appear, so heavily armed as my mother.  These were not the young old you see in ads for golf resorts or Grey Power. These were the old old, the target market for walk-in tubs, stair lifts and catheters – people wasting away, all right, but definitely not in Margaritaville. Not anymore.   We were joined on the elevator by an elderly man with a black eye.  We eyed the eye.  He eyed the knife. No one spoke.  “What happened to him?” my mother asked, when we were safely off the elevator.   Then she shook her head. “They’re all so old!”

I did not personally feel old until we moved into this house three years ago.  In part that was because my husband and I stayed in our “starter home” for almost twenty years.   In that house’s mirrors I looked more or less the age I had been when we moved in; this house’s mirrors told a different tale.   “Hello!” they said.  “You’re sixty years old!  What’d you mean, you hadn’t noticed?”

This realization was corroborated by the fact that people I knew started to die. People my age.   It began with a passing acquaintance from junior high. He started to leak Tea Party sentiments onto Facebook. Deciding he was off The Team, I swooped in to defriend him, only to encounter the following posting:

“Hello, Dad’s Facebook Friends, this is Jennifer, Danny’s daughter.  Dad died suddenly last night and I don’t know how I’m going to make it through the next few days.  He was my best friend and I already miss him SOOOOOO MUCH!!!”

If I were a religious person, I might have felt guilty, as though I were in some obscure way responsible for Danny’s demise.  Or perhaps  I would have felt all powerful, as if all I needed to do was think about defriending somebody, and poof!   Or maybe I would have felt vindicated, as in, “God clearly agrees with me that Danny was a horse’s ass and so He offed him!”

But I am not religious, so the whole incident just creeped me out.    I did end up defriending Danny.  It’s the only way to exorcise ghosts on Facebook.   However, his death turned out not to be an isolated case. He was followed in short order by another, dearer friend and then another.  Then a friend our junior by more than a decade had the temerity to die!  Thanks a lot, guy! (You know who you are.)

Both my husband and I began to feel what we describe as “a sense of foreboding.”  We wake in the morning and lie there for a few minutes, deep in dogs and feeling the foreboding settle on us life a suffocating blanket, a miasmal fog.  Am I going to die today?  I wonder.  Is he going to die? Will it be a heart attack?  Maybe an aneurism?  Will my upcoming physical result in a fatal diagnosis?  What about a car crash that leaves one of us paralyzed?  When will we be forced to leave this house that we love? How many years do we have left?  Is it years or is it months?

After my parents moved into the Cedars, the man on the elevator became my parents’ good friend.  Sam owned Kentucky racehorses and was married to a lively Holocaust survivor.  One day I was sitting on my parents’ balcony, looking out over the gardens when I saw Sam collapse in the roadway.  I jumped up in alarm and called out to my mother, “Sam’s fallen!”  White uniformed staff materialized as if by magic from behind the bushes and collected Sam, helping him to his feet and brushing him off.  Unfazed, my mother glanced down at the unfolding scene.   “He falls a lot,” she said.

Which explains the black eye.

Dad and his dog Poppet

Dad and his dog Poppet

Sam is gone now and so is Mom.  Then there’s my Dad,  ninety two this March, waiting out his days in Death’s antechamber like an old dog in the sun, biding the time that remains to him with remarkable equanimity and grace.  I sometimes try and imagine what his sense of foreboding must be, how it must feel to be him, to wake up every morning to find oneself, against all odds, alive.  I bet it trumps ours.

Grounded!

Pilot Mountain in North Carolina

Pilot Mountain in North Carolina

I have a hallux abducto valgus deformity – in laymen’s terms, a bunion, and, no, it’s not because I wore pointy-toed shoes when I was young and am now reaping the utterly predictable and deserved whirlwind of my overweening vanity.    Bad feet run in my family. My father gave me many wonderful gifts; his feet were not among them.  The deformation happened overnight. Literally. One night, my right big toe seized with a spasm registering around a 9.5 on the Richter scale of toe woes and the next morning I woke up with a bony protuberance reminiscent of Pilot Mountain hanging off the left side of my right foot.  We refer to it as ‘my knob.’

My father has a bunion on both feet set off by a matching pair of hammer toes.  His feet are square, as in ‘Bob Square Pants’ square.  When describing them to me, my brother Mike said, “They are like two boxes.”  Dad also has toenail fungus.  It happens; he’s 92. Once one of the girls dropped an earring back on the floor and it rolled under my father’s feet.  I had to retrieve it.  Not a task for the faint of heart.

My mother had foot woes too.  Towards the end of her life, she could only wear Birkenstocks, thereby proving those Republicans who characterize Democrats as latte-sipping, Birkenstock wearing, Volvo driving elitists right in two out of three respects.  She never cared much for lattes.

Ken and me at the 2003 CanAm DanceSport Competition -- Best Newcomer Couple

Ken and me at the 2003 CanAm DanceSport Competition — Best Newcomer Couple

My husband and I were ballroom dancers back in the day.  In fact, in 2003 we won Best Newcomer Couple at the CanAm DanceSport Competition in Toronto.  Then my knob reared its ugly head.  As it turns out, it’s hard to dance in orthopedic shoes.   Not to mention the fact that it wreaks havoc with your balance.  Someone once said of Fred Astaire, “Sure he was great, but don’t forget Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards…and in high heels!”  But did she do it backwards, in high heels, with a bunion?  I think not.  We stopped dancing and, generally speaking, I’m fine with it, just so long as I don’t have to watch dance competitions or dance shows on TV.  Those leave me vaguely melancholy and embittered; I want to curse my knob and that is no good.  For better or worse, my hallux abducto valgus deformity is a part of me. You can only stay mad at your own feet for so long.

What my foot looked like

What my foot looked like

My toenails have issues too, though not of the fungal variety.  When I was at University, I ripped the entire nail off on my right big toe by pulling a door that read, “Push.”  I don’t take direction well.    I was exiting my doctor’s office at the time, so medical assistance was onsite.  I exited the diabolical door a second time with a very large bandage encompassing my entire foot.  The next day I tried out for a part in the chorus of the Music Department’s annual musical, Fiddler on the Roof, wearing a pair of hot pants and sporting my wholly swaddled foot.  As I have never been able to sing, I was relying entirely on my dancing chops.  This was perhaps an overreach. I didn’t get a call back.

Ever since my encounter with the doctor’s door and at intervals of every couple of years the toenail on my right big toe turns a ghastly bluish black and starts to lift from the nail bed.  It lingers there for upwards of a month, horrifying pedicurists and spa visitors alike.  Then it falls off, leaving a perfectly normal nail in its place.  I’m not sure why this happens.  Perhaps my right toe is where all the toxins in my body pool and my toenail bed is the portal through which they drain; perhaps it acts as  Hell Mouth for my personal demons.

Not to be outdone, my left big toe has recently taken to spontaneous bruising — like spontaneous combustion only with blood. It does this for no apparent reason.  I’m just standing there doing nothing whatsoever and suddenly I feel a twinge, look down and it’s  black and blue.  Now and then the stars align and I get both a black right toenail and a black left toe simultaneously.  This happened to coincide with my last physical.  I’m sitting there on the edge of an examination table, draped in something made out of paper towels, staring at my feet and thinking, “WTF?”

Our dancing career having foundered on the rock of my knob, my husband and I joined Tru Hot Yoga in St. Thomas, Ontario. It’s a good thing yoga is not competitive because, as matters stand, I can’t.  At least not on one foot.   The arthritis in my right toe has given rise to peripheral neuropathy, a fancy way of saying that my right foot feels like a bean bag filled with pins and needles. As for my mutinous left foot, while it has yet to sprout its own bunion, it’s clearly got one in the oven, and, by way of preparing me for that eventuality, refuses let me balance on it either.

So not only no dancer, no dancer’s pose.    I’m well and truly grounded.  By my feet. My father’s feet.

My parents: Captain Star and Vampirina

Mom and Peter and me.  Our matching dresses are red.

Mom and Peter and me. Our matching dresses are red.

I am the child of celebrities. Going back to the fifties, when my father played Captain Star on a local children’s television show and my mother, a.k.a., Vampirina, rose out of a coffin to host late night horror movies.  To get to the gig, off she would scuttle off in the dead of night just as Dad was coming home from rehearsals; they would pass like ships in the night. He was teaching Drama at Texas Western at the time and she was gnawing on her knuckles as a largely stay-at-home Mom in a new subdivision of tract housing separated on one side from El Paso by ten miles of cactus strewn, rattlesnake riddled dessert and, on the other, from Mexico by the same.

One day she heard  breaking news from the local radio station that a mysterious space ship had landed on the highway separating El Paso from our subdivision and that the army had been sent out to investigate.  Mother, being Mother, kicked into survival mode. She filled a thermos with water, stuffed a bag with sandwiches and  tied Peter, me and Ughy to her waist with ropes; she was ready to set out across the dessert towards Mexico with two toddlers and a cocker spaniel in tow.   Then she tuned back in to get an update and found . . . nada.  Back to regular programming.  Never a mention.  Never an explanation.   A complete news blackout.   Fort Bliss, a major Cold War military center, was close by; possibly the alleged “space ship” had been a top secret test gone awry.  The weird thing was . . . Mom was apparently the only person who ever heard this story.  No one else has ever corroborated it. Yet she swore all her life that it was true and I believe her.  Mom didn’t lie; she did, however, exaggerate for effect.

Demographics ensured that my brother Peter and I, being somewhere between two and five years old at the time, were far more impressed by Dad as Spaceman, than by Mom as Living Dead.  Captain Star was typical of the kind of locally produced kids’ programming of the time –  hosted by a colorful host with an exotic persona such as cowboy, jungle explorer or, in Dad’s case, spaceman, whose job it was to DJ cartoons and, in the breaks, engage with a live studio audience of adorable kids, who, as Art Linkletter was fond of pointing, “say the darnedest things!” Case in point, my brother, who, when allowed to participate in the studio audience, blew Dad’s cover by replying to the question, “And who are you, Little Boy?” with, “You know who I am!  You’re my Daddy!”  Apparently, Spacemen, like monks, were not supposed to have children.  Peter was banned from the set.

I, being older, and a far more accomplished liar, adroitly handled the subterfuge, as a result of which I was allowed to come on the show a number of times.  Honesty might well have been the best policy, but the stakes were high. The show was sponsored by a local bakery.  There was cake and I was willing to do anything to get some. In later years, my family would continue to be impressed by the sheer brio with which I could and frequently did prevaricate.  “Lightning is going to strike you dead!” my mother would cry reproachfully, but it was reproach tinged with admiration.  I would like to point out here that I only lie to weasel out of things I don’t want to do — white lies, intended to avoid hurt feelings. “Now you’re going to have to figure out some other excuse for why you have to leave early,” my friend Linda Nicholas told me when my dog Buddy died.  Dammit, I realized.  She’s onto me.

Another thing Captain Star did was to call apparently random  numbers and ask whoever picked up the phone a question like, “Who discovered America?”  Then, if that person couldn’t answer, he’d ask the studio audience the same question.  What he actually did was call his hung-over friends, who, it being nine o’clock on a Saturday morning, would roundly curse him.  At which he would smile and nod and  say, “I’m  sorry, Bobby, but ‘oak’ is not the right answer.  I guess I’ll just have to ask the Boys and Girls what kind of tree George Washington chopped down.”

We don’t actually have a photo of Captain Star.  I can’t think why not.  I can tell you, however, that he wore black tights, a black turtleneck, a Papier Mâché space helmet and a cape.  The cape, which Mom had fashioned, was black and featured appliqued sequins and stars of silver lamé.   It hung in our hall closet when not in use, next to the raincoats and the windbreakers.   Captain Star was a tad portly.  Dad had been skinny all his life, but living in close proximity to cheap Mexican rum for an extended period had resulted in him acquiring a notable pot belly. His fans didn’t seem to mind.  A four year old boy once appeared on our doorstep with a toy car to bestow upon his hero and Dad was regularly mobbed at the local swimming pool with cries of, “It’s him!  Captain Star!” while he sat, slouched and distended,  nursing a hangover in the shallow end, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

Vampirina

Vampirina

Vampirina had her fans too, although not among the toddler set.  The apogee of her fame came when she was featured on the cover of the local TV Guide, together with a story about this nice, pretty Mom who, amusingly enough,  moonlighted as a horror show host.  What they didn’t write about . . . what they couldn’t have known was the woman who was ready to strike out across the desert to avoid alien abduction.  That woman’s day was to come.

Crocapuppy

My brother Peter and Frances

My brother Peter and Frances

My family had a rule: the time between dogs should be as short as humanly possible.  No sooner had Ughy, our beloved seventeen year old cocker spaniel, shuffled off this mortal coil than his replacement was locked down. And by “no sooner” I mean that same day.  I’m not sure whether the new puppy was on Mom and Dad’s radar or whether, immediately upon  Ughy’s demise, they rushed out into the street, crying, “A puppy!  Dear God!  Let there be a puppy!” I rather suspect the latter, given how ill advised the choice of Fancy, a.k.a, Frances, a.k.a. Crocapuppy, turned out to be.

To say that Frances was overbred would be an understatement. Frances was the product of incest. A lot of incest.   She was a parti-colored cocker spaniel, meaning that her coat was two colors, buff and white.  The breeders were aiming for a completely white cocker spaniel, so kept mating the lightest male in a litter to the lightest female, which, as often as not, turned out to be his mother.  And this had been going on for generations before Frances wobbled balefully onto the scene.

Whenever you bent down to pet Frances, she was so overcome with excitement that she promptly fell to the ground, rolled onto her back and  proceeded to pee all over her stomach, resulting in chronic and piteous eczema of her nether regions.  This unfortunate propensity, however, was the only evidence of submissive behavior that Frances served up over the course of her life.  The rest of the time, she was just an ornery old mess.

Frances was a hoarder. Her specialty was socks.  She would filch them from our respective dirty clothes hampers and add them to an ever-growing heap in the little hall that separated the dining room from Dad’s study.  There she would guard them until, as my mother used to say,   dark circles would start to form under her eyes and someone would have to go in and save her from herself, not to mention the socks.

Pinkies

Pinkies

This was all made more complicated by the fact that Mom and I used to give Frances our hand-me-down pinkies. Pinkies were those fuzzy pink slippers popular in the sixties and Mother and I both wore them.  Frances would sashay around the house, exuding innocence, the pinkie of the moment clamped between her jaws.  No sooner had she had lulled us into complacency, however, than she would raid the dirty clothes hampers of the house, cramming the purloined socks down in the depths of the pinkie, and make a beeline for the Hall of Socks.  For years after her death, my brother Peter and I would catch ourselves hesitating on the threshold of that narrow passageway, the image of an obsessed and furious  Crocapuppy  lodged in our memory like a tooth. Eventually all of Frances’s pinkies went to the dark side and we would have to wrest the offending slipper from her and bury it in the back yard.   Which was OK.  There were always more pinkies where that came from.

Like any respectable dog, Frances was voracious. She was also bold.  One night my parents were hosting a cast party for a production of The Boys in the Band, which centers around a birthday party. In keeping with the birthday theme, someone had contributed to the feast a large sheet cake complete with many small candles.  Since this was a drinking party, however, the cake had few takers . . . until Frances jumped up on a dining room chair, then onto the table itself, and proceeded to hoover the entire cake down, candles and all, before anyone could rouse him or herself to action.  Then she proceeded to throw up the entire cake, complete with intact candles, while madly sprinting around the entire house.

Frances had many enemies, most of whom were dogs eerily resembling herself who hid out in mirrors and in the panes of glass in French doors. These she would attack with vigor on a regular basis, hurling herself repeatedly against them.   Our house had two double sets of French doors and two single French doors.  They kept her pretty busy.

Lovey

Lovey

Her arch enemy, however, her very nemesis arrived on the scene the day my mother and father unexpectedly brought home a Great Dane puppy named Lovey.   Mom had a notion that, because Frances was a female and Lovey was a puppy, she might feel motherly towards the interloper.  In this she was sadly mistaken. Frances loathed Lovey from the moment she laid eyes upon him.  And it didn’t matter that she was a lowly and rather overweight cocker spaniel and he grew up to stand 6’5” on his hind legs.   First impressions count, especially with dogs; Lovey was terrified of Frances her entire life.      Whenever he wanted to go upstairs, Frances would lie on the lower landing and look baleful.  (There was no dog that could do baleful like Frances.)  Lovey would hesitate, dancing on the spot, his claws clicking against the floor, then tentatively take a step or two towards the stairs.  Frances’s lips would quiver and then slowly draw back to reveal her teeth.  She would growl. Lovey would retreat in confusion.  This would go on until Mom would cry out, “Frances!  For Heaven’s sake! Let Lovey go upstairs!” At which point Frances would grudgingly rise and insolently trundle downstairs, giving Lovey a look in passing that clearly meant, “I’ll deal with you later.”

My brother and I felt sorry for Frances.  She had not been enough dog for my parents and so they had supplanted her with Lovey.  When I went looking for photos of Frances for this post, there were precious few.  Of course, once Peter and I were teenagers, there were precious few of us either.  There were, however, dozens and dozens of photos of Lovey – Lovey with his ears taped, Lovey lying on his back in inadvertently lewd  postures, Lovey sprawled upon my parents bed, which he shared with them,  Lovey standing with his front paws on Dad’s shoulders.  If strangers were to look at my parents’ photo albums, they might be forgiven for thinking that this couple had two adorable children who, just before puberty, were tragically killed in a car accident along with their cocker spaniel, after which point the couple got a Great Dane puppy upon whom, going forward, they focused all their attention and affection.  Peter and I agreed that, if Mom and Dad were going to neglect Frances, we ought to try and brush her more and take her out for walks.

But, of course, we were teenagers so that never happened.

Frances died when I was away in graduate school. Dad woke one morning to find that she had gone in her sleep.   I don’t know where she was in the house when she died.  In my mind, it was not in my parents’ bedroom, but in some more remote part of the house, alone, perhaps in the Hall of Socks.  She did not live nearly as long as the venerable Ughy had – eleven to his seventeen years — but neither was she as loved as he was.

RIP, Crocapuppy.

The Angel Moroni and Joseph Smith

The Angel Moroni and Joseph Smith

My father had a ginormous number of cousins – his father had come from a family of thirteen and his mother from a family of ten.  One of these was Cousin Faye, who converted to Mormonism when she married her husband Gil.  I’ve always found religion of any description intriguing, so, when I was thirteen and Cousin Faye came for a visit, I let her try and convert me, thereby earning the thanks of a grateful family. They retired to the living room to drink and otherwise blaspheme, while a woefully decaffeinated Faye and I stayed behind in the family room, poring over the Book of Mormon, which I found secretly hilarious.  For starters, there’s the name of the angel who served as God’s emissary — Moroni.  What kid wouldn’t find that funny?

Back in those days, Mormons were the great genealogists.  One of the core tenets of that creed is that the dead can be baptized by proxy into the faith post mortem – this solves the messy problem of what to do about all those unlucky ancestors who happened to be born before Moroni clued Joseph Smith in on the location of the  Golden Tablets or who otherwise didn’t get the memo.  To do this, however, the Mormons had to determine just who those hapless relatives were.  I mean, you couldn’t let just anybody in.  Hence the great Mormon genealogical project.  And they meant business.  The original records, preserved on over 2 million rolls of microfilm containing 2 billion names, are locked away behind fourteen-tonne doors in the Granite Mountain Records Vault, a climate-controlled depository designed to withstand a nuclear attack.  Think Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Only in Utah.

Thanks to Faye’s considerable efforts to trace our family as far back as Mormonly possible, we have a family tree that goes all the way back to 1605 and one Anthony Hardy. It was his son John who first came to the New World, settling initially on the James River in Virginia before hauling up stakes and moving to Chowan in Bertie County, North Carolina, where the family was to occupy property demarcated by such landmarks as “the middle swamp”, the “rooty branch” and “the Great Beaverdam” for the next two hundred plus years.

Plaque on the Jerusalem Lutheran Church at Ebenezer

Plaque on the Jerusalem Lutheran Church at Ebenezer

My mother’s family also traced the Zant and Loving families (her father’s people) back to their European roots, only without any help from Mormons.  I have in my possession a much faded mimeographed copy of that family tree.  What is new and kind of amazing is how the Internet allows us to fill in some of the blanks as to who those people were.  For my last blog post – Ruminations on the Confederacy —  I noted that my great – times six – grandfather Solomon Zant married Elizabetha Keiffer in 1767 in the town of Ebenezer in Effingham County in Georgia.  I googled ‘Ebenezer’ and found that it was established in 1734 by 150 Protestants expelled as heretics from the Catholic Archbishopric of Saltzburg – they envisioned it as a religious Utopia on the Georgian frontier, a fanciful notion if ever there was one.   Construction of  the town’s Jerusalem Lutheran Church, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, began in the year of Solomon and Elizabeth’s marriage.  As it turns out, both Soloman’s mother and his wife were from Saltzburg. Wowza! My ancestors were religious refugees and wannabe Utopians.  I did not know that.

Ultimately Cousin Faye not only baptized by proxy some thirteen plus generations of Hardys, but also sealed them in celestial marriage for eternity to their respective spouses.  This upset my older brother no end; he saw it as tantamount to tying cats up in a bag, only forever – in his case, this would prove to be a number of cats.  Did her Mormon magic work?  I hope not, because 1) the idea of a non-alcoholic Heaven isn’t my idea of a Hardy Family Reunion and 2) if I’m to be sealed for eternity, I much prefer my second husband to that other one.

Cousin Faye, the Angel Moroni and the Saltzburgers