Black Irish. That's what I am. Instead of the usual freckle-faced redhead, I'm dark and swarthy. Victorian English were sure these physical differences made us inferior, and who am I to argue? Some say we're the progeny of those lucky few members of the Spanish Armada whose brains weren't crushed in by the Irish themselves. Others claim we're actually one of the ten lost tribes of Israel.
My family is originally from Newtownhamilton in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. I could never get a straight answer, but I'm pretty sure we were kicked out for making bad whiskey. In fact, we had to slip into the US over the Canadian border. Imagine that! We were illegals at a time when they'd let anyone in the country.
Ever hear of shanty Irish? We make them look like nobility.
We eventually snuck into Schuylkill County. My great uncle had a beautiful dynamite plant, but blew half of New Ringold off the face of earth when some idiot (another O'Hare, of course) had the brilliant idea of running a phone line in at a time in our history when a lot of sparks flew off those wires. So much for technology. That was nearly the end of the phone line and any other line for the Armagh O'Hares here in America.
Most O'Hares became nohares, going off like Roman (or should I say Irish?) candles because of all the bad whiskey that fueled their bodies.
One of these skyrocketing nohares was my great-uncle Felix, known as the anthracite bard. I can't find a damn thing he's written, but my packrat brother probably has something in some drawer somewhere.
My grandfather (Bernard V.) and his uncle (Bernard H.) survived. Neither ever went to college, yet both somehow became lawyers. They both ran for political office many times, from DA to Congress. They lost every time.
We were like the Orloskis of the coal regions.
Although a staunch Irish Catholic, and a Democrat to boot, Bernard H. denounced the violence used by the Molly Maguires. He preferred the Mahatma Ghandi approach. The Maguires responded to his message of peace and love by burning his home three times. To make sure he understood, they once invaded a school at which he taught and beat him to within an inch of his life.
I adored my grandfather. My parents used to dump me on him at his home in Shenandoah for a month at a time because I was always running away from home to become a mountain man and would wake up neighbors at 4 AM to recruit them in my adventures.
His brother John did manage to graduate from Georgetown, but died on the day he received word that he passed the bar. He was editor of the newspaper, which he called the Hoya, and that became the name by which Georgetown is known. ... Or so I'm told. (My ancestors lied a lot).
My pop pop always wore a three piece suit. I think he slept in the damn thing. He would give me pocket watches he made as a hobby and, for some reason, also gave me lots of American flags. He walked everywhere, and would even let me walk to his office with him. But he was very sickly. Every corner, he'd have me stop and wait for a minute or so while he'd get his "shot." He had lots of doctors. He'd come out, smile, and say, "I feel much better now." Not my grandmother. She'd be angry about all that medication my grandfather needed.
My dad actually got to go to college, but the war put an end to that. Although he never graduated, he was allowed to go to law school and became a lawyer. He also married a nurse, a wise choice for any O'Hare. He's the only one of us who ever managed to get elected to anything, but only lasted four years in office.
He was also a terrible sailor who nearly killed half the bar.
That's pretty much the high point for our branch of the O'Hare clan in the United States. After my father, grandfather and great uncles passed on, so did our glory. It's been pretty much downhill since. My sisters are OK, but shed that surname at their earliest opportunity. Those of us who've kept it have done it no favors.
Growing up, my cousins were well known to the local constabulary. I think they're better now. Just don't let them near a bottle of glue.
Me? In the military, I once was responsible for a shot from a self-propelled howitzer that destroyed a recently vacated outhouse from ten miles away. Have you ever seen shit fly ten miles? I have. You learn things like that in the army. Our entire unit was expelled from Fort Bragg after that little incident, although they could never pin it on me. I was eventually begged to leave the military altogether, which explains why we're still in Iraq.
I also blew up three labs at Baker Chemical while attending college. Before I left for law school, I persuaded my fellow lab techs to unionize. Now, as most of you know, I'm an alcoholic ex-lawyer with a fragile grip on sanity. Worse, I'm an impoverished blogger, a person with less credibility than a radio talk show host.
My brother? He's better than me - he deserted the seminary to become a frickin' born again Christian who reads the bible every day and goes to church twice a week. He's even converted his dogs, but hasn't managed to get me.
Blogger's Note: First published 3/17/16.