24 November 2012

the beginning of the end

I have spoken before about the questionableness of my motives in leaving linguistics for computing.  In particular, my letter to Gary North in 1980 put forward three reasons why I was restless staying where I was:
  1. Money.  We had been living in Yap rent-free.  The word was that this was going to change.  Indeed, the continuation of government expatriate employees was in question.  If we stayed in Yap, could we continue to make a living?
  2. The fading of my linguistic work.  I said that I was doing more and more strictly computer work, and administrative work using the computer - e.g. preparing funding applications.
  3. Ideological distaste for working for governments.  Should I be an independent entrepreneur?
I say quite frankly that Number 3. above was almost entirely an aping of Gary's own economic gospel.  He was, or wrote as though he was, opposed to government employment.  Almost, one imagined that he was opposed to employment tout court, as a kind of second-class way of living.  He thought - or I believed he thought - that a free man ought always and only to be a private contractor.  I was an avid reader of his books and thought that I agreed with him - or at least that I ought to.

Number 2. was quite true.  I think I made it sound as though this was something imposed on me.  In fact, it was, in considerable part, because computing was much more fun than linguistics.  But for whatever reason, I was making little or no progress with my dictionary work; indeed, it stands now about where I left it at the time.  I am trying, in spare time, to rectify this at present - putting some of the work onto the web, and working on preparing texts for the site.  Perhaps before I die, some of the production of the years 1976-84 will finally be available to linguistics.  Nevertheless, for now, I was more 'into' computing than linguistics.

Number 1. was probably true as well - but only a foolish man (you may draw your own conclusions) could have believed that a change was inevitably to be for the better.

We were due for our two-year home furlough.  We had another problem - a religious problem.  Eddie was not baptised.  The Yap Evangelical Church, though sponsored by the Liebenzellmission people, was itself, in practice, if not in creed, Baptist - that is, it would not baptise infants.

It never occurred to me, of course, to ask Father Horgan to baptise Eddie.  We worked up the following plan - based on the money for our home trip, plus some extra cash that we would have to put in:
  • We would all five fly to Guam, where there was a Reformed Church.  The pastor there would baptise Eddie (all this had been arranged by mail).
  • Susan, Johnny, Helen, and Eddie would return to Yap.
  • I would do a three-cornered trip:
    • Guam-Pa'auilo
    • Pa'auilo-Tyler
    • Tyler-Pukekohe
  • and then return home
The trip to Pa'auilo was for more than simply a visit to my family.  I seriously (honest!!) imagined that one option for me was to go to work on my father's farm, and, eventually, to make a living as a farmer.  To any who know me, such a thought must be jaw-dropping.  My father was, in fact, very polite about my pretensions - but he certainly knew how unlikely any such thing was.  He said, when I was there, that if I had any desire to move to the Big Island, I would be far better advised to try to get a computing job with one of the support companies associated with the Mauna Kea Observatories.

I enjoyed that part of the trip very much, nevertheless.  I was very glad that I had, indeed, visited them; I was not again to see my mother, father, and sister for twenty-two years.

Until this trip to Tyler, Texas, I had never been anywhere east of Reno, Nevada.  To fly to Tyler, I arrived in Dallas in the morning and had to spend the day at the airport there, waiting for the local flight to Tyler that evening.  My innocence of the way of life of much of the country in which I was born and where I had reached at least chronological adulthood is revealed by my astonishment at Texans.

Walking around the airport were quite a few men wearing what I think of as 'cowboy hats,' and wearing what were certainly designed as riding boots.  They were often accompanied by women with 'beehive hair-dos.'  'Obviously tourists,' I thought, 'who have seen too many movies about Texas.'

They were Texans.  That was obvious from their speech, and from references to their home places.  I am still amazed in retrospect.

Tyler was lovely.  It was a medium-sized town, with lovely streets - at least the area where my well-to-do friend Gary lived was lovely!  I felt in a way like a Catholic on his first visit to the Vatican, for Tyler was where all my recent theological growth had come from.  I met Jim Jordan (who was to become important in my becoming a Catholic).  I met Michael Gilstrap, a fellow Tylerite - and now a Catholic.  I met many others whose names shone in my theological firmament.

But I shied away from a commitment to work with Gary.  Gary took his free-men-should-be-entrepreneurs philosophy seriously.  He offered to contract with me for one year, at a salary that I feared I could not live on, to help him get computerised.

This was scary - but deeper down was a genuine feeling that I was somehow betraying a trust in leaving linguistics.

I left Tyler and flew to Pukekohe.  The shape of the rest of my and Susan's life was determined by this trip.

False step

How Reese Peery and Lois Parker came to marry one another Susan does not know.  Their marriage may have taken place as late as the beginning of 1914, although it seems possible that it would have been earlier.  Reese would have been 31 then, Lois 27.  We suppose - and statistics may support the idea - that people tended to marry young 'back then.'  Sue's father - Edwin Parker Peery - was born 16 October, 1914.  There is no reason to doubt - and, with the knowledge we have of Lolo's character and beliefs, every reason to believe - that they were married more than nine months before that.

But beliefs and character may have been at the root of their separation.  'Parker' (as he was always known) was born - and never knew his father.  Sue does not know when Reese and Lolo were divorced, but from her memories, she is sure that it was when her father was still an infant.

One fact of the world they lived in is that scandalous facts - and divorce was certainly a scandal - were simply not spoken about.  One might be forgiven for thinking that a little more reticence about such things would not go amiss today; nevertheless, the greater openness of human relationships since, perhaps, the latter part of the Twentieth Century, might have been a good thing.

The fact is that Lolo appears simply not to have known that her son never met his father.  Sometime after Lolo's death (in 1983) Parker told Sue - perhaps by letter? - that Lolo had told him she had always assumed he had been in contact with his father - and simply chose not to talk with her about it.  Perhaps it might be upsetting to do so.

Parker's business through most of his life was in advertising.  He had an advertising business that took him, at times, all over the United States, and specifically, quite regularly, to various parts of California.

And Reese had, apparently, moved to California.  He had at least one brother and one sister - and Parker had, in fact, been in the habit of visiting them from time to time.  In 1962, Sue - about 16 years old - travelled (on the coach) to California, to visit her mother's relations.  And on this trip she visited a man who must have been Reese's brother: George Peery.  Sue's father told her that he himself had, more than once, visited George, and a woman, who might have been a sister, or perhaps a daughter or niece.

The matter is one of some poignancy.  One wonders what Parker's life would have been like had he had his father at home.  Better?  Worse?  Different, and perhaps different in important ways, one may be sure.

But, though Sue never knew her paternal grandfather, her paternal grandmother was of very great importance in her life.  Lolo may have been, in some ways, one of the very most important influences on her.

18 November 2012


One wonders what our lives would have been like had we decided to put our children into a local school in Yap.  Might they have become effectively native speakers of Yapese - at least natural second-language users of the language?  Would we, as a consequence, have left Yap sooner than we did?  Would we, perhaps, never have left Yap at all?

The natural place for the children of expatriates in Yap would have been the Catholic Mission School - and that, for me, at least, would not have been thinkable.

By now - 1980 or so - the idea of home-schooling was being discussed in at least some of the literature we read - by now including National Review, which our dear friend Charles DeWolf had subscribed to for us, as well as the Tyler theonomic crowd's newsletters, and the John Birch Society magazines that we subscribed to ourselves.

Although I am confident that home-schooling was the right choice for us to make, given our - or at least my - deep-set anti-Catholicism.  Nevertheless, it was a very great challenge to undertake this - a challenge, specifically, for Susan.  She had never taught before.  We knew no one who home-schooled.  There was no support network.

I remain a keen advocate of home schooling for elementary-aged children in many cases.  The advantages of it are clear: you are in charge of what your child is exposed to - no small benefit in today's world!; your children may remain in a nurturing home environment when they are very young; your children may proceed at the pace that is right for them.

The in many cases mentioned above is important.  There are things that, I believe, make home-schooling a workable thing.  A very important consideration, to deal with a problem raised by many opponents of home-schooling, is the need for socialisation.  When we moved back to New Zealand, this need was met almost immediately by the formation, by Susan and a few others, of a home-schooling group here in Pukekohe.  Mothers with their children got together fortnightly for the sorts of things that growing children need.  That sort of socialisation - together with another that applied in our family's case (the music schooling, to be described later) - meant that they were able to learn to be part of a group without the faults of modern early schooling: bullying, competitiveness at too young an age, and a rigid approach to education.

In Yap we had some difficulties providing these advantages, yet, on the whole, the children of other expatriates provided something of the requisite environment.

But Susan bore the burden of this.  We purchased a home-schooling course - one that was very consciously Protestant, Americanist, and - how to put this? - one that seemed to believe that the height of perfection in Christian culture had been reached amongst Evangelicals, in the United States, and in about the year 1955.  Even for the two of us, who, after all, had grown up in that country and at that time, if not in that religious context, some of it was a little difficult to take with a straight face.

Nevertheless, we did become home-schoolers - and continued home-schooling when, in 1984, we returned to New Zealand.  One of our children - who may choose to comment on this post! - believes this to have been, I think, a mistake.  The other three?  Well, I have heard nothing negative from them, at least!

By this time - mid-1980 - I was becoming restless.  I had been hired to work on Yapese linguistic matters.  I did so - but increasingly it was the computing side of this that occupied my time and energies.  In addition, as the administration came to realise what could be done using the computer setup we had - as things were going at the time, quite advanced, and particularly in that location - I was being asked to do things on the computer - statistical calculations, for example - that had nothing to do with the Yapese language.

The government was moving away from the use of expatriate workers, as well.  In 1979, a plebiscite was held throughout the Trust Territory, to decide the political future of each portion of it.  Yap, in particular, had chosen to be part of the Federated States of Micronesia.  It began to seem likely that my days as an expatriate employee in Yap were limited.

Sometime in early 1980 - about the time Eddie was born, I suppose - I wrote a letter to Gary North, in Tyler - he and I had corresponded for quite some time by now - in which I bemoaned the facts that I was doing less linguistics and more computing now, and that my job might not last in any case.  Gary replied by suggesting I move to Tyler and help him to computerise his publishing business.

Reese Howe Peery

In 1828, in Tazewell County, Virginia, George Catlett Peery - two of whose great-grandfathers had moved from Northern Ireland to Virginia in the 1740s - was born.  George's great-grandfathers had settled first in Augusta County; both Augusta and Tazewell County are in the western part of the state, and, in the 1740s, must have been pioneering territory.

By 1828, however, the area may have seemed to tame - or too limiting.  George's father Archibald moved his family to Grundy County, Missouri, where George was born.

Perhaps George was afflicted with the wanderlust.  For his son Leslie Thomas appears to have been born in Minnesota - but his son Reese Howe Peery was born in Grundy County.

Leslie died in Multnomah Village, in Portland, and thus one infers that he took Susan's young grandfather there.  And about 1900 - when Reese was about 18 - Lois Parker, 14 years old, moved to Portland.

What is striking is that her grandmother Lolo and her grandfather Reese had lived some 10 or 12 miles apart in Missouri - and now lived 2 or 3 miles apart in Portland.  It seems likely to me that  this connexion is not purely coincidental.

Moving to a place like Oregon at the end of the 19th Century may have smacked somewhat still of pioneering to the intended emigrants.  I recall, in 1964, when I was a student at the University of California, Berkeley, talking with a co-worker in the language laboratory.  Roy was from Alabama.  He had experienced something of the relative ignorance of persons from that time of 'The West' when his great-aunt - who had never been out of her small town in Alabama before - came to visit him in Berkeley.  The lady - who had probably been born about the same time as Susan's grandmother - arrived in the evening on the train, and was taken by Roy to the apartment building where he lived.

The next morning he was awakened by a very worried great-aunt.  Had there been, she wanted to know, trouble with Indians recently?  She was very serious about it.  She took him downstairs to the tiny backyard of the apartment building.  Someone's child had apparently shot an arrow into a tree.

We laugh, but the changes from that time even to mid-century have been very great.  Jesse James was killed, at age 35, in 1882, the year Susan's grandfather was born.

Susan knows little of her paternal grandfather.  Somehow he married Lois Parker.  Perhaps they had known one another before moving to Oregon, perhaps not.  On 16 October, 1914, Sue's father, Edwin Parker Peery, was born.  Reese's and Lolo's marriage did not last long after that.

11 November 2012

The Parkers

We have no evidence that Susan's great-great-uncle is "Hanging Judge" Isaac Parker - but it is not impossible.

Charles Cracraft Parker was born the 28th of March, 1852 in Trenton, Missouri - at least, if he was not born there, he certainly lived there at the time that Susan's grandmother Lois (Lolo) was born.  I suppose, in fact, that any relation between CC Parker and Isaac Parker was distant.  Judge Isaac was born in 1838, apparently in Ohio, although his first work as a lawyer was in St Joseph, Missouri - some 70 miles away, and not on the river.  Interesting to speculate :-)

CC married Hattie Brockett (or Brackett?  The family name Brockett appears in Sue's Parker relations, but such skimpy information as the web yields spells her name Brackett), and, in 1880, their first child, a son, Elbridge Tracy Parker (always known as Tracy and as "Uncle Doc").  Tracy is one of the many essential links in the chain that leads to Susan, for Tracy, perhaps in 1899 or 1900, moved to Philomath, Oregon.

Tracy was an osteopath.

Osteopathy is called, in that Wikipedia article, an 'alternative medical practice,' and is, therefore, and perhaps for good reason, suspect.  It is, nevertheless widely practised today - but seems to have had its origins precisely in the time and in the area where Tracy Parker grew up.  Tracy was born in 1880; the article says the term 'osteopathy' was first used in 1874 by Andrew Taylor Still, who founded the first osteopathic training institute, A. T. Still University, in Kirksville, Missouri.  That Tracy was trained there is not, then, surprising.

How much training is required to be an osteopath?  Modern osteopaths, at least in the United States, require as much as an ordinary medical doctor - four years of medical school and three years of residency.  They are, in fact, fully-trained doctors, with a specialisation added.  In New Zealand they are more limited.

Tracy, by contrast, must have required considerably less, for, if Susan's memories are correct, he can have been at most twenty when, a fully-qualified osteopathic physician, he moved to Oregon.

CC Parker had seven children: Lucy (1882), Haddie (1883), Lois (1886), Vara (1887), Marcia (1893), and Helen (1900) - and Helen was born (14 July) in Albany, Oregon, whereas all the others were born in Trenton.

Susan's belief is that Tracy - "Uncle Doc" as he was by then - had qualified in osteopathy, in Missouri, and was then sponsored by someone in Oregon to come there to practise his medicine, in Philomath, and that as a result the whole Parker clan moved to Oregon.

Since Tracy was born in March, 1880, and his youngest sister was born in July, 1900, in Albany, I infer that he had qualified very young.

Susan says that the whole family, then, moved immediately to Laurelhurst, in Portland.  I think there must have been some intermediate residency elsewhere first, since the article in that link says that Laurelhurst was a housing development started in 1909 from the purchase of a large farm.  In any case, Laurelhurst was their home thereafter - and Tracy is said to have built the first house in Laurelhurst.

Having got this far - with Susan's grandmother Lolo, now about fourteen years old, living in Oregon, can we tell how her young grandfather Reese Peery got there?


Although I speak from the privileged position of the male head of a married couple, it does seem to me that when child number 3 comes along, mother and father are beginning to take things in their stride.

This is, in part, at least, simply a matter of arithmetic.  From zero to one is a devastating increase - infinite, if you are thinking of the ratio.  From one to two is still one hundred per cent. increase.  But the third child is only fifty per cent. more than you had before.  By this strict numerical reasoning, each subsequent birth should pass as less and less an event - and I suppose, up to a point, anyway, this is true.

The fact is, however, that there are a number of other reasons why at a certain point it becomes significantly easier to deal with the new child when you have several:
  • You are not so frightened.  You have been through this before - in our case, when Eddie arrived, twice before.  The scope of the unknown is drastically limited.  You have survived two; a third should be, in some ways, much like the others.
  • You are more experienced.  Baby will not die if left to cry for a while.  He will probably go to sleep.  You have begun to reflect on the fact that, if the human race has continued by this strange means for these many thousand years, your own situation is not unmanageable.
  • You are more realistic.  The perfect child is no longer a goal that you genuinely believe you will achieve by your efforts - and, on the other hand, this or that problem will often take care of itself.
And, perhaps most important:
  • You have more help.  Those first two - particularly the older one - actually has an interest in the newcomer.  Your five-year-old is not, alas, going to change nappies, feed, or bathe number three - but he will play with him, warn you when there appear to be problems, and generally give you a little more time to tend to the house (though, not until the older one is much older, sleep).
When we first arrived in Yap - and, still, when Helen was born, I think - the hospital was a World War II poured-concrete structure, which seems to have been built by the Japanese administration, as much to withstand American bombing as to take care of the sick.  In particular, the room where childbirth took place was long and narrow - wide enough for the table that the mother lay on, with bare space on either side for a doctor and a nurse - and room at the end for a stand-up fan that blew outwards through the door.  Since there were no windows in the room or other openings to the outside, the fan was arguably only of psychological benefit.

Eddie was born 14 March, 1980 - some six or so months after that home furlough - in the new hospital.

The new hospital was, in fact, extremely well thought-out for Yap.  Because air-conditioning was not feasible, its buildings were built in what in Yap they called 'Samoan-house' style - very high, unceiled, roof, to allow the warm air to rise (and vented); very broad eves, to keep the sun off.  It was provided with its own stand-by generator system (to deal with the frequent power outages), and its own very large water storage tank.  Eddie was born here.

All of Susan's labours have been pretty long, and this one was.  Dr Paul, the Palauan doctor who attended her, was patient with his patient.  I was there most of the time.  Dr Paul and I shared betel nut breaks from time to time.  Eventually, in his own time, Eddie was born.  Helen, it will be remembered, had been born in Palau, in case a Caesarean was needed.  It was not, and so neither was it with Eddie.

We now had three children - and our oldest, Johnny, was now nearly five.  What were we to do about educating him?

04 November 2012

Virginia, 1740

In 1606, King James I of England and James VI of Scotland (the same man :-)) began an enterprise - the Plantation of Ulster - one of whose consequences was the bringing into being of my wife, Susan Parker Peery.

I have tried for a year or more to get Susan to begin writing a series of memoirs - believing that if my children have wanted me to do this, they will much more want their mother's history.  As Sue seems unlikely ever to take this in hand, I have decided to try to tell her story myself.

I had thought, actually, of ghost-writing it - of telling it in the first person - but something in me finds that abhorrent.  Let you listen to the actual person!  Nevertheless, I will have to nag her for the facts.

But one fact I need not nag her about: the origins of the Peery side.

What appears to be the case is that a Peery was one of the very early Mormons.  And the Mormon interest in genealogy - based on St Paul's obscure (well, obscure to me; the Mormons think it is clear enough) reference in I Corinthians 15:29 to the 'baptism for the dead,' the Mormons teach that we can be baptised in retro for those who were not baptised in life - and thus have an industry established to search for dead ancestors for whom to be baptised.

This page is one of many on the web of Peery family history.  The very briefest outline appears to be:

  • 1740 - 4 Scots-Irish (hence the reference to the Plantation of Ulster above - James's attempt to Protestantise Ireland) brothers came to Virginia (Augusta and Tazewell Counties)
  • 1817 or thereabouts - Peerys began to migrate to Missouri (Grundy County)
  • sometime before 1907 - George Catlett Peery migrates to Portland, Oregon - or anyway, to Multnomah County
And George Catlett begat Leslie Thomas, who, around the 16th of August, 1882, begat Reese Howe.  And, on 16 October, 1914, Edwin Parker Peery, father of Susan Parker Peery, was born!

Ah - but what is that 'Parker' in there about?

Home leave

Perhaps it is because I never lived as a part of my family in Hawai'i that, to me, our 'home leave' in 1978 did not at all feel like going home. It was returning to Yap that was that.  Perhaps it was different for Susan.  Susan's mother and father had been separated for some years by this time, so our trip was to be a three-cornered affair - me to the Big Island to see my parents, Susan first to Los Angeles, to visit her mother, then to Seattle, where her father lived - and Seattle, at least, had definitely been 'home' for her during the years of her life from high school until she moved to Honolulu.

Sometime in August of 1978, we - the four of us - me, Susan, Johnny, and Helen - flew to Guam, and, from there, to Honolulu.  Thence I went to Hilo, and, so far as I remember, I spent the whole time of our vacation - perhaps three weeks - in the Big Island, either in the house in Hilo, or up at the farm above Pa'auilo.  There is little to relate about my own side of the trip.  I principally remember being struck - with deep admiration, in fact - by my sister Robin.

I had not seen Robin since, I think, about 1970 when, for a short time, she stayed in my flat in Honolulu.  She was playing music professionally then, but I never heard her play.  I recall, with awe, waking one morning early in Pa'auilo.  Robin was outside the house, on a little verandah, practising - perhaps her saxophone, although she plays an impressive array of instruments, of all sorts.  Her playing was - is, I am sure! - breathtakingly beautiful..

And she sang.  She had, by then, smoked pretty heavily for years.  Her speaking voice was a little rough, not very attractive.  But she was singing - I think it was The Girl from Ipanema.  I was astonished.  Her voice was like honey dripping out of a jug.

Seeing Robin's first child, Ka'ai, is my other memory from that time.  Ka'ai was just 8 months old and was Robin's other focus.  I cannot be said to have 'met' an 8-month old baby, I think :-) - but when, a few years ago, Ka'ai came and stayed with me and Susan here, during part of her studies at the University of Auckland, I was reminded of that first encounter.

Susan, Johnny, and Helen flew on from Honolulu to Los Angeles.  Virginia - Sue's mother - was working at UCLA and shared a house with a friend.  Candace, Sue's sister, had flown in from New York, and, for part of the week they stayed there, her mother's brother Bob and his wife Lois came down from Bakersfield.  My impression, from talking with Susan about this trip, is that she really remembers as little in detail about it as I do about mine.  She does remember their visiting her mother's friend Lenore Rix.  Lenore herself is unremarkable, but her son - a University lecturer at UCLA - was a man with definite opinions about the ways the world works.  He was a serious conspiracy theorist - an author, apparently, of numerous books on ... well, on numerous conspiracies.  I wish Sue could remember more about him.  One is tempted to find some of the books of this sort.  I confess to finding conspiracy theories, for the most part, more amusing than seriously interesting.

It must, I am sure, have been sad for Sue to leave her mother and fly to Seattle.  Her parents' separation (they were not divorced at this time) is certainly a sad thing and painful to her.  She must now leave her mother, her sister, and her aunt and uncle, to fly to see her father and other relations.

She did this, in any case.  She was raised in the Portland, Oregon area until about the age of 12, when her family moved to Seattle.  A visit to Seattle was, of necessity, a visit to Portland.  Sue's father drove her with the children down there to see her grandmother Lois ('Lolo') - Sue thinks this may have been the last time they met one another, as Lolo died in 1983 - but what about the home trips in 1980 and 1982?  Anyway, most of her uncles and aunts lived in Portland.  In Seattle, our friend from Yap, Tom Bratt (now Seann Bardell as he has changed his name) came to see her.

Finally the trip was over.  Flight to Honolulu; meet me; home to Yap, where life, with its difficulties, goes on - it was sometime in the next six months that she visited the lawyer to talk about divorce, and - thank God! - decided against it.  And it was a few months after that that she discovered she was pregnant.