Sunday, January 29, 2012

Reaching Across History

One of last week's "fun political stories" was about the grandson of US President John Tyler calling Newt Gingrich a jerk.

Quite a spread of time there -- Tyler was born in 1790, fathered children late as did his son, etc. One blog post on the story (which I can't find now) remarks on Oliver Wendell Holmes having shaken the hands of both John Quincy Adams and John F. Kennedy -- the 18th century connecting to the 20th.

Nothing as dramatic for me, but I got to connect the 19th and 21st centuries this weekend when I went to visit my parents.

As KN@PPSTER readers will recall me mentioning, I often use a cane to walk these days. I haven't been that happy with the one I have (a thrift store pickup), and took the opportunity to look at replacements everywhere we stopped (found a nice one I may buy, as a matter of fact).

Anyway, my dad had an old cane that turned out to be precisely the right height. It's still in great shape, too.

I never knew its owner, as he died two or three years before I was born. His name was Simon Peter Decker and he was born in 1885 (if I recall correctly) in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I did know his wife, Minnie Elsie Crabtree Decker, who was born (once again, IIRC) in 1889, also in Knoxville. She died when I was in my early teens and she was in her early 90s.

Simon and Minnie Decker were the parents of my father's mother, Eva Knapp.

Coincidentally, on the way down to see my parents, I showed the kids the place where Minnie Decker's house once stood. There's a pavilion there now, on the grounds of the church next door. One of my dad's brothers is the pastor of that church, which I'm pretty sure great-grandma Decker attended most of her life. If I have my family history right, it was once a Methodist church, but a traveling revival preacher converted its congregation (including my grandmother and great-grandmother) to Pentecostalism in the early 20th century.

So anyway, the cane is probably 50 years old or more, and its owner, were he still alive, would be coming up on 127. I expect I'll keep set it aside and only use it as a walking aid on special occasions.

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