Hog Caller for the World*

If you are at all interested in your ancestors and have delved into census records, cemetery records, county history books, old correspondence, photographs of long ago, then you can appreciate that, at times, some very colorful stories and people are often discovered.

Ed is an avid genealogist with much success in tracing back both his family and mine.  If we know that a locale is a potentially “hot” spot on one of our family trees, we spend some time there — visiting cemeteries, public record offices, and local libraries.  We did this a few years ago in Kansas — the prairie state where my grandmother was born.  In the genealogy room of the Coffeeville Public Library, Montgomery County, Kansas, we tracked down Lizzie Bryant.

Lizzie was my great-grandmother’s niece.  We found a picture and a few paragraphs about her in the 125th anniversary edition of History and Families of Montgomery County, 1869-1994.

Lizzie lived from 1868 to 1941.  She is described as having had “a fine education” and as graduating from “the College at Winfield, KS.”  I find myself liking very much that she obviously valued education, which for women back in the 1880s was not to be taken for granted.  Yet, in an apparent about-face, Lizzie took to the “raw, rough life of outdoors and wild adventure.”  She “was afraid of nothing,” and is claimed to have harbored border gangs of men, to have ridden all night to bring food to the Indians in Oklahoma who were sick with typhoid, called on the sick and needy, and wrote obituaries for her friends that had “the beauty of an artist.”

In later years, Lizzie lived on a farm “out west of Elk City” and raised hogs.  It was reported that neighbors could hear her hog calling for miles around.   She was invited to hog call at the fair and “she put everyone to shame.”  From this first triumph, she went on to enter other hog calling contests, ultimately going to the state fair “with her new permanent wave, and a new fringe jacket.”  She came home with a ribbon for hog calling.

For any of you readers who do not know what a hog call is like, it’s sort of a rather high pitched and loud “OOOO–EEEE.”

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This is the fun of doing genealogy.  Disparagers of doing genealogy seem to think we are looking for royalty or famous people in our ancestry.  But that’s not the case.  It’s the Lizzie Bryants who give our search its sparkle — a hog caller with a permanent wave!


*With apologies to American poet Carl Sandburg — “Chicago:  Hog Butcher for the World.”

Basketball Fever

Their names are Josh, Frank the Tank, Sam, Nigel, and Bronson.  They comprise the opening five players of the University of Wisconsin basketball team.

Since last month, the team has gradually been making its way through all the brackets to the final national championship game tonight at 8:19pm CST.  The field started with 64 games, pared to 32, pared to the Sweet Sixteen, then the Elite Eight, and, two days ago, we beat the undefeated University of Kentucky in the Final Four.  So now we are eagerly anticipating the championship play-off tonight against Duke University.

I have watched almost all of our games.  I am a big fan of basketball.  The players seem so much more accessible to the spectators than, say, the football players who are way down there on the field, hidden behind face masks and under shoulder pads. The basketball game is fast, doesn’t go on for hours, people don’t hit or throw each other around, and rarely does anyone get physically hurt.

Sports are such a huge part of our culture.  Part of me cringes about the amount of money that gets sunk into the whole sporting enterprise, the time devoted to sporting games in our lives as spectators, the massive facilities that are built to house the almost endless varieties of competitions, the exemptions from the faculty hiring and retention processes followed so carefully in all but the athletic department, all the hoopla and advertising activities that accompany sports —

And yet …….

Tonight, the Badgers play Duke University for the national championship basketball game. The UW has not won a championship since 1941. I will be right there in front of the television set, other commitments for this evening put aside.  For two hours there will be nothing in my world but watching Josh and his colleagues run up and down the basketball court trying to put the basketball through the hoop more often than their opponent.

Go Badgers!