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November 14: Story Challenge in 99-words

Ninety-six years ago on November 14, 1928, Nellie Edith Emmons married Emmett Wilbur Colescott in Grand Junction, Colorado. Nellie’s sister, Gladys stood in as a witness. The minister, Franklin Fenner, apparently did not know the couple. You see, they lied to obtain a marriage certificate.

Edith and Emmett are my great-grandparents, the parents of my dad’s mom. Like all my family lines, they are colorful. My dad has shared stories with me that his Grandpa Emmett wrote down in his later years (he died in 1980). My own memories of him are fuzzy; nothing distinct.

Emmett began his story with the marriage of his parents. He writes, “Well as you can see by the enclosed Marriage Certificate, Mr. Edward “Scolescott” and Miss Belle Morse were united in marriage December 14, 1898. Witnessed by Dads Father and Eugene Rountree, one of the biggest drunks in Desoto, Kansas. The name Colescott probably misspelled by a drunk justice of the Peace.”

I did say, the Colescotts were a colorful lineage. The drunken marriage occurred between two teens a week before Christmas. I wonder how the holidays were that year? The Morse family was not like the Colescotts (a theme that often plays out in my family tree). Some families have a wild branch. Mine is the wild tree with the occasional upstanding branch hastily grafted to no avail. We are survivors of our own shit.

Emmet further explains, “Dad’s father was a little Wiry Irishman and an onyeyer [ornrey] little Devil never lived from what I can remember. Not mean in disposition but one who would fight a Buzz Saw at the drop of a hat over Politics, Religion or most anything else you might want to mention. He was a drinker and when he got on a tear you had better look out.”

He continues, “Dad’s mother from what I could ever gather was a Red Headed Scotchwoman and very pretty. I think she died in childbirth. Dad had a sister Maude who was a few years younger than he. Also he had a Brother John.” From records I’ve uncovered, it’s plausible that Emmet’s grandmother Mary Colescott died in childbirth. She was 29 years old and left behind four children, although my great-grandfather fails to mention Anna Colescott. She married a Rountree and was dead within three years, five years before Emmett was born. She slipped into oblivion, childless and unremembered.

It’s those graves that call to me the most when I explore cemeteries for stories. The graves of young women who nowadays would be of college student age often get left behind. Families move. Young husbands remarry. Later nieces and nephews grow up unaware of the young aunts no one mentions. Graves sink. No one places flowers or flags. What would my second great-grandaunt have studied had she’d been given the chance? Would she have voted had she lived longer? Was she redheaded and ornery, too?

Back to Emmett, the Colescott chronicler. He mentions the Morse family as “entirely different.” They, too, were Welsh. I wonder if Emmett knew his Grandpa Stark Morse fought in the Civil War as a Kansas Jayhawker? Even though the Morses were different and Caroline Winklman was raised in the faith of the Pennsylvania Dutch, I see a bit of the wild woman in his Grandma Morse. After all, someone of her faith married a Union Soldier at the start of the Civil War. What did her parents think?

Emmet recalls Grandma Morse (Caroline) hunkered down outside along the sunny side of their house in De Soto. According to 1915 Kansas census records, Caroline was staying with her daughter Belle and SIL Ed Colescott. Emmett was five. Why was Grandma Morse hunkered down outside? One explanation from her obituary is that she was an avid gardener, and the day before her death she was planning her next one. However, Emmet writes, “With her old brown shawl over her head and shoulders, she smoked her little clay pipe and made a hole in the dirt with a little stick to spit in. I used to love and set and watch her.” I think I would have, too.

Keep in mind, in 1915, Kansas was a blue sky state, meaning alcohol and tobacco were illegal. Grandma Morse may not have been all that different from the rapscallions of the Colescott clan. Perhaps young Emmet understood. My great-grandfather sums it up like this: “Well, as you can see this combination makes me Scotch, Irish, Welsh and Pennsylvania Dutch…Just Better say plain old American.”

He writes, “My earliest recollections are of the combination Restaurant, Soda Fountain and grocery store Ma and Dad ran in Desoto…Ma made homemade bread and pies and sold them and did most of the cooking. Don’t remember how much help she had but not much…Dad was a Booze fighting, woman chasing ringtailed humdinger and he loved to hunt and fish. Well our side of the Colescotts were simply not strictly law abiding citizens…Dad bootlegged Cigs from Missouri and also Whiskey.”

I grew up hearing stories from my Grandma Jean about whiskey in the sasparilla. The soda fountain in the restaurant and grocery store that her grandmother ran was a bootlegging front that eventually led to that side of the Colescotts having to leave Kansas. Emmett followed his father’s and grandfather’s ways in Colorado. All three men welcomed the Prohibition for the chance to make money bootlegging. According to family lore, but omitted from Emmett’s writing and as of yet unverified, something happened after the family moved west.

All Emmett has to say is, “I don’t know if we left Kansas by desire or request but I know we left when I was seven. Things get a little mixed up for me for a time.” He writes of hard times, of cattle freezing to death in Nevada, of a cousin trying to shoot his mother, of jackrabbits so thick, of being broke and eating tamales. Eventually, they went to Colorado and Emmett’s Dad found work, property, and continued to bootleg. According to family lore, his dad’s father was shot and killed in a raid. In 1926 Emmett married Edith.

My granduncle George was born in 1927 in Delta, Colorado followed by my grandaunt JoAn the following year. The Colescotts continued to live on the fringes of law-abiding citizenry and Emmet was arrested along with his dad for running alcohol distribution in 1928. It’s not clear if he did jail time but my Grandma Jean was not born until 1930. And, she was born in the Sierra Nevada mountains where I grew up because they were hiding out from the law. By 1935 they returned to Delta. I remember my grandma telling me about her earliest memory of living in Colorado. Her mother had the girls sing to their daddy outside the county jail. Grandma Jean sang and cried. A theme she’d repeat throughout her life. Yet, no matter where her monster of a husband drug her and the kids off to, some hidden Nevada ranch to escape consequences, she gardened and whistled like a songbird.

Emmet and Edith came to California permanently during WWII. They settled in an obscure area that remains remote today despite its proximity to Silicon Valley. Paicines. The old store where Grandma Jean took me to buy penny candy when she picked up her mail reminded her Dad of the store his family once had in De Soto, Kansas. Emmett stayed out of trouble thereafter. Edith must have been creative with a desire to perform. Small snippets of news exist to say she was in a play or won a poetry contest. I wonder what my great-grandma’s dreams were? She died at the age of 52 from the toxins she encountered as a fruit picker when the family fled to California for the first time.

So, the lie?

Emmett Colescott was not 21, nor was Edith 20. Nellie Edith Emmons was 22 years old and two months pregnant. Emmett was barely 16. I always knew that she was older than him, but I had no idea how young my great-grandfather was. When I think about how his life turned traumatic after leaving Kansas, I wonder what it was he sought in a relationship with Edith. Their early years of marriage must have been tumultuous with the bootlegging, raids, and children. California became a sort of peace, I think, though he lost his wife young.

November 14, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a lie. What is the lie? It can be subtle or blatant. Who tells the lie and why? Is it an unreliable narrator? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by November 19, 2022. Please use the form if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines. Stories must be 99-words.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.


35 Comments

  1. Norah says:

    What an interesting and complicated family history, Charli. I guess most family histories are similiar. Even the UK royals have had their share. I remember my uncle, and then my mother, being shocked to find that a grandparent had been transported to Australia as a convict. They didn’t want anyone to know, though it’s become fashionable of late. There’s a convict on my Dad’s side too. But others emigrated by choice. Some as lying stowaways, but the story is told differently depending who tells the tale. I’ll see where this prompt takes me.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      And that’s only one branch, Norah! Indeed, most family trees are wild and colorful, though later generations try to prune them into respectability. I don’t think our Ancestors ever dreamed their secrets would be revealed in the scant paper trails they left, but one can suss out a lot from Census records, newspaper clippings, and criminal records. Not even their lies are safe! I would think having a convict in the family tree would be one of those branches subsequent generations might try to clip. Funny how now it’s fashionable. I enjoy the stories even though they can differ and meander from the facts. To me, it’s the why of what stories we choose to tell or alter. I look forward to seeing where the prompt takes you!

      Liked by 3 people

      • Norah says:

        I guess that’s right, Charli. We choose what stories to tell and what secrets to hid from our own lives and therefore those of the lives that have gone before too. I wonder what stories will be told and which secrets hidden after I pass. It’s an interesting thought. Will any be told at all? Every family needs a Charli to keep those memories alive.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for sharing your grandparent’s story, Charli. From what I understand, age was never a criterion. Even my grandparents (both sides) were clueless about their ages and went about their lives. Birthdays were not as big a deal as in this era. The challenges then may have been many!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Anne Goodwin says:

    Interesting history, Charli. I’ve submitted two lies.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Liz H says:

    So many golden nuggets in this post! My favorite is “We are survivors of our own shit.”

    Liked by 4 people

  5. denmaniacs4 says:

    Charli, I am already visualizing the movie of your liquid-fueled lineage…an amazing tale (s)

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Wowza! Not just to your storied family history, but to these eager beaver Ranchers! And as it happens, I think I have one and maybe a second tumbling. Not bad for a Monday.
    This post… I’ve recently been reading up on my family history. There’s some tales but, as far as I could tell, no blatant lies. Truthfully, I think this is going to be a great challenge with terrific responses.
    I suspect you’re wicked busy, Charli, but we all will keep the Ranch wheels turning. No lie!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      The lies are pouring out at the Ranch, lol! You have such fascinating rooted roots, D. with a mighty oak tree. No lies maybe, but plenty of colorful stories. I wonder if lies are harder to tell when you live in one place for multiple generations — everyone knows your story and your approximate age!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Jules says:

    Charli,

    I don’t know how families could cope without some lies. Families either tell lies outright or lie by omission. I knew a woman who took her son from his father – we all thought she spoke horridly of the son’s father. But later learned that she had told him absolutely nothing at all.

    You got yourself some colorful tales there. I also know of a woman who never told the guy he was going to be a daddy – raised the child who then after Mommy died found ‘Daddy’ – through one of those DNA things. I think I’ll stay away from the DNA things – some history can stay burried.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s even more revealing to test the DNA of the family tree, Jules! Some day, I might get to tell the story of my Jewish line, which DNA has helped unravel. I’m still waiting for information from an organization that helps track the genealogy of Sephardic Jews who fled Spain to Portugal then to the Balkins and then to the Azores. And, DNA shows Emmett to be correct about all the Welsh, Irish, and Scots, but it’s the weird stuff that caught my eye along with the minuscule amount of Portuguese despite growing up with a Portuguese surname and identity.

      But finding out that your parent or grandparent isn’t really yours — that’s got to be shocking to experience. I’ve helped other people research their family trees, and twice I had to redo the research after they get their DNA results!

      Yes, I’ve often thought that too about some history deserving to remain buried. And yet, this is a side of the family I don’t like researching because they produced rotten apples but in a way, that’s become my shadow work. Why deny the truth? It can be painful, definitely, but it also feels cathartic and leads to understanding. That’s cycle-breaking, though it is ongoing and complex, too.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jules says:

        Charli,

        My Step-mom’s side were Sephardic Jews. Hubby’s side Eastern European. Different traditions between the two. But so much was lost when WWII happened and countries borders shifted while the people didn’t… or then left and records were lost or destroyed. And The US wasn’t all that great either in keeping records for WWII Jewish Vets. My FIL didn’t get any service benefits because a building burned down with the records. And it is possible that there was some prejudice against Jews in not accepting the documentation that the soldiers did have to prove they served.

        We had neighbors who still believed that all Italians were from Greece! And then there was that Nat’l Geo special that basically said 90% or more of the worlds population came from the ‘First Eve’ out of Africa. And that 90% of all the worlds DNA can be trace to her.

        It would be nice I supposed to know if some of my family stories of heritage to royalty in France are true? But as you say family is complicated.

        There were actually some Jews who had migrated to Asia before Chanukah came to be. And they never celebrated that minor holiday on the Jewish calendar because by the time the ‘news’ got there… most of the Jews had assimilated. And there weren’t any practicing Jews left. Though I did read that out of respect the synagoge was taken care of and is still mantianed.

        Also in the play where during 911 planes got diverted to Canada… to Newfoundland where a man talked to a Rabbi who was on one of those plaines who was by birth Jewish, but his parents had told him to never speak of his heritage…so he didn’t – not even to his wife! He only remembered one prayer from his childhood.

        Even today some Christians who were Spanish Conversos do not know why they light candles in their closets on Friday night – we had a service guy years ago who’s Spanish MIL did that… it was because she was unknowingly following her Jewish heritage to keep the Sabbath – but secretly.

        ‘In the early 19th century, many people believed that Native Americans were descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, presumably having traveled across the Bering Strait or by boat across the Atlantic. They were convinced that one of these ancient Israelites/Indians had dropped the tefillin.’

        – I didn’t know this…’Who are the lost tribe of Israel today?
        Peoples who at various times were said to be descendants of the lost tribes include the Assyrian Christians, the Mormons, the Afghans, the Beta Israel of Ethiopia, the American Indians, and the Japanese.”

        The world is a strange place. Continued success in your heritage hunting.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      You have a rich treasure trove of knowledge, Jules. Thank you for sharing all this. I have much to think about. Funny, how the rituals can outlast the reason why. All that remains in my family is a cryptic warning to not trust the Portuguese priests. May we all come to a point in humanity where we see humanity in all.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I grew up thinking I was descended from a French sailor who’d jumped ship in South Australia in the 1860’s. Some later digging by my cousins nailed that lie to the wall. He was an English servant who was a free immigrant, thus even denying us the frisson of him being a convict transported for stealing a loaf of bread. But then it was found that he’d married the daughter of the first white woman to set foot in South Australia, who subsequently delivered 13 children and all the Jacquiers in Australia are descended from their rigorous coupling. One cousin has recently claimed she has traced the line back to a particular village in France but I’m betting that’s a canard too. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Don’t you love tracking down those stories, though, Doug? I feel like the family lore is a challenge — that idea of the French sailor who jumped ship came from something your family related to. Wow, the Jacquiers populated South Australia! There are family-specific DNA tests and they can nail down regions of descent. Maybe your cousin has had insights from a verifiable resource. Or, it’s your generation’s contribution to family lore!

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Jennie says:

    What rich and wonderful family stories! Thank you for sharing yours, Charli. Mine are equally fascinating, but far too long to retell. Another time…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’ve had people tell me they don’t have interesting family trees, Jennie. I chuckle as say, “Give me your grandparents’ names and we’ll find the interesting stories.” I’d love to hear about yours. You make me wonder if a fun 99-word story challenge could describe each set of grandparents in a tree…?

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Chel Owens says:

    That’s a heck of a story for one lie! Wow!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. It’s so sad to think that we all have relatives that have slipped into oblivion, childless and unremembered. I hope that does not happen to me, even though I am childless. But having seen a recent family tree from another family member, he’d hit a dead end just before the 19th century started. Sadly, all those relatives who loved before the dead end will probably be forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

    • suespitulnik says:

      In your case, Hugh, we need a sad button. It is sad to experience what one sees as the end of the line. Perhaps there is a cousin a few ties removed that will carry your name forward. Side note: my husband’s last name is hard to pronounce and have people know how to spell it, so we use Roberts when making reservations on the phone. His first name is Robert and last name Spi-tul-nik with emphasis on the middle syllable.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Liz H says:

    Sometimes a lie is the truth in another context, genre, or macro-level. Yeah, I went there…hope it’s an enjoyable journey…

    Like

  13. suespitulnik says:

    Chali, Thanks for sharing this story. It was fascinating. I have both of my parents’ lineage and we are about as British Isles as we can get, yet my daughter’s DNA test came back with 4% African American and no indigenous. We have no idea where the African American came from and we have proof of the indigenous on her father’s side. I’m not sure I trust the results.

    Like

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