I have always had a feeling of great nobility, an intuition that I have high-brow blood coursing through my veins, an inherent nobility that expresses itself in the tumultuous mood swings, the brief rages and romances, the pinnacled confidence and dungeon-like depressions of certain genetically predisposed members of my family. My own self-exalting side especially expresses itself in my heroic flights of imagination into my royal highness, where I am regally indignant at the slightest slight to my imperial majesty.
Therefore I was not surprised to learn of my ascent from the Clan of the Wild Boar, the famed Campbell clan whose astounding antiquity has been vouched for by the most reliable of medieval bards and faithful seneschals. At least this much is known after eight-hundred years of testimony: there is no clan more Teutonic than the Clan Campbell.
I had very little interest in history until the accidental discovery of my relatively great significance one afternoon, when I inadvertently listened to something my father Bruce Campbell Walters said in passing about the prophet Jeremiah, the Arthurs, Bruces, Colinses, Davids and Robertses. From that momentous day forward, my research into my true identity has been quite frequent, notwithstanding the tiresome task of poring over boring genealogies whose brief mention of clannish glories, particular entitlements and beheadings and the like, is all too brief.
To my heart's delight as I, David Arthur Walters, scanned the lists, my eyes alighted on certain salient names such as Robert the Bruce, King David II, King Arthur and company. I know the Arthurian association has been declared "whimsical"; nevertheless, I beg to disagree: a manuscript of the pedigree of the Campbells of Argyll in the National Museum of Antiquities in Edinburg traces Yours Truly to no less a personage than King Arthur.
In fact, my lineage has been traced even farther back, to the remotest Biblical antiquity: "Enos mic Set mic Adaim mic De" states a reliable 1550 manuscript in reference to the Campbell history.
For your information, Enos, Seth's son and Adam's grandson, lived at the time when men started to call upon the name of the Lord instead of placating unknown gods with gruesome sacrifices. Therefore one might think the Campbells would be glad to take well-deserved credit for participating in the Semitic foundation of monotheism long before becoming Brits and Picts, Scotians and Scandians, and backsliding into barbaric practices around sacrificial Teutonic bonfires. But no, not many Scots (Late Latin: Scott, "the Irish") openly lay claim to Judaism. At least my father did not bring up the subject until some time after my stepmother Genevieve emphasized it, and then only casually.
I had returned to Kansas to visit my father when I turned twenty-one. Genevieve said she had something extremely important to tell me; she ordered me to sit down on the couch first, explaining that I would be shocked to hear her disclosure. I reluctantly obeyed, sat down and crossed my legs expectantly, as virgins might do on their first date.
"David, your father's a Jew! He's a Jew! I didn't believe it at first, but his huge crooked nose makes it obvious now--he's a Jew!"
Mind you, there was no personal malice in her exclamations; rather, her tone was one of incredulous amazement, perhaps because she had been born again in two or three Bible-belt churches. Her mention of a nose caused me to notice her own prodigious beak. That, melded with my father's snout on the likes of my half-brother and-half sister – a protuberant family aspect I had not speculated on until my stepmother's revelation – is now a source of amusement to me during my rare visits.
My own nose is relatively small and shapely – a gift from my mother, Charlotte Walden, whose ancestry I know nothing about. She succumbed to the polio epidemic in Phoenix when I was an infant. My father is still too grief-stricken to discuss Charlotte at length except in his tragic poems, but I have managed to piece together a few bits and pieces. He met her during the WW II. Her first husband, with whom she had my half sister Oveta, was killed during the war.
Oveta and I were separated when our mother died in 1946. I located my sister in Oregon in 1997. I tried to strike up a relationship several times: she seemed a bit reticent after all these years without her long-lost brother, who might be, for all she knows, a diabolical fiend, confidence man, or just a painful reminder of something best forgotten.
Charlotte reportedly met my father because the Army asked her to inform on him: he had aroused suspicion by making a statement that Russia was really our enemy not our friend; he had also complained about having to train soldiers with wooden guns, and with rocks in their backpacks instead of useful gear. He and Charlotte moved to Phoenix, where I was born after the war. I had an older brother, Bruce Jr. (“Pat”) by their marriage: we were also separated at my mother's death, and he died in Phoenix at age 17.
Charlotte woke my father up one night: she was coughing and having trouble getting her breath. He took her to the hospital. A couple of days later she could barely breath at all, and struggled to spell R-E-S-P-I-R-A-T-O-R to my father. He went and begged the nurses for a respirator, but he was told they were all being used for the epidemic. So Charlotte died in his arms. Here is one of his poems:
Little David Smiled
by R.B.C. Walters
The priestly words the priest intoned,
Computing nothing to my ears,
For they were tendered null by stimuli
My eyes were forced to see,
Beginning with my mother's face
So tranquil so long,
Transformed into a face of grief,
Flooded with her tears,
As we somehow stood before
A wide expanse of tended grass
Upholding on its breast
Crosses white in perfect rows,
Each one above a grave.
And, as gratuity from Hell
An open grave, too near, too near,
Eager for to hold the dear
And unflawed form of Charlotte
Sans breath of life and flow of blood,
Yet lovely in her youth.
In every dismal hour that night
The skies exuded rain,
And in the very dark of them
Her lonely spirit rose
And, through the path of love we shared,
Each to the other known,
Found her way back home.
Spirits have no way to speak
And lack substantial form,
But, as the leaves of Autumn dance
When Autumn breezes flow,
Papers trembled in my hand
When her presence passed my chair
Revealing that she was there.
And little David smiled.
He woke not from the peace of sleep.
But little David smiled.
I know nothing about my dear mother's family, hence my father's side is most prominent in my consciousness, despite my cute nose.
As for my stepmother's exclamatory declaration of my father's alleged Jewishness, it had little emotional impact on me. I had left home at thirteen; I had no religious background excepting a few visits to Sunday school. I most recently had been living next to a temple on the Upper West Side, and I was working for a large firm in the garment district: I had cause to believe almost everyone was Jewish. So what? That was their business, and my business was mine.
As you may have surmised from the foregoing, the little I knew about my father and his family was cloaked in mystery. Not only was he unwilling to say much about the tragic loss of his beloved Charlotte, he was reluctant to discuss other aspects of his past, at least when I was around. I overheard some mention of "secrets." Someone said he was a theosophist. I knew he hated Masons because of some conspiracy against him in a small town. Anyway, I filed the Jewish tidbit away in some remote sector of my mental field; it did not recur to me until the day my father made this passing remark in the context of his solitary life in Kansas City:
"...There was a mixup with my deposit," he said. "Kansas City weeps not for me, Dave. My exile here reminds me of our ancestor Jeremiah, who escaped to Scotland. I went over to the bank yesterday and...."
"What? Jeremiah? From the Bible?"
"Yes, him. As I was saying..."
"I've heard stories about him. He disagreed with the authorities."
"You have a serious problem with authority too. It's part of the family curse, you know."
"But I thought Jeremiah was abducted and stoned to death in Egypt."
"He escaped to Scotland. His blood is in our clan."
"Clan? What clan is that?" I was getting curious.
"The Clan Campbell. 'Campbell' is my middle name, as you know, and my name 'Bruce' is after Robert the Bruce, who gave his sister Lady Mary Bruce to Sir Beil Campbell of Lochow."
"They were Jews?"
"No, not by religion, but some of their ancestors were Hebrews. A few of the ancestors kept up the religion underground. There were Cimmerians mixed in too. So I showed the manager my deposit slip, and...."
"Are we Scottish?"
"Yes, and more. Oh, we also have some Jewish blood from your grandmother, May, who married your grandfather, Arthur."
"Yes, Arthur Augustus Colin Campbell Walters. He married my mother, Mary Michaelson. She was the daughter of a Michael and Sara Michaelson, originally Merchalson. They were French Jews living in the Alsace-Lorrain area, where her parents had a bar and restaurant. He was a German soldier in the League of Nations. He spoke five language: Yiddish, German, French, Italian and English."
"Wow," I interjected, surprised my father was being so forthcoming after years of secrecy.
"If you look into our history, be sure to look for the names 'Bruce', 'Arthur', 'David','Colin' and 'Robert' in Scotland, and take it from there. Now, as I was saying, I went over to the bank yesterday, and...."
And I did take it from there, and I am still looking. "Finally," I could say to myself, "I am really somebody worth looking for!" Alas, my search for myself had thus far been fruitless given the nearly barren background provided to me in my early years. As my quest for my heritage progressed, I recalled that, when I was a little boy, my father halted as we were strolling along Kansas Avenue, looked down upon me, and sternly boomed:
"Remember the seed that fell on rocky ground!"
Then he resumed walking without a word more, leaving me to wonder then and for many years thereafter, as variations on a theme, "Am I bad? Is the ground bad? Who am I?"
I recall my uncle Ted had just visited us. He was a nice fellow; I wanted to get to know him but I did not have enough time to do so because he quickly wore out his welcome at our humble abode. He had learned to drink hard after the war; he picked up a pint on Kansas Avenue that very morning; my dad the teetotaller strongly disapproved, so Uncle Ted was soon gone. The night after his departure, I opened my bedroom door a crack to eavesdrop on an argument between my father and my stepmother Genevieve. I overheard a loud mention of "alcoholism and insanity in the family", followed by a "Shhh." I quietly closed the door and retired. Years later, thanks to the due diligence of Genevieve, who was all the while collecting information about her husband's background, I found out about my greatgrandfather, Edwin Colin Campbell Walters, and my greatgrandmother Sara Ellen (McLafferty) Walters.
Sara Ellen McLafferty, whose family was from County Cork. Ireland, and who worked on a Mississippi river boat for awhile before getting married, was committed to a madhouse from which she singlehandedly and successfully fought for her freedom through the courts.
Sadie wrote a book, published in 1872, entitled THE SEED THAT FELL ON ROCKY GROUND, "The Development and Fruit of the Seed, a journal of truth covering a period of 50 years. The story of my strenuous life and my fearful order in a madhouse while waiting on decision of higher court." (Pittsburgh, 1915 copy, LOC). The book is now at the New York Public Library, which has refused to loan it to me or to copy it, insisting that I must fly half way around the world to view it. I have offered to pay someone in New York to copy it, but to no avail. So part of myself is still shrouded in the archives.
As for alcoholism, I came across some family lore about Sara's husband Edwin, to the effect that he was found dead sitting at his desk with his right arm in rigor mortis, pointing at the door as if to say to his family, "Do not drink!" He died November 5, 1917 in Washington, Pennsylvania. A clipping from a newspaper ('Reporter') states:
"Mrs. Dr. Walters, With His Sister, Was in Washington Yesterday.
"The funeral of the late Dr. E.C. Walters was held on Monday last from the house of his sister, Mrs. Howard Engle, Rebecca Street, Allegheny, and was attended by a number of relatives and friends, who were pained to learn of his untimely death. Mrs. Sadie Walters, the wife of the deceased, with her sister-in-law, Miss Walters, was in Washington Wednesday, and in conversation with a 'Reporter' representative spoke well of her husband, but admitted that he had allowed drink to overcome him. She said he was a graduate of the Jefferson Medical college, Philadelphia, class of '91, that he stood high in his class and that he received commendation from his professors for his work in surgery. He located in New Castle and there built up a large practice and was known as a skilled physician. It was his intention to return to Jefferson Medical college and take a special course, but this was never done. At New Castle he met reverses, and this may have been the turning point in his life. Among his family and relatives he was well liked. He had always been kind and affectionate, and his death was much regretted by all. They all realized what a hold drink had on him, and Mrs. Walters said she always feared the worst. She was in Washington the week previous to his death, and he was then sick, treated with pneumonia. She had cleaned up his room and left with the intention of coming out again. The news of his death, she said, came as a shock to her son and children and to his family (Source: Letter from Pennsylvania State Library, Harrisburg).
In addition, the librarian informed my stepmother that the records of the Bureau of Mental Hospital Services revealed that "Edwin C. Walters was admitted to the Pittsburgh City Home and Hospital June 19, 1915 for alcoholism, discharged October 30, 1915; he was again admitted, this time for drug addiction, to the same hospital, June 1916, discharged as improved, June 1917."
I do not know what transpired between my great grandparents. I do not know if Edwin had Sara committed to the madhouse. Perhaps not, but a advisory remark my father once made to me, that in some states a man can conveniently have his wife committed to a mental hospital for observation on his own word, gives me cause to wonder.
As I mentioned, my uncle Ted M. Walters also took to drinking – and so did I: Shortly after my uncle's visit, I found a bottle of booze in the alley and drank heavily for over forty years--no wonder my father was worried.
Ted was a war hero. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for achievements in the air over Burma and China. He and other Arizona members of the Tenth Air Force were praised by Major General Clayton for the "glorious record fighting Japs" in Burma and Thailand. In a single day, the group poured over 100 tons of bombs on the Japs. Ted was a member of the famous "Anemic Nine" bomber crew whose bombers, because of the light weight of the Anemic Nine, could carry more bombs. He flew 45 missions during his 19-month assignment in India. I was told that India itself had a profound effect on him – alcoholism eventually killed him. Back home in Phoenix during the war, the local newspaper shows him keeping up the homespun morale:
"Phoenician's Letters to Kin LIke Travelogue of India--
"It isn't all strange for the American airmen who are slugging the Jap invaders of Burma from their stations in far-off India. They've learned a lot of new things of course--including the discovery that goat meat, cooked Indian style, isn't a bad dish. They've found that shopping in the native marts presents its problems. But at the 'somewhere' where Staff Sgt. Ted Walters, 22-year-old bomber crewman from Phoenix, is stationed, there's an American canteen with good American food, candy and cigarettes, served by American personnel. To Sergeant Walters, the hot weather wasn't much different from the summer climate he'd become accustomed to in Arizona. And to add a final 'old home' touch--the first plane to which he was assigned in India had as its pilot Lt. Raymond Rote, since promoted to captain and transferred to another post. He and Captain Rote attended school together here. Sergeant Walters' mother, Mrs. May Hollihan, 81 West Willeta Street, says her son writes more about life in India than he does about his experiences in combat but she knows he has participated in a number of raids on Japanese air fields, warehouses and other installations in Burma. A picture of himself and fellow members of his bomber crew, which accompanied his most recent letter, was further proof that he's feeling--and looking--cheerful. Mrs. Hollihan said her son heard of rationing in the United States and wanted to know in his next letter if 'we were getting enough to eat here. Of course I reassured him.' Sergeant Walters went to India nine months ago as a corporal after aerial gunnery training in Las Vegas, Nev., and additional training at Langley Field, Va. He has served as a gunner and radio operator aboard bombers. Mrs. Hollihan's older son, Sgt. Bruce Walters, has been in the army five years, since was 21. He is now stationed at Camp White, Ore,, as an artilleryman." (Phoenix newspaper).
My uncle Ted was not the first Campbell in India. Several heroic and even more illustrious Campbells from Great Britain preceded him. As for the American Campbells, a check of the standard American biographical guides reveals many notable Campbells, including one who governed Canada for Queen Victoria, an assistant secretary of war for the Confederacy, and so on. Furthermore, if the biographical guides are reliable, the Campbells were generally of high social status: surgeons, of course; judges and lawyers; professors and journalists; and so forth. I suppose their status got them into the guides, but still!
Back in the mother country, I probably have even more noble Highland blood from the Campbells than I assumed in America. No doubt I am somehow related to kings and queens, not only of Scotland and of Britain at large, but of all Europe! And if only I knew more about the Walters' presumably Welsh side of my family! If I knew valid genealogical techniques, who knows what I might survey from the perspective of my high descent from entitled patriots, or from the gallows of condemned traitors? I might be related not only to Mary Queen of Scots but also to the Dr. Walters who cared for her corpse after the beheading, which would explain in part my confusion around the Eighth of every February. And who was that Lucy Walter or Walters running around with Charles II?
I hope to answer those questions and many others in my forthcoming book, MY FAMILY TREE, by David Arthur Robert Bruce Colin Campbell Walters, Lord Apparent and Pretender to the Throne – it is traditional for Campbells to add their own middle name--I took the liberty of adding several. The composition of my vanity-press book has been delayed. I discovered the number of persons claiming the Campbell clan as their own has risen from a few thousand in 1745 to more than a million; now I must ascertain precisely where I stand in the line of ascension and determine whether the wait is feasible. The writing has also been complicated by the fact that clans tend to adopt members, so I must engage in the time-consuming calculation of the purity of my blood.
Because of the obscurity of the Walters' kith and kin overseas, I have relied on the Clan Campbell over there for my identity. The Campbell totem is the wild boar because an early hero did battle with a ferocious boar and killed it; that is no mean feat. There exists as well a strange story about a pig named "Sandy Caumal." Is that "Campbell?" Probably not. Nor does the word "Campbell" mean "huge crooked nose", but some Scots think it means "crooked mouth" because an early chief was called "cam" (crooked, or wry) "beul" (mouth). But scholars have challenged that derivation, arguing that a personal characteristic would not have become an inherited surname. Yet others say the name was Campo Bello, probably the appellation of a Saxon--that too is disputed by experts. Some current experts who vie for the final word say the most likely explanation is "Campbell" has always been "Campbell,” probably the name of a Roman who stayed behind when his countrymen pulled out.
But enough of this talk about Jews, Romans, pigs, snouts and what is in a name. Suffice it to say that the Campbell clan can be traced in one way or another from Adam and Eve to a family in possession of Luchow in Argyll about A.D. 400, and so on to the clan bearing the appellation "Campbell", headed up by Sir. Colin Campbell who was knighted by King Alexander III in 1280. Sir Colin was killed while chasing a neighbor he had defeated. It was his eldest son who fought beside Robert the Bruce and who was given the hand of Lady Mary Bruce.
From there on I have encountered many fascinating tales about the exploits of the Campbells; I will spare you the details until my exhausting research into my identity is complete.
Suffice it to say that since the Campbell exploits do conform to my inherent sensibilities, I have no doubt my relation to the clan is a true one. My noble characteristics were self-evident at birth. Now I know fully well why I hate absolute authority, and why I would fain exercise it nevertheless and am on suitable occasions disposed to bow and bend a knee to it when it draws near. And I often have a radical abhorrence of lordly and kingly power: I would take up a double-edged sword for my clan, whosoever they may be. Some of my brave peers were in and out of gaol for that reason, and even lost their heads for their causes in the bloody end. Now that I think of it, I know my blood is more of an hearty red than an inbred blue. It is a ruddy blood mingled by both birth and adoption into the Clan of the Wild Boar.
As for my contradictions: the disagreement of myself with myself, or my selves amongst themselves is no doubt rooted in obscure relations in gloomy castles and muddy huts near fields of glorious battles. Yet I have no cause for shame in the resulting strength of my strain and intelligence of my stock exalting the likes of me to nobility and beyond to royalty, perhaps even to a presidency or dictatorship in the brave new world.
Of course, on the other hand, I am aware that I might be making erroneous assumptions about my family tree. Maybe I am an adoptee, or maybe I am adopting it. Perhaps the tree is not mine. Yes, I know, mistaken identities have had dire consequences even for gentle, peace-loving romantics. And even true identifications have led to quixotic adventures with tragic results. Nonetheless, I shall and I must proceed as always, by virtue of my native instincts, as courageously and gallantly as I can, given the circumstances.
I believe I have said enough for you to understand my special predicament and peculiar circumstances at present, therefore in closing I quoth for our mutual benefit the motto of the Campbell Clan: