The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 10, 2008

Father’s Day spurs family tree notion

By Phil Brown, Commentary

With every Father’s Day comes that old wondering —the wondering about where all of us Browns came from.

I have pretty good evidence most of my family tree is made up of Scotch-Irish ancestors. I have McCrisakens, McIntyres, Campbells, Craigs and Browns (how did they get in there?) hanging here and there from various branches of the tree.

We have Protestants and Catholics on the tree. Someone joked the other day the name Obama, as in our presidential candidate, might really be O’Bama, which I guess would make him Scotch-Irish, like, say, O’Brien. No? OK. I’m sure he would be the first to refute any link.

As you may or may not know, most of us Scotch-Irishmen have at least a smidgen of Viking blood in our veins, and you know what robbing and raping yahoos the Vikings were.

How many red-haired Scotch-Irish lads and lassies have you seen? Quite a few. And you recall the Viking “Eric The Red” (so named because of his flaming red hair, I’m sure) and his longboat were poking around up and down our East Coast even before Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492.

There also may be a bit of Spanish in the mix, too. My mother had brown eyes and black hair. I’ve wondered if the McIntyres and Craigs, and maybe the Campbells, too, may have consorted with the Spanish sailors who swam ashore after the British defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 off the coast of Ireland.

I can only presume some of the Spaniards survived and made it ashore. Anyway, the idea seems to have some logic and could explain my mother’s black hair and brown eyes. Si?

But what about the Browns? They tell me there are a jillion million Browns in Kentucky, and all my Dad knew is what his Dad told him — they came from Kentucky. I believe Kentucky must be international headquarters for the Browns.

I believe the British spelling of the surname Brown had an e suffix — hence Browne. So does that rule out the United Kingdom? I guess it could. The Germans spell it Braun and pronounce it as if it was spelled Brawn. In the beginning it could have been a longer name like maybe Brownokowski, and who knows where that might have come from.

One of the troubles with being named Brown is people like to call us “Brownie” — like President Bush in, “Brownie you’re doing a heckuva job.”

I have often wondered about the gene pool that fashioned my Dad. He was a nice looking man, maybe a little smaller than average. He was a quiet man. He seldom raised his voice. I don’t believe I ever heard him express much anger. He and my mother never argued, at least not in my presence. He never criticized anyone.

I remember we played catch a lot in the summertime when I was a kid. He would encourage me to throw it harder. He wore a catcher’s mitt — “Make it pop,” he would yell. Sometimes I could.

I ran the neighborhood a lot when I was growing up. We didn’t have a telephone, so my Mom couldn’t call Mrs. Beckham and tell her to have Phil come home because it was dinnertime.

My Dad would just step onto the front porch, stick two of his fingers in his mouth and produce a whistle that probably bounced off Mars. I never could whistle that way or that loud. When I heard his distinctive whistle, I knew it was time to come home.

I don’t recall my Dad ever showing anger — displeasure maybe, but never just out and out red-faced anger. I could tell he was displeased by the expression on his face, and he made a clicking sound with his tongue against his teeth, and maybe if he had me by the hand in a public place he would give me a couple of sharp tugs on my arm but never say a word. I knew what it meant.

My Dad died in 1957. He had me later in life — the second of two sons. I was 30 years old when he died, so he now has been gone considerably longer than I knew him. I miss him. He was a helluva nice guy.

Brown is a former managing editor of the Enid Morning News.