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  My New Old Cousin

John W. Pinkerton


Recently, I wrote an essay, “Friends Misplaced but Not Lost,” about finding folks using the internet.  I was quite successful at this effort and found old college friends and army buddies even though I had lost track of them nearly a half century ago.

It never occurred to me that someone might be looking for me, but, as it turns out, one was.  She is a long lost cousin.  She wasn't literally lost, but she was lost to me.  She is the daughter of my father's brother.  The last time I saw her or spoke to her, she was about three years old.

One morning I went to my email, and there she was asking if I was John Pinkerton, son of Jim.  I was.  She's no longer three.  She, bless her heart, is almost as old as I am.

She was motivated to find me in order to acquire some family history as a background for an autobiography she is writing.  I wasn't much help in advancing her knowledge of the family.   I had a couple stories of our fathers' father, John Robert, whom I only knew from a distance.  I shared a few moments with him when we briefly lived in California.

John Robert married Ola Egan.  My understanding is that Ola was an orphan raised on a plantation in Louisiana.  John Robert walked away from home when he was twelve and went to work for the railroad.   John Robert and Ola married, had three children, two boys and a girl.  As Dad tells it, John Robert waved goodbye to him as he left town in an open car accompanied by a red headed woman.  So much for family.

I was told than John Robert married four more  times with his last marriage in California to Vi, a nice German lady.  Vi sent us Christmas cards until her death.

    John Robert Pinkerton

John Robert went to work for the railroad as a waterboy.  He made a career of the railroad working as a track foreman, conductor, station master, and Lord knows what else.  He once changed from one railroad company to another because as conductor he physically removed two owners of the rail line…not a career advancer.  A story which is interesting but not particularly charming is the story of John Robert shooting a man who was under his supervision as track foreman because during a knife fight with another worker, he turned on John Robert.  Naturally, he shot him dead.

Apparently the relationships between John Robert's children and John Robert were strained.  Of course, as a result, I don't know much about John Robert and know absolutely nothing about his parents, but I've heard that they were farmers.  Apparently, farm life didn't seem satisfying to John Robert being that he walked away at twelve.

I suspect John Robert was as good a man as his nature let him be.  He was Irish which in itself in many respects is not a plus.  As I grow older, I find that I judge that folks can only be who they are.  If they are saints by nature, they will probably display saintliness.  If they aren't, they won't.

John Robert's sons also seemed to have a problem with each other.  Some times they would end up in close proximity to each other, but friendly laughter and back slapping would not last long.

Perhaps the problem began in a story told to me by my father.  It goes back to the days when they were both teenagers in Kinsett, Arkansas, a brief stop on the rail line.  It seems that Jim had acquired a rather sporty pair of white flannel trousers.  It seems that Paul had wrapped them around a cresote telephone pole…not good for white flannel.  Jim caught up with Paul as Paul was getting a haircut at the local barber shop.  There was quite a bit of damage done to the barber shop as well as each other.  At any rate, they were never very close which is probably the reason my newly

         Paul and Jim in a pleasant moment.           found Cousin and I barely

                                                                              know each other.

Although my cousin and I had not spoken for almost seventy years, we found instant rapport through our mutual agreement that our fathers were somewhat lacking as role models.  However, we also agreed that they were probably as good as they could have been considering who they were.

As far as I know, my family history on my father's side is more like a stump than an entire tree.   Lord only knows what would be discovered if one traced it back any further than John Robert.  Although my cousin seems interested, I can live without the family history.


I have friends who take great pride in knowing their families' histories going back generations and also like to talk about that history.  I politely listen, a quality I've acquired in my old age, but really have no interest in my own family history let alone theirs.

Paul, Jim, and goat.