Sunday, February 04, 2007

Of great uncles

I have been reading The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman. I like all his books, mostly he writes very readable detective stories that feature the Navajo Tribal Police. I enjoy the glimpse into other cultures that his Native American protagonists bring.

In The First Eagle Tony Hillerman writes: "Hosteen Nakai was Chee's maternal granduncle, which gave him special status in Navajo tradition." Which led me to thinking about my only maternal great uncle: Francis Skinner. My uncle Francis died in 1941, long before I was born. He is famous in a small way as a friend, protege and lover of Wittgenstein. You can read about him in Wikipedia here and although it mentions "the dismay of Skinner's family" it doesn't tell you that the thing that really caused them lasting grief is that Wittgenstein did not tell them Francis was dying until it was too late to visit him.

Jim Chee's granduncle Nakai is steeped in Navajo tradition, my great uncle Francis's life did not fit with tradition. Chee spent a lot of time with Nakai, Francis was distant even from his sisters. Chee visits his granduncle on his deathbed, none of my family visited Francis. Chee and his family are fiction, my family is real. Both of these men are treasured.

The rest of my WikiFamily (people with articles about them in Wikipedia I am vaguely related to) are:

Donald Lynden-Bell - British astronomer
John Brown - American abolitionist
John Reed - American bolshevik


JK said...

Just to clarify... you're distantly related to Francis Skinner... (Tony Hillerman is not a relative, but he writes cool books... (right?).)

Can't wait to hear more about your WikiFamily! Cool!

Susan Harper said...

Francis Skinner was our mother's mother's brother. Here's my story about him.

Big Sister Susy