It always starts the same. Someone in the family dies, or has a baby, or gets married and I’m just going to take that one little hit. I can handle it. I’ve been clean for months, one little hit won’t hurt. I’ll put it right back down.
Weeks later, it occurs to me that I’m hooked again, and I’m planning my life around my addiction. I’ll quit tomorrow. Right after one more hit. John Smith is waiting, and I have to find him. I hate John Smith. He wants me addicted. He thinks it’s funny. I’d kill him if he weren’t already dead.
So’s his buddy, James Shackleton. Actually, there’s a whole gang of them. John and James hooked up with Tom Bancroft and Priscilla Sutcliffe and started a little gang of zombie pushers who keep me coming back. There’s hundreds of them now. They call themselves The Brick Wall Gang, and they span continents.
I hunt them like Buffy.
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John Smith was born in Cowling Head, in the ancient parish of Kildwick, in the West Riding of Yorkshire about 1801, and died sometime after 1871, at which time he and his wife Hannah had moved to Denholme, in Thornton. That’s where they met Tom Bancroft and James Shackleton, and they started their little gang of hoodlums. John and Hannah’s daughter Betty married James’ son John. John Shackleton married Tom and Priscilla’s daughter Hannah Priscilla Bancroft.
Confused yet? Yeah, that’s what they think is so fucking funny. Try to extricate the correct John Smith and John Shackleton and Betty Smith and James Shackleton from the old Yorkshire records. It’ll turn you into an alcoholic, not because the names don’t appear in the old records in that area of Old Blighty, but rather that they’re everywhere. John Smith in the middle of West Yorkshire in the nineteenth century? Are you kidding me?
The picture in this post is of Jonas Shackleton, the son of John Shackleton and Betty Smith. He was a jolly fella, according to my grandmother who used to tell me about him. It’s said he’d sit in his rocker out on the porch, smoking his pipe and chuckling to himself occasionally, though no one seemed to know what it was that elicited his mirth.
I do. He knew that someday, I’d be cussing his grandparents.
If I ever find John Smith’s grave, I’m gonna dig him up and kick him in the goddamned shin, and make him tell me where to find the rest of The Brick Wall Gang.
Hello. My name is Lou, and I’m a genealogy addict.