Irish Boy on Cajun Reservation

I came from a proud Irish family culture. Like the white boy raised by an Indian tribe, I was raised a Cajun boy and couldn’t speak English prior to attending school. The loving people who raised me spoke only French. I had an Irish name and looked more Irish than French, but anyone raised around the Cajun culture is consumed by it.

What was different about my situation is that my Irish side is well Dunn, pure Irish. My great-grandfather, Stephen James Dunn, was killed during the Civil War. His bride, her sister, and 8-year-old son, Allen Dunn, came by covered wagon from Arkansas to settle in Rising Star, Texas. I’m one of few people alive today whose grandfather was alive during the Civil War. He was born in 1856 and was very young when his dad was killed. My grandfather Allen grew up to marry Laura Dunn, from Dublin Texas. They had eight children, six boys and two girls. My father Clay was born in 1894. So far, all are Dunns.

When dad was 40 years old I came along. There went the Irish bloodline. My mother, even though Cajun, was a mixture of French, from France, German and Spanish. My Irish grandmother Laura was fair, with gorgeous blue eyes. My Cajun grandmother Avalia also had beautiful blue eyes, as did my mother. I ended up with a fair complexion and brown eyes. My grandfather and father Clay were what they call “Black Irish,” dark skin and dark brown eyes. Both sides claimed their folks came from Ireland but because of their skin color, it indicates they came from different parts of Ireland.

My Irish kin were all raised around Rising Star and are buried there in the Sipes Springs cemetery. My father would be 117 years old today. He died on Feb. 19, 1959. For many years, on that day, I visited his and the graves of my Irish kin. Now I go by the old cemetery if I’m within 100 miles of Rising Star. The Dunn’s all lived fascinating, successful lives. My father was a true pioneer in different businesses. I have a lot of great stories about my kinfolk, who were proudly Irish. Even though they didn’t raise me, I’ve been fortunate to be handed down some of their good traits and their luck of the Irish. It was on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, when I published my first newspaper, the Opportunity Valley News. The OVN was a big success and led to other publications and provided a good life for my family. However, just as importantly, it allowed me to do what I enjoy. Not everyone gets to be their own boss for a lifetime.

The Cajun people have such a wonderful way of expressing their joy for life. Their “live and let live” attitude of kindness and deeply embodied heritage of struggle makes them a special people. I’m thankful that God chose to put me and the crawfish down in the Cajun country. I wouldn’t trade my upbringing, as tough as it was, raised by a single mom during the depression, for anything.

When St. Pat’s Day rolls around, I always reflect back on the strong western people, the Dunn’s of Rising Star, who are my other half. They have all passed on to join the Leprechaun off yonder somewhere.

I’m the last of that Dunn clan. I have two sons who don’t have any boys, so not too many years down life’s highway, the Dunn name, from my proud Irish family, will come to an end. The bloodline will live on in my offspring, even if the name doesn’t.

I just wanted to pause and pay tribute to my Irish side this St. Patrick’s Day. May the luck of the Irish be with you. On March 17, everyone is a little Irish for a day. I’m a half-breed year around and proud of both sides. Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you.