Down Life’s Highway – Hale, Chloe, Amber and St. Patrick
Usually this time of year I would write a St. Patrick’s Day column. March 17th has always been a special day to me, a half-breed. My mother was a Cajun mix, even though her background was mostly French, her father, Nelson Duplantis, came from France. As a boy I recall his receiving and reading a newspaper that came from Paris, France. On her mother’s side, her mom, Avalia, was mixed French, German and Spanish. In my father Clay’s background was a long list of Irish roots that ran deep on both wings of his blood line. His father Allen and mother Laura, who by birth were Dunn’s on both sides, claimed to be pure Irish to the core. Clay embedded in me how special he believed the Irish were. He showed all the markings, from temper to jolly, his deep baritone voice accompanied his many great stories. He had a lot of Irish pride that he worked at instilling in me but my Cajun upbringing always dominated. Cajuns seem to dominate everyone who comes in contact with them, food, music, love of life and people are their weapons. I’ve told you before how ironic it is that Clay died on Feb. 19 but his grave marker reads date of death March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t know who or how the error happened but its fitting. Later in this column, I will run a piece on St. Patrick Day and its origin.
For now, I want to touch on two other subjects. Leon Hale, 92, longtime columnist, wrote his last column for the Chronicle this past Sunday. The paper ran side stories about his long career. He started with the Houston Post in 1947, but I didn’t meet him until 1956. He stayed on the road writing columns and for a time lived in Bryan. I owned the Tradewinds Club, on the banks of the Brazos River and Leon stopped in for a meal from time to time knowing we served great meals. Leon worked that part of the area finding column ideas. He often visited Madame Z, a fortune teller, who lived in the Brazos Valley bottom. I kept up with his column in the Post and when he left them to go to the Chronicle so did I. Leon wrote 11 books and millions of words and I’ve missed very few of them. We were both young during those Brazos River days, I was several years his junior. Little did I know at the time the path my life would take and I would spend nearly 45 years doing what Leon did, write columns. I never would start to suggest I’m in the same class, no one is. My poor English, bad style, wrong use of words would make a poor D on Leon’s game sheet. I’ll miss him. He entertained me for over 55 years. May God be with him. Thanks for the many stories.
My second subject is about my granddaughter the doctor and her companion through the college years. Amber acquired Chloe, a Maltese, as a pup shortly after starting college. Chloe attended the University of Texas in a way with Amber because she was the loyal friend waiting at home. After earning her degree at Texas, Chloe followed her to medical school at Texas Tech in Lubbock and El Paso. Eight years had gone by and when Amber was called to do her internship and specialist training in Ohio she had to leave her longtime companion behind. Amber called often to inquire about her and when she came home for a visit they were inseparable with Chloe following her every step. Chloe died while AM was on vacation in Jamaica. We waited to tell her even though as a doctor she deals with death daily, it was a heartfelt loss. Her companion up the steep ladder is a time that will always be special to her. See her response and feelings to Chloe’s death on her Face Book site.
A wee-bit of St. Patrick Day history: Better wear green on Monday or you might be pinched. Though there are tons of stories about how this tradition was started none can really be proven, all that is really known is that school children really love this part of the holiday.
The person that the holiday was named after didn’t even start his life off with the name Patrick. Born in Wales about 385 AD, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was born to the name of Maewyn Succat. In his early life he was far from being a saint, up until the age of 16 he considered himself a pagan. And that is where the story really begins.
When he was 16 he was sold into slavery after his village was raided by a group of Irish marauders. It was during his captivity that he became closer to God. After six years of slavery he escaped to Gaul where he studied in the monastery under St. Germain for 12 years. During his training he became aware that his calling in life was to convert the pagans to Christianity.
His wishes were to return to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity but the leadership in the church appointed St. Palladius instead. Two years later Patrick was moved to Ireland after Palladius was transferred to Scotland.
Patrick was so successful at converting his people that the Celtic Druids in the area had him arrested several times, but he escaped each time. Traveling throughout Ireland Patrick established monasteries all over the country, in addition to this he setup churches and schools all of which helped him convert the Irish people to Christianity. Legend has it that Saint Patrick drove all the snakes out of Ireland. Evidently they all went into the sea and drowned. The snake is a pagan symbol and perhaps this is a figurative tale explaining that he drove paganism out of Ireland.
After 30 year mission in Ireland, Patrick retired to County Down where he died on March 17, 461. Which is the reason that we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on this date.