September 1, 1921
Yes, I am well. I joined the march as it came through Racine, but we were met by General Bandholz just in time to avert tragedy for most of us. He convinced us that if we continued, martial law would be declared and we would be facing the Army. None of us wanted that.
What you heard were reports of the men who had already passed through Racine, who were too far ahead of General Bandholz to receive his message. Many of those men are now under arrest.
The number of casualties was grossly exaggerated in news reports.
Best to Louisa. I will see you soon.
The Battle of Blair Mountain. By Charleston Gazette [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Thursday, June 23
Mid-morning on Thursday my phone rang with a number I didn’t recognize. I said, “Hello?”
The voice of an older woman said, “Is this Jeremy Brodie?”
“I’m Clarice Hankins. You emailed me about my family tree.”
“Oh, yes, ma’am. Please call me Jamie.”
“I’ve wondered for years if anyone from Emory’s family would ever contact me. I wasn’t even sure if his daughter Caroline had descendants.”
“Yes, ma’am. My mom was an only child, but she and my dad had three sons. Have. My brothers and I are all alive and well.”
“But according to your email, you must have lost your mother at a young age.”
“Yes, ma’am. It was a car accident. I was six months old.”
“Oh, I am sorry to hear that.”
“Thank you. I only saw my Coleman grandparents a couple of times after that. I do know they both died sometime in the 1990s.”
“So you weren’t close to your grandparents?”
“No, ma’am. They tried to sue my dad for custody after my mom’s death. Needless to say he didn’t look on that favorably.”
“Goodness, no. How did you learn about Emory?”
I explained how I’d first seen the mine picture in Sheila Meadows’s office, then in the exhibition. “I only found out what Emory’s first name was last week. I started looking on the genealogy sites, and found your family tree.”
“You saw the picture in the exhibition? I thought you live in California.”
“I do. My cousin lives in D.C. and he’s getting married Saturday. I’m staying at my uncle’s house in McLean.”
“Well, for heaven’s sake. I live in Annandale. I’m practically next door.”
“Oh. For some reason I thought you were in West Virginia.”
She chuckled. “No. I was born in Kentucky, but married a military man. We’ve lived all over but retired to Annandale.”
“Ah. Was Wesley Morgan your great-uncle?”
“He was. I knew your great-grandfather well.”
I had to talk to this woman. “I’d love to talk to you in person. My brothers are on this trip with me. I know they’d enjoy meeting you.”
“Certainly. Do you know where Tysons Corner Center is?”
“There’s a Metro stop within walking distance. Would you be able to meet for lunch tomorrow?”
“Wonderful. Shall we say 1:00? At Panera.”
“Yes, ma’am. You’ll probably spot my brother Kevin first. He’s 6’4” and very blond.”
“Perfect. I’ll see you then.”
I hung up. Pete, Dad and Sarge had all been listening in with interest. Dad said, “Well?”
“We’re going to meet tomorrow for lunch. She says she knew Emory Jarrell well.”
Pete asked, “Were Emory and Wesley a couple?”
“She didn’t say. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.”
We didn’t go to the wedding rehearsal itself, since we weren’t in the wedding. The wedding and reception on Saturday would be at the Army-Navy Country Club, where Dennis was a member, but Tyler and Blair were holding their rehearsal dinner in the hotel where Blair’s cousins were staying.
I walked into the banquet hall using crutches, then propped them against the wall by our table. It appeared that the new seating pattern was working to suppress conflict – so far. On the wall opposite from us was the doughy clump of pallid people that were Blair’s maternal aunts, uncles and cousins. They looked disoriented, like they’d boarded a tour bus for Dollywood and were diverted to Buckingham Palace. I spotted Sarah at the table closest to the door; she gave me a little wave and I waved back.
The servers glided between tables silently, pouring wine. I took a sip and watched Blair’s father as he quickly downed his first glass and requested a refill.
Uh oh. I nudged Pete. “Blair’s dad is already on his second glass of wine.”
Pete nudged Kevin, on his other side. “We need to keep an eye on Blair’s father.”
Dinner was superb and served in grand style. Salad first, then gazpacho, then the main course, all accompanied by liberal refills of wine. At the tables in the center of the room the majority of the groomsmen and their dates were being served something that I couldn’t identify. Vegan and gluten-free, no doubt. Our meal was prime rib, roasted Yukon Gold potatoes with rosemary, and perfectly steamed asparagus tips. It looked like the Gorham clan on the far wall was being served the same thing.
We dug in enthusiastically. The prime rib was tender enough to cut with a fork. It had been a long time since I’d had a piece of red meat this good. One of the groomsmen glanced over at us, the barbarians happily consuming meat, and made a moue of distaste.
Kristen saluted him with her prime rib-laden fork. I snickered.
Dessert was sherbet with raspberries. Perfect. We were served champagne with dessert. Tyler stood up and lifted his glass. “I just want to say, thank you to everyone. All of our friends and relatives that are making this weekend so special for us. We love you all.”
Everyone applauded, although I noted that Blair looked slightly ill. He was sitting next to his mother, who’d kept up a constant stream of chatter in his ear throughout dinner.
The tables were cleared; the space that had been occupied with serving carts was quickly converted into a bar. Blair’s father was first in line.
Pete groaned. “Is this an open bar?”
I said, “No. Beer and wine are a dollar, mixed drinks are two. Cheap but not free.”
Kevin watched Blair’s dad weave his way back to his seat. “This is a terrible idea.”
As the crowd grew more raucous, I grew more concerned. Kevin and Pete casually strolled to the head table, unobtrusively attempting to keep Blair’s dad under control, getting his drinks for him and ensuring that he stayed in his seat. Tyler looked happy, oblivious to the potential drama to his right.
That was what mattered. If Tyler was happy, I was happy.
Then an uninvited guest slipped into the room, and it all went to hell.
I whispered, “Oh, fuck.”
Kristen’s and Val’s heads swiveled. Val said, “What?”
“Tanner at three o’clock.”
“Damn.” Val started to get up.
I put my hand on her arm. “Stay. I’ll get Will and Henry and handle this.”
Rehearsal Dinner Seating
I slipped out of my seat, leaving the crutches where they were, and limped toward the head table. Pete caught my eye and raised an eyebrow; I shook my head slightly at him. I reached the table where Will and Henry were seated and bent down between them. “Tanner’s here.”
Will groaned. Henry hissed, “Shit. Where?”
“He just came in the back door.”
Will said, “We’ve got to stop him.”
I said, “Agreed. Are you two coming?”
Henry scowled. “Hell, yeah.”
“Let’s surround him.” I pointed to the left. “Will, you go that way, behind the head table. Henry, you go to the right and come up behind him. I’ll walk straight toward him, and you guys grab him and escort him out. With luck, Tyler won’t see him.”
“Okay.” Will stood and made his way behind the head table. Henry wound his way through the tables to the right. I walked straight through the room in Tanner’s direction. He was against the far wall, nearly to the front of the room; he and Will would meet in the corner.
I hoped Tyler hadn’t spotted him.
Will and I reached Tanner at the same time. Tanner pulled up short at the sight of Will then smirked. “Well, hey there, big brother. What’s shakin’?”
I said, “Nothing’s getting shaken here today.”
Tanner whirled around, the surprise on his face getting replaced by menace. “Well, looky here. It’s the millionaire fag. Whatcha gonna do, fag? Hit me with your purse?”
Will said disgustedly, “You’re stoned.”
“Nah. Just happy. S’posed to be happy at a wedding, right? Just wanna pay my respects to the happy couple.”
Henry had come up behind Tanner; Tanner hadn’t seen him yet. I said, “That’s not gonna happen.”
“Fuck you.” Tanner took a step back to move around me, and bumped into Henry. He whirled, the surprise on his face quickly replaced with a sneer. “Well, if it ain’t my other sainted brother. Y’all gonna hog tie me? ‘Cause that’s the only way you’re gettin’ me out of here.”
Will said, “It’ll be easier than that.” He grabbed Tanner’s arm and twisted it behind him, and wrapped his forearm around Tanner’s neck, getting him in a chokehold that any police officer would have been proud to call his own. I was impressed. Tanner tried to squeal, but could only manage a mouse-sized squeak. Henry took Tanner’s left upper arm, and we calmly marched him toward the back of the room.
About halfway back Tanner suddenly swiped his leg out, tripping Henry. Henry stumbled against the wall, losing his grip on Tanner, who tried to use the element of surprise to wrest out of Will’s grip. Fortunately we’d made it to the far corner of the room where my dad had stationed himself. He grabbed the front of Tanner’s shirt. “Tanner. Let me help you out.”
Henry reestablished his hold on Tanner’s free arm. I glanced around to see if anyone was paying attention to us. Thanks to the level of noise and drunkenness, we seemed to be going unnoticed. Will twisted Tanner’s arm behind his back again.
Tanner winced, but gritted his teeth and said, “Uncle Dave, get them off me. I’ll behave.”
Dad shook his head. “Sorry, Tanner. I don’t believe that for a second. Let’s go outside.”
Dad led the way to the door and Will and Henry hauled Tanner across the hall, through the exit and out to the curb. Dad turned, disgust painted on his face. “Tanner, what the hell are you thinking? You can’t possibly think that we’re going to let you ruin Tyler’s day.”
Tanner squirmed out of his brothers’ grip, but didn’t run. “I have a right to be here! I’m a member of this family, too.”
Dad said firmly, “You’ve abused that position too often. Tyler doesn’t want you here. You have to leave.”
Tanner’s face took on the same stubborn expression he’d had as a kid. “You can’t make me. You can’t call the cops ’cause I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Will said, “Coming here was wrong. Do you want me to get Dad to explain it to you?”
Dad said, “There’s no need to involve Denny. Tanner’s going to go quietly.”
Tanner’s chin jutted. “What if I don’t?”
I said, “Do you remember the last time you and I tangled? I knocked you cold then. I’ll do it again if I have to.”
Tanner opened his mouth to speak, but his face froze in a stare – and he fell backwards. Will grabbed him as he went down and guided him to the grass, and Tanner proceeded to have a full-blown grand mal seizure.
Dad knelt beside Henry, who was preventing Tanner’s head from banging into anything. Will said to me, “Go get Marilyn.”
Head Table Seating
I hobbled as quickly as I could back into the reception. At the head table, Blair’s dad was now standing, gesticulating wildly. Pete and Kevin were on their feet as well, to either side of him. Blair’s mother was watching her ex-husband in horror. I slid in behind Aunt Marilyn, bent down and whispered, “We need you outside.”
She turned and looked up at me. “What?”
“Okay…” She stood and followed me into the hallway. When we were through the exit she spotted Will and Henry. “What’s going on?”
“Tanner showed up. We walked him out of the reception and he started having a seizure.”
“Oh my God.” Marilyn picked up her skirt and began to run.
Dad said, “I’ve called 911.”
Tanner had quit seizing, but he looked dead, lying on his side. Will knelt beside him, his fingers on Tanner’s pulse; Henry had his hand on Tanner’s chest. Marilyn dropped to her knees. “Tanner? Can you hear me?”
Will said, “He’s unconscious.”
Marilyn’s expression hardened. “Is he on drugs?”
Henry said, “I think so.”
I heard the siren in the distance. Dad said, “I’ll go get Cliff and Dennis.”
By the time Dad got back with Cliff and Dennis, the ambulance had arrived. The paramedics loaded Tanner up quickly. Marilyn rode in the ambulance with him; Cliff went to get the car and follow, taking Dennis and Henry with him.
We watched them go, then Will sighed. “I’d better tell Betsy where Henry went.”
Dad asked, “Did Tyler realize anything was going on?”
I said, “I don’t think so. He’s watching Blair’s father make an ass of himself.”
As we entered the building, Pete and Kevin came through the ballroom door into the hallway, steering Blair’s dad. Mr. Gorham was glassy-eyed and shouting faggot jokes. “How many fags does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two – one to screw it in and one to say, ‘Fabulous!’” He spotted me and pointed. “Hey! There’s another one! Two fags walk into a bar…”
Blair’s stepmother came flying out the ballroom door, skidding to a halt when she saw Gorham right in front of her. “Rod, what are you doing?”
“Brenda! I am havin’ a fabulous time!” Gorham cracked up at his own lame joke. “Fabulous, get it?”
Pete said politely, “Mrs. Gorham, what room are you in? We think Mr. Gorham needs to sleep it off.”
Gorham began to bellow. “Put on my blue suede shoes and I boarded the plane…”
Mrs. Gorham looked like she might cry. “I told him we shouldn’t come. I told him Blair didn’t want him here.”
Kevin said, “Mrs. Gorham? What room?”
Gorham bleated, “Touched down in the land of the delta blues in the middle of the pourin’ rain…”
“Room 318.” Mrs. Gorham dug in her purse. “Here’s the key card.” She handed it to Pete.
Pete said, “You’re coming with us.”
She looked shocked that he would suggest such a thing. “Why? You said he needs to sleep. I don’t need to be there for that.”
Kevin took the card from Pete and handed it back to Mrs. Gorham. “Yes, you do. We are sure as hell not going to stay with him, and someone has to in case he starts to drown in his own puke. He is your problem. If you don’t go upstairs and stay with him, I will call the police and he can spend the night in jail. Your choice.”
I figured that Gorham would enjoy being arrested, but Mrs. Gorham looked horrified. “You wouldn’t.”
Kevin said, “Try me.”
“THEN I WAS WALKING IN MEMPHIS…”
“Oh, fine.” Mrs. Gorham turned and stomped away. Pete said to me, “Be right back. I think.” He and Kevin dragged Gorham toward the elevators.
“BUT DO I REALLY FEEL THE WAY I FEEL…”
Dad looked after the group, shaking his head. “He’s really going to feel the way he feels tomorrow.”
“Maybe he’ll be too sick to come to the wedding.”
“We can hope.”
Back inside the ballroom, things had calmed down somewhat. I stopped by Sarah’s table and was introduced to her father, a slightly larger version of Blair’s runty dad. He shook my hand solemnly. “Did my no-good brother give you any trouble?”
“Not much, sir. He’s being taken to his room to sleep it off.”
Sarah’s dad shook his head. “He’s a lightweight. Can’t handle the booze at all.” He eyed me. “Sarah says you’re Tyler’s cousin.”
“You from a military family too?”
“Yes, sir.” I pointed to Dad, Doug and Sarge’s table. “My dad’s over there. He was in Vietnam.”
“Yeah? So was I.”
I said, “Come with me. I’ll introduce you.”
Sarah followed me and installed herself at our table. I left Dad and Mr. Gorham chatting amiably and sat down beside her. She asked, “Who was that guy that came in?”
“Tyler’s other brother. He was here to make trouble.”
She grinned. “What a night.”
Since Dennis had taken the car to the hospital, we had to walk to the Pentagon Metro station to get home. I was glad I’d brought the crutches with me. None of us had much to say. Pete and Kevin had just gotten Blair’s dad into his room when he’d started barfing; they’d both gotten puke on their shoes, socks and pants legs and were not happy. They’d taken their socks off and left them in the hotel room trash can, but hadn’t been able to clean their pants or shoes to their satisfaction.
Toni kept calling Dennis, who didn’t answer. Dad, Doug, Linda and Sarge talked about Tanner in hushed tones. When we reached the house Pete and Kevin took their shoes to the back yard to hose them and their pants legs clean. Everyone else gathered in the family room to wait.
Toni finally got through to Dennis and spoke to him for a few minutes. When she hung up she said, “He’s on his way home. Tanner is still unconscious. They’re doing tests. Cliff and Marilyn are staying.”
Doug asked, “Did Tyler know that Tanner showed up?”
Toni said, “I don’t think so. He was trying to keep Blair calm while Blair’s dad made a fool of himself.”
Val said, “Most of Blair’s family needs to go home. They’ve eaten. It’s time for them to leave.”
Kevin said, “Let’s hope that Blair’s stepmother is thinking the same.”