Cousins are great � they teach us who we are! By Bob Karolevitz According to Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, a cousin is "loosely, any relative by blood or marriage."
By that definition I had lots of cousins at the first Karolevitz/Karolewicz reunion at Beseda Hall in Tabor recently.
I didn�t know there were that many who claimed a relationship. Surprisingly, there were lots of my shirttail cousins there who go by the Polish name � give or take a variation in spelling. But the clan also included the Novotnys, the Havraneks, the Pesickas, the Hajeks, the Hrozas, the Wolfgrams, the Bouskas and more.
Even the McGuires and the Garritys were included � which shows you how ecumenical we are by letting the Irish in.
I was invited because I am the grandson of the late Demasin. Apparently he was involved when the �vitz� was substituted for the �wicz� � which was the subject of much discussion at the gathering.
The way I heard it, the Great Northern Railroad paymaster was the culprit. When Demasin � who was a foreman on the line � reported for his pay, the railway official asked him, �Why don�t you spell your name like you pronounce it?�
Demasin was an amiable sort, so the change was made on the railroad rolls, and it was adopted by his family and his brothers. Unfortunately the Anglecized version was not much better than the Polish one.
�He could have done what Albert Adam Karolewicz did,� one of the Novotnys said. �He was the managing officer of the Dupree State Bank, and he changed his name legally to Karley, which was a heck of an improvement.�
All of which showed that we had a money man in the family; and I always thought our people were blacksmiths, postal workers, policemen and farmers. Heck, they were great athletes, too.
Needless to say, the reunion � and a genealogy book by Carmen and Romaine Pesicka � was an eye-opener for me.
The dictionary had another definition, too � a more standard one: �a cousin is the son or daughter of one�s uncle or aunt.�
By that description I had relatives on my mother�s and father�s side scattered from coast to coast. The same week of the reunion, a cousin of mine � Eddie Anderson � showed up from California, and we had a fun time reminiscing about �the good old days.� (He was a grandson of Demasin, too.)
We recalled catching pocket gophers which we cut off the front legs for the bounty with the same jackknife we used to plug the watermelons which we filched from a neighbor�s patch.
We remembered making darts out of corncobs and rooster feathers which we would throw at pigeons in the barn loft. The nail in the darts was supposed to impale the birds, but I don�t think we hit any.
I was a city kid who used to spend summers on their farm. Once Uncle Ben � Eddie�s dad � let me take a bullrake to a hay field with a team of horses. The equipment was wider than the gateway, and I caught the posts on each side with the wooden teeth of the rake.
I shouted �Whoa,� but the horses kept going. We tore out a lot of fence in the process.
Uncle Ben never let me drive after that. I wonder why?
Yes, cousins, be they shirttail or the legitimate kind, are great to have. They teach us who we are!
� 2005 Robert F. Karolevitz