On the Importance of Pedigree

Author: Theresa Caballero

This week in the El Paso Inc. there was a story entitled “Shapleigh Family Selling Land on Eastside”.  The story talked about how State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh’s grandfather District Judge Ballard Coldwell had the forethought to purchase land on the east side of El Paso in the 1940’s for a couple of dollars an acre.  It is now being offered for sale for $40,000/acre.  Nice investment by Judge Ballard Coldwell. Aside from the obvious point of the Inc.’s article, I was intrigued by the importance our community and Senator Shapleigh place on his pedigree. If you look on Eliot Shapleigh’s website, you will see that he goes into great detail about his family tree, specifically his maternal side, and he mentions many ancestors he deems worthy of public note. So what is in a pedigree?

Well first, the name is very important.  Attempting to keep the Shapleighs and the Coldwells straight can be trying since they have for several generations now insisted on using the same names in different combinations.  We have Eliot Shapleigh and his brothers Ballard and Colby Shapleigh.  Then there is Grandfather Ballard Coldwell and local attorney Colbert Coldwell not to be confused with Colby Shapleigh or the next generation which has at least one more Eliot in the mix.  Now it is obvious someone way back when hit on a few first names to be used, Eliot and Ballard and Colbert and then Colby and that they have stubbornly glummed on to these four names in case anyone should forget that they are all related.  They also hail from an ethnic group that likes to use last names as first names and first names as last names.  If you keep going there are a variety of possibilities like Shapleigh Colby and Ballard Eliot not to mention Shapleigh Eliot Coldwell to be succeeded by Colbert Eliot and Eliot Ballard Colby, Coldwell Ballard, and Shapleigh Coldwell Colby.

You have to be grateful that they do not use IIs, IIIs, IVs, etc.  Can you imagine the tongue twisting then?  Colby Shapeligh III who is the uncle of Coldwell Ballard the II to be followed by Judge Ballard Colby V and so on.

It could even have been worse than that.  The U.S. constitution prohibits the use of titles.  Early Americans did not like the notion of an inherited aristocracy.  The idea was that each man would earn respect based on his own merits.  But suppose for a minute our forefathers had not been as radical as they were and we ended up with Count Colby Coldwell II uncle of Duke Ballard Eliot V grandson of Prince Ballard Eliot Colby Coldwell XI heir to the land east of I-10 in the fiefdom of King Ballard Eliot Colby Shapleigh Coldwell the IV loyal vassal of emperor Raymond Cesar Caballero I.  Our forefathers were smarter than we give them credit for.

Now it would seem that everyone has a pedigree, it is just that most of us outside the eastern seaboard do not pay too much attention to it.  After reading the article in the Inc., I decided that I too am entitled to a pedigree and so I went in search of one.  The question then became, who did I want to claim and who was I going to leave off my website.  Well it seems that one only counts those with money or fame.  I noticed on Eliot Shapleigh’s website he did not include any family members who may have fallen into the category of ne’er do well.  No drunks or criminals on his website.  So I will follow his example.  I started at the county court house and it seems that there was a judge named McGill.  Now my mother’s maiden name is Mc Gill.  My maternal great grandfather had several brothers.  All of them contracted tuberculosis and hit the road out of New York for more salubrious climates out west never to be heard from again.  El Paso at that time had several tuberculosis sanitariums.  So I think that this Judge McGill is one of the long lost McGill brothers who came to El Paso, made a full recovery and became a judge.  He MUST be my ancestor and he was a judge too so we’ll count him and put him on my website.  Then there was that American soldier a few years back whose plane crashed behind enemy lines in Serbia.  If you recall, he managed to escape and make it back to safe ground becoming a hero.  Now his last name was O’Grady.  My maternal grandmother was an O’Grady and hailed from gentleman farmers from Nebraska.  This O’Grady guy was smart enough to evade a whole country of bloodthirsty Serbians in pursuit of his behind, make it through unknown forests and undue cold to reach safety.  He was good looking too.  I have decided he must be a relative as well.  We’ll put him in the pedigree and on the website.  Also, there is a University in Montreal, Canada, named McGill University.  It is a large and very well respected institution of higher learning.  It must have been named after a very smart fellow named McGill.  The McGills all basically came from the same county in Ireland so he must be related to my McGills, so let’s put him down on the list.

Now what do I get from all of this? Well, you are supposed to impute all of their bravery and scholarship to me of course.  But if I am to be honest, I have to admit that I have not always exhibited the better talents of my forebearers.  For example, my mother’s sister is a petroleum engineer, my grandfather was a medical doctor and my mother is so good at calculations that she finds errors on her CPA prepared tax return.  All of them are/were very talented in mathematics.   I, however, barely made it through high school algebra and almost didn’t graduate from college because of my abysmal performance with numbers. It seems that I may have inherited that number weakness from “the other side.”  As everyone in this city is now all too aware of from this year’s city budget, Mayor Raymond Caballero, my father, has seen fit to employ as the city’s chief financial officer, Bill Chapman, a man who has been in bankruptcy.  More painfully, between the two of them, they cannot balance a budget.  Also, the mayor, in his financial wizardry, imposed on all of us plebeians an 11.89% tax hike and no one knows where the money went.  It gets worse. More alarmingly, it has become apparent that it is not only numbers that elude the mayor, but much more obvious things escape his comprehension.  It appears that he does not know the difference between a medical school and a BHI.  I think if the truth be known, he may have suffered from some blow to the head which has caused him to believe that homebuilding is bad and deeming large tracts of land as “blighted” and calling them TIFs is good. This too has cost the good citizens of this community much consternation.  Finally, to add to the list, the mayor has a strange fixation with our water supply.  Right now he has the whole town pretending that we are in a drought, plus he is of the opinion that our water supply was threatened by a band of terrorists on September 11.  He so much so believed that “vision” that he imposed an illegal water emergency on the whole city and on top of that he imagined a telephone call from the governor’s office confirming that “vision”.  So on top of everything, I now have to deal with the specter of paranoia and “visions” in my genes.  Do I really want people to impute those qualities to me?

So there you have it in a nutshell.  Most of us come from a long line of McGills and Garcias and Martinez and Ochoas who have been here some as long as four hundred years and some as long as yesterday’s line at the bridge.  But El Paso has nothing to be ashamed of as long as we have our local “aristocrats” who sell off the family land purchased by ancestors and make the news.  They inherit the fruits of their families’ good investments and leave what to their children?

I, like the rest of us commoners with a made up pedigree, will not be inheriting any land, or money or memberships at the country club, but rather but just good sense and will have to rely on my own talents and wit.  What a concept.

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