One day a number of years ago the family and I stopped in Prineville, Oregon, the town where my kids had grown up. My son Justin had spent the summer with us and was now on his way to live with us and finish his last two years of high school in California. So it had been about six weeks since Justin had last been in Prineville. We pulled into the Payless and the teenaged checker yelled out my son’s name. She immediately went on break and hung out with Justin the entire time we were in the store. Being the cool dad that I was, I stayed away from the two lovebirds and let them have their moment. When it was time to check out and leave, the girl ended her break and proceeded to check out our purchases all the while keeping an extremely close eye on Justin. As we left the store I asked Justin who that was. He looked at me quizzically and stated, “I haven’t a clue.”
So it is with the Curse of the Hile Males. Things just happen to us that we can’t always explain.
And it’s not just the pretty face. Believe it or not, Hiles have been known to say things that, well, piss people off. Take the example of an unknown Hile, as reported in the Albany, Missouri Journal on March 16, 1894. The American Protective Association was an anti-Catholic group of Protestants mainly upset by Roman Catholic influence in the public schools, immigration, and the growing influence by Catholics in major American cities. Apparently, the unknown Hile had been in Dallas, Texas distributing literature and was beginning a town hall speech when one Tom Duffy “sprang to his feet and, drawing a revolver, fired four times in rapid succession.” The shots mostly went wild although one person was wounded and in the panic that ensued there was a stampede down the stairway.
Even though cursed, a true Hile is not to be deterred, however, as the newspaper further reported, “Hile loudly pounded the floor with his cane and succeeded in restoring order. He then proceeded with his speech.”
Or take the story of John and Mary Carothers, my sixth great grandparents from the Penrose line. John was born around 1734, settled in Pennsylvania, fought in the Revolutionary War, became a judge, and was generally considered a pretty decent guy, who, by the way, in a manner typical of most Hile and Penrose males, married up, namely Mary Grace Armstrong, also of Pennsylvania.
Anyway, their daughter Ann was being courted by the son of one of their neighbors. He, in turn, was the object of the very strong affections of one Miss Sarah Clarke, who was a housekeeper in the neighbors’ home. Things were not looking good for Sarah in terms of landing the boy, so she hatched a plan: get hired on as a servant in the Carothers household, murder Ann (and only Ann) by adding arsenic into the leaven used to bake the family bread, and then somehow be in a position to step into her beloved’s heart to fill the void left by the now-deceased Ann.
What could go wrong with a solid plan like that, you ask? Well, it turns out, plenty. The entire family ate the bread. Both John and Mary died as a result and one of Ann’s brothers survived but remained crippled for life. As for Ann? She survived the attempt as well as a few subsequent attempts by the incompetent assassin and went on to live another fifty years. No word on whether the neighbor’s son stuck around but it does not appear he and Ann ever married. And as for Sarah Clark: she was arrested, tried, convicted, and hanged. We Hiles may be innocent and/or clueless but don’t mess with us.
In any event, all of this is meant to remind my oldest son Mike, who celebrates a birthday today, of the dangers that lurk out there for the unsuspecting Hile male. Of course, you have survived a long military career serving this country from around the world, for which we are incredibly grateful and proud, and I know you have your own stories out there, but just be careful out there. The Curse is real.
And have a great birthday. We love you, Mike …