Wrapped in Yellow Grains

My 1600s ancestors were farmers
who wanted to plow land
with their name on the title.

My three-times-great-grandfather
crossed the Atlantic
for upstate New York.

My great-great-grandfather
moved the family to Illinois
seven years before Lincoln.

My great-grandfather
was the last in the county
to purchase Mr. McCormick’s reaper.

My grandfather’s pickup
carried a star in the windshield
placed there by a thrown horseshoe.

My father was the first
to leave the farm for the city—
for a university education.

He returned to the farm regularly
but not to plow the land himself.
The farm village needed a dentist.

My father located his practice
in the city of his education—
which was Chicago.

My few visits to the farm in corn pollen season
twisted me into a bouquet of sneezes
and jaundiced my ancestral view of farm life.

copyright © 2022 Kenneth P. Gurney

In Search of My Great Great Great Great Grandfather

In English my last name is a device
that transports hospital patients from one room to another,
unless they are left in the hallway,
waiting an inordinate amount of time
for a room to open up for sleep, recovery or a procedure.

Since the wheeled stretcher
was first called a gurney in nineteen-thirty-five,
of unexplained origin in the dictionary,
and our family moved to the American colonies in sixteen-thirty-four,
there must be another meaning hidden somewhere.

Ancestry research claims Gurney is a place name,
English, evolved from the Norman-French Gournay
back when the Normans controlled
parts of England and parts of France, but not the whole of either.

A few letters dropped or changed along the way
to modern times from the Norman-Saxon merger
to Albuquerque, New Mexico where I live—
which is not unusual when you consider the phrase
an inkling started out as a nicking—a simple count.

So much for my pet theory that the name originated
from Guernsey, the channel island between France
and the English coast where that wonderful book
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
is set just after World War Two.


copyright © 2019 Kenneth P. Gurney