Wednesday, September 7, 2016




I've heard this family story for years. It surrounded the breaking of a plate by my sister-in-law Ginger. I may have some of the details wrong, but bear with me.

It was a cold snowy day, just after deer season back in the 70's. My brother Bird had hunted hard another year without any luck, and it was starting to get to him. He'd been working for Savage Lynch, doing construction and had recently purchased a piece of property from Ginger's folks, past The Big Ten, off 17k, down Youngblood Rd. It was a tiny house, situated on a table top flat piece of ground, backed up against a nice little piece of hardwoods- perfect deer woods.
    People forget that back in the 70's Orange County wasn't over run with deer, like today. The herd was just starting to bound back from decades of logging, poor management and subsistence hunting. So the fact that Bird had hunted hard for what was going on 11 years without pulling the trigger was all but Bird. So when he dusted the snow off his boots, a full week after the season had ended, he had to admit he was still brooding over an empty freezer and another dry year. Now, let me just say that Ginger and Bird are the sweetest, most loving couple you'd ever meet. But even in the best of relationships, nerves will fray, tempers will flare.
   So on that snowy day, so many years ago, Ginger at the sink washing dishes, Bird knocking the snow off his boots.......something was said, and a dish ended up broken. And this was not just any dish. This was the dish commemorating the hanging of two people tried and convicted for the murder conspiracy of my great, great, great grandfather Richard Jennings. This family heirloom, now sadly shattered on the kitchen floor, was all that held us to our salacious past. And typical of our family, nobody knew much about it. Well as of today i know a lot more.

Reading Michael J.Worden's book THE MURDER OF RICHARD JENNINGS, was on the one hand really fun, because of the kin angle, and on the other hand extremely disappointing because our kin was completely ignored. This is nothing if not a story of family, real estate and the mess both can make of each other's lives. Yet Worden barely touches on the Jennings. All the other players, the murderers and maybe-murderers are fleshed out. Yet the victim, poor Grampa Dick, is portrayed as somewhat of an asshole and then forgotten in the circus of 1818 justice. Reportedly 20,000 people showed up for the hanging in 1819. That's like Woodstock for the time. The Jennings family name (directly descended from Richard) is almost gone now. Our cousin Lay (born with MD) and having no children, is the last male bearing the Jennings name, of our kin. Worden did us (the Jennings family), and his readers a big disservice.
   What happened to the plate you ask? Ginger patched it up and gave it to Nina Snyder, our family historian. Did Bird ever shoot a deer? If I remember correctly, the next year he took a scraggly Youngblood road six and has scored every year since. Oh wait,I think he came up empty last year. Now that this book has come out, it's got the family talking. Inevitably someone will ask Ginger where the plate is? And we all laugh. God's honest truth.