Monthly Archives: July 2021

Towns Named Doyle

Ever since the Sugar Fire destroyed a large portion of Doyle, CA, I have been more aware of towns with this name. There aren’t very many of them. Why?

The Irish emigrated to the United States in waves. The 2nd was the larger and due to the potato famine. It is estimated that 4.5 million Irish citizens came to America between 1820 and 1930, including my ancestors. During this time, the Irish accounted for 1/3 of all immigrants to the United States, including my great-grandmother on my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s name was Rita Eileen Brennan, and she, like most of the Irish, was fiercely proud of her heritage. Many of Irish extraction retained pride in being from Ireland and identified with this culture even in a new environment. This was true of my mother and her 7 sisters and brothers.

Most common Irish names have a translatable meaning. Sadly, the name Brennan means sorrow. But the very Irish name McCarthy derives from words meaning “loving person”. The surname Quinn, and I knew some Quinns, means wisdom or chief. I also knew some Doyles. I worked with a woman name Eileen Doyle, and she and her husband travelled to Ireland most summers. She loved horses and died young. The name Doyle means black hair because the name derived from the Old Irish name Dubhghaill. Many historical Irish descended from Vikings, who had light hair. Dubh, however, in Old Irish means black hair, and so the early Doyles did not descend from Vikings.

Oddly, many of my dad’s relatives, none of Irish descent, settled in Illinois. I have early memories of going to Murphysboro to visit relatives, and I assumed they were Irish. But they were not. However, most towns containing the name Murphy and there are 19 of them in the USA, were named for Irish families who settled there, like increasingly expanding Murphy, MO. The Missouri town of Murphy near St. Louis was named after a local family. Probably the largest town with a name near Murphy is Murfreesboro, TN, one of the fastest growing towns in the United States with at least 137,000 people. However, this town was named for a Revolutionary War hero named Hardy Murfree.

Probably the most famous Doyle is Sir Arthur Conan, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. There are 14 towns named Doyle in this country, but all of them are small. I had to ponder why this is true in a country with lots of rather large Dublins in places like California and Ohio. And I think I know why. Irish immigrants were city dwellers. They gravitated to existing cities like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Towns named Doyle, as a result, are only now beginning to grow. The town in California affected by the Sugar Fire is a good example. It’s the 2nd largest Doyle around by only a couple of people. In fact, only 3 of the 14 towns named Doyle have a measurable population. The 3 Doyles with actual populations are in California, Tennessee, and Texas.

The name Kennedy is definitely Irish. In long-ago Ireland that name meant helmet-headed. The surname Lynch, also Irish, derives from the word for seafarer.


The Sugar Fire Ebbs

The situation in Doyle, CA got worse before it got better. The danger has mostly passed as fire containment rose. The fire did, however, double back on this town and cause more trouble. There are multiple properties for sale in Doyle with realtors doing updates ever 15 minutes. The forecast for the next four days as of July 20, yesterday, is sunny during the day but smoke overnight while mostly clear.

Any reporting of the news from any source is subject to change. I take this particular fire personally because Ruth & I went through Doyle twice very recently. What’s below can now be classified as history.

The Sugar Fire began in the Doyle area early in July, 2021. It doubled in size on July 9 due to strong winds. Many structures have been totally destroyed in this town about 50 miles north of Reno, NV in California close to Highway 395. The Sugar Fire rapidly became the largest fire incident in the State of California so far this 2021 season. By July 12, 130 square miles had been affected according to

As of July 18, 3 days ago, wind, low humidity, and high air temperatures made Sugar the first megafire of this unusually dry season with lots of destruction. By then the Sugar Fire had affected 100,000 acres but was 82% contained according to The LA Times. This blaze got so ferocious that it generated its own lightning. By last Friday, July 16, the Sugar Fire had been classified as the first megafire of this season that still has a long way to go.

This fire that completely closed Highway 395 for a time came back to haunt Doyle. “It’s like, alive,” said one resident from her front porch. Media reports say that California continues to broil and burn as lots of property in and near Doyle is put up for sale. Vegetation in the area is at record-dry levels.

And this is not the only fire in the area. The Tamarack Fire is just south of Lake Tahoe. It, like the Sugar Fire, was caused by lightning and has the capacity to grow larger than it already is. Another called the Dixie Fire has closed State Route 70 at State Route 191 near the town of Paradise in California’s Sierra Nevada foothills. Paradise almost completely disappeared in 2018’s Camp Fire. Almost 19,000 buildings were destroyed. A 4th fire happened near Yosemite National Park. Called the River Fire, it raged for a week but became 86% contained. The Bootleg Fire, much further north near Oregon, for a while became the largest forest fire in America. The fire danger will be ongoing as this devastating fire season continues.

I hope that Doyle doesn’t become another Paradise.


Heading for Canada Again

Good news for Ruth & me. Canada is opening up. We live close to the border and are used to traveling to Canada about twice a year. We are looking forward to reconnecting. About 15 million Americans visited Canada as recently as 2019, or pre-COVID. The rate for 2 doses of vaccine there is higher than 50%, so it is opening up to vaccinated US citizens on August 9, 2021. Take proof of vaccination with you.

Our last trip to Vancouver was one of our best. Before heading for this great city and our favorite restaurants in the world, we went to the Gulf Islands and fell in love with them and a particular resort near the town of Ganges. We want to return there and then explores a couple of the other islands in this group. Some of them like Salt Spring where Ganges is are easily accessible, but Mayne, which has a reputation for history, and Galiano, said to be the best for hiking, remain unknowns. Both are harder to get to than Salt Spring or Pender. I also long to return to the scenic Canadian Okanagan and revisit Mount Revelstoke National Park. US National Parks are currently overcrowded but Canadian ones are less so for day trippers and offer a number of excellent options. Wildflowers bloom in August on the lower trails of Revelstoke and I hope to see some of them. The town of Revelstoke is a treat too. The new Fine Art Gallery in Vancouver just received a substantial gift from a Canadian art dealer, so plans for this delayed but very innovative building are now moving forward again.

Canada will again welcome visitors from the rest of the world on September 7, but Americans who are fully vaccinated can cross the border for nonessential travel as of August 9. The 14 day waiting period will be waived for them beginning that day. The only possible hangup now is a large increase in cases of COVID among the unvaccinated in places like California and the American Midwest, where many have chosen not to get the vaccine and cases of the pandemic are again on the rise.

We plan to reconnect with Ruth’s relatives in late August. We will get together with them in St. Louis. We have been to Nova Scotia, Manitoba, and British Columbia with them. It has been fun to introduce Canada to Bob and Kay and and Margie and Tom.


Ten Unusual Holidays

I just learned that holidays have gotten out of hand. Every day of the year has been set aside to celebrate some strange observance in either the United States or the world.

For example, did you know that June 4 every year is National Hug Your Cat Day? My brother and sister will be pleased to know this. I’m serious! There is also a National Hugging Day when we are encouraged to grab another human being and hang on. This was celebrated for the first time in 1986, and the place of inauguration was Clio, MI. There are 5 towns that have been named for the Greek Muse of history and poetry. National Hugging Day was officially moved to January 21st for reasons I do not know. It’s actually not such a bad idea to hug except during a pandemic when we are not even supposed to touch each other or get within six feet of another human. National Puppy Day, a holiday idea with genuine substance, is March 23rd. This has been true since 2006 when Colleen Paige, an animal behaviorist, came up with the idea. Colleen suggests that you either get a puppy on March 23rd or protest puppy farms and puppy mills. At the very least every American should celebrate the deep bond that exists between dogs and humans on this day.

I like the idea for a National Zipper Day. This was celebrated for the first time on April 29, 1913, to honor a Swedish/American engineer named Gideon Sundback, who patented his invention of the zipper on that day. I also like the idea of celebrating Word Nerd Day. That would be on January 9 each year. On that day we should all play Scrabble, do a crossword puzzle, or look up one of the words that the American Heritage Dictionary says every high school graduate in the United States should know. I wrote about this list of 100 words on July 12, 2021, with the title “Words to Ponder”. If you do not know what it means to abrogate, start here. To abrogate is to repeal or get rid of a law, right, or formal agreement or evade a duty. I also like the idea of a National Nothing Day. On this holiday we should honor one of the philosophers who celebrated nothingness. This day was started by Harold Pullman Coffin, who had the right surname, in 1973. On January 16 every year we should learn about nothing. We should also learn about Nihilism by studying one of the philosophers who espoused the belief that life is meaningless.

My birthday, June 18, is also National Picnic Day. I like this. On this day we should either enjoy the outdoors or celebrate nature by planning a picnic with friends and family. Or both. Ruth’s birthday is also National Card Playing Day. To honor her, we should either learn a new card game or host a card game night. Ruth loves to play cards and is good at it. Me not so much. My family was poker players and her’s specialized in bridge. That we got together still amazes both families.

Yesterday was National Peach Ice Cream Day. Did you celebrate by having a bowl of this delicious treat? It was also National Tattoo Day or, oddly, National Yellow Pig Day. Today is National Caviar Day.

Christmas, December 25, is also National Pumpkin Pie Day, so to celebrate Christmas you can also make a Pilgrim’s Pumpkin Pie or invent your own variation while getting plenty of Vitamins A, C, potassium, and iron.


Churchill’s London

I finished a book this morning that finally won me over. I loved Erik Larson’s book The Devil in the White City and wanted to read his book about Winston Churchill and his family called The Splendid and the Vile. Being from Missouri where Churchill gave his Iron Curtain speech at Westminster College in Fulton and a big fan of his, I was pre-sold on this book. At first I had reservations when I read that Larson often based his text on the diaries and reminiscences of others, but Churchill’s personality and grit still come through.

Ruth & I watched Darkest Hour together and really liked this movie. Gary Oldman as Churchill and Kristin Scott Thomas as Clementine were superb in their roles. I suspected that the movie scene where Winston Churchill questions passengers on the London Underground about their attitudes toward Hitler and his bombing of their city was fiction and never really happened, and after reading The Splendid and the Vile I’m more convinced of this than ever. I kept waiting for this scene in the book but it never occurred. The sentiments expressed by Brits, however, come through vividly. In it Churchill is indomitable as I expected.

The Splendid and the Vile comes off as super authentic about 1941, the year in which London was repeatedly bombed and Churchill prevailed without the direct support of the American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR did support the Brits with words but would not commit the United States to joining the war effort until Pearl Harbor was bombed. I had to read all the way to page 484 before I learned how many people died in Great Britain during the German bombings that occurred during Hitler’s relentless attempt to defeat Great Britain before Pearl Harbor was attacked. Speaking about London, Larson finally says on that page, “No other British city experienced such losses, but throughout the United Kingdom the total civilian deaths in 1940 and 1941, including those in London, reached 44,652, with another 52,370 injured. Of the dead, 5,626 were children.”

Periodically, I found The Splendid and the Vile too long; but then when I finished it, I wished it had been longer. I very much liked how Larson portrayed Winston and his wife Clementine, but I wanted more detail about his family. Their youngest daughter Mary becomes a living, breathing presence throughout the book; but the others, with the possible exclusion of their only son Randolph, remain fairly undeveloped. I wanted more information, for example, about their daughter Sarah, who became an actress. Mary is finally convinced by her mother near the end of the book to postpone her marriage to Eric Duncannon. She was, after all, only 18 years old. What happened to Diana, Mary and Sarah’s sister? Did Mary ultimately marry Duncannon? Perhaps Larson was wise not to linger on their fates. For all I know, the biographical details about the 4 Churchill children are in many sources and readily available. I will be finding out.

In the meantime, I highly recommend reading The Splendid and the Vile if you have any interest in learning about the Churchills and the experiences of other players in the war effort in the early part of World War II. This is especially true if you want to learn what London was like before the US became directly involved in the defeat of the Nazis.