Hamilcar’s old man grew up in a little town nearby called Carthage. But his old man, Hamilcar’s grandfather, grew up in a tiny town further north called Habama. It’s not pronounced like you might think because it’s actually made up of the first two letters of three prominent family names: Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Ball, his obstinate and bossy neighbor Haywood, and their wealthy, but curiously overtly social, collector of broken farm machinery Marshall. Marshall was said to be very dark-skinned in the summer, and often held parties that focused on the use of lights or colorful powders tossed about.
Folks thought Marshall was just a bit touched, especially when he grumbled unintelligible syllables under his breath, but in those days everyone was polite enough. Marshall enjoyed celebrating everything from births to weddings, and often funded local funerals as well. Many Balls are buried up on the property still owned by the Marshall family.
It’s said that when Hamilcar’s great-grandfather was told one day—while visiting the big city of Raleigh—that his pal Marshall was a Hindu, he hauled back and punched the poor fellow square in the face.
Haywood was constantly one of those organizing forces arranging himself to the top of the chain of command. At least, so say the Balls. Haywood ran for many offices he himself created. Head of committees for everything from proper barn erection and road maintenance to pig weed control. He was always a self-appointed coordinator of ‘mule day’ parades, and mainly saw his duty as approving decisions that he did not seem to realize were already instituted. He generally did not win any of the official public offices as tiny town social systems have a way of shunting down on the overtly ambitious.
It wasn’t until long after Marshall and Hamilcar’s great-grandfather Rutherford had passed away that it was made clear that Marshall’s name had actually been Maaheshivari which meant “Power of Shiva”. And that he was indeed a Bengali who’d been the unusual beneficiary of a British officer the former Maaheshivari had saved one night from a drunken street beating on the outskirts of Kolkata (a place improbably called North Dumb-dumb). This violent interval was being brutally administered by a band of thuggees who had not quite understood that the British were supposed to be their superiors.
As with most such stories, the details related to a lady the British officer had roundly fallen for and his dream-state preoccupation with her damned near resulted in the loss of his life. As it turned out not only did he survive with the help of “Marshall” but the officer managed to smuggle the lady and Marshall out of West Bengal and to America where, another branch of his family had managed to set up shop in red-mud, rural North Carolina.