Why three hedgehogs?

Harris family coat of arms

I am closing my family history blog titled Three Hedgehogs and Other Family History Oddities.  I don’t have time for two blogs I discovered, so I’m moving the few posts here to my established blog.  You might wonder about the blog name, so here is the post that explains it:

I don’t mind if you wonder about my choice of hedgehogs as a title for a genealogy and family history blog.  I know they are cute and very popular–who can resist their little faces and their spiky outsides?  They don’t look fierce, like they are going to bite you.  Furthermore, they can run quickly and roll up into little balls when chased.

When I discovered there are three hedgehogs on the Harris family shield, I was  puzzled.  Where are the lions, tigers, bears or horses?  Bulldogs maybe, or wolves–but hedgehogs?  Relatives of the shrew and the mole? What is grand and mighty about them?   After googling the word hedgehogs,  I found out rather quickly.

In ancient Greece, the poet Archilochus established what has become  known as “The Hedgehog Concept.”  That is, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  Lyn T. Christian writes an excellent description of the theory.  She bases her summary on Isaiah Berlin’s application of this idea to writers and thinkers, in his 1957 essay, “The Fox and The Hedgehog.”  This essay was later extended to successful businesses in Jim Collins’s best-selling book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, HarperBusiness, 2001.

“The essence of the hedgehog concept lies in the two animal’s unique qualities. While a fox is very cunning, fast, sleek and crafty, the hedgehog is a waddling, frumpy looking compact armadillo/porcupine mix. The fox, as Berlin writes, knows many various useful strategies. The fox can wait for perfect moments to pounce on its prey. It can devise complex plans of attack and maneuvering. The hedgehog knows only one big thing. It knows how to stop, drop, and roll up into a tiny impenetrable ball of spikes. Anytime a hedgehog senses danger it does this one big thing impeccably well. The hedgehog in the long-run triumphs over the foxes of the world.” (Lyn T. Christian, 2003, soulsalt.com)

You can apply the hedgehog concept to your life.  Described as “Simplicity Within the Three Circles,” here are the three questions to ask yourself.   They are from  chapter five of Collins’s book.  Use these to  find your “inner hedgehogs.”

1) Determine what you can be best in the world at and what you cannot be best in the world at;
2) Determine what drives your economic engine;
3) Determine what you are deeply passionate about.

I plan to do this and write the results in a later blog entry.

Hundreds of years ago, when the Harris ancestors developed this shield, the hedgehog fable must have been passed around in tales told around the Great Room fire.  I like the idea that my ancient ancestors respected the simple strengths of this prickly creature.  Hedgehogs are more than cute!  They are small, but mighty in their unique way.

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The E. E. Rockfields in New York City, 1904

Mayme Rockfield with first born daughter, Louise 1909

Mary (Mayme) Egan Horne   30 Nov 1879–26 Feb 1974    

Everett Earl Rockfield   21 Feb 1879–2 May 1943

Everett Edward Rockfield, abt 1899

My grandparents were married in August 1903.  The wedding was held in Columbus, Ohio.  Both Mayme and Ev were in their mid-twenties and the next-to-the-youngest and youngest members of their respective large families.

After their wedding, Ev got a job in NYC working for Railway Express.  What an adventure this would be for a newly married couple that had never ventured outside of Ohio!  They packed their wedding gifts and clothing in steamer trunks and headed east.

The Rockfield's New York City apartment, 1904

Mayme must have had great fun decorating their first home in the latest fashion.  These were still Victorian times, so lots of “stuff” was required.  A cozy corner was a must in the interior design of the day.

In the first picture, note the curtain on a rod stretched across an alcove.  A lamp is placed on an upended trunk.  Framed family pictures are hidden in the dark of the enclosure, but would be illuminated by the lamp when lighted.  Another trunk has been placed horizontally in front of the vertical trunk with more of the curtains thumbtacked on to it.  I doubt if this corner was designed for actual sitting—except for the cat!

Pillows are scattered around with casual elegance.   Some are lacy, others stamped with Gibson girl portraits and others covered in silk.  Patterns abound!  One floral carpet has been laid over another floral carpet while another floral pattern covers the walls and a different one adorns the ceiling.

Two swords are crossed at the top of the display.  Mayme’s father attained the rank of Captain with the Union army during the Civil War, so one of the swords is his.  Everett was a Mason and became a Knight Templar, so the other sword belongs to him.

Two decorative columns hold classical busts, one adorned with beads around its neck.  A classic Gibson girl framed picture hangs on the wall.

English: Pen and ink drawing of the Gibson Gir...

classic Gibson Girl Image via Wikipedia

In front of the display two fencing swords are crossed and two fencing masks sit behind the swords, one of which is upended.  I suspect the cat!  Most surprising is the rumpled rug.  Again I suspect the cat, sitting in blurry elegance on a pillow in the cozy corner.

Mayme saved this cat from certain death when she dashed into the apartment to drag her out from under the bed after someone threw a firecracker through the window and set the apartment on fire.

The second picture shows a large portrait of Mayme’s parents in the mid-1860s shortly before their wedding.  A restored version of that picture hangs in my stairwell.  Another framed family portrait is displayed as well, with the busy cat on another column stand.  A decorative cloth is arranged on the hearth and more photos reflected in the mirror.

The vase was a wedding gift.  That vase still survives.  I remember it in my home from childhood.  My mother hated the vase when she was a little girl and tried to break it.  Fortunately, it survived the attack and has graced a home in our family ever since.

I’ve always enjoyed these pictures and the little peek into my grandparents’ lives at the beginning of the last century.

I’m grateful that my mother saved them and took the time to tell me about it and add little notes for

Why three hedgehogs?

I don’t mind if you wonder about my choice of hedgehogs as a title for a genealogy and family history blog.  I know they are cute and very popular–who can resist their little faces and their spiky outsides?  They don’t look fierce, like they are going to bite you.  Furthermore, they can run quickly and roll up into little balls when chased.

When I discovered there are three hedgehogs on the Harris family shield, I was  puzzled.  Where are the lions, tigers, bears or horses?  Bulldogs maybe, or wolves–but hedgehogs?  Relatives of the shrew and the mole? What is grand and mighty about them?   After googling the word hedgehogs,  I found out rather quickly.

In ancient Greece, the poet Archilochus established what has become  known as “The Hedgehog Concept.”  That is, “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”  Lyn T. Christian writes an excellent description of the theory.  She bases her summary on Isaiah Berlin’s application of this idea to writers and thinkers, in his 1957 essay, “The Fox and The Hedgehog.”  This essay was later extended to successful businesses in Jim Collins’s best-selling book, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t, HarperBusiness, 2001.

“The essence of the hedgehog concept lies in the two animal’s unique qualities. While a fox is very cunning, fast, sleek and crafty, the hedgehog is a waddling, frumpy looking compact armadillo/porcupine mix. The fox, as Berlin writes, knows many various useful strategies. The fox can wait for perfect moments to pounce on its prey. It can devise complex plans of attack and maneuvering. The hedgehog knows only one big thing. It knows how to stop, drop, and roll up into a tiny impenetrable ball of spikes. Anytime a hedgehog senses danger it does this one big thing impeccably well. The hedgehog in the long-run triumphs over the foxes of the world.” (Lyn T. Christian, 2003, soulsalt.com)

You can apply the hedgehog concept to your life.  Described as “Simplicity Within the Three Circles,” here are the three questions to ask yourself.   They are from  chapter five of Collins’s book.  Use these to  find your “inner hedgehogs.”

1) Determine what you can be best in the world at and what you cannot be best in the world at;
2) Determine what drives your economic engine;
3) Determine what you are deeply passionate about.

I plan to do this and write the results in a later blog entry.

Hundreds of years ago, when the Harris ancestors developed this shield, the hedgehog fable must have been passed around in tales told around the Great Room fire.  I like the idea that my ancient ancestors respected the simple strengths of this prickly creature.  Hedgehogs are more than cute!  They are small, but mighty in their unique way.