The following are on this page; click to locate:

The Bagpiper

David Raymond Rankin

Brandon Jesse Rankin

Scottish Traditional Dishes

Navajos and the Marine Corps



The Bagpiper

As announced in the September 2007 Bagpiper, this will be the final issue. The web site of the same name, however, will continue to be maintained. It will be updated as new data and family information is available, but not necessarily on a regular or scheduled basis. 

I want to thank everyone for their interest in family history, and for the ego-enhancing encouragement where the Bagpiper was concerned.  I have enjoyed putting out the newsletter, even though it was challenging and time consuming. It took more time, effort and imagination than most folks probably imagined. Even so, the challenge, a lack of inspiration and/or energy, or even the mounting cost, was not, however, the reason for its demise.

A bit about its history: The Bagpiper began in 2000 as a simple one-page flyer that announced details of an upcoming family reunion in Wichita. Over time it evolved into a multi-page family newsletter that contained family news, historical points of interest pertaining to our extended family, as well as miscellaneous trivia.

Distribution gradually grew to almost three hundred, but the time and effort to hand-assemble the increasing number of mailings grew as well. And—although we asked for a donations, and some folks responded well beyond the norm—the cost of postage and printing materials gradually exceeded what we felt we could ask from the folks on our mailing list.

Along the way an Internet web site was added. Current and past issues of the hardcopy version of the newsletter are displayed there, as well as selected photos, statistical data, Internet links, and historical points of interest. Soon, as a direct result of the web site, our “hard-copy” mailing list was reduced dramatically. The web site has worked well, and the “hit-meter” indicates that many thousands—and obviously more than just our own folks—have visited the site to learn about the Erwin family and our many extended family groups, as well as our collective genealogy.

The simple fact is, however, time is passing...but let me explain. About ten years ago I set out to write a simple autobiography for my children and grandchildren. Along the way the genealogy-bug bit me, and my long interest in history was whetted by the discovery of thousands of heretofore unknown family and extended family members. As a result my recollections are now only part of the story I will attempt to tell. The story of the Erwin family includes much recorded history and data, going back centuries, as well as family traditions and genealogical information. My manuscript, in eight by ten format, and in number ten font, has grown to over seven hundred pages, and is only about ninety percent complete. And that is the problem… it is not complete.

I can see Father Time down the road a bit, and it is obvious that he is getting closer. I’ve often said, jokingly of course, that my goal was to complete my book before I “kick the bucket or loose my marbles,” but as time passes that thought is no longer amusing. There is a lot yet to do. I must finish writing, of course, but then there is the editing, spell-checking, and further editing, and finally an index must be created. Computer software will help, but I must “get on with it.”                                   

                                                                                                            Donald D. Erwin –Editor




David Raymond Rankin was born May 29, 1943, in Sacramento, California, and died Sunday, September 9, 2007 at his home in Grants Pass, Oregon.

Dave attended Madera Union High School in Madera, California. He enlisted in the United States Navy on March 20, 1962, and was discharged on March 19, 1968.

On June 8, 1963 he married the former Phyllis May Erwin. He and his family moved to Sonoma, California in 1965 where he worked in construction. In 1969, at the age of 26, he owned and operated a Gulf Service Station in Sonoma.

In 1973 he joined the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department as a reserve. He graduated from the Sonoma County Sheriff Police Academy in 1976. He worked for the Sheriffs Department until 1984, and then went to work for Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, California as a maintenance supervisor.

In 1985 he moved his family to Suisun City, California, and in 1995 to Grants Pass, Oregon. At the time of his death Dave worked as a general building contractor in the Grants Pass area.

In addition to being a loving husband and father, he was a member of the Masons, Sonoma Lodge # 14 in Sonoma, California, and the Oregon Hunters Association of Grants Pass. He also volunteered as a fireman and reserve deputy sheriff in Sonoma County.

He enjoyed fishing with his son Michael and grandsons, and one of his special pastimes was working and gardening on his acreage in Grants Pass, as well as exchanging old tales with his friends, Mike Lubash and Wayne Dunham.

In addition to his wife, Phyllis May Erwin Rankin of Grants Pass, survivors include his son, Michael Rankin and his wife Dana; daughters, Chantelle Rankin and Kelly Rankin-Trapp and husband Eric; three sisters, Reba Keller, Betty Keller and Darlene Morse; his brother Ronnie Rankin; and six grandchildren, Brandon, David, Zac, Nathan, Stephanie and Cody.

Dave was preceded in death by his parents, N.L. and Aleta Rankin.



Brandon Jesse Rankin, 22, son of Dana and Michael Rankin of Grants Pass, Oregon, graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in May 2007 with the rank of second lieutenant. After leave he reported for duty at the U.S. Army’s Fort Rucker in Alabama to begin a year of training and flight school.

Brandon Jesse Rankin (right) receiving his diploma at West Point Military Academy. Vice-President Dick Cheney (not in photo) was standing just behind the presenting officer.

“We are very, very proud. He has wanted to fly since he was two years old,” said his mother. “ His dream has always been to one day be in the cockpit of a plane. He has never wavered on that. This is what he has worked so hard for over the last four years.

It appears that Lt. Rankin will soon realize his ambition. He is now nearing the end of his basic ground school training, the point where he will start basic flight training.

Dana said that Brandon, the oldest of her three sons, showed definite signs of his potential early on. He was a natural leader to his two younger brothers, and his leadership skills

were further honed in high school through his participation in the school’s football and wrestling programs.

Dana, and husband Michael, have always expected Brandon to pursue flying as a career. By the time he was five Brandon had been to North Carolina, Kentucky and Panama, duty stations where Michael was assigned while in the Army. With relatives in California, airplane trips were a standard mode of transportation.

“He loved it,” Dana said. “Brandon was that child who always tried to visit the cockpit on every flight to see what the pilots were doing...and sometimes he got his wish.”

Military life always appealed to Brandon. During his senior year in high school he was actively recruited by East Coast universities to play football, but he wanted to make sure he got a good college education as well,” his mother said. “Military academies have some of the best professors,” Dana added.

There are only a few slots in the Army’s flight school each year. Cadets are judged on their military, academic and physical fit ness grades. Brandon found out he had received one of the coveted spots in November 2006.

Brandon graduated from West Point with a bachelor’s degree in business, having made the dean’s list every term. He eventually plans to attend law school. But first he’ll spend six years in the Army, which is required for all graduates. Dana said by then he will have decided if he wants a military career or to move on to civilian life.

For Brandon’s parents, the separation has been the hardest part. “It’s really been difficult for me. I think it’s that feeling of a loss of control,” said Dana. “We’re a very close family.” She said Brandon’s family, as well as his friends, couldn’t be more proud of him. During the last four years people have tried to give her and Michael the credit for Brandon’s decision to attend West Point.

His father and I can’t take any credit for this,” she said.

“He set his own goals, and he knew what he had to do to achieve them. This is all him. But we did support him every step of the way. That was easy. The hard part was only seeing him a couple of times a year while he was at the Academy.

But this is such a huge honor for us, that Brandon wants to give of himself and serve his country. We are so proud of him, and what he has accomplished...and will accomplish.


Lt. Rankin is a grandson of David and Phyllis Rankin, great-grandson of Alma Benice Lynch (1918-1985) and Raymond Michael Erwin (1915-1984), and a twenty-fifth great-grandson of Sir William de Irwyn (ca. 1280-1333), first Laird of Drum. Sir William was also secretary and honorary weapons bearer to Robert the Bruce, King of Scots (r.1306-1329).



Scottish Traditional Dishes

Scottish BreakfastIn many hotels and B&Bs you’ll be offered a Scottish breakfast, similar to its English counterpart of sausage, bacon and egg, but typically with the addition of local favorites such as black pudding (blood sausage) and potato scones. Porridge is another likely option, properly made with oatmeal and water and cooked with salt; it’s traditional to add a little milk, though some folks like to sprinkle on some sugar as well. You may also be offered strongly flavored kippers (hot smoked herring) or more delicate Arbroath smokies (smoked haddock). Oatcakes (plain, slightly salty oatmeal biscuits) and a “buttery,which is a butter-enriched bread related to the French croissant and popular in the north of Scotland.

Haggis—The quintessential Scots dish is haggis, a type of rich sausage meat made from spiced liver, offal, oatmeal and onion and cooked inside a bag made from a sheep’s stomach. Though more frequently found on tourist-oriented menus than the dining tables of Scots at home, it’s traditionally eaten with “bashed neeps” (mashed turnips) and “chappit tatties” (mashed potatoes).

Cakes & PuddingsScotland is notorious for its sweet tooth, and cakes and puddings are taken very seriously. Bakers with extensive displays of iced buns, cakes and cream-filled pastries are a typical feature of any Scottish high street, while home-made shortbread, scones or tablet (a hard, crystalline form of fudge) are considered great treats. Among traditional desserts, “clootie dumpling” is a sweet, stodgy fruit pudding soaked in a cloth for hours, while the rather over-elaborate Cranachan, made with toasted oatmeal steeped in whisky and folded into whipped cream flavored with fresh raspberries, or the similar Atholl Brose, are considered more refined. In the summer months, Scottish berries, in particular raspberries and strawberries, are particularly tasty.

Fish & ChipsAs for fast food, fish and chips is as popular as in England and chip shops, or “chippies,” abound, the best often found in coastal towns within sight of the fishing boats tied up in the harbor. Deep-fried battered fish is the standard choice, and when served with chips it’s known as a “fish supper,” even if eaten at lunchtime.

Other Traditional DishesOther traditional dishes which one may well encounter includes stovies, a tasty mash of onion and fried potato heated up with minced beef, or various forms of meat pie. Another is “Scotch pie,” which has mince inside a circular hard pastry case, while a bridie, famously associated with the town of Forfar, has mince and onions inside a flaky pastry crescent. In the cold climate of Scotland, homemade soup is often welcome as well. One should try Scots broth,” which is made with combinations of lentil, split pea, mutton stock or vegetables and barley. A more refined delicacy is Cullen skink, a rich soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes and cream.                                          »»»




 Navajos and the Marine Corps

Native Americans have served with distinction in the United States military for many decades; first as scouts and guides, and later as regular enlistees.  It was in World War II, however, that the total number became significant. Most tribes were represented, but it was the Navajo Marine “code talkers”  who became most famous. It is estimated that more than 3,600 young Navajo men and women joined the armed forces during World War II, and that over 550 served in the Marine Corps. Of these, about 420 served as code talkers.

One these Navajo Marines was Ira Hayes, who was one of the six flag raisers on Mt. Suribachi towards the end of  the Iwo Jima campaign. A photo taken of the raising by Joe Rosenthal became the most reproduced photograph of all time, and won him the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Photography. It was also the basis for the Marine Corps War  Memorial, dedicated in 1954, that is adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

Proportionately, the number of Navajos that served in  World War II represents one of the highest percentages of total population in the armed services of any ethnic group in the United States. Navajos were an integral part of the war effort, even though they were not given the right to vote in Arizona until 1948, in New Mexico until 1953, and in Utah until 1957!

Members of the Navajo Nation have served in all branches of the service, in all wars and conflicts, since World War II, but they have served predominantly in the Marine Corps.


The following “joke” was sent to me recently. Having grown up on a Kansas hard-scrabble farm, and as a former active-duty Marine myself (and as Chesty Puller said,Once a Marine, always a Marine”), I found it very true-to-life, as well as amusing.    –Editor


A letter home from a Res kid, now at Parris Island Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

Dear Shima:

I am well. Hope you are. Tell my
brother Elmer the Marine Corps sure beats working for the trading post. Tell him to join up quick before maybe all of the places are filled. I was kinda sorta restless at the beginning because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m., but I'm getting used to sleeping late.

Tell Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot and shine some
things. And you get a real bed to sleep on and you don't wake up smelling like the sheepskins. And there's no sheep to herd, horses to tend to, fences to fix, wood to split, practically nothing to do. And you get to take a shower every day ‘cause there's always plenty of
warm water. 


They actually have breakfast like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, but they are kind of weak on mutton, potatoes, ham, steak, fried spam and other regular food, but tell Elmer you can always sit by the city folks that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you till noon when you get fed again.

It's no wonder these city folks can't walk much. We go on
"route marches," which the D.I. says are long walks to toughen us up. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our hogan is to the main highway. Then the Anglo guys get sore feet and we all get to ride back in


The ocean is nearby but you have to get through what's called a swamp to get to it. Reminds me of swimming in the windmill water tanks back home.

The D. I. is like a boarding school dorm aide. He nags a lot. The captains, majors, and colonels just ride around in Hummers looking at us, kinda like the council delegates do at home. They don't bother you unless you have something they want though, and they never go with us on our runs. I guess they're already toughened up.


This next will make Elmer laugh really hard. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a prairie dog head and it doesn't move or run around. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable like and hit it. And you get to use bigger bullets than the old 22's they sell at the flea market in Shiprock.


Then we have what they call hand-to hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city folks. I have to be real careful though, because they break real easy. It isn't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Rita from over in Chinle. I only beat her once. She joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5' 6" and 130 pounds, and she's 6' 8" and weighs near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Elmer to hurry and join before all those other guys figure out
that this is easier than boarding school in

Your loving daughter, Roycita.




Links to more information about Navajo Code Talkers: