Thanks everyone.  It has taken me awhile to try this out.  So what I did 
was file system copy my local repo and then try the techniques offered. 
 The first one was (note I named my branch parser):

1. git branch -m master parser
2. git fetch origin
3. git branch --track master origin/master
4. git checkout master
5. git branch -f parser master
6. git config branch.parserl.merge refs/heads/parser
7. git checkout parser
8. git push origin parser:refs/heads/parser

I didn't do step 8 yet.  This kind of worked up until step 5 which made 
both master and parser look the same.  Steps 6 and 7 didn't seem to change 
anything and the repo was left in a state that matches origin/master. 
 However it I don't do steps 4,5, and 6 the local branch master looks like 
origin/master and local branch parser has my 12 commits listed in the 
history.  I think this is what I want.  Oh and on step 6 I thought it might 
be a spell error and also tried branch.parser.merge but that didn't change 
the outcome.

The second answer way was (again my branch name is parser):

1. git branch parser
2. git stash
3. git fetch
4. git reset --hard origin/master
5. git push origin parser
6. git co parser
7. git stash pop

I didn't do step 5 yet.  This kind of worked but the stashing wasn't 
needed.  So skipping step 2 and 7 left me with 2 local branches of master 
and parser.  Looking at the histories the local branch master looks like 
origin/master and local branch parser has my 12 commits listed in the 
history.  Again I think this is what I want.  So if I'm correct and my 
parser branch has the 12 commits and master looks like origin/master then I 
really have 2 ways to do this:

# way 1
1. git branch -m master parser
2. git fetch origin
3. git branch --track master origin/master
4. git checkout parser

# way 2
1. git branch parser
3. git fetch
4. git reset --hard origin/master
5. git checkout parser

Then I can push it to the remote if I want (but I'll probably work on the 
branch locally and not push it up until I merge it back into master branch):

1. git push origin parser

I'm not sure if either process is better and I may not fully get it, but it 
seems to me that they both work. 

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