|Uncle Earl came to all our family functions. We were the only family he had. Uncle Earl was a cousin of Dad's but he seemed to like being called uncle by us kids. Dad's family disowned uncle Earl long ago. When dad married mom, dad and mom went to uncle Earl's place and personnaly invited him to the wedding. That's where he first met gramps. They hit it off immediately. Both were grizzly old men, partly gray hair, beard stubbled and tanned faces. Only real difference was, gramps changed his clothes more often.|
Earl's story was, he had married while a young man. Had a job in a machine shop and was trying to provide his wife with the things she desired. Evidently he was not going fast enough. His wife, can't remember her name, left one morning while he was at work. He never saw or heard from her again. Her family lived on the East coast so Earl contacted them. They told him she never wanted to see or hear from a nothing like him again.
Earl was crushed. He kept working but drank even more. After a few years of drinking and changing jobs often, he got word one day that he was named in the will of some old relative. In short, Earl recieved a substantial amount of cash and several houses in town. Needless to say, dad's side of family wanted to claim him as kin, once again. Not a chance, said Earl.
Earl converted his real estate to cash, bought a farm over in the next county, rented out the land, built a small still, bought a new pickup truck and pretty much kept to himself. He made whiskey, not to sell but for himself. He fished a little, hunted a bit and just did as he pleased. Whenever gramps could get away for awhile he would head for Earl's place for a bit of fishing, sipping, hunting, sipping. We called Earl's place 'back of beyond'. It was located in the next county West of us, on a low maintnance dirt road. His was the only house on that stretch of road so it was not maintained like more travelled roads. His house was huge but run down. No electricity, Earl burned wood or coal for heat and cooking. And that's where gramps's supply of fruit jar whiskey came from. Thanksgivings and Christmas was always celebrated at our farm. Our family, granny's brother, uncle Cletus, mom's sister aunt Mary and uncle fred and their two younger kids and uncle Earl were the usual 'guests'. Often Ike would invite a girl friend to celebrate with us.
We usually roasted two turkeys, or one turkey and a goose/ducks/pheasants or whatever combination of fowl we could come up with, or sometimes big roasts of venison. There would be mashed 'taters, yams, gravy, green beans, peas, onions, stuffing, home baked wheat bread, pumpkin bread, several assorted cassaroles, several pumpkin pies and tons of cookies, washed down with gallons of coffee. After eating, Angel would help with the cleanup. Ike and gal pal would retire to Ike's corner of the upstairs. Sometimes the gals stayed for several days. Daryl would fall asleep on the parlor floor. The rest of the men, including my young self, would take a tour of the barnyard. We would all stroll out to the chicken yard and stand there watching the chickens scratch and peck. Gramps and uncle Earl would roll a smoke, then sip from the fruit jars they both were carrying. Then we would move down to the hog lot and look at the pigs. Uncle Fred liked to toss them a few ears of corn. Another smoke, more sipping, then move to the barnyard to look at the cows and Angel's horse. Sometimes Uncle Fred would wander through our family junk yard. He was a mechanic and was always looking for something he could make into something else. Like making lamps out of old auto headlights and such.
Eventually our tour wound up at the workshop/tool shed building. There was an old iron coal/wood burning pot belly stove out there and dad would stoke it up. Dad kept a bunch of old chairs and stools out there. Then began the round of smoking, sipping and story telling. My favorite time was hearing the men tell of other times, places and people. At some point, dad or gramps would send me into the house for another jar or two of whiskey. I knew the adults just wanted me out while they told the latest dirty jokes. I didn't mind though. It was my chance to sneak a sip or two.
In the evening the food was reheated and everyone ate their fill again. Sometimes the adults would play cards until the wee hours of the morning. Christmas was about the same except because of the cold and snow we skipped the barnyard tour and went right to the workshop. We didn't usually do much in the way of gifts. Uncle Earl always brought a big wooden box of jars filled with whiskey he made himself. We usually just did one small gift each. Anything we needed we got during the year. That's how it was those years after WW2 and after dad's family disowned us.
Submitted By: Hoppy from IA on 2009-11-05