© 2017 Bill Murphy
Uncle Earle received a letter from Tennessee. His favorite uncle, his Half-Uncle Edward, passed away. This is the story of Edward:
Uncle Earle’s Grandpa Clovis settled in Tennessee, way out in the sticks … in the foothills of the Smokies. Grandpa married late in life, after he’d started a little pig and tobacco farm, supplying all the snuff and bacon he wanted! Back then, you didn’t hire farm hands, you HAD ‘EM! So Grandpa Clovis married Adeline Wilson and started a family of farm-hands.
While she was expecting their first child, he built a simple, but comfortable, ‘Dog Trot’ house. A dog trot was somewhat like two houses joined together, but sharing one big roof and floor. The two house areas were separated by an open hallway. Because this hallway was open, yard dogs simply trotted through, hence the name. It had a porch all the way around, with bedrooms on one side and kitchen and entertaining on the other. Of course the privy was out back. Grandpa Clovis expected to have a large family, so he built a three holer.
About that time, Grandma Adeline’s younger sister Elvira married a fine hunk of a man named Rudolph Benson, who worked at the local saw mill. The old saw mill was shabby and barely hanging on by a thread. The huge yard wide saw was powered by an old stripped down Model-T Ford on blocks, and with a long belt from Ford to saw. As I said, the old sawmill was run down.
From time to time, the apparatus that fed logs into the spinning saw needed manual assistance. And Elvira’s new husband Rudolph provided the muscle, manhandling a 4 x 4 as a ram to push the logs forward. If you’ve ever used a table saw, it’s the same principle. If you’re not careful, the spinning blade will KICK the wood back at you.
That’s what happened one day to Rudolph.
One moment Rudolph was pushing a log forward with his 4 x 4 ram, then suddenly log and ram kicked back. They struck Rudolph squarely. The blow crushed his chest like an egg, killing him instantly. The rough wood hurled him backward, slamming him into the Model T and rupturing the gas tank, splashing Rudolph and everything for six feet in all directions with gasoline.
It was early spring, with a nip in the air … and they had a fire going in a 55 gallon drum nearby. WHRRRRRRUMPHHH! … everything exploded in a fireball. It quickly consumed the old T-Model, the saw mill, Rudolph, and everything. Everyone escaped but Rudolph. After the fire died down, all that remained of Elvira’s poor husband was ashes and a few brittle bits of bone, charred to a snowy white. Perhaps this was a blessing, for had Rudolph’s body survive the accident complete … Elvira would have had SOMETHING to cling to, a tangible OBJECT of her love. But now all was gone, except for a small jewelry box of ash and bone.
After the funeral, Clovis and Adeline invited the grieving Elvira to move in with them … for a while. Grandpa Clovis converted one of the rooms on the kitchen side of the house into an apartment for her. ‘For a while’ stretched into years, and years, and more years. The three of them lived in that house for the remainder of their lives.
It wasn’t long before the grieving widow and hospitable sister were sharing more than just the kitchen and privy. And the yard dogs weren’t the only ones trotting back and forth through the hallway. You see, Grandpa Clovis and his wife Adeline raised six kids in that old house, and Grandpa Clovis and Elvira, (his wife’s sister), raised five kids there.
“Clovis was no better ‘n a dog his-self,” raved Aunt May when she first heard the story. “DOG TROT was a fittin’ name, that’s fer sure!”
Uncle Earle’s father was Clovis’ six child by his legal wife Adeline. And Uncle Earl’s favorite uncle, Edward, was the fifth child of Clovis and Elvira. So because those two boys were HALF brothers, Uncle Earle just naturally considered Edward to be his HALF-UNCLE. Hey! It makes sense to me!
This story is loosely based on my real great-grandfather! Names have been changed to protect the ‘innocent.’ The photo, taken in 1937, is believed to be the actual dogtrot.