THE PERFECT GIFT

present-150291_640

© 2018 Bill Murphy

What do you give the one who has everything?  Most of us have confronted this problem… but it no longer must be a problem.  Let me suggest – giving that person appreciation.

We all want attention and appreciation.  But if we’re honest, these 2 items are near the top of our want-list. True?  So – this coming Christmas, birthday, anniversary, or for any gift-giving occasion, your problem is now solved… with a gift guaranteed to please.  I know that I want to be appreciated!  Don’t you?

There is another who also relishes our attention and appreciation… the one who most deserves it!  But He often must settle for a once-a-week ‘I appreciate you’ session, where we express our attention and appreciation to Him.  Yes, I’m speaking of our Heavenly Father!

I’m afraid that we tend to get so wrapped up in our busy lives, that we fail to see our lives in their proper perspective… that is: how our lives are related to His!  We’re reminded that we should stop and ‘smell the roses.’  But that’s only a start.

The next clear night, go somewhere that the city lights don’t interfere… and look toward the heavens.  Can you count the stars?  No, there are far too many to count.  And this is only the ones you can see.  There are billions upon billions far beyond these.  He created each and every one.

How large is this universe?  The size is far beyond anything we can comprehend or imagine.  How big is limitless?  He created it all.

This creator is our God.  Not only is He our creator, He is our Heavenly Father.  Compared to Him, we are but speck of dust.  And yet, amazing as it it, He knows each of us by name.  Scripture tells us that He knows how many hairs are on your head!  But more important than that… He loves you.

Yes, He wants our attention and our appreciation!  But here is the most amazing thing about who WE are: When He created us, he could have created us to ‘automatically’ love Him, to automatically give Him our undivided attention and appreciation.  But… He chose not to do so.  Instead, He made us ‘like’ Himself… he gave our temporary, physical bodies an indwelling spirit… a spirit like He is!  And He also gave us a will of our own… just as He has a will.  And why did He do this?  He did this because He did not want our lives to be controlled by instinct… not pre-programmed to be what He desired for us to be.  That would have been too easy.  That is the way He made all other animal life.

Instead… for us… He wanted us to be His CHILDREN, like unto Him, to be eternal, spiritual… children that He can call His own.

As a parent myself, my desire is that my children have an appreciation for what I am and for what I do and have done for them.  I’m sure you can agree with this yourself.

It puts things into better perspective… when we see ourselves as HIS children!

If there was ever anyone who actually has everything… then it is God Himself!  But does He really have it all?  We have no problem with being constantly aware that we are dressed, fed, and breathing.  So why do we think that we cannot be constantly and continually aware of Him, and of His rich blessings perpetually pouring down upon us!

A once a week pause to say, ‘thank you,’ is not nearly enough!  Pause often – and Give Him the gift of appreciation.  He deserves it!  And… He desires it.

 

 

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DREAM CATCHER

dream-catcher-902508_640© 2018  Bill Murphy

The object at left is called a ‘dream catcher.’  I dream every single night, therefore I don’t want one, and don’t need one – and never have.  I’ve longed for a dream blocker to give me a restful, dreamless night of sleep.

My dreams are always vivid, action filled, in color, and with taste, touch and sound.  I usually awake tired, and expecting to see dust on my feet.

That said, here is a typical example of my night-life… as actually dreamed last night.

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The dream began as I got off a train in Boston.  I was with a group of 9 or so other people,  composed of an equal number of men and women.  I did not recognize any of them. Carol was not with me.  We were told to pair off, giving each person a ‘travel-buddy.’ After this, we would receive a few rental cars, and drive into town.  I immediately spoke up, explaining that I’d been to Boston on numerous occasions, that I knew it ‘like the back of my hand,’ and would have no problem finding my way around.  I felt rather confident about this.

Looking around, I saw that the pairing was complete… except for myself… and a young woman.  She walked over and replied, “It looks like it’s you and me Ole Buddy.”  Four of us got our rental car, a very old and worn red Nissan convertible.  The top was up, but the operating mechanism was broken – so it had to be raised and lowered manually… and then tied down with bright red wires wrapped around the rear view mirror at the top center of the windshield.  (Yes, my dreams are always this vivid with detail.)  The 4 of us got in, and I drove… because I could find the way.  I pointed out interesting things along the route.  The streets were filled with traffic, and the downtown area crowed with bustling people.  When we got to the restaurant, we parked on the street, a few doors down from our destination.  When the guy in the back seat got out, he pulled me aside and asked, “Did you tell your travel-buddy that you’re married?”  I replied, “No, it never came up!”

As my group began heading for the restaurant, I stayed behind to lock the car, because our luggage was inside.  It took a while to get ragged vehicle locked, and when I looked up, no one in our party was in sight.  All I knew was the restaurant’s name… but could not see it anywhere!  I looked for a point of reference, so I could find my way back to the car, and walked off… searching for the group and the restaurant.  Suddenly… nothing looked familiar… I felt lost!

If dreams can have chapters, it was at this point that chapter 2 on my night-story began.

The fellow who had asked if I had told my travel-buddy that I was married, came rushing up, all out of breath.  “You’ve gotten a call from home… I have to rush you back.  The New Jitney Jungle Company is re-organizing, and they want you on the board!”

I’ve said that my dreams are realistically vivid… but the realism is in the details… but not always within the correct parameters of time and of space.  The next thing I knew, I was walking across what looked like the stately campus of an ivy league university… and my traveling companion was leading us toward a large building with ivy covered walls. This was where the board of directors of the New Jitney Jungle was conducting their organizational meeting.

As we walked toward the building, I remarked that I was not wearing clothing befitting the occasion.  My companion handed me a dress shirt and dress pants, telling me that he’d picked them up for me.  I quickly dressed in the men’s room near the front of the stately building.  But I discovered that there were numerous, large bright green paint stains on the legs of the pants!  “I can’t wear these,” I remarked, and he replied that I should just keep eye-contact at eye-level and all would be OK.  (Where did the paint stains come from? I explain that later.)

As I entered the room, I immediately recognized many of the well dressed men in attendance.  Many were former executives of Jitney.  Several came to shake my hand, and welcome me.  But it all seemed somewhat forced, even a bit stand-offish.  I felt very uncomfortable.

The man in charge, who I did not recognize, came over and shook my hand.  “I’m sure you’re surprised by all this,” he began. “We’re all a bit surprised by it all.  Everything’s happened so fast!  You see, several of us were discussing Jitney, and what a shame it was what had happened to such a fine company.  So… we decided to do something about it! We’re resurrecting it!  And because of your many years and experience with the company, we want you aboard in this endeavor.”

I reminded him that my father had been on the board of the old Jitney, back in it’s hey-day of growth and prosperity.  “Yes I know,” the man said, “and I know that he’d be proud to have you, sitting with us, on the board of the New Jitney.”  I was taken aback, not really knowing what to say.  Then I spoke, telling him that I didn’t understand what I could bring to the table… that I was only involved in one area of the company, advertising.  Then he put his arm around my shoulder and explained that I had far more to give than I imagined… that I had a wealth of memories, and understanding, and passion for what Jitney was and could be again.  He said that he wanted that input around the boardroom table.

I remarked that this position would be a great honor, and yes, my Dad would be proud.  Then I remarked that the new income would given my wife and I the money to travel more, as we longed to do.

The man then stepped back.  “More money?”  Now he looked confused.  “Perhaps I need to explain something to you.  Yes, you will be paid for time on the board of the New Jitney, and you will be paid handsomely.  However, you must understand, that although you will be paid many times more per hour than you were paid when working for the old Jitney – with the New Jitney, the board meets, and therefore you will ‘work,’ only two hours per month.  Therefore… your monthly income will be far, far less than you were making years ago… far, far less.

I was confused, and flabbergasted!  I tried to explain to this gentleman who was in charge, and who would be my new boss, that this didn’t seem quite kosher.  “Let me get this straight,” I said, “You’re asking me to come into the boardroom, with a brain and heart filled with memories, experiences, and understanding of this company, and relay those years and years of memories, experiences, and understanding… and be paid only for the time sharing it with everyone?  Are you saying that you perceive my value to be in the time sharing the message… and not in the countless hours I spent in acquiring the message?”

He looked at me as if I were loco.  “That’s just the way it works. What’s just the way it is. And that’s just the way it will be.  2 hours pay, each month, every year, for the rest of your life.  Take it or leave it.”

“I’ll have to think about this,” I said, as I backed away.  It just didn’t seem right.  The fact that this ‘deal’ sounded so one-sided weighed heavily on my mind.

I began to awake.  Yes, it was weighing heavily on my mind.  Something really was weighing heavily on my mind, and on my brain… something warm… something furry.

We have two dogs.  Both sleep with us.  Tiny little Chloe was under the cover, near Carol’s feet – as always.  But during the night, 20+ pound Amy had taken up position at the extreme top of the bed… against the headboard.  She was now draped across my pillow, wedged between the headboard and my head!

As for the green paint.

I think that must have come from my early days of working full-time for Jitney.  It was 1967, and Jitney was much smaller at the time.  We had less than 30 stores.  I was hired to set-up and run the new Graphics Department, tasked with creating and printing not only store window signs, but point-of-purchase materials.  It was a messy, silk-screen printing shop.

But in my pea-brain, it was a big step up for me at the time.  Now I wasn’t just one of the worker-bees, I was the boss.  So, each day, as befitting ‘management’ I wore a TIE to work.  And yes, I also operated the large, messy, ink-filled printer.

I carefully tucked my tie into my shirt, to keeping it from dragging in the ink – but it never stayed tucked.  Never.  Soon, practically every tie on my tie-rack had multi-colored tips.  I’m sure that some of that stray ink was bright green!  I guess that’s what dreams are made of.

 

 

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THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES

jetshot1@ 2018  Bill Murphy

Bob Hope had it right!  We can be thankful for some memories.  But for a toy?

A few of my childhood toys bring back memories…. like the large 3-wheel bike, without brakes.  I was 5 or 6 at the time.  The thing was really an oversized, stretched tricycle.   Boy was it fast!  I discovered that the very first time I rode it.

Dad unloaded the new toy at our driveway, and I immediately took off, lickety-split down Evergreen.  I should have gone in the other direction.  I was rapidly approaching busy Terry Road when I discovered the thing had no brakes.  I managed to pull off the sidewalk as I neared Mrs. Busby’s house, hoping I could slow it down in her front yard, or perhaps, as I circled her house.  I did neither.  Instead, I crashed full-tilt into the large tree, with larger roots, at the end of her driveway.  I think I went 5 feet UP that tree!

Things like that, one can’t help but remember.

But the toy which brought me at least as much pleasure, but with none of the pain, was a unique water-gun.  My guess is that it came from H.L.Greens, downtown.  It probably costs no more than 50c.  But it gave me many, many happy hours of flying and fighting fun!  This water pistol was made in the shape of an airplane!

Jets were new at the time, and this toy was a close replica of the all new U.S. Air Force Republic F-84 Thunderjet.  I’d fill ‘er up, grab the handle, and take off… zooming into action… on search and destroy missions all around our yard.  I’d sweep down low… making my best jet-fighter sounds… and strafed anything and everything that moved: enemy tanks (roly-polies), ants (troops), crickets (vehicles), and worst of all, evil spiders, (artillery)!  The fun only stopped when I was forced to return to base to re-fuel and re-arm.

A few months ago I saw this one pictured above (with missing canopy) for sale on eBay. Someone obviously knew just how much unadulterated fun was contained in this small plastic toy – because I could have purchased several dozen cases of them way back when… for what they wanted for this single item today!

No, I didn’t purchase it… it was that expensive.  Anyway, I suppose I would look rather silly now, running across the yard make jet-noises, and squirting at ants.

 

 

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GOODBYE FAMILY HEIRLOOMS

Table

© 2018 Bill Murphy

Today, another heirloom from the Murphy’s past has exited the scene, stage left. I had mixed feeling about this one, both sad and glad.

A few years after my Carthage grandparents passed away, their beloved old barn was torn down.  Now that was a relic to be sure.  My Dad helped split the cedar shingles which formed its roof.  As a child, all the young Carthage-Cousins practically lived in that old barn.  Knowing it was to be demolished was like seeing an old friend on his death bed.  Before the barn was no more, I removed dozens of those worn and weathered cedar shingles.  I still have many of them… kept as unusual, but treasured keepsakes – heirlooms if you will.

This very morning, a formal dining room table which had been among the first pieces of furniture my parents acquired after marriage, left my possession – sold in a yard sale.

Mom and Dad married in the mid 1930s.  Dad was working for Jitney Jungle.  One of their customers, who owned a moving and storage business, approached my father with an offer.  He explained that several years back, a local doctor put an elegant dining room suite into storage.  Now they’d moved away, and could not be reached.  He needed the room, so… would Dad be interested in buying it?  He did.  For only $35.

This was NOT particle board and veneer furniture… but GOOD stuff.  Included was 6 padded chairs, the table with 2 extensions, felt table pads, plus a china cabinet and large buffet.  All for $35.  I sat for 19 Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations around that table while living at home… and many more after moving away.  Yes, I had a fond attachment for it.

After the deaths of Mom and Dad, it became mine.  As nice and elegant as it was, it really wasn’t 100% practical.  The legs were large, and the ornate lower bracing seemed to always get in the way.  Coupled with those tree-trunk-like legs, it could be annoyingly uncomfortable.  When Carol and I moved to Illinois, we put the thing in storage!  One of our daughters attempted to use it, but soon discovered it’s annoying ways.  She bought a new set, and back into storage the treasure went.

This weekend, we’re having a yard sale.  We decided that its about time to part company with this uncomfortable heirloom from the past.  A couple paid $75 of the table and chairs… more than doubling Dad’s original investment.  I think he would have been proud.

 

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MY DRUG OF CHOICE

 

BreakfClubBlueBill Murphy ©2018

Today we live in a drugged society.  I’m on 5 medications myself.  The problem is with what are called ‘recreational drugs.’  Most folks today have no perception of our  practically drug-free 1940s utopia.

But we did have drugs in the 40s.  The number one drug of choice was nicotine.  And yet, my family was practically unaffected by this drug.  Of my 28 aunts and uncles, I knew of only one uncle who smoked.  My maternal grandfather had a corncob pipe (which I now have), but I never witnessed him smoking it.  And for a while, my maternal grandmother dipped snuff.  I’m so thankful that my upbringing helped me dodge the nicotine bullet!

The second most prevalent 1940s drug was alcohol.  And again, my family was largely untouched by this free-flowing drug.  At the very end of our street was the Night Owl Cafe, a neighborhood ‘watering hole’ which sold beer.  I only set foot in the place one time in the 19 years I lived on Evergreen… and that time was to get change to ride the city bus.  However, I did taste my first beer when I was 5… when my mother gave me a tiny sip of the nasty brew she was instructed to drink… as an aid in milk production… when my sister was a baby.  Crazy, huh?

The third drug of choice, and the one on which I was soon hooked, was caffeine… served hot, administered orally, suspended in delicious coffee.  My snuff-dipping grandmother lived next door.  By the time I was two, Mamaw Fairchild would stand at her back door, and Mom would watch for ours ‘s, as I toddled across the driveway and along the well worn path to Mamaw’s.

Mamaw’s kitchen was tiny.  Her small table was pushed against the rear wall, allowing for only 3 chairs around the table.  And there we’d sit, almost everyday, enjoying one another’s company while eating hot buttered toast and drinking coffee liberally laced with sugar and milk – while listening to Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club on the radio.

In my case, that happy morning ritual of 75 years ago got me thoroughly hooked on coffee.  The positive reinforcement that coffee, Mamaw, and Don McNeill gave my psyche was solidly welded in place.

Mamaw Fairchild has been gone for decades, as has Don McNeill.  Gone also is that tiny kitchen… that cherished haven of contentment.  But what has not faded are those valued memories.  Today, each sip of coffee, takes me back to those wonderful, carefree days of childhood… back to when we danced in our minds around the breakfast table, with Don McNeill.  Good Morning Breakfast Clubbers… I’ll drink to that!

 

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REMEMBERING GRACE METHODIST CHURCH

Grace Church copy

©2018  Bill Murphy

Grace Methodist Church sat diagonally across the street from George Elementary School, on the north/west corner of Winter and Union streets.  Why is it that you fail to take a snapshot of those people or places you most want to remember?  Above is a photo taken by my mother sometime in the very late 40s, of a George School activity.  I suppose I’m in there somewhere.  Behind us is the old church building, before it was remodeled in the early 50s.  The parsonage is immediately to the right.  The white frame structure to the far left is the adjoining Sunday School rooms.

Grace was a neighborhood church, with no church parking lot.  There was ample parking on the streets for those who drove.  I walked to church many times.

This was my home church for my first 19 years.  Dad was on the Board of Stewards, and Mom was Superintendent of the Primary Department.  I sang in the choir when in high school.

Our family was always there – dependable, we were.  Sometimes we did miss a Sunday or two, but only for a valid reason… such as vacations.  Driving to Quebec, lower Florida, Vancouver, or deep into Mexico… on those pre-interstate 2 lane highways, you needed all the travel time available.  But our family attended church as we traveled – so that my sister and I could still be in the perfect attendance category.  One Sunday morning in Utah, we couldn’t find a Methodist Church anywhere – so we attended a Mormon service held in the Bryce Canyon Lodge.

I dearly loved Grace Methodist Church.  I am who I am today largely because of the instruction, foundation and examples I received from Grace Church.

I’m blessed to have participated in many memorable, spirit-filled, soul-jarring, life changing worship services in other churches over the years, yet I can truthfully say that none of those ‘pinnacle’ services compare to a typical service at Grace Church.  How? Why?

Because Grace Church was what it was!  I miss those wonderful days there, the place we thought of as “God’s House.”  We considered it to be a Holy Place.  And why did we feel this way and why did we feel such awe in simply entering the building?  Because… as small kids, we were taught that it was not just a building.  We were taught that it was “The House of God,” as if He dwelled there!  We learned to reverence it, respect it, and love it.  It was special… very, very special.  And because of this, we expected Him to be there with us and among us each time we entered that Holy place.

Were we lied to?  Was this some adult trick or ploy to make us behave?  Hardly.  Scripture plainly tells us that where two or three are gathered together in His name, then He is there! (Matthew 18:20).  And we knew to respect and reverence not only His presence which actually was there, but also His ‘house.‘  It was all real, very real.

Grace church was never locked when I was a child.  It was alway open to those who wished to enter, to feel His presence and love, to come kneel and pray.  There was a water fountain in the hallway of the ‘education’ department… and on hot summer days, we kids often entered the church to cool off and drink.  Although just a hot and sweaty pack of 8, 10, or 12 year olds, our parents may as well have been watching over our shoulders.  When we passed over the threshold, our very countenance transformed, automatically.  Why?  Because we knew to respect and to reverence that place, be it Sunday morning during church service or Tuesday afternoon.  We had been taught to give honor where honor was due… and God’s ‘house’ was due our honor and respect!  We neither talked loud nor ran in the hallways.  We had ingrained respect for where we were – because we’d been taught to have that respect.

I appreciate those life-lessons more and more each day that I live.

We didn’t have a ‘praise and worship leader’ at Grace Church.  But we had praise… and we had worship.  We had both in bountiful measure.  We had a choir director, but his duty was to direct the choir, not to serve as a cheer-leader.  We didn’t require a cheer-leader, because we knew that God was there, in our midst.  One could not help but feel His presence.  It was easy to worship Him at Grace Church.  This was His House!  And we respected it.  We hallowed it.  I think that it was this ‘attitude’ of respect and reverence that we brought with us to church that made it so easy, so natural, to worship.  We passed through the door expecting to meet Him inside!  And we were never disappointed!

My very favorite memories of Grace Church were the Sunday night services.  After 2 or 3 songs, and the announcements were read, the pastor gave his message.  Then we sang another hymn.  The lights were lowered, giving one just enough illumination to see, and then the pastor told us that the altars were open for those who wished to come and pray.  I always went forward.  There, in that darkened and quiet time, in that Holy place, it was as if I was not among dozens, but rather, alone with God.  It was so easy to feel His presence, His loving hand on my shoulder, His breath on my cheek.  It was just the two of us.  I worshiped Him.  And He filled my young heart with His presence, and His love.  It was like Heaven on earth.  I treasure those memories.  To think that the creator of the universe paused long enough to spend quality time with me!  A reverent soul is but putty in the hands of God.

Alas… Grace Church is no more.  Even the new building grew old… and time marched ever onward.  Folks prospered and moved away to bigger and better things.  Due to his strong work-ethic, Dad continued to get promotions at Jitney Jungle.  He and Mom moved away from Evergreen, to a larger, nicer home in north/east Jackson.  The congregation of Grace Church began to dwindle… until it was no more.  Sitting unused and uncared for, the leaking roof began to collapse.  A few years ago, the building was leveled.  Where the House of God once stood, and where heaven once opened its doors to a young boy… is now but a vacant lot.

Grace Church may be gone – but Grace Church is not forgotten!  Not in this heart anyway.

 

 

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Uncle Earle’s Half-Uncle

Earl.MayThe following story is a 2-part chapter from a collection of fictitious stories about my imaginary Uncle Earle and Aunt May.  I presented the first part on this blog around a year ago.  Last night, I took the 2nd part of this story to my writer’s club meeting – but I realized that the first part of the story is necessary to explain the second.  Therefore, I’m including both parts in this posting, in case you may have missed the first part.

 

UNCLE EARLE’S HALF UNCLE, Part One

Uncle Earle’s Grandpa Clovis settled in Tennessee.  Not Memphis or Nashville, but way out in the sticks – a place so remote, as they say, sunshine had to be piped in.  Grandpa Clovis married late in life, just after he’d started a little pig and tobacco farm.  Back in those days you didn’t hire farm hands, you had ‘em!  So Grandpa Clovis married Adeline Wilson… and started up a family of farm-hands.  While Adeline was expecting their first child (it turned out to be a girl), he built a simple, but comfortable, ‘dog trot’ house for his growing family.

A dog trot was like two houses joined together.  They shared one big floor, and one roof covered both.  The two ‘house’ areas were separated by an open hallway that ran front to back.  Because there were no doors on the ends of this ‘hallway,’ yard dogs simply trotted through, hence the name.  Bedrooms were on one side and the kitchen and sitting areas on the other.  Of course the privy was out back, as this was way before inside plumbing.  Grandpa Clovis expected to have a large family, so he built a three holer.  The first 3 children were girls, who unfortunately, don’t usually make the best field hands.

About that time, Grandma Adeline’s younger sister Elvira married a fine hunk of a man from the next county.  Rudolph, Rudolph Benson was his name, and he worked at the saw mill just over the ridge from the dog trot.  The old saw mill had seen better days.  It had been powered by a rickety, wood burning steam engine.  The mill owner complained about burning up all the profits fueling the steam engine – so his remedy was replacing the wood burner with an old T- Model Ford.  The old Ford had been wrecked, so he replaced the radiator, took off the wheels, put it up on blocks, and began powering the mill with that old Ford.

Like I said, the old sawmill was in sad shape.  The apparatus that fed logs into that big spinning saw blade needed manual assistance.  And like I said, Elvira’s new husband Rudolph was a hunk of a man.  By default, he became the log pusher, manhandling a rough-cut 4 x 4 ram.  If you’ve ever used a table saw, it’s the same principle.  When you’re not careful, the spinning blade can kick the wood back at you.  This is exactly what happened to Rudolph.

The day started out badly.  It was cold, damp and foggy.  It took quite a while to get the old Ford started.  Rudolph got a bad splinter picking up his 4 x 4 ram.  (He’d left his work gloves at home.)  As he was feeding the first log of the day into the saw… it kicked back violently.  The log struck Rudolph squarely in the chest.  The blow crushed his chest like an egg, killing him instantly.  The log hurled him backward, slamming him into the T- Model, rupturing the gas tank.  The gasoline splashed all over Rudolph and everything else for six feet in all directions.  Because of the nip in the air… they had a fire going in a 55 gallon drum nearby.  With a sudden WHRRRRRRUMPHHH… everything exploded in a fireball.  It consumed Rudolph, the old T-Model, the mill itself, everything.

Everyone escaped, except Rudolph.  After the fire cooled, all that remained of Elvira’s poor husband was a few brittle bits of bone, charred to a snowy white.  Perhaps this was a blessing.  Elvira was so attached to Rudolph that she’d have found it exceedingly difficult to let him go.  Now there was precious little left to hold on to.

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 old house for the remainder of their days.  But it wasn’t long before the grieving widow and hospitable sister were sharing more than just the kitchen and privy.  It wasn’t long before the yard dogs weren’t the only ones trotting back and forth through the hallway.  Over the years Grandpa Clovis and his wife Adeline raised six kids in that old house, and Grandpa Clovis and Elvira, (his wife’s sister), raised five.

“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 third child of Clovis and Elvira.  So because those two boys were HALF brothers, Uncle Earle just naturally considered Edward to be his HALF-uncle.  It makes sense to me!

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UNCLE EARLE’S HALF-UNCLE, Part Two

Uncle Earle received a letter from relatives in Tennessee, saying they’d just buried his favorite Uncle, his Half-Uncle Edward.  And… the letter also said that, at the same time, they’d also buried Edward’s wife, Connie.

Now Edward’s burial came as no surprise.  The old gent was way past ninety.  What came as a surprise was the burial of Aunt Connie.  Uncle Earle KNEW she’d been dead for fifteen years or more!  The letter contained a long newspaper clipping, which explained some of these strange circumstances.  Uncle Earl knew about Edward and Connie’s early years.  It took some digging to turn up the story of their latter years.

It seems that after the eleven ‘dog trot kids’ were grown, they moved away, all that is but Edward.  He stayed on and looked after the old threesome until they died.  2 years after the last one passed away, the old place burned.  By then Edward was thirty-seven, and ready to look for a wife himself.

Down the road lived the family of a staunch Baptist minister who presided over no less than three small congregations in the area.  His eldest daughter, Connie, was the conscripted organist/pianist for all three churches.  I suppose that 4 Sunday Services each week (one of the churches met Sunday Mornings and Sunday Nights) and 3 mid-week services a week were a bit much for Connie.  It didn’t take a crowbar to pry her away from her family.  After the wedding she and Edward promptly moved to the other side of the mountain, too far away to be the three-church organist/pianist anymore.

What Connie may have lacked in physical beauty she more than made up for in inner beauty.  As if in reward for caring for his elderly parents, Edward was blessed with the grandest wife a man could hope to find.  Although they never had children of their own, their home was a haven of love and joy to every child in the area, and for friends and neighbors alike.  And then tragedy struck.

Connie was stricken with a rare and incurable liver disease.  Edward was positively devastated.  I suppose Edward had heard his mother, Elvira, talk about the loss of his father, and all the pain caused.  As he approached the loss of his beloved Connie, Edward could not imagine that eventual reality.

Now Edward often hunted and fished with a strange recluse who lived in the next ‘hollow.’  Folks in the area called the ole fool Wild Bill.  He was a wild unpredictable half-wit… the often result of backwoods inbreeding.  But Wild Bill was an expert fisherman, and a crack shot.  His humble dwelling was filled with game trophies… a large mouth bass, seemingly as large as a tuna, adorned one wall.  There were snarling bobcats, dainty foxes, rabbits, squirrels, deer heads, and even a large black bear standing erect and threatening.  On a table near his front door was his pride and joy, a large bullfrog holding a lamp, the first animal he’d ever done.  Wild Bill was an amateur, yet quite proficient, taxidermist.

“Earle, one a these days I wanna to do me a person,” Wild Bill had once confided to Edward.

Connie lived only 3 months after her diagnosis.  By then, Edward had made his decision.  Like good economy, supply was ready to satisfy demand.

When you live as far back in the sticks as these people, the niceties of civilized law and custom aren’t always followed.  Few had birth certificates.  Death certificates were practically unheard of.  So Edward convinced everyone that Connie didn’t want a viewing… that she wanted everyone to remember her as she was in life.  She died at home, in Edward’s arms.

Edward built a pinewood coffin, beautifully varnished and waxed… and with brass fittings.  It was fitting tribute to his beloved Connie.  Into this farewell box he carefully laid several bags of sand… and nailed it shut.  The afternoon of her death, he and Wild Bill ‘did’ Connie.

Of course, a human doesn’t have the same hide or hair as a bass or rabbit.  So when finished, Connie left a bit to be desired.  Edward had to apply a LOT of make-up, causing her to look not at all unlike Tammie Faye.  But at least he still had his beloved Connie.

After dressing her in her finest Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes, he laid the body on an old frame bed hidden away in the attic.  Then he contacted her family.

After a tender and sweet farewell service at the Baptist Church, they took that beautiful pinewood box (of sandbags) and buried it beneath a stately oak in the REST IN TRUTH CEMETERY.  Rest in peace.  Ashes to ashes.  In this case would that be sand to sand?

Of course Wild Bill had been sworn to secrecy. He proved to be a man of his word. It was only in the past few days, when Edward too had passed way, and his few remaining relatives began searching his old house for family remembrances… that someone happened into the attic and discovered the true resting place of Aunt Connie.

For a man to have had such a checkered ancestry, dog trots, half-uncles, and a taxidermied aunt… I suppose we can cut Uncle Earle a little slack.  I know I can.