I have heard that everyone has an Uncle Sam. If that is true or not I have no idea but I do have an Uncle Sam and he was quite a character.
My Uncle Sam and his wife owned a grocery store and garage for many years. When I was a kid we visited them a few times and I remember some of those visits. I remember their house and their daughter’s room very well. They had fixed up the attic and made her a very cute room. I can remember seeing my aunt standing at the stove cooking. If she was not in the store working she was cooking most of the time when we were visiting.
There was a building on their property that did not have many things in it. One time when we were there, my cousin, my sister and I played in that building. We had a radio with us and we listened to music for hours ‘Heart Break Hotel’ by Elvis Presley, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ by Carl Perkins and ‘Be-Bop-A-Lula’ by Gene Vincent were some of the popular songs then. The three of us loved those songs and we would turn the radio up very loud every time the D J played them and we would sing our hearts out. My aunt would let us have soft drinks and snacks out of the store. That was some of the very few carbonated drinks my sister and I had growing up and they were a real treat for me oh they were so good. Grapettes and Orange Crushes were some we enjoyed.
Once when we were all sitting in the living room, it was almost dark and everyone was visiting and enjoying being together. It was warm in the house so Uncle Sam thought he would get some air going. He had a big fan that once was in the wall of his garage or the store. He set it on the floor in the door that separated the living room from the kitchen. He turned on the fan to circulate air through the house so it would be cooler. I was watching the blades on the fan spin faster and faster as the fan picked up speed all of a sudden something was flying through the fan, hit the floor and kept going. Someone asked “What was that?” Uncle Sam said “Oh that was just the squirrel he goes through there all the time.” I could not believe that squirrel ran through a running fan and came out uninjured. I have never forgotten it and I can still see the whole scene in my mind to this day. Uncle Sam had found the squirrel abandoned as a baby and raised him.
There were always lots of migrant workers in the area that came to work in the soybean and cotton fields. They would go to my uncle and aunt’s store to buy food and anything else they needed during the day while they were working.
One time when we were there visiting one of the workers was in the store and drank a bottle of bleach. Uncle Sam told us that some of the men who came in were heavy drinkers and they would drink hair tonic or anything they could get with alcohol in it since there was no place nearby to buy alcoholic drinks. We never did find out if the man drank the bleach on purpose or by accident thinking he was drinking something else. The sheriff or some other official came and picked up the man and we never heard any more about him. I have thought about him many times over the years and wondered if he did okay after drinking the bleach.
On one visit their dog died when we were there. We found him in the ditch between the house and garage. I can still see him stretched out in the ditch where we found him dying. Uncle Sam had called and called him and he did not come as he usually did. That was sad they had the dog for many years. They suspected someone poisoned him because my uncle said he had symptoms of poisoning.
Uncle Sam was a bit ornery and he loved to tease anyone that he could. When any of us kids would be standing beside him he would stick out his hand and say “Here, pull my finger” when we did he would say “I wish I could fart real big” and he would promptly lift his leg and break wind. We would start running and giggling and he loved that.
He was a fisherman and a hunter. His best friend who was his fishing and hunting buddy lives up the road from me today. They grew up together, went to school together and stayed friends. We talk about my Uncle Sam often and he tells me things that happened on some of their hunting trips. Knowing his friend and sharing stories with him makes it feel like Uncle Sam is still in some way around.
Uncle Sam loved for my aunt to get the milk gravy real brown. I remember watching her make it. She would put the grease, flour, salt and pepper in the skillet and let it almost burn before she would pour in the milk and stir it until it thickened. That was just the way Uncle Sam liked it so that is the way she made it. She would fix eggs, hot homemade biscuits, bacon, sausage and/or ham to go with the gravy and it was good.
She was a short, petite lady and was pretty quiet most of the time. When Uncle Sam was around he did most of the talking so I guess she was accustomed to that or maybe she just never was much for talking. She was always there for Uncle Sam and whatever he wanted she would do for him.
She ran the store and he ran the garage. She worked hard at home and in the store. She was always the same every time I saw her, she was a soft spoken, sweet and very nice lady. Our family will never forget her browned milk gravy. When some of us let our milk gravy get a bit too brown we say “whoops we are having ‘Aunt Buncy gravy’ today.”
Not long after my husband and I married we took my mother to spend the day with them. It was the first time I had been to visit them since I was a kid. They still had the store but Uncle Sam no longer had the garage, they both were working in the store.
I will always remember Uncle Sam as the comedian and most mischievous member of our family. I enjoyed being around him although sometimes he was a pest. He gave me lots of good laughs. Over the years I wondered if he was as ornery growing up as he was after he grew up. Before my mother passed away I asked her if Uncle Sam was ornery growing up. She told me that he was and that my granny had him spoiled rotten. Bless my granny she had her hands full.