Sunday, March 8, 2009

Great Uncle Scott

Being part of a large extended family means that I met a number of odd relatives in my childhood. Last night as Mom was cleaning out some papers from her genealogy trove, the topic of great uncle Scott rose to the fore. It was actually funny, because for a while Mom and I carried on a conversation wherein I was talking about the interaction of great uncle Scott with my grandpa P (her dad) and she was talking about the interaction with her grandpa P (my great grandfather P). As it turned out, the reactions were similar in both cases.

My great grandpa P had a brother named Scott who I seem to remember had originally hailed from around Chicago. In any case, my great grandfather P died when I was in the early part of grade school and I have no real memories of great grandpa and great uncle Scott together. When I was somewhat older, great uncle Scott would come to visit grandma and grandpa while I was staying at the farm with them. He was a missionary in, as he put it, "Deepest Darkest Africa", and only came back on his annual leave. Before finding God and religion, he had been a character of sorts (with rumors of "ill repute") and a mortician. One of his boasts that really stuck in my mind was his claim that he could embalm someone with one hand and eat a sandwich with the other. That kind of a character.

I remember my grandpa looking a bit pained when it became clear that great uncle Scott's arrival was eminent. I can also remember my uncle J hinting "here it goes again." I suspect that the causes were many and varied, but at least part of was that great uncle Scott had the zeal of the late saved and was highly judgmental as well. A bit like a lot of the fundamentalists are today.

The normal routine on the farm in the summer was pretty regular. Up at sunrise, breakfast at 6am, discussion of who was going to do what work that morning by 7am, and then off to work. Everyone would return to the homestead shortly before noon, eat lunch, and then relax and read and talk until about 1:15 and then head back out to the fields. Sometime around 6 or 7pm it was back to the homestead for supper and then any remaining chores, followed by baths and maybe the TV news at 10pm and bed. If it was plowing or planting season or it was during harvest, work would continue on into the night. If there was a head of water being run, someone had to get up two or three times in the night to go out and change the water setting and reset the tubes.

But when great uncle Scott came to stay, the routine got bollixed quickly. He insisted on prayer before all meals. Not the normal short prayer either, but a hell and damnation full-bore sermon that often ran 50 minutes or more. In fact I can remember one time it actually ran on to 90 minutes when he was really fired up. You can  imagine how losing 50 minutes morning, noon, and evening was looked upon by all those that had work that *had* to be done on this day. And of course grandma would have already had all the food set on the table when Scott began his prayer, so she was going crazy watching everything turn cold in from of her. I can remember being out in the field with grandpa and him saying it was time to head back to the homestead for lunch, and then in his understated way, remarking that it was probably going to be yet another waste of warm food, valuable time, and hot air.

It was ironic, but the only times we ever ate in the fields were harvest and great uncle Scott's visit. I suspect grandpa just couldn't stand to burn that much more time while all that work was waiting. It was also funny that the only time grandpa took us kids to the Proctor filling station for a bottle of pop was during the visit of great uncle Scott. Other times, if we were irrigating and waiting to change water settings, our uncle J would head to Proctor with us to get a pop. But never grandpa - unless great uncle Scott was at hand.

The most important thing about the whole great uncle Scott experience was that it was the first time I saw how my grandfather treated with respect someone who he didn't agree with or like in general. Even though I know it bothered him immensely, he never tried to hurry great uncle Scott, never tried to argue with him, never treated him with anything but respect. That was a hint to all who knew grandpa well. If he wasn't willing to debate and argue a topic with you, you could be pretty sure he thought you were as worthless as teats on a bull and not worth the trouble. Great uncle Scott never seems to caught the hint.

Time to get back to work. Think good thoughts for Mom and her surgery tomorrow.

 (Proctor is now considered a ghost town, but if you click the link, you can see a picture of the filling station where we got bottles of pop from a big chest filled with ice, water, and pop sitting out in front under that awning.)


  1. I love the claim Scott made that he could "embalm a person with one hand and eat a sandwich with the other." Makes me laugh hysterically because I grew up around folks that liked to amaze us kids saying how they got lost in the woods and ate raw squirrels they caught with their bare hands..stories that forever and ever stuck in my mind. Thanks for sharing this one, it was great!

  2. I have some crazy relatives lol I don't know if they're that crazy but probably pretty close ;)

    Your mom is in my prayers for her surgery. Let us know how it goes please.

    Night Dan :)

  3. Your great-uncle sounds like a colourful character - the black sheep of the family turned good, a do as I say and not as I did kind of person. They say the people who were the worst behaved in their youth are always the strictest with their kids and the most critical people!


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