He’s a stone-cold killer; as good as. Anyone with a tittle of wit can see it,” this old uncle accused.
“That whole ‘more time lost worried’ bit. As if there was no accounting to the course of Nature, any more than for one’s own actions as well.”
The man was resolute; accountability his mantra.
“Look at you” he continued to admonish. “One foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. Did you enjoy your morning in the rain?”
It was true I wrote this with a sore throat and the beginning of a cold. Under the influence of some mild pain killers; the offer of some old Percocet tempting, but a writer’s imagination is enough to lead him astray.
The use of opioid derivatives might have had a bit to do with Poe’s famous “Nevermore” line; still, I chose to do without. My uncle continued.
“It runs in his side of the family, you know.” This uncle was always quick to separate his bloodline from his cousin’s.
“Your great, great, great Uncle Doolittle was actually standing on Pike’s Creek in Fishertown two days after the Independence Day picnic. Encouraged everyone to keep working and ‘not pay any mind to those black clouds ahovering overhead.’”
His smirk reminded me our joint recollection of the Great Winona Flood of 1895 when Shannon County nearly lost its largest town and did lose a dozen of its citizens and most of its stores.
“There was the gent that worked for the Reed family. Promised ‘snow would come late to the High Sierras’ that season. Uncle Noble prided himself a ‘mountain man.’ That forecast back in 1846 sure worked out fine for the Reeds and their friends the Donners.”
Again, the smirk. This uncle seemed to have a ready recall of all the family’s more famous failings in weather forecasting.
“Not all your kin went west.” Now, it was my kin, and somehow the sanguinity of his cousins was forgot.
“Your Uncle Ezra convinced a few of his out-of-work cowhands to ‘shade and chow down’ in the village of San Antonio the spring of 1836. A dust storm coming up from the south ‘needn’t worry men of the range.’ That dust was from more than 6,000 Mexican troops and your uncle and his buddies ended up dying in an old Spanish Mission just up the street.”
“There was your great, great Uncle Pillar.” I took a deep breath, as I’d heard this story before.
“There was ‘money to be made’ in the Gulf. They could get to the docks early that evening and be prepared to get the best deal on dry goods the following morning at daybreak. Again, a few dark clouds were ‘no worry.’ That was in Galveston, Texas; the evening of September 8, 1900. I believe somebody later found his pocket-watch.”
“I’m surprised your neighbors speak to you, considering where you chose to settle.” He was now referring to the family legend of Old Uncle Bullwalker.
He’d traveled to the Ozarks in the early 20th century to make it in the freight business. Was headed to find a job on the highway construction going on in Shannon County. Camped out just northwest of where I live today.
“Yep — I can just hear him. ‘That noise? A nearby iron horse just blowing off some steam. Finish your lunch and let’s get the team moving.’ Six hundred people would die and him worried about eating.”
I knew well the history of the Tri-State Tornado of 1925 and its origin nearby.
By Rick Mansfield
(Rick Mansfield is a seasoned storyteller and writer, and is always looking for new audiences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)