Through a connection with his son, Uncle Albert somehow came up on a ninety-nine year lease on several acres on Dorcheat Bayou in Louisiana. Ready to retire from farming, he decided a fish camp would provide a modest retirement income. My father bought his farm and stock, but that’s a story for another day. Obviously, he was a multi-talented man, able to turn his hand to any task. His farm boasted two cabins. He moved into the second cabin, disassembled the log house he was living in loaded it piece by piece on his old truck, and moved it to his lease, where he went to work reassembling it just as it had originally been, except he added an additional bedroom, occasionally recruiting help from relatives with bigger jobs. Once the reassembled house was in the dry, he took apart the second cabin, using the timber to cover over the logs and seal the house tighter. One day, Daddy decided we’d go by and check on Uncle Albert’s progress. My older sister climbed on the unsecured log walls, tumbling them to the ground. I was so glad she got to them before I did. Neither Daddy nor Uncle Albert was pleased. Daddy spent the rest of that evening and Saturday helping Uncle Albert get it back together. None of us kids were invited along, for some reason. When Uncle Albert was satisfied with his house, he used the rest of the salvaged lumber for fishing boats, a pier, fences, a bait shop, and outbuildings. Soon he had a pretty good business going. By the next spring, he had a large garden underway.
Prior to construction of his house, Uncle Albert took care of necessities,; first, a toilet before summoning all his nephews for the digging of a well, uphill from the toilet, of course. They came, bringing all their wives and children, a festive day of barbecuing, fishing, children running wild, while the men took turns shoveling the hard red clay from the well site.. Only one man could be in the hole at a time. The others stayed above ground, pulling the heavy dirt from the hole. They all took their turns. By the end of the first day, thanks to the high water table, water was beginning to seep in at a depth of twenty feet. They dug a few feet more, set the curb so the well wouldn’t silt in, and came back the next day to build a protective well-housing. Uncle Albert was able to draw a bit of water by the evening of the second day.
Along with all my cousins, I was desperate to be lowered by pulley and bucket as the fortunate diggers were, into the depths of that well. Sadly, all the mothers and aunts were just as anxious to keep wayward kids out of the well, warning us away every time we came near. However, were able to indulge in one other life-threatening activity as they focused on that well. A gravel road ran down the steep hill along one side of Uncle Albert’s property where it intersected with another dirt road fronting his house alongside the steep-banked bayou. The occasional oil-truck, fisherman, or hunter who travelled that way would have had no expectation of kids running wild, since until only recently, it was nothing but woods. Someone of my cousins had thoughtfully brought along their red wagon to Uncle Albert’s that day. Naturally, we pulled that wagon to the top of the red-dirt hill, piled in as many cousins as would fit, and prepared for a thrilling coast down the steep graveled road. There were no engineers among us. Confident as only a cluster of kids can be, we set off for a bone-rattling ride. That wagon clattered and bounced, held down only by the weight of kids. A couple of the smaller ones were pitched out, left squalling in our dusty tracks. The clattering, crying, and dust cloud caught the attention of the well-diggers and mothers who were laying out the picnic lunch, secure in the knowledge we weren’t falling in the well. As they looked on at the screaming wagonload of kids hurtling down the hill, an oil truck approached the crossing at the bottom. It slammed on its brakes, swerving enough to allow us to pass, though our unlikely survival was concealed by the massive dust cloud. The wagon flew on toward the high bank of the bayou, where we were saved by a brush thicket just short of the water.
In the manner of parents at that time, once the loving parents found their children weren’t dead, they gratefully expressed their joy with beatings for all. I had one fine ride down that hill, but I never got another crack at it.