Uncle Albutt Part 3

Uncle Albert was the only person I ever knew who never attended school at all.  He couldn’t write or read a word.  I remember seeing him bring documents for Mothr to read and interpret and pen his replies.  He was the first person I ever saw make an X mark for his signature. Mother wrote his name afterward and witnessed it. I was filled with awe that a person had never attended school.  Mother filled out his income tax returns for him every year.

Uncle Albert was very shrewd in his accounts, despite his lack of education.  He handled his business affairs skillfully, requiring no assistance.  He was a skilled trader.  I remember hearing him tell Daddy how he left the house one morning with a goat to barter and after several trades, came home with a shotgun and box of shells.  I never knew him to hold public employment.    He farmed forty acres more than fifty years, providing a living for him and his wife.  He paid cash, bartered, or did without.  The whole time I knew him, he drove a nineteen forty-eight Ford pickup truck.  He and Aunt Jewel smoked Prince Albert Tobacco and rolled their own cigarettes when money was tight, and bought Raleigh cigarettes when they were flush.  Aunt Jewel saved Raleigh Cigarette coupons for prizes.  From time to time, she’d show off a fancy vase or pair of pillowcases. . I never knew of them being without cigarettes of some sort.

Daddy was always honored when Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel came to visit.  One evening, Mother cooked our favorite, fried chicken.  We never got enough of her fried chicken, particularly the crisp scrambles of flour that dropped off during the frying.  Knowing this, Mother scraped up every crisp bit and put it on the platter with the chicken.  After the chicken was devoured, she divided those scrambles among the kids.  They were delicious, a highly anticipated treat.  That evening, the chicken platter passed from on end of the table to the other several times.  Uncle Albert liked Mother’s chicken, too.  As he forked  the last piece, the unthinkable happened.  He tipped the platter up and poured all those beautiful scrambled bits onto his plate.  Our eyes were huge with horror.  Surely he hadn’t just scooped up all the best all for himself!  He had!  Mother shushed us with a look as he noisily crunched and chomped through the pile.  A more heartbreaking sound was never heard.   In just a few seconds, he finished off our stolen treat, then burped his appreciation, wiped his mouth, leaned back his chair and remarked, “That’s the best part of the chicken.  I ain’t never got enough.”

we knew just how he felt.

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Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel

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Uncle Albert and Aunt Jewel were dull as mud.  All Uncle Albert ever said was “Don’t mess with that!” or “That’ll fall on you.”  Normally, Aunt Jewell only coughed and told us to go play outside, but some reason I once spent an endless afternoon with her when she made a point to converse with me. I was impressed when she’d told me an acronym for spelling the word contents.  “Coons ought not to eat nuts so soon.”  Then she laughed, saying coons didn’t eat nuts, squirrels did.  The joke was wasted on me, but I was surprised she had the wit to think something was funny.  I’d never heard her laugh before.  Her incessant smoking made her rattly laugh sound like nails scratching on tin,  She also told me that if you hit the bottom when you were falling in a dream, you’d die, as well no matter how long a dream seemed to last, it only took one second to dream it.

I knew Aunt Jewel had split Uncle Albert and his first wife up.  I studied this dumpy, gray -haired, old lady who coughed every breath wondering how he could have possibly have chosen her over anybody else.  She whined, stared off in the distance, and never had anything interesting to say.  Her only vaguely entertaining attribute was that she’d strung Crackerjack prizes together on a leather strip which she sometimes allowed me to play with as long as I sat on the floor in front of her, though she was oblivious to all my hints that I really needed them.

That pretty much wrapped up my relationship with Aunt Jewel, except the time she fell out the back door.  Uncle Albert offered her a cigarette.  She cried saying, ” I want a smoke so bad but I’m too sore to cough.”  That was the first time I’d seen an adult cry.