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.