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.
No little kid should ever be allowed a small, defenseless duck, chick, or bunny for a pet. One of those four hundred pound tortoises would be a far better choice. It could protect itself and the kid couldn’t pick it up. Porcupines or crocodiles should be fine, too. They could probably hold their own against a four year old. Case in point, when I was four, Mother went to the farm supply store to get baby chicks to raise for the freezer. They came in a brown cardboard box with air holes. Naturally, I fell in love with the chicks and begged for one of my own. Thinking I would quickly lose interest, Mother had one put in a paper bag just for me.
As I sat on the backseat of the car with my chick, I took it out and admired it, putting its tiny, fluffy body next to my cheek. It was so sweet and smelled so chicky. Mother made me put it back in the bag, saying it needed to rest. Reluctantly, I set it to the side. We stopped by another store and Mother let me get some gum. I can’t imagine why she couldn’t predict the future. I was well-pleased with the situation since I usually never got two goodies in one day. I chomped the gum till my jaws were tired. As we headed home, Mother noticed I was getting sleepy. She told me, “Don’t swallow that gum. Just wrap it in the gum wrapper and drop it in one of the grocery bags in the back next to you.” I couldn’t find my gum wrapper, so I just dropped the wad of gum in the nearest bag, the one with the chick, and nodded off.
When we got home, I woke up and remembered my precious chickie. I opened the bag and found the chick, gum in his fluff. His tiny feet stuck to the bottom of the bag. When I pulled him out, gum ribbons stretched from the bag to his little feet. I wailed in dismay. Mother was disgusted and took the chick, cleaned the gum off the best she could, confiscated him and returned him to the troop of chicks as she’d intended from the beginning. I wanted to trade for one of the fresh, clean chicks, but Mother said, “NO!!!!!!” He suffered no real harm; just shared his gum with the other chicks till quite a few of them had combination chicken poop, dirt, and gummy fluff accessorized with tiny bits of biddy food. The gummy little chicks stuck together when they touched and sometimes had to struggle a bit to get apart. I was ashamed of my former friend as he scurried around the nastiest of all his little biddy friends. However, in a few days, once all the chicks feathered out, I couldn’t tell him from the rest. I was a little hurt he didn’t seem to have any special feelings for me, after all we’d been through together.