Uncle Russ’s camper wasn’t this nice!
Bud’s Uncle Russ was ahead of his time, since he came up with the first camper/Tiny House anyone had seen in our part of the country. Back in the late1950’s and 1960’s, the family occasionally awoke to find his old Ford truck with its homemade camper parked in their yard. Enclosed within its two by four frame and galvanized sheet metal covering were a bunk and a bit of storage for his camp stove, personal belongings, and other gear, though his hygiene products didn’t take up a lot of room.
Uncle Russ was not encumbered with a regular job. He travelled till he ran out of money, then stopped off and found a little job like mowing, helping with a harvest, or pumping gas to get enough ahead to make be on down the road a bit. He never went naked or hungry, and always had a roof over his head.
When the Bethea boys, Dell and Louis were growing up on a farm in Warren, Arkansas, their Uncle Russell would show up from time to time. He’d hang around and work with his brother Joseph till they got crosswise and he’d get mad and leave or Joseph would run him off. Apparently, his grooming was lacking even then, since the boys, “I don’t know how you boys can stand to wash your face and comb your hair before every meal. I don’t comb my hair but about every six months and it nearly kills me then.”
Early one Saturday morning, Miss Mary noticed his truck in the drive and called out to let Dell, Bud’s Dad know his uncle had come to call. Uncle Russ knocked when he saw them up and about. Miss Mary let him in and went to put the kettle on for coffee. Without a doubt, Uncle Russ had just acquired some instant coffee he was curious about, since he asked Miss Mary if she minded if he made his own. “Not at all. The water will be hot in just a minute.”
He stirred in four or five heaping teaspoons of granules. Knowing he had concocted a powerful potion, she and Dell watched with interest as he tried to choke it down. He made two or three attempts before remarking, “I made that a little stout. I’m gonna had to pour it and have a little of yours.”
When Bud was about seventeen. Uncle Russ made a trip down, asking Bud to sign a signature card to be put on a joint checking account, though Bud assured him he wouldn’t have anything to deposit. “That’s okay. You just sign this here card and feel free to write a check anytime you need to.”
Bud signed the card and never gave it another thought, knowing how odd Uncle Russ was. Several months later, he got a letter from Uncle Russ, telling him how disappointed in him he was. In fact, he was going to take him out of his will. Bud never saw Uncle Russ again. Uncle Russ retired, an interesting move for a man who never worked more than a day or two at a time. He sold his old truck and its fixtures, somehow acquired an old mobile home, and moved it to the family farm. He died a few months later. Bud never heard who beat him out of his inheritance.