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“Geronimo!” photo by acclaimimages.com

The last uncle still living at my grandparent’s farm graduated from high-school at about the time we moved away from the farm. My Dad’s youngest brother immediately joined the Army. He was a hero in my eyes, he was going to be a paratrooper and jump out of airplanes. The two of us had spent many hours together sitting on barn stools, milking cows and laughing at anything that seemed remotely funny. My first dog was one that this uncle had picked out for me, saying the puppy and I were both runts. He took the little brown male puppy, cut off it’s tail with a penknife, named it Snooper and gave it to me. Since he was the youngest in the family, and had still been in school, he had lots more time to spend with me than almost anyone else. He took me on rides around the farm and out the farm driveway on the back fender of an old bicycle. I had to balance carefully there, hands around his neck, trying to keep my feet out of the spinning back wheel. We had gone together on fantastically fast rides in his old jalopy. Roaring out the dirt lane with the car windows wide open, he would tell stories, banging on the steering wheel with one hand for emphasis, while blowing smoke from cigarettes he wasn’t supposed to have. He was a bit of a rebel whose youthful hijinks were barely tolerated by most of the family, but celebrated by this childish admirer. One adventure, though, left me wondering. Along with one of my other uncles, and my Dad’s sister, we had all gone down to a river inlet on the farm where there was a sluice-gate and an impound pond. My favorite uncle had invited me along for the swim, and I was thrilled to be included in the group. They all went into the water and proceeded to splash and shout, having a ball. Uncle Paul encouraged me to jump in, clothes and all. However, no one gave a thought to the fact that I had never been swimming, and didn’t have a clue how to keep afloat. When I finally jumped in they were all swimming well out of reach. I sank, struggling, beneath the muddy surface before anyone could reach me. The river that I loved so much almost claimed me as a victim. The older of my uncles dived down and was finally able to pull me, gasping and choking, to the surface of the murky water. Then they all three took turns trying to comfort me. Uncle Paul finally convinced me to get back into the water and he taught me how to doggie-paddle. I was encouraged not to tell anyone back at the farm what had happened. After that it was a long time before I wanted to go swimming again in the muddy waters of the river. Uncle Paul left the family farm not long after that incident and didn’t return until after his enlisted years as a paratrooper were complete. By then, my parents had moved us into a bigger house in Pennsville. I lived there through my high-school years, returning only for week-end visits while I was in college. My grandparent’s farm was sold, they moved back to Hiawassee, Georgia, my parents divorced, and all my aunts and uncles got married and moved away. It seemed as though everyone was jumping in different directions.

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