Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Uncle Tom was my hero, the youngest brother to my mom, and the last to leave home. He was there when I first remember going to grandmother’s house in Alabama, living in the back room where I was not allowed, because it was off limits to a little boy with too much energy.

Tom was almost ten years older than I was; just about the same number of years that now separates my brother and me. To me Tom was there to play with me, and when he did not want to, I would “try self” as I was known to say and do in those days. To “try” myself meant I would through a small fit – just a tiny one. The attractive fit consisted of standing in one place, stomping my feet up and down, and flapping both my ears with my hands as I screamed!

I suddenly stopped “trying myself” one day a few years later when a man, a stranger to me who worked with my dad, got into the backseat where I was engaged in one of my tantrums. I only became aware of him as he said in a loud voice, “Here son, let me clean you off a place,” as he took off his ball cap and made dusting moves back and forth in the floorboard near my feet. “Now, have your self a big ol’ fit!” and laughed.

That one moment shocked me so much that from that day forward I never had another tirade! I was just too ashamed to be caught like that again I suppose.

Meanwhile, back to Uncle Tom who was about to fall victim to my mischievous spirit.

Having turned down my plea to play with me, he went into his sanctuary and lay back across his big feather bed. Once he entered the safety zone I knew it was useless to beg anymore, so I sat down and waited.

Several minutes later I tiptoed into his room and sprinkled black pepper onto his eyelids. To my surprise this did not awaken him. I got between him and the door and bumped his foot, screamed, and ran as hard and as fast as I could.

Uncle Tom woke up, blinked his eyes, and then suddenly jumped up yelling and rubbing his eyes! As soon as he could see his hands he knew exactly what had happened and with his eyes watering and his sight still blurred, he ran after me.

Around and around the house we went with Tom yelling at me and me screaming for my mother. I had “tried myself” one too many times and I figured he would kill me when he caught me, but I was a little faster and quicker than he was. The chase was not the fun I had hoped for, but at least he was playing with me – even if it was a weird kind of “catch me if you can!”

Tom joined the Air Force a few months after that and spent twenty years traveling around the world. He was always someone I looked up to and I actually entered the Air Force years later with a thought in the back of my mind to “be like Tom”, but because of Vietnam, I decided not to make it a career.

Nowadays I look forward to his visits and our trips to Alabama to watch his team play Tennessee. He raps his elephant on the head, it says “Roll Tide,” and I rap ol’ Smokey and he plays “Rocky Top!” We tease each other a lot and we love each other even more, because we have a special bond all seasoned with black pepper and no one can ever take that away.


bozette said...

I love that song Rocky Top.
Sounds like a real cool guy.
Enjoy the time you have with him before it's to late.

Suzi said...

Ooooh, pepper. That was dastardly!

Fathairybastard said...

Man, you were a real pain in the ass. I salute you. Never thought of pepper. With my sister and mom, it was rubber snakes. Worked every time. Still does. Hehe.

Jose said...

Man you must have been... no actually I think you are a handfull. As I read your story I closed my eyes trying to think of a time that I may have thrown a tantrum and nope couldn't think of one. Love your stories.

Bruno said...

And to top it all off, you didn't need a joystick for "virtual exercise"!

Black Pepper---huh, that's one on me, too! Never would've thunk it! But then again, I ain't no kid anymore, either!

Alex said...

I remember Uncle Tom when he still had his cabin. Man, those were great times, monkeying around on the porch, and picking our way through the cotton fields to chuck things in Spear Lake.

bozette said...

Want to wish you and your loved ones a Happy Thanksgiving.

Michele said...

What a great story and sounds like you still have family around to enjoy! Have a nice Thanksgiving Holiday!

Alex said...

Oh. I forgot it is thanksgiving in America tomorrow. I've been in the Communist Federation of Canadian States too long!

phlegmfatale said...

What a great story, Ew, pepper in the eyes - *shudder* What an ornery child you were!

DirtCrashr said...

Cooool!! Throwing fits has a way of catching back, I know -- Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Still chuckling!

Happy Thanksgiving!