by Anniel 7/25/16
My father’s youngest brother, Uncle Charlie, was known as a — hmmm, a bit of a scamp? You know the kind, kicked out of movie theaters for scaring girls and making them scream in the serious parts, throwing popcorn from the balcony, it was mostly small stuff. He also raced midget autos, climbed mountains and cliffs, high-jumped, tobogganed, and ski jumped. He thrived on adventure, and sometimes drank too much. Oh, and his heart was on his right side instead of his left.
Both my father’s and grandfather’s normal left-sided hearts were broken when Charlie was killed in a midget auto crash when I was two, and no one ever spoke about him, I think because it took too long to get over the hurt.
One day I found a photo of me in a funny looking auto. I was obviously screaming my head off. Puzzled I took the photo to my mom and asked about it. Dad and Mom finally told me about my Uncle Charlie. They said he had loved me and sometimes took me for short rides in his midget auto, but I wasn’t always happy about it.
That photo kind of broke the ice and got the whole family, even grandpa, talking about Charlie again, and laughing about his exploits.
The following, “Remember the time when Charlie. . .” story is true, but kind of revolting, so beware if you are squeamish.
When I was young we often went to Island Park, Montana, near Yellowstone, so lots of bears were around. I still can’t believe how blasé my mother was when she would calmly shoo them away.
One summer when my father was already a teetotaler and worried about Charlie and some of his drinking buddies, my parents rented the dry cabin they had lived in for several summers. There was not only no well, but no electricity either. Charlie and a buddy showed up to stay for a week and went out boozing every night, coming in late and passing out in their bedrolls on the floor.
One night Charlie was sick with a massive hangover and got up to vomit. He was staggering around in the dark room unable to find the door when he saw the stars out the side window, rushed over, threw the window open, stuck his head out, and proceeded to vomit in the garbage can under the window. A bear who was raiding the can grabbed Charlie’s head and began licking his face and mouth. Did you know Bears will eat anything?
Charlie’s screams woke up everyone in the place. By the time Dad got the Coleman lantern lit the bear had fled, and Charlie was stone-cold sober and crying on the floor. Mom and Dad were able to laugh as they told us kids that story. As I recall they said, my Uncle was a changed man. He didn’t even leave the cabin until it was time to go home, and he, too, became a teetotaler.
Whenever we would go to Island Park I would remember that was the place where both my father made his decision not to drink, and for the short time he had left, my uncle made the same decision.
And I am grateful I never had to learn an easy lesson the hard way. I’m still afraid of bears. • (482 views)