Earth's Punishments and Heaven's Rewards

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

This is a memoir about my poor old Uncle Earl. At least that's who we though he was.

This was originally submitted as non-fiction, which it is, but I decided to edit it and make it a memoir, because someone who likes short story non-fiction, might not be as interested in reading a
memoir. If you like family history memoirs, you might like this. I am trying to decide if I should leave it on or take it off. Please let me know if you don't like it, but this isn't a plea for
everyone who hates memoirs or this story to tell me to take it off. It is a plea for someone who knows about memoirs to let me know if this should be acceptable or a reject. I am new at this and I
just need some opinions. Thank you....

Submitted: July 15, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: July 15, 2018




Earth’s Punishments and Heaven’s Rewards


 As a little girl who was living in the hilly sticks of Southeast Missouri in the seventies, life seemed to be an amazing plethora of beauty and wonder. Unlike my mother’s family home in the dry plains of the West Texas Panhandle, the Missouri Ozarks were a most enjoyable place to live and grow up.

My dad’s family who came to Missouri after fleeing South Carolina just prior to the Civil War, settled in a beautiful wooded forest near Black River called Greenwood Valley. I’ve been told it was because of the Greenwood family, who once lived there. It was government land that was granted to my great great grandpa, Levi, and his brother, William, who both had large families. It was large enough that they could all live on it peaceably, due to the fact that they were very close-knit, having the same religious beliefs and living by the same standards.

Over the years, my family began to intermarry with another family who lived on the other side of Black River in the small village of Mill Springs. It was almost ridiculous how these two families intermarried, but there was no incest, or anything like that. I don’t know how they kept from it, but I guess at community events, when they found themselves interested with a person from the other family, they must have had to untangle a giant cobweb of confusion, possibly writing things out on paper, just to make sure they weren’t related.

Now, getting back to the seventies. On weekends, my dad loved to take a family drive to his old stomping grounds, the place where he grew up. We visited with all of the family who still lived there and it was a good way for us to get to know them all. It was almost creepy driving there though, because the roads weren’t paved. They were just dug out roads, mostly dirt. Road graters and gravel still hadn’t been placed there by the county. I guess it wasn’t that organized yet.

As my dad made his way through this large area that was made up of several miles, we drove up, down, over and around, between giant old trees that hung out of the dark rich dirt along the sides of the road. They had been there since, well...the beginning of time, I guess. At my age, which was about three or four, I could imagine those trees were monsters whose roots were feet, and at night they might pull them out of the ground to walk the earth and come after us. But I guess that was only my wild imagination at work.

The first place we would always visit was my Uncle Bert and Aunt Aline. They had children, two sons, my cousins, who were the same ages as my brother and me. We usually played outside. The house was a beautiful old white Victorian house with a porch that went all the way around, so we could run around and round, laughing and whooping it up without ever getting into much trouble.

My Aunt Aline had ducks, geese, turkeys, guineas and chickens, so she always sent us home with eggs. The first time I ever ate a goose egg, I think my eyes were the same size as the plate. They tasted just like chicken eggs, but were a lot bigger.

After our visit came to an end, we always drove a little further down the road to visit my dad’s uncle, my great Uncle Earl. Uncle Earl lived alone. He had been married at one time and had been in World War I. He met a woman and they had a son, who they named Galen. My dad was named after him. Then when uncle Earl’s son was killed in World War II, I guess he replaced the loss with my dad, so my dad always went to visit him and tried to help him with anything that he might need.

The thing about Uncle Earl was that he had a strong faith and belief in God and the Bible. He would sit around reading the Bible all the time. I guess he didn’t really have anything better to do, because all he had was a bunch of old hound dogs, but he made sure those dogs were fed very well. I remember while walking up to his front porch to give him a hug, he always had a stack of giant dog food bags stacked almost to the roof. My dad told me that uncle Earl hunted for what he ate and he had a garden, so he rarely went anywhere. He was what you would call a hermit, I guess. So he sat around reading the Bible and hunting and taking care of his dogs. That was his whole life.

He was a very nice old man and I always loved to visit him, because there on the valley by his house, there were blackberries growing wild everywhere and he usually had some on hand for snacking. His house was situated back off the road behind a lot trees, so  the average person driving by there probably would not have noticed it. I don’t even know how they got the house in there.

As time passed, one year my dad got a call from Aunt Aline. She told him that Uncle Earl’s house had burned down. We immediately went over there to check on him. I remember when we got there, he came walking out and his face was all covered in black soot from the smoke of the fire. He had given it his all to try and save his house from burning, and was probably lucky he didn’t get stuck inside and go down with it. Somehow he and his dogs survived the fire and all that was left was one little room that had one chair in it. He refused to come stay with us, because in his words, he didn’t want to put anyone out. He told us while sitting in that chair that he would be fine living in that one remaining room.

We were all pretty concerned over the mess that Uncle Earl now found himself in, so we started trying to figure out what we could do to help him. We weren’t rich as far as money went. We rented our house. My dad worked in a sawmill and my mother worked in the local shoe factory.

One day after my dad had been talking to some of his friends about the situation, he was told about an old school bus that had gone up for sale. I can’t remember now how much it cost my dad, but he went and bought that school bus for Uncle Earl.

It was in the town of Annapolis, so we made a trip there and I can’t remember what we did, but somehow we got it back to Uncle Earl’s house. I’ll never forget the look on his old face the first time he saw it. You would have thought manna had dropped from heaven or something like that, because that look told us his prayers had been answered. We helped him fix up the old bus and he began to live in it. It was probably a good thing, because there was no roof left on the house. 

He loved that school bus and was so proud of my dad. He thanked him endlessly for what he had undertaken, telling him that he was going to put my dad in his Will. We all laughed it off, thinking the poor old man had nothing, what could he possibly leave behind for my dad?

A few years later, Uncle Earl got sick, so we took him to the hospital. He had pneumonia and they told us that he needed his rest, so we went home to wait. The next day we got a call from the hospital. They told us that Uncle Earl had passed away. We had to make plans and I think the family all shared the dogs among themselves, so they wouldn’t be left to the wild. I’m sure they all grieved themselves to death eventually, because Uncle Earl had given his all to them. They knew and protected him with their lives, because of his loving kindness toward them, but I’m not sure whatever happened to them after that.

The old bus was towed away and I guess sent to the wrecking yard or something, but we all went home and that was that. Or at least we thought.

What we didn’t know was that immediately after his death, a couple of members of the family had gone in and taken all of the money they could find hidden around his house, probably along with the Will that he had left behind, because they most likely knew where he had buried it. I’m not sure how much money they took, but from rumors, it was said to be in the thousands of dollars. Over time, the memories have become fuzzy but there was also a court hearing and the remainder of his wealth was divided evenly between his brothers and sisters. When it was all finished, each of his remaining brothers and sisters had received thousands of dollars apiece and if my memory serves right, there were two brothers and two sisters. My grandmother was one of those sisters.

Just to think, all of that time, we believed Uncle Earl was some poor old pauper and the man was rich, living in an old house with a bunch of old hound dogs while living off the land and barely straggling by.

We all attended his funeral and I remember my dad being pretty torn up over his loss, but he finally came to the conclusion that it was just his luck and it was okay, because he had enjoyed all of the time he had spent visiting old Uncle Earl and that is how we all felt.

I do remember one last thing. My dad was talking to a banker soon after that, while trying to get a loan for something, and the banker apologized, because he knew that my dad was his nephew, being such a small town and all. My dad explained that everything turned out alright and his money had all been divided up evenly between the family members.

The conversation went something like this…

“You mean that old man had money?” and my dad replied, “Oh yeah, he was rich, but nobody ever knew it, because he lived in that old house with a bunch of dogs, reading the Bible, but he never spent anything, so we just assumed he was a poor man.”

I’m sure Uncle Earl was sitting up in heaven, looking down at all of us laughing, because we never knew the truth. My dad passed away a few years ago and I’d love to see and hear the conversations that the two of them are having up there these days.

Overall, I guess none of it really matters anyway, because as the saying goes...”You can’t take it with you when you go.”


© Copyright 2018 V. R. Blackwell. All rights reserved.

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