by Dan Smith
I believe most families have at least one weird old uncle or aunt.
In my own, it was my Uncle Albert Boswell, the oldest of my mom's five brothers.
When I was a kid I found him a bit scary and did my best to avoid him. Sometime in the 1980s, he moved to Florida and took up residence in a camper trailer near Fort Pierce. Uncle Albert was born in the year 1900, so it was always easy to keep up with his age. He had no children or family and my mom was always worried about him living alone.
At her behest, I would drive down once or twice a year to check on him. That visit usually didn't last long for Uncle Albert was not very forthcoming. Both sides of my family had ties to Great Britain, and even though Uncle Albert was born in South Carolina, he had affected a slight British accent when I could get him to talk.
Usually when I went to see him, I made sure he was getting his prescriptions and such. He never drove, but lived near shopping so he was mostly self-contained. There was really little need for me to go there, but I was trying to be the good son and make my mom happy.
On a particularly warm January day, I made the long drive and just before I arrived, I stopped for a six-pack of beer. We sat on chairs in the yard, and when I pulled out the cold beer I thought I saw a definite twinkle in the old man's eye.
We drank in silence for a while and then he began to talk.
Evidently, I had discovered the key to his memory. I asked him what he had done for work and he told me he had been a horse trader of some talent. The blasted cars had put him out of business. He hated automobiles with a passion and that was the reason he never learned to drive. He also told me he was a trick shot artist in a Wild West show.
Now as you know, I can spin a pretty good yarn and am not above a bit of exaggeration for entertainment purposes, but a Wild West show? Come on!
Albert said that he had worked for Buffalo Bill and would gallop around the arena on horseback while shooting targets. Hmmm. Live ammo, in a crowded arena? Okay.
After that stint, he had just quit working. When I asked him how he had managed to live all of these years he said he had seven wives who took care of him. Seven? Boy this old guy could really shovel it.
I asked Uncle Albert if he had actually married all of those women, and he said he had, but with a couple of them he had sealed the deal by jumping over a broomstick. That led me to ask about divorce and he told me he never actually divorced any of them. He then showed me how he crafted a divorce.
He put his hand to his mouth and kissed it and said, "The back of me hand to you for life." That was it.
He said that each woman had made money to keep him up, but in the 1940s he had been a session guitarist in Nashville. Oh sure. This man had little stubby fingers like sausages. It seemed to me he would have trouble tying his shoelaces with those.
Anyway, after that visit I began to go to see him more often, always with beer in hand. In 1989, Uncle Albert passed away at the age of 89. When I went to clean out his little trailer I found photos of him playing guitar with some of the famous pickers of country music.
There were also moldy old pictures of seven rather attractive women. Stuck back under a cabinet and wrapped in an old blanket was the finest set of matched pearl handle Colt revolvers I had ever seen.
You know you just can't tell what our older family members have done in their lives. Please take the time to listen and maybe record their memories. When they are gone, they are gone. Oh by the way, if you are one who does not have a weird aunt or uncle in the family, perhaps you should look closer. It just may be you.
Dan Smith is on the board of directors for the Ormond Beach Historical Society, The Motor Racing Heritage Association and is the author of a fishing book.