When writing about one’s relatives, it is a good idea to claim that you made up the whole business, and if indicted I will do so.

There are people who get their kicks by saying unkind things to others. They can’t quite bring themselves to torture little animals but still need a vent for their stilted brand of nastiness.

My Uncle Will’s brother, Uncle Spud, comes to mind.

Spud would say things just to get people riled up. If he were posting on your Facebook page today, you’d call him a chain-yanker. Ignore him and he’d go away, but if he could find a sucker to take his bait, he’d tease them all day.

Their sister never spoke to their mother and I seem to remember that she never spoke to her mother – even though all three generations lived in the same house.

I liked Spud. I didn’t give him the satisfaction of getting upset when he’d thresh his peck of chaff, so he didn’t try his foolishness with me. The last time I saw him was over 40 years ago when I was way down South playing jazz concerts at colleges with Brad Terry and Phil Verrill.


I still enjoy visiting relatives and can’t think of one I don’t like. I got along with all of them, as did my mother and grandmother, who took me along to visit when I was a toddler. So at a very early age I learned that some of my relatives were happy only when they were fighting among themselves.

Uncle Will, the youngest brother, had a good job with the telephone company. In the 1940s he parked his green camper in our field. He might have bought it because he moved around on the job and it was cheaper to buy a camper than to buy a house or rent a room.

In the 1940s I watched him change the oil in his car. He bought oil and other things by the case, like some thrifty people do now at Costco or Sam’s Club.

Around 1957, when he lived in Miami, I hitchhiked from Maine to see him. I had his address but didn’t tell him I was coming.

It was late when I arrived, so not wanting wake him I slept on his porch. The next morning a woman came out of the house – and didn’t waste any time telling me that Uncle Will had sold out and moved north. I walked back to the highway and hitched home.

Uncle Will had shelves lined with old albums full of faded newspaper clippings about Rockland doings in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, and albums full of family pictures. Everything was labeled and filed by years. It was always fun to visit him because he’d tell me about the family.


Is it true that only a scholar knows how to retire? Scholars can study or travel. Like many people you know, Will had worked so long that he didn’t know how to stop. So he washed dishes at a restaurant. Management loved him because he was never sick and was there on time every day.

Uncle Will wouldn’t eat peanut butter. He noticed that even two trips through the dishwasher wouldn’t clean peanut butter off a spoon, and said, “Think what peanut butter must do to your stomach.”

In his spare time he’d go to a library or restaurant where he could sit quietly in a ragged sweater – that any wife would have thrown away – and read a free newspaper. He wasn’t stingy or tight but was somewhere between snug and pretty close.

People tend to hoard gold and silver when things are uncertain, and perhaps because he was brought up during the Great Depression, he trusted only metal. Every time I’d visit in his later years he’d give me some booklets encouraging me to fill several large safe deposit boxes with gold bricks or coins and lock them away.

You can’t call me nosy, but there is only one thing I’d like to see more than President Trump’s income tax papers, and that is the rear springs of the truck Uncle Will’s heir used to haul the boxes of gold home from the bank. Tell me, if you will, how much a man can save in 65 years if he never wastes a cent.

Many years ago Uncle Will told his father that the first $10,000 was the hardest.

The old man said, “I know it. I ain’t got mine yet.”

The humble Farmer can be heard Friday nights at 7 on WHPW (97.3 FM) and visited at:


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