All of my paternal aunts and uncles are growing old. Just a couple of days ago, I learned that my Uncle Buel isn't long for this world. That's him in the photo above at his farm on Bainbridge Island, Washington, taken this year on what happens to be my birthday, and since he was born on August 4, 1932, I reckon that he's close to 78 and still looks pretty big -- about six-five or six-six, if I recall.
I knew him when I was a kid back in the 1960s and called him "Uncle Buel" -- and I and my aunts and other uncles seem to all spell his name that way, but a genealogy table that I checked lists him as Harold Buell Hodges.
Anyway, I learned of his condition from my Aunt Kathryn, so I wrote back to her:
I remember Uncle Buel very clearly -- a big, quiet, gentle man with a shy smile. But I never heard any stories about him, just that he was a lumberjack in the northwest, which sounded pretty interesting to me when I was a kid. I'd like to remember him on my blog, but I need to know some Ozark story if there is one, or even a story from elsewhere.My aunt replied:
Thanks for your e-mail. I can't think of any stories about Buel at the moment. However, I will let you know in the future. You described him exactly as he has always been. He was always a good brother.Uncle Cran came through with some stories, a couple of which I've actually posted about on this blog before but had forgotten were about Uncle Buel:
Brother Buel (known as Harold Buel to his family & friends in the state of Washington). He was big, strong and quiet, but also pretty adventurous in his younger days. He is after James in the family lineup. I remember when they were teenagers, and had a pair of boxing gloves, and liked to to that, until he outgrew James.I recall now the moonshine stories because Uncle Cran previously related them on this blog, but I didn't know the other stories. I hauled a lot of hay growing up in the Ozarks, but I never followed the hay trail all the way to California, and in fact never imagined that this was possible. That story reminds me of the tales told by my maternal grandfather, Henry Perryman -- born 1895 and long deceased -- about his youthful adventures following the wheat harvest throughout the west, hopping trains to get from place to place. I'll have to tell some of his stories sometime.
In those days we had several horses and mules, and on weekends there was always a bunch of boys their age visiting, swimming, horse racing, etc. The guys liked to wrestle, and Buel was the strongest of the group. James was quite a joker and teaser, and was kind of rough on us younger kids, and Buel was kind of a protecter when James did this.
He & his cousin Ordean Barker did a lot of running around together. In fact, in the typical family tradition, they made a little "mountain dew," themselves, but only for their own use, I think.
One time brother Bill (called Elmo by parents & siblings), was holding a revival, at Flora Baptist I believe, and Buel & Ordean volunteered to drive our team of horses and take him to the church. There was a jug of moonshine in the tool box. On the bouncy dirt road, the jug broke, and there was a definite odor of something. Elmo questioned them, and they passed it off. When they got to the church, Elmo went in, and they moved the horse and wagon to a shade tree, and cleaned out the box. Next day Elmo searched the wagon, but didn't find anything.
Another time they thought it would be funny to spike a jar of grape juice that Mother had canned, and gave it to us kids. We all got kind of silly, laughing, and kind of staggering around. They got a big laugh, but Mother threw a fit.
He was injured once while plowing the "north forty." He was plowing with the team of mules, I believe, but can't say for sure. They spooked, were running around the field, the reins got wrapped around his legs, and dragged him around the fields and through the barbed wire fence several times. He told us later he tried to pick up a rock and knock himself in the head, as he thought they were going to tear him apart. They finally got the plow hung up and stopped. He was bleeding, his clothes were torn up, but somehow he got loose, and dragged himself across our and the neighbor's field, across the creek, up a steep hill, through several fences, and barely able to make it to the house. I remember Mother crying, and cleaning him up, The hide was worn off his back and shoulders, and he was in pretty bad shape. Luckily there were no broken bones, but I think he always had scars where he healed up.
He stayed with Woodrow & Pauline in the old Hodges place in Elizabeth when they got married, and he & Woody worked saw milling. One summer they joined a hay baling team that worked all the way across the southwest, and on to California. He was in love with a local girl, but was so poor he told her he couldn't make them a living. She never forgot him, and I see her every year at the Elizabeth reunion, and she always tells me the story. She said she would have married him anyway. She was a very pretty girl.
After that he joined the army, married Elodie, raised a family in Washington state, and became a logger in the big woods of Washington and maybe Oregon. They bought a small farm on or near Bainbridge Island, Washington, and spent the rest of his life there. I seldom got to see him during these years.
For now, though, I'm waiting for word on Uncle Buel.
Update from Aunt Kathryn:
My aunt adds some minor details to Uncle Cran's veracious anecdotes about Uncle Buel:
Just to add a little to Cran's story [or correct him!] Yeah that was a team of mean, stubborn mules that drug Buel around the back forty and he finally slid under a barb wire fence that was around a pond and got loose from them. He was taken to the hospital at Gassville, Arkansas, where they tried to scrub the gravel and dirt out of his shoulder. To this day his right shoulder is darker and hairy, only on the right. It really was a painful experience for him.Sounds like Uncle Buel wasn't always so quiet after all. One of my friends who works in the San Francisco Bay Area and has written a lot of environmental impact studies once told me that the spotted owls do seem to be a lot less endangered than is commonly thought . . . but I lean more toward environmentalism than my Uncle Buel does, and thus lament the lost trees.
As you know he was a logger here in the great north west of Washington for many years. Several years ago some do gooder National Government agency decided that the spotted owl was endangered and they thought they only nested in old growth timber. So they hired a bunch of young fellers to walk in the woods and try to spot them and also count the owls. One day, Buel saw a guy walking up a logging road, stopped and offered him a ride.The guy got into his truck and Buel asked what he was doing -- he said he was checking on the spotted owls, so Buel stopped the truck and told him to get out. He told the guy, "You may be trying to shut my job down, but I sure don't have to haul your butt around." And by the way, Buel says he saw many a spotted owl nest in second growth timber. To this day the government can close the woods during nesting season and do . . .
I was visiting Buel one time and the paperman pulled into his driveway and got to talking to him and he started talking about what a shame that he thought it was that so many trees were being cut in Washington, so Buel said, "I think that I will save a tree," as he handed his paper back to the man and said, "Now cancel my subscription!!"
Buel's small farm was in Quilcene not Bainbridge Island. He has been living in Brinnon for the past few years. I may find more things that Cran was mistaken about, if so I'll be more than happy to point them out. HA HA
I'm pretty sure that he won't cancel our kinship over that difference since Ozark clan blood is thicker than most people might expect . . .