Uncle Cleo's Passing
My cousin Rachel tells me that my nearly 95-year-old Uncle Cleo, her grandfather, has passed away:
You may have heard that Cleo passed at 11:50 A.M. on June 1st, but I wanted to tell you myself. I am trying to find a fitting poem for the program. I would try to write one myself, but my creative energies are exhausted. Do you have any in mind, including anything you have written? I really don't want to use a generic cliche for Papa Cleo.I'll have to think on this request, and rather quickly, too. For now, I can only provide an anecdote about Uncle Cleo's wilder days of youth, related by way of Uncle Cran, who heard it from Uncle Woodrow, who heard it from Uncle Cleo himself:
A man named Tollie Hawn . . . had two boys about Cleo's age. He had bought a large herd of cattle, and had placed them across the river on some mountain meadows for a year . . . . He hired the two boys and Cleo to drive an old car over there, crossing on . . . [some] man's ferry that . . . charged people to take them across. It had a cable stretched across the river, and by setting the angle, the current would move it across. I think there were horses over there with the cattle, but they would use the car [anyway] to get supplies. I can't say for sure what the supplies were, but Woodrow said they might have gotten some sugar to make "kool aid to go with the food." Anyway, it had come a big rain, and the river was up pretty high. They drove [back from the meadow] to the ferry, but no one was there to take them over so [that] they could go home, so they just drove the car on it, and the current took them across. They drove off and went home. I guess the owner had to get a boat to get over to [retrieve] his ferry. Woodrow said he thought the boys moved to West Plains, Missouri, and they likely have passed on by now.Uncle Cran was being somewhat coy in relating this tale and its follow-up. The man who hired Uncle Cleo may indeed have had cattle and horses on that Ozark meadow, but he might also have been a moonshiner who hired Uncle Cleo to do some moonshine running -- hence Uncle Woodrow's reference to 'kool aid' and the necessity for ample supplies of sugar.
I don't know if this [next anecdote] happened during that time, but he or someone he was with had a tire . . . [with a] valve stem [that] got messed up and the tire was going flat. Cleo got a stick, whittled it to fit the stem, they pumped up the tire, he stuck the stick in the stem, and they made it on home. He was pretty resourceful.
I doubt that this story is appropriate for Uncle Cleo's funeral service, especially in a church, but Uncle Cleo is perhaps laughing right now to hear me tell it.
The image above is of a moonshiner in Kentucky during the latter 19th century, and -- except for the car in Uncle Cleo's story -- perhaps not so different from a moonshiner in the Arkansas Ozarks during the early 1930s, which is why I've posted it here.
Good-bye, Uncle Cleo . . .