Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Uncle Cran's Return . . . and with Aunt Kathryn

Two Big Black Bears
that Stumped
Brad and Kathryn

After a long silence, Uncle Cran has returned with one of his trademark accounts of the old days . . . meaning the mid-1940s to mid-1950s. As usual, he sets out with a verbose introduction:
We were so lucky to experience growing up on a farm. At least some of our city dwelling relatives seemed to think so. Every summer during my pre-teen years we would have cousins spend weeks each summer with us. They loved to ride horses, swim in the creek, hunt for arrowheads, tend the cows and chickens, help harvest the hay, play games, and generally have a good time. We were always so excited to see them. Mom loved company, and didn't seem to mind all the cooking required to feed them. However, every experience wasn't always so pleasant.
Every experience? Always? Poor Uncle Cran, whose "every experience wasn't always so pleasant." The more I look at that remark, the less I understand it . . . so I'd best stop looking. Back to the lengthy introduction:
And for us young'uns, Kathryn, Bradley, Virginia and I, there were also some experiences that were downright terrifying. Our older brothers loved to scare us with tales of ghosts, goblins, snakes, and wild animals, just waiting for a chance to grab us and do bad, awful things. To us, they were all too real.
Ghosts and goblins, I can understand, but snakes and wild animals . . . Uncle Cran is right, those are "all too real"! What really wild tales those brothers must have told. But now comes a true story or two, for Uncle Cran relates a couple of anecdotes that he was received in "a recent letter from sister Kathryn" that begins by addressing him directly:
Hey Cran. I remember one time on the farm that Brad and I didn't go early enough to the spring to get our two buckets of water each. Our older brothers, who had decided they were our Daddy, (since he was no longer with us), made us go carry the drinking water to the house. It was about a quarter of a mile from the house, but we had fooled around until after sundown, it was dark, so it seemed like 5 miles.

We had a lantern with us, but it didn't give out much light, and made strange shadows appear. We could see the path, however. Just before we got to the spring we saw off to our right TWO BLACK BEARS! Well, we were scared half to death and were crying and shaking, but we were more afraid of what those mean big brothers would do to us if we didn't bring that water to the house. So, as quietly as our shaking legs would take us, we got past the bears safely, even though we were afraid that we would be attacked. We made it to the house with the water, so we didn't get in trouble with the brothers. We didn't tell them about the bears.

The next day we went after our water (before dark!), and found that the two black bears were a couple of stumps! That old lantern light made them appear as if they were moving. We were glad that we had not told about the bears, or those brothers would have teased us forever.
Thus ends the tall tale of the stump-ified bears! Aunt Kathryn then continues with a couple of remarks about Uncle Cran in the third person, which leads me to suspect that Uncle Cran has been reading someone else's mail:
Another time we had our buckets full of water, and were swinging them around without spilling. Cran was watching, and he got too close. My full bucket of water hit him right between the eyes. He had a big knot there.

Then about a week later we were playing, Cran was bat-catching. I swung at the ball, again Cran was too close, and my bat hit him in the same place. Poor kid got another knot between his eyes. I guess that I was the one that addled his brain the first time. Or did I knock some sense into him?
If Uncle Cran did indeed peruse some other person's letter, then we see in the above, third-person remarks an example of what Mark Goodacre calls "editorial fatigue." At any rate, in the redaction that we've received, the anecdote switches back to again address Uncle Cran directly:
Do you remember those two incidents, Cran? I know that I didn't put in the commas and other punctuation marks as I should, but is just the way I talk . . . Love, Kathryn.
Well, I won't get picky about Aunt Kathryn's punctuation since she's related some good anecdotes (and too much comma-introducing can be coma-inducing), so let's turn again to Uncle Cran and see if he's finished his wordy introduction:
As Kathryn related her tale, those events returned to my memory. In photos of my childhood, I notice that I sometimes appeared starry-eyed. I saw a lot of stars in those days. Big brother Bradley got in a few licks on his little brother also, but I will save them for another time. Kathryn and Bradley didn't do all that deliberately . . . (OR DID THEY???)! In her closing remarks, sis mentioned another fear, as she apologized for her punctuation.

It is the same fear that I have every time I write nephew Jeffery. That fear is the dread of seeing our letters graded by Professor H. Jeffery Hodges, PhD, and all our mistakes pointed out to his readers. We can just mentally picture him . . . chuckling with glee . . . and he pounces upon each mistake with the same ferocity as those two imaginary bears were thought about to do. But our stories need to be told, so we tell them anyway.
Chuckling with glee? Me? Never! Like the father in Jabberwocky, I chortle with joyful glee. In fact, back in high school, I used to run around with a gang of chortlers, and we formed a glee club just so we could officially chortle with glee.

But Uncle Cran's fears of my harsh 'attacks' are just as imaginary as those two 'ferocious' bears. Frankly, I'm stumped that he would suffer such anxiety, but I suppose that some folks can barely bear even gentle corrections even though I've always meant well (if I may bare my soul).

Anyway, I see that Uncle Cran had -- to my astonishment -- finished his long introductory remarks while we were busy with Aunt Kathryn's anecdotes and had already gotten well into his meandering conclusion.

Thank the Lord for small miracles . . .

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At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the phrase should have been, "However, other experiences weren't so pleasant."
As for Kathryn's letter, I merely copied it as she emailed it to me, except I capilized the part about seeing what she & Brad thought were two bears.
Jeffery's conclusion was wrong in this instance.
However, I was generally pleased with my nephew's comments.
They were quite mild, compared to some previous ones.
Maybe he has mellowed somewhat.
This is so enouraging that I could be prevailed upon to submit more of Kathryn's recollections. She said whe will send more when she thinks of them.


At 12:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I was worried that I might have sounded a bit sarcastic. I always aim for light irony rather than dark sarcasm, but I wasn't sure that I'd achieved my aim this time.

If my words came across as mild, then I was at least not sarcastic.

Jeffery Hodges

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