My parents called this afternoon, with the news that my uncle had passed away. He’d been battling illness for some time but, ultimately, his body gave out. Sudden, but peaceful. While I’m sad for his passing, I’m relieved that his suffering is finally over. I’ll leave the obituary writers to offer all the genealogical details, and simply relate a couple fond memories of the man I knew growing up.
Of my memories of Bill, the most vivid ones revolve around the years he was a deputy in the Goodhue County Sheriff’s department. Over the years, my home town went from having a local police “force” to relying on the county sheriff as many small farm towns did. I was a growing from geeky kid to geeky young teen then, and having an uncle in the “local enforcement service” meant that it was impossible for me to get away with anything in a 3-county radius without him (and, ultimately, my parents) finding out about it (whether that was true or not, I never was the type of kid to really test it). It also meant that everyone with a badge in the same area knew who I was. Trust me, when you and an attractive young woman have “parked” (yes, I know, that’s a dated term. Sue me, I’m old.) and been interrupted by a rap on the window, a flashlight in the face, and a “You can’t park here. Hey, you’re Scott, aren’t you?” (even when you are nowhere near your hometown and you’ve never seen this particular cop before) it stays with you. I am thankful he was never one of the officers that knocked on my window.
On another occasion, Bill had come to my parent’s farm to tell my father he’d been asked to arrest him (arrest my father, not me). You see, my parent’s mailbox sat at the end of a quarter-mile driveway, where it joined the road. As you left town heading north, the county highway made a rather hard left, while the driveway kept going straight ahead (creating a “T” intersection), with the mailbox situated to your right (like a punctuation mark atop the “T”). Being in the country, it wasn’t uncommon for passing motorists to take a swipe at the box from time to time, and eventually Dad decided to “reinforce” his mail service. Sinking a chunk of telephone pole in the ground, he filled up the remaining space in the hole with cement, and bolted the mailbox atop the stump. Solid? Hell,yes. So solid, in fact, that one night an intoxicated motorist heading into town failed to turn and met the mailbox head on, creating a U-shaped “notch” in the front of his car. Picture one of those car commercials with the crash test dummies, only instead of hitting a wall they slammed into a tree, and you’ll have a good idea of what the crash must have looked and sounded like.
But the story didn’t end there. Apparently, in spite of the alcohol involved, said driver felt that what Dad’s mailbox “did” to his car was so excessive, he reported the incident to the sheriff’s office the next day, demanding that whoever would have dared build something so damaging to a vehicle and place it next to (and well away from) the road be arrested. Dutifully, Bill showed up to share the story with Dad, and they both had a good laugh.
It’s time to rest, Uncle. I’ll miss you.