While Pondering the Future I Think about the Past. Runnin’ with Uncle Joe!
I run into people all the time that say, “Are you Bully?”
I get the question constantly, “Why the name Bully?” Bully was my fathers nickname back in the 50’s.
I write stories each month that are 95% true and are always full of life with unique settings. I must tell you I get it naturally and learned it from my Uncle Joe.
Uncle Joe told us life stories every time we saw him. We’d gather around to listen to each story with young minds wide open. It was, as if, Andy Griffith was talking to us when he spoke. He had all of Andy’s Mannerism. He’d say things like,
Aawwwwwww and knawwwwwwww.
As a young boy I loved to listen to the war stories.
He told me about when he had to parachute behind enemy lines with heroics beyond belief.
He told me about Audie Murphy and how he’d have never been the most decorated war hero of World II without
following him up a hill and ambushing a fox hole.
In reality I learned later in life that his term of duty consisted of pulling KP and peeling potatos. He was also in charge of
distributing sporting supplies. I’m sure he has a few governmental issue volley ball nets and tennis rackets stowed away in his attic still. I hope the statute of limitations has expired since WWII.
All-in-all he never saw any real war action but his stories stuck with me.
I remember once when he was 15 years old he decided to hitch hike from Fordoche, Louisiana to Memphis,
Tennessee. While on the road he was thumbing on a highway in Mississippi. A vehicle came rolling over the hill at a fast rate but stopped abruptly to pick him up. The guys hurried my uncle in the car and took off down the road.
About 1/2 mile down the road from where Uncle Joe was picked up, the car came upon a police road block with
flashing lights, guns drawn, and megaphones shouting, “You are under arrest!”
Well, they all got arrested because the guys that picked him up had just robbed a store. They had figured that any
police would be looking for 2 guys in the car and not 3.
While he was being lead to the cop car a local citizen that had been driving down the same road told the cops that
he had seen Uncle Joe hitch hiking and with this revelation the police let him go.
My father worked for CocaCola in the early fifties. As a young man he would help him on his delivery route. They were driving a big truck of soft drinks and were behind on the deliveries. My Dad knew a short cut to his next delivery. This route would catch up a lot of time but it required the truck drive over a bridge that did not rate the weight limits and the bridge could collapse. When they got to the bridge my Dad had Uncle Joe cross the bridge and wait for the truck. The plan was to tie the stirring wheel in a straight
position, place a weight on the gas pedal and let the truck drive itself across
the bridge. Uncle Joe’s assignment was to jump in and stop the truck. The truck eased across the bridge driverless. Fortunately the plan worked and the truck survived the bridge and apparently 2 dumb asses.
Years later, after my father passed away, my uncle would keep me for 2 weeks every summer at his home in Shreveport. Once when I was about 4 years old we were in a store. He was pushing the buggy and I placed a toy dump truck in it. With am approving glance I then picked up a football and threw it in along with several more toys. I guess he felt sorry for me and was going to let me have all the toys I wanted. I was enjoying the day when I picked up a box of Kotex and threw it in the buggy. He said, “Boy you’re just picking stuff up!” He put all the toys back but let me keep the dump truck.
For years I visited him for those 2 weeks. It was always the most exciting time of my summers. We started traveling around the country on vacations. The Griswalls had nothing on us. I have traveled from coast to coast on summer
vacation. It would be Uncle Joe, Aunt Carol, my Grandmother Mamaw, my younger cousins Peggy and Keith, and me. We piled in his Oldsmobile Delta 88 and were heading for California.
On this particular trip he had boasted about a surprise he had for us. As we got on the road he pulled the surprise out. It was two 8 track tapes. ‘Roy Clark Sings’ and ‘Tom Jones Sings Vegas” tunes. We listened to these tapes for 3000 miles. I listened to Tom Jones sing Proud Mary so many times that every once in a while my Grandmother would bust out singing like she had was at a revival. She’d blurt out, “Rolling, Rolling, Rolling on the River.”
By the time we reached Flagstaff, Arizona Mamaw was sick and tired of fast food. When we checked into our rooms in Flagstaff, she pulled out her hot plate to heat up some cream style corn. Soon as she plugged it in the electrical power blew out in the entire motel. Hotel staff came to each room asking questions but like Schultz’s of Hogan’s Heros, “We knew nothing.”
The next day we were traveling through the desert. It was 102 degrees. The gas gauge was getting low as we passed gas station after station. Ya see, Uncle Joe is an accountant and counts pennies for a living and just knew the next gas station would have a better price and save him at least 3 cents per gallon. He saw a billboard with the right gas price indicating 2 miles ahead. That’s when the gas ran out. No problem, he had me hike to the station in sweltering 102 degree weather. He even mentioned, “You’re young, maybe you can run so we don’t loose too much time.”
Those events, in one way, are the best young memories of my life but most of all I learned to laugh at myself and enjoy the life we are dealt.
I am just glad I didn’t fall in the Grand Canyon when he had me get on the other side of the safety retaining wall. He positioned his 8mm camera to view the top of the retaining wall and through the lense the camera viewed down in the canyon. After shouting, “Quiet on the set” my fingers eased over the edge of the stone retaining wall. I proceeded to act as if
I was climbing up the wall of the Grand Canyon. I made it to the top of the wall, took a deep breath and lost my balance and fell back behind the retaining wall appearing to fall back down in the canyon. He then yelled, “Cut! That’s
What a great time we had. We weren’t the Griswalls, we were the Waddell’s heading for the worlds largest ball of string.
Uncle Joe is still with us today. I loose track but I know he is 90 for sure.
He still plays 9 holes of golf and gets up at 4:30am to start his working day and then goes into his accounting firm and works a
He is a great mentor but he sets a pretty high bar. It’s tough to keep up!
Love you Uncle Joe.