The death of my dear Uncle Stan at the end of May has brought again to the forefront of my mind the need to get family stories written down sooner, rather than later. Uncle Stan was one of four brothers – Oliver, the oldest; then Stanley, Philip and Laurie, my father. My father and his brother, Oliver, have been gone for almost ten years. They died within five days of one another back in December 2002. Since then, Uncle Stan and Uncle Phil have filled the role of surrogate grandfather for all of the family’s grandchildren.
I was able to attend Uncle Stan’s funeral in North Little Rock and, as I suspected that it would be, it was an occasion of joy and laughter, along with the sorrow and tears. Uncle Stan was a rare character. He had a quirky sense of humor and his escapades are legend in our family. Stories about him were shared at the visitation, and funny stories that he told time and again were repeated once more. Many of the “props” for his practical jokes were on display at the visitation and the funeral. These included a fake wooden cell phone made from a piece of a tree limb with the bark still attached, and wallets that caused money to disappear and reappear. Also holding a place of honor was the radar gun that he used to check the speed of passing cars near the elementary school where he picked up his grandchildren every day. He kept this up until school administrators asked him to stop because they were getting complaints from drivers about an older gentleman who was “pointing something at them.” Undaunted, when Uncle Stan subsequently witnessed drivers speeding, he took a soup can from groceries he had purchased and laid it on its side on the window ledge, pointing it at the offenders. The school received additional complaints, but Uncle Stan was able to tell them honestly that he no longer was clocking drivers’ speeds with his radar gun!
One of the most famous stories within the family about Uncle Stan concerns the first of his three encounters with copperheads at the golf course. The first time he was bitten, he had reached into the weeds to retrieve his ball. A trait among men in this family is their absolute dread of doctors and hospitals. Stan shared this trait, so rather than seeking medical attention, he carefully drove home through Camp Robinson because his vision was blurred. Once at home, he sought refuge in his recliner. He later said he didn’t feel too bad other than fighting a heck of a headache for about three days. Uncle Stan didn’t tell anyone what had happened immediately following the event, but a few days later he called his youngest daughter and told her he had a boil he wanted her to lance. When she did, the snake’s tooth popped out of the wound, and he was forced to confess. Uncle Stan suffered copperhead bites twice more, but they didn’t affect him nearly as much – apparently he had built up some immunity!
As I heard these stories this most recent time and shared the laughter and tears with my cousins, I wondered if we would always be able to tell the next generation about Uncle Stan and his radar gun and his encounters with the copperheads. We have a strong oral tradition going now in the family, but some of the stories that my father told, and Uncle Ollie and Uncle Stan about their childhoods – will we remember the details? Will my children remember and pass them to their children? Someone needs to write them down. I need to write them down. All of you who are interested in genealogy need to be the scribes who write them down for your families. Let’s not let those family stories disappear.