We called him Uncle Bud. I guess he was some distant uncle, at least a cousin. His and my Grandfather shared the same last name and grew up in the same corner of the county. My Grandfather called him a cousin. I don’t know why we called him Uncle Bud. Maybe that’s the way things were back then.
He lived in a white frame house on the corner. The house had a lot of windows and green shutters. A covered carport out back. All that’s gone now. The house just disappeared while I was trying out for college. Someone came by and put in a parking lot.
Today, no one I know remembers Uncle Bud. I can recall a big, rotund man, wearing a white shirt and Khaki pants. Sometimes he wore those two toned shoes, just like in the movies. He smoked a big cigar and a lot of cigarettes. He looked important.
He drove a big car. I remember that.
Back then, I was little. All the cars were big. It could have been a Mercury, Cadillac, Buick or a Chrysler. Uncle Bud had a fancy big car. He parked it on the corner, in front of the hotel, in the middle of downtown.
Uncle Bud never had a job. He never had to meet a whistle in the morning or listen for its echo at the end of the day. He worked his own hours, when he wanted to or when he needed to. He didn’t have much to say to a little kid.
He carried a nickel plated pistol in his belt. It was the mid-fifties. I thought he was a Mississippi cowboy. No hat, no spurs, no horse, but he had a gun.
Uncle Bud did his business on the front seat of his car.
Later, I found out about Uncle Bud.
Do you need twenty-five dollars until the end of the week? Maybe some rent money until the eagle flies again? Did you bet on the wrong football game and the wife needs to buy groceries today? Maybe shoes for the kids.
Here’s the money, and you owe me thirty dollars by the end of the week. Don’t be late. His hand was on the butt of that nickel-plated pistol.
There was no paperwork. No FICA report. Just a handshake and a stern look into your eye, into your character, be it good or bad.
“Don’t make me come looking for you.” His voice was as cold as the steel in his waist-band. “Just don’t. Do you understand?”
He must have had a good business. The big car, the big house, a gold and diamond ring on his finger and that ever present pistol.
Thirty years ago, Jim Croce sang “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.”
Sixty years ago, you didn’t mess around with Uncle Bud either.
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