My Uncle Jim

We’ve all met unforgettable people in our lives. Some were great in their fields. Some were just people we loved or who had a certain something that drew us to them. This is about one of the unforgettable people in my life.

James Anders Grammer grew up on a poor farm outside Northport, Alabama. He had to drop out of school somewhere around the sixth grade to go to work to help the family income.

When I was 10 years old, we stopped to visit his parents on one of our vacations, and I couldn’t believe the house he grew up in. I kept looking for Ma and Pa Kettle.

Uncle Jim served in the army during World War II, rising to the rank of Staff Sergeant. He met my mother’s sister while stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado. I don’t remember why she was there, but they met at a church social and started dating. They married early in 1944, just before he shipped out to Germany. I don’t know whether this was his first overseas assignment or not, but I know he never talked much about his experiences over there. It think it was too horrible for him to want remember it.

Returning home to his wife Maxine, my Auntie Mac, and his twin daughters, my cousins Jane and June, he was ready to trade his rifle for a tractor. My grandfather and his brother owned some farm land near Lamesa, Texas, and Uncle Jim moved his family there to start farming.

That first season—1946—he and his brother-in-law, my Uncle George, farmed part of that land together. After that year, they went their separate ways, each farming on his own.

For a man with a sixth-grade education, Uncle Jim was amazing. Early on, he realized the shortcomings of his background and asked Auntie Mac to help him correct his grammar and his manners and whatever other rough edges he may have had. The humility and gumption it took to ask for that have always amazed me. And she always saved any correction until they were alone. I never heard her correct him about anything in anyone else’s presence.

In addition to making a multi-million dollar fortune farming, he managed to make himself into a gentleman and a real thinker. He could come up with comments and observations no one else would have thought of. Undoubtedly shortchanged in his reading education, he made himself into a voracious reader. He loved history and could talk about it for hours—particularly history of the War Between the States.

As a child, I didn’t spend as much time with him as I did with my Uncle George, because his farms were farther out, and he generally stayed gone all day until late in the evening once he left town in the morning. I did go with him some, though, and he was always gracious about taking me.

One thing he did I’ll never forget happened the summer I was eight years old. We turned off the highway onto the dirt road leading to his main farm, and he pulled over and stopped and asked me if I’d ever driven a pickup.

Are you kidding me? An eight year-old driving a pickup? I said no, and he told me he thought it was about time. We traded places, and he began telling me what to do.

This wasn’t one of today’s cars which practically drives itself. It was a 1949 Chevy pickup with a floor shift. In order to reach the clutch and brake and accelerator I probably had to scoot down a little and look through the steering wheel instead of over it, but I drove that sucker. Didn’t go into any ditches or anything either.

From that day on, every time I went to Lamesa I’d badger him and my Uncle George both to let me drive. They wouldn’t let me drive on a paved highway, but unless they were in a big hurry they’d let me have it on the dirt roads.

Uncle Jim was such a successful farmer that he retired in his early fifties, buying a motorhome and traveling extensively. He spent several months at a time in Colorado and Oregon each.

After a few years of retirement, though, he got far enough back into farming to help my cousin Mike farm his land. He continued this for several years until he had a stroke just before he turned 66. Over the remaining six years of his life, he recovered most of his mobility, speech and thought processes, but he was frequently frustrated when an after-affect of the stroke would cause him to stumble verbally right in the middle of a sentence or prevent him from saying a word he had in his mind.

After 46 years of watching the West Texas skies and hoping for rain, he received a fitting reward from God when a huge rainstorm blew out of nowhere and postponed his funeral procession for several hours.

Ø Who are some of your unforgettable characters?

Ø How have some or all of these people affected your life?

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About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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17 Responses to My Uncle Jim

  1. Very touching story and well written.

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

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  2. DM says:

    This is a great piece. I love tributes that are well-written.

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  3. Suzie Carr says:

    What a great tribute to your uncle;) My grandfather is that person to me. He’s still alive at 96 and is still my role model. Perhaps his greatest quality is that I have never heard him speak one negative word. Not a one. And, he’s had every right to considering the obstacles that have been thrown in his path. He is careful with his words, and every time I feel justified to let a complaint eek out of my mouth, I think of him and how he’s made it just fine all these wonderful years without uttering such nonsense.

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    • Thanks, Suzie. We all need our heroes to make us better people. The thing that bothers me most about writing today is that we can’t create heroes. Everyone has to be half-good and half-bad. How are we influencing our readers. When I was growing up, good guys wore white hats, and bad guys black. John Wayne, Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy and others were important role models to me. Today’s flawed characters may be more realistic, but they don’t serve as role models to our youth.

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  4. Kara Cerise says:

    What a special tribute your uncle! I like the story of how he asked your aunt to help him with his grammar and speech. We can all learn from his humility

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  5. Tandi Weiss says:

    Thanks again David! I love this and love learning so many things about GeGe and Uncle Jim that I didn’t know-such as I never knew Uncle Jim was “uneducated”-who would have ever known?? To me, he was an amazingly smart man and one that had such patience answering the many questions I asked him constantly! I so miss GeGe, Uncle Jim and Auntie Mac! Thanks for reminding us all how very lucky we all were to have them in our lives!

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  6. Barb Estinson says:

    Of course I love this one too, David. Just as you did with Uncle George, you taught me some things I hadn’t known (or didn’t recall) about Uncle Jim. I sure loved him too, though. Barb

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  7. Catie Rhodes says:

    My grandma (who died last November) was a very brave and noble woman. She never said an unkind word to anybody, and I never heard her say an unkind word about anybody. When she got cancer, she acted like it was just another thing.

    We had to put her in the nursing home because nobody could take care of her 24/7. She never acted put out. The food at the nursing home was terrible, and I’d bring Gran and her roommate homemade meals. Some of my best memories are of her pigging out on the food I brought for her to eat. We’d talk about everything.

    Gran had become a nurse during the 1940s in Martinsburg, WVA. Back then, nurse trainees lived at the hospital. Gran talked a lot about going the movies to watch Joan Crawford. She said she liked Midred Pierce. And that is a good movie. She met my grandfather, who had come all the way from Texas to serve in the army and married him.

    Gran told me privately she’d prayed that God would help her because she was scared of being in intense pain. He did. Without any warning, she slipped into a coma and died within 48 hours.

    At her funeral, there was a picture slideshow that looped endlessly. One of the pictures was of Gran and Papaw walking somewhere. He was dressed in his military uniform–which were probably the nicest clothes he had–and Gran was beside him in casual slacks and a plain blouse.

    You could tell the photographer caught them off guard. Papaw had turned to smile, but Gran was still talking about whatever they’d been discussing. They were so young, right there at the beginning of their lives together. It was just a full circle moment, I guess. It makes me cry as I sit here writing about it. LOL

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  8. Hi, Jim! I heard about you over on Jenny Hansen’s Cowbell! She had a lovefest for her fans on Friday where we could post promos and KUDOS for sites we like. Uncle Jim in this piece reminds me so much of my late Dad. He quit high school to help on the farm, but was the smartest man I know. When he went legally blind from a rare disease, he started his own company. He and Mom sold everything and traveled in a Motor Home for several years before his love of the land had him settle down again. Another connection point? My first driving experience was in my grandmothers’s old car (Claribell), bouncing over back country roads as she made her egg delivery route. Thanks for an emotive piece that brought back fond memories.

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