When I introduced you to Uncle C last week, I left off where he was….
“Searching for something he would never find and maybe that was never there.
Until the morning he awoke to the smell of smoke and the sound of a burning fire.”
Uncle C lived back in the country with the black bears, the bobcats and the darkness. Where the only company on most days are the deer that are hidden in the shadows of the forest trees, who only in the wee hours of the morning come out into the open or the birds that joyfully sing they’re way across the blue sky and maybe a squirrel or two skittering around the forest floor. And when night falls the crickets sing in harmony, an owl hoots somewhere in the darkness and a whipporwill sings you to sleep.
Back in the country is the most peaceful place on earth, that is unless…..
you have a corn liquor still a mile further back in the woods over rough terrain that is only accessible on foot, hidden so cleverly that only it’s owner knows where to find it. Then you tend to have guilty conscience and the silence means nothing. You are forever on guard.
Which, as I’ve been told, is the case with my Uncle C. I’ve never seen it myself, but I vividly remember those mason jars with their clear liquid sitting haphazardly around, waiting for someone to take the next swig.
As I remember he slept in the livingroom on the couch. Oh, he had a bedroom with a bed, but in the dead of winter he slept in the same room as the pot-bellied stove, for warmth. Or maybe it was because it wasn’t a far haul to the pot-bellied stove to throw in another lump of coal or piece of wood and get the heat cranked back up after the fire had died down and the cold arroused him from slumber.
Or then again, maybe it was so he would be closer to the center of the house and would hear if anyone would try to get inside and steal those precious mason jars, or worse yet, haul him off to the pokey because the revenuers had found that still back in the woods.
Whatever his reasons were, he slept on the couch. And under his pillow he kept his protection, a pistol, just in case. You never know when someone or something may make its way inside.
When you live that far out in the country you stay alert.
And when you have a hidden still and mason jars with clear liquid, you stay prepared.
I distinctly remember the strong scent of natural gas whenever I walked into the house. It was worse when the weather was cooler and not so noticible when the widows were up and the doors were open, letting the summer breeze blow through.
Before the dawn one winter morning, my Uncle was in his usual place on the couch, fast asleep. He awoke to the sound of shotgun blasts. Grabbing the pistol from under the pillow he jumped to his feet and prepared to shoot back, when he realized that his house was on fire. He grabbed his shoes and bolted for the door, making it out in time to watch his house burn to the ground.
The shotgun blast sound that he heard was the shotgun shells that I remember sitting in the bathroom window. The fire had gotten hot enough to explode the shells, which awakened my Uncle.
Those shells saved his life.
Cousins, nephews, kids, grandkids and friends rebuilt his house from the ground up in no time and my Uncle was quickly back at home.
The torment of all those years of wondering what may be hidden in those walls was gone forever.
And the search had ended.
I hope you enjoyed the conclusion to the cliff hanger I left you with last week.
Next week, he’s on the run.