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Monday, 28 June 2010

Uncle Bob

By Walt Grant

Uncle Bob was my boyhood hero. I got to spend every summer on Uncle Bob's and Aunt Elsie’s farm in Vermont while one of their kids got to spend the summer in the Boston area - a complex child-swap arrangement that worked to everyone’s satisfaction, especially mine. I loved the farm and the three horses that provided all the motive power on the dairy farm back in those days.

What I admired then and still remember about Uncle Bob was his courage and his ingenuity. He was able to do anything and everything that needed doing on the farm. All the work was accomplished by Uncle Bob, Aunt Elsie, one of my older cousins or by the horses. And Uncle Bob worked using a pair of horses named Dick and Maud. Together they formed a team of three strong partners.

I saw Uncle Bob’s courage one day when he was cutting firewood for the big black iron stove in Aunt Elsie’s kitchen. Somehow, the axe he was using slipped and cut a huge gash in one of his shins. We walked back to the house and there, in the kitchen, Aunt Elsie tore Uncle Bob’s shirt into strips which she used as bandages to bind up the wound. When she was done, Uncle Bob went upstairs to his bedroom.

About two minutes later, back down he came, wearing a clean shirt. “OK, Walter,” he said to me, “let’s finish up that firewood.” And off we went with never any further mention of the accident.

Another day Uncle Bob was mowing hay with Dick and Maud when the mowing machine broke down. The Pittman rod had snapped – the wooden rod about an inch square and 30 inches long that converted the rotation of a geared wheel to the reciprocating motion of the mower blade.

One solution would have meant a trip into town to purchase a new Pittman rod - if the hardware store had one in stock. If not, maybe a two-week wait for a new one to come from the McCormack factory.

Uncle Bob picked up his axe and chopped down a small ash tree growing beside a stone wall. He split out a small section about one inch square and then trimmed it to the correct length – exactly.

All that remained was to remove the old Pittman rod and insert the new one in its place. The pliers and screw driver in the mower’s tool box were all that was needed. Except that a small hole had to be drilled near one end of the rod.

Uncle Bob lit a small fire, using dead branches he picked up along the stone wall. He found a short piece of rusty barbed wire, heated it red-hot in the fire and used it to burn a hole in his new Pittman rod, and in less than an hour he was mowing again.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


My late husband was an 'Uncle Bob' type. His horse smashed his foot against a pole one time and his ankle was broken. He kept his boot on, never went to the doctor and only knew it was broken years later when it showed up on an x-ray.

My son always said, Dad could make anything run. He 'mickey moused' it and used whatever was handy and got it going or mended.

I love Uncle Bob and others of his ilk - male or female. They are my heros. There is always a way to manage - you just have to figure it out. Thanks for sharing.

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