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My Uncles

My Uncle Joe

Grady Arnold

arnoldgrady@yahoo.com 


Joe Arnold was born to Abby and Elsie Arnold in 1916.  Joe is the uncle with whom I had the least interaction.


My Dad had a picture of Joe picking cotton.  My Mother put that picture into one of our photo albums.  There is another photo of Joe: it was a WWII photo of Joe in Germany next to a 1940s Volkswagen.


Uncle Joe entered the Army a couple of years before Dad joined. Dad went to aircraft engine maintenance school at Chanute Army Air Force Technical Center; whereas, Uncle Joe went into an adminstrative career.   Joe quickly rose to the rank of master sergeant before the end of the war. 


Dad told me a story about Abby and Elsie’s old house burning. He said the fire was probably started by a rat with a match in the walls.  He described how the two boys, Joe and Dad, tried unsuccessfully to save the dining room table, but they were only  12 and 14 years old. When it became obvious that the house could not be saved, my grandmother became quite hysterical.   She started picking things up, running out the front door, and dropping them in the yard.  The two little boys were drawing buckets of water and throwing them on the burning walls.  They must have been doing a good job because water was all over the floors and running out the front door and onto the front porch.  As the fire grew in intensity, so did Granny’s frustrations.  She was running trying to salvage as much as possible.  Dad laughed out loud when he described my grandmother slipping on the water, sliding through the front door on her rear and off the edge of the old porch.


While I lived with her, Granny told me about living in Tampa, Florida, at the time of my birth.  She told me that Joe was spending time with a little Georgia girl named Jell.  She described her as a true Southern beauty with a full head of red hair.  Granny told me that she wanted Joe to stop seeing her, so she told him, "You need to either marry that girl or leave her alone."  Much to Granny’s surprise, Joe married her.


Joe never left the service after the war as my Dad had.  He transferred to the new U. S. Air Force in 1947.  He would attend our family gatherings at Christmas.  I recall Joe and Jell arriving in a late model Karmann Ghia.


Through the years, my family visited Joe and Jell in Georgia.  Before my brother was born in 1955, Mom, Dad, and Granny visited Uncle Joe’s house for a few days.  While there, we went to a nearby lake on a warm, sunny day.  I remember Joe and Granny paddling a small boat out where the big fish lurked.  While I was in tech school at Chanute Field in 1964 and 1965, Dad took Granny over to Georgia to visit Joe and Jell again.  Dad was restoring antique clocks at that time, and he took a nice one over to Joe, and Joe gave him a French cavalry helmet about 150 years old. Travelling back across the South, Dad stopped at an old Confederate cemetery along the way.  I have photos (slides) of Granny standing proudly by a giant Confederate statue in Alabama.


After Joe retired, he tried his hand at manufacturing and selling bass boats.  After a few years, Joe realized the business was going nowhere, and he let it go. 


I got out of the service in January 1968, and Granny died that summer.  That was the last time Uncle Joe was able to come home.  His heart was failing.


My fondest memories of Uncle Joe were of him at our annual reunions at the old home place.  Joe, Earl, and Dad took me along fishing one day in a big flat bottom boat Uncle Ish had built for Granny's one acre stock tank.  They had me slowly paddle them up a slew where a spring fed the big pond.  Both of my uncles had their sophisticated tackle boxes open and were busy catching white perch and large crappie.  However, all did not go smoothly that day.  I will never forget Uncle Joe trying to stand up in that little boat to retrieve a fly from a tree limb.  As Joe rose, Uncle Earl shouted, "No, Joe!  DON'T STAND...!"  Too late.  The next moment the boat violently swung twice as we tried to maintain our equilibrium. It all happened in a moment.  The next second, we were all dumped into the water.  My Dad smiled silently and puffed his Camel cigarette  as we slowly climbed the hill back to the old house, dripping wet.


On other visits, Earl and Joe would take me up to Lake o' the Pines fishing.  I didn't realize it at the time, but I feel now that I was like a replacement for Uncle Earl and Uncle Ish.  We would float along the shallows in a boat near the banks where the big bream were bedding and breeding.  We used boxes of worms sold at the boat slip.  Every time we would cast, a large bream would hit the hook extremely hard.  We were all worn out at the end of the day.  Our boat was loaded down with fish. 


Dad died in September of 1969.  Uncle Earl and Uncle Ish drove down to College Station.  Flossie, Uncle Ish's first wife, came also.  Earl and Ish encouraged Mom not to tell Joe about Grady’s death, but she called Joe and told him that his brother had passed away.  Joe did not come to Dad’s funeral.  His heart was too weak for him to travel at that point.  Earl and Ish made a trip to Georgia to see him soon after. 


Earl and Ish grew into big, strong farm boys who went off to college.  Joe and Dad grew up just as Abbie died and the Great Depression was in full force.  Joe and Grady were more slender and quiet boys much like the economic period.

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