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My Uncles

Grady Arnold


(My Uncles have always been of interest to me, and this is the first of five essays about them.)                                                       

My mother had two younger brothers, and my father had three older brothers. My five uncles were all different.  My mother was raised with her brothers in Western Pennsylvania in a tiny unincorporated village called Jamestown.  Jamestown is up the mountain from Portage in Cambria County.  My father was raised on a 50 acre farm in Upshur County, Texas.

Uncle Earl

Uncle Earl was the first born to Elsie and David Abner Arnold.  Earl was about 40 years old when I first visited East Texas.  He had long been married to Aunt Marie.  Aunt Marie was from the Buie family.  The name Arnold was respected in the little community of Graceton, Texas, but the name Buie was highly respected.

The two families owned land in the county of Upshur.  When the name of a family owning land was called around Graceton, it was in a soft, quiet, respectful way, and it didn't matter if the family was just land poor. The soft, quiet, respectful whisper of the family name was usually followed by a short description of their land.  "Mr. Abby Arnold owns that 50 acres out past the Mattox Cemetery," was the usual description I heard people give around the old stores in the community.

One such store was owned by Reece Covin and his wife Birdie. We always called her "Miss Birdie."  She was a few years older than Earl and lived near enough so that she would stay with Earl while his parents were off visiting.  Miss Birdie and my grandmother told me years later that Earl, when he was a child, would get so upset when his mother left that he would pound his head against the walls.

Uncle Earl went to school under the tutelage of Mr. Sid Buie. Mr. Sid was a teacher at the little school not far from the Arnold home up near the old Mattox Cemetery. Mr. Sid drove a car to work, which made him quite unique back then. When an automobile came down the road in eastern Upshur County back then, all the people ran out of their homes and stood in their front yard wondering just how this new contraption worked.

I do not know exactly how Mr. Sid was related to Aunt Marie; she may have been his niece.  But I do remember a story about Mr. Sid which my cousin told me long ago.  Jim said Mr. Sid was a young boy out plowing a field with a mule one day.  The field contained an Indian burial mound Mr. Sid and the family had plowed around for decades.  On this occasion, Mr. Sid decided to plow through the ancient mound.  Jim said the plow unearthed many semiprecious stones and other artifacts which Mr. Sid later sold and used the money to  attend East Texas State.  Mr. Sid obtained a Masters degree in education there.  This high level of academic achievement made him unique in his community.  Later he became the superintendent of the schools in eastern Upshur County and late in life donated the land where the New Diana schools stand now.  So, when anyone around Graceton or Diana called his name, it always came out as a quiet, "Mister Sid Buie."

When Uncle Earl finished at the school at Graceton, his parents spent a lot of money to enroll him at the Moody Normal School at the county seat in Gilmer.  But his parents had not considered how love struck Earl was over his classmate, Marie Buie.  Marie was going to East Texas State to study education. After only one day, Earl was back home from Gilmer, proclaiming he would not go to any school without Marie attending also.  So, his parents had to pay a second set of fees for him at Commerce.

Later, Earl attained a Masters degree in Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M at College Station around 1939.  I think he and Marie were married by then.

Earl and Marie were teaching school at Harlton, Texas, after World War II.  My grandmother always said the school kids all loved Marie.  Earl was hired, too, as a teacher, as part of the deal to keep Marie.  Marie was a short, quiet, gentle lady with a beautiful manner with all children.

Mr. R. G. Letourneau found Earl around 1946 teaching with Marie at Harlton.  R. G. had built giant earth-moving machines for the Army during WWII and was building a new plant at Longview, Texas.  Longview is in Greeg County just south of Upshur County.  Earl signed on with R. G. and worked at the plant as an engineer for the rest of his life.

Earl was in the group of Masons who founded the Ashland Masonic Lodge in Harlton, Texas, and got the lodge at Harlton chartered from the Grand Lodge of Texas.  Later, that lodge was moved to Diana.  I am a lifetime endowed member at the Diana Ashland lodge.