Recently I found this photo of my uncle Floyd, standing in front of his cornfield. It must be 30 years old, at least. Uncle Floyd married my mother’s sister Mattie Lou. This
field was beside their house, a dogtrot cabin with a porch, white siding and a tin roof, where they lived with Uncle Floyd’s mother, Miss Blanche, until she died at nearly 100 years old.
Uncle Floyd was not a believer in modern ways, especially if they cost money. When my parents built their house on our farm in the ‘60s, they had a well dug, and we had indoor
plumbing and a washer and dryer. Uncle Floyd and Aunt Lou had a cistern with a hand pump, a wringer washer and an outhouse. I remember staying overnight with them and trying my best not to make a bathroom run. In the summer wasps loved the outhouse, and
spiders lived there until the cold killed them in the winter.
When “city water” came in, Uncle Floyd planned to have the pipe run to the backyard pump, not into the house. My father’s youngest brother Preston, who was running the pipe from the water main, refused to do it unless he could put it in the house. So finally Aunt Lou had running water, and they installed a bathroom. At the time it seemed insane to me to live that way, but now I realize Uncle Floyd probably had never had indoor plumbing, and he thought it was a luxury.
Many nights I sat in the porch swing with Miss Blanche while Uncle Floyd told us stories about his days working on a barge on the Cumberland River, or about the boys he and Daddy grew up with. They all had nicknames like Goat or Beetle (after Beetle Bailey, for a guy who had joined the Army). One story ended, “I knocked that dead cat out from under the house with a rake. It was dead and smellin’. And that thing sat up and looked at me!”
Uncle Floyd liked to call me “Knothead,” for reasons which weren’t clear to me, but his affection was plain. When someone dropped a shaggy puppy at their house, he brought him to me, saying he knew I needed a dog. Mother was not pleased, but I named the dog
Dusty and loved him through junior high and high school, until he died. Uncle Floyd always saved some pork tenderloin from their hog killing and froze it for me so I could have the best part of the hog when I came home from college, and brought me their smoked sausage at Christmas. He never said, “I love you,” but he did say, “I sure do miss you, girl.”