In the summer of 1960 Mom and Dad entered into a partnership with my Mom’s brother to purchase a farm. A couple of weeks before I entered the seventh grade we moved into the house on the farm. Uncle Bob, Mom’s brother would live with us.
What may have seemed to be an equitable and cozy arrangement quickly disintegrated.
Dad was loud, selfish, and lacked initiative. Uncle Bob was quiet, selfish, and lacked initiative.
The tension in the household was incredible at times. I found it difficult to get along with my Uncle and vice versa.
At first I did everything to please him. When I was younger I looked up to him. As a budding teenager it seemed as if there was nothing I could do to please him. He was critical of every chore I did on the farm and offered no explanation on why or how to improve.
Dad and Uncle Bob always seemed to be at odds. They sometimes went days without speaking as did I. In time Mom found it difficult to speak to her brother.
My Uncle never married and all his life was lived under the roof and domination of his father (my grandfather) who had a strong and critical personality.
Mom and Dad had a loosely held arrangement with Uncle Bob. He did all the work on the farm. They split the income 50/50, but Mom and Dad paid all the bills associated with the farm. Mom and Dad paid all household expenses; food, utilities, repairs, etcetera.
One night it happened Dad blew is cork.
It was Saturday night; the winter. There was one of those strange atmospheric conditions that allowed us to pull in a TV station with unusual clarity from Columbus. Ohio State was playing. I was an Ohio State fan. Jerry Lucas was my idol. It was the first time I had seen Ohio State play. It was the first time I had seen Jerry Lucas play.
I was enjoying every minute of the game. Dad watched with me. Midway through the second half Uncle Bob entered the room and switched channels. He never asked or said anything. He watched Gunsmoke every Saturday evening.
“Uncle Bob,” I said. “Can’t I please watch the game. It’s the only chance I’ll get to watch Ohio State.”
“I want to watch Gunsmoke,” he mumbled (actually he had a speech impediment that made him difficult to understand).
“Bob,” Dad said. “Let the boy watch the game.”
“Nope,” Uncle Bob said. “I watch Gunsmoke every week. This is my show.”
“Please, Uncle Bob, just this one time,” I said.
“Nope,” he said and watched Matt Dillon drop the the bad guy with his six-shooter once again.”
“Come on, Bob,” Dad said. “This will show again this summer on re-runs.”
“I want to watch it now,” Uncle Bob said. “You get to watch what you want to watch all the time.”
“I sit here and watch Lawrence Welk and Ed Sullivan with you all the time,” I said. “I never ask you to change to anything else.”
“I said ‘Nope,’” Uncle Bob said. “And it’s my TV.”
Dad shot up from the couch like a spring popped through. He took large steps across the room. He bent down behind the TV and grabbed the wires and yanked them from the wall. “It may be your g** d*** TV, but it’s my g** d*** electricity.
Uncle Bob sat motionless. There was no expression on his face. He stared at the TV as if he was watching Matt Dillon drink beer with Kity and Doc at the ole Lone Star in beautiful and scenic downtown Dodge City.
Dad and I went to the kitchen and listened to the game on radio.
“Dad,” I whisperd. “The radio is Uncle Bob’s too.”
“I don’t think he wants the get an *ss thumpin’ over a radio.”