Uncle Sammy's Buick
My great-uncle Sammy was like a father to me. He often gave me dimes just to hear me thank him six times (big money to a kid). He would buy me clothes for school. And one Christmas morning Santa left me a new bicycle.
Sammy was a bachelor. He lived with two maiden sisters who kept house for the three of them. He worked just one day in his life — as a clerk in a dry goods store. At day's end, the sisters thought he looked so tired that they offered to pay him if he would stay home and rest. He accepted.
Each afternoon at 5:30 he would turn on WBT to hear "The Briarhoppers." I would watch him sit by the radio, tapping his foot to the beat of bluegrass music as he smoked a Camel down to his fingertips.
Sammy owned a 1926 Buick. He drove it for 13 years, often taking me on calls to tenant farms he oversaw. The vehicle began to look pretty drab. He took some teasing about the car on daily visits to the local fire station. Friends there made him a deal: They would paint the car, but in seclusion and only if they could choose the color. Sammy agreed. I watched those firemen paint the body shocking pink, the fenders mint green and the wheels silver. When they unveiled it, Sammy thanked them and proudly drove it home. Neither embarrassed nor ashamed, Sammy appreciated his new colors and drove the car for another year until he was persuaded to trade it in for a softer look.