Alan “Lindy” Linda

Freelance Writer

Family legends can be pretty fun. And pretty entertaining. I have one relative, Uncle Hugh, my mother’s brother, who hit every square on the “out there” board.

It wasn’t that he wasn’t fun. Oh, no. The stories coming here will illustrate that, despite some of the reality, the memories are fun. Uncle Hugh ran to extreme energy levels. In fact, when I was about nine or ten and we were over to their farm for Sunday dinner, Cousin Gary, who was older than my brother and I and his brother Douglas, had a tendency to bully the heck out of us. That extra three or four years gave him extra size, and he used it on us.

He knocked one of us in some fashion at the dinner table, and Uncle Hugh invited him to go outside and cut himself a switch. Cousin Gary mouthed off in some manner, and next thing you know, through the big south kitchen window, we all saw Gary running apparently for his life with Uncle Hugh just able to catch up to him as they flew through the apple trees south of the house. But when my uncle went to kick him in the butt, he’d lose a step.

The rest of us had a bird’s eye view of this performance. Uncle Hugh’s family took it as normal activity, didn’t quit eating. Uncle Hugh was interesting.

He tried to become a mortician after high school. Enrolled in the study of it. Lasted long enough to find out he was severely allergic to formaldehyde, or whatever awful fluid it is that they pumped into cadavers, and quit.

But he was famous in the family for the stories that he could tell about the mortician business. One of his best ones was, as new “meat” came along to whom he could spin these yarns, to ask if we-they-whomever would like to see the thumb that he took off a cadaver one night while he was pulling night guard duty, which I think they pulled on new students for a joke.

“Once in a while, a corpse will have a muscle contraction and jump out of the casket,” they likely told him, or any other newby. Hence the guard duty.

Of course, when he was spinning these yarns, in his stories hardly any of the cadavers stayed put. They waved and kicked all night long. He said.

Out from his bedroom came the little wooden box with The Thumb. Very carefully did he handle it. Reverently, even, as he presented it to his audience. Cautiously did he open the lid, like it might jump out. We upon whom he was going to bless us with such a thing, would  bend to examine it closely. It was whitish, as a dead digit should be. Old, also, quite appropriately.

Once your nose was right up to it, it jumped up! We like to wet our pants. Of course it was his thumb, coated with talcum powder. After he got you, then the game became one of sucking some other friend or cousin or new “meat” into the ruse.

After reading my oldest cousin’s memoirs, new light on Uncle Hugh’s stiff forefinger has come out. He had this pointer finger, you see, which stuck straight out. I grew up being told that he cut it off in a table saw, and that they sewed it back on but didn’t get the tendons quite right, so it stuck out, stiff.

Having one stiff finger made him even more interesting, because, well, just because.

My mother thought that he had gotten the stiff finger from a slip with a scalpel while he was studying to become a mortician. To which I respond: Well, hmmmm. Maybe. While cutting off a fake thumb.

My cousin’s memoir states that while he was staying at Uncle Hugh’s farm, he himself was holding a pig to be castrated–a job which involved a pig squirming beyond any belief, while also screaming at the decibel level of a 747. 

The pig kicked. My cousin let go. The razor blade slipped and cut Uncle Hugh’s finger, bad enough to sever some necessary tendons. “There are many stories about that finger out there,” went my cousin’s memoir. “This is the true one.”

Maybe so, maybe so.

Like I said. Interesting.

(Lindy’s interesting book “The Prairie Spy–Who Shot the Dryer…. Is available on Amazon.)