What I am about to share with you is a guarded family secret, one that is so classified that even my siblings have no knowledge of what I am about to share with you.
I once had a great-great-great-uncle who roamed the wild west a long time ago. I don’t recall his name, so I refer to him as Uncle Bob.
Uncle Bob was the kind of guy who liked to make a buck by doing as little work as possible. His primary business was sales, used-horse sales to be exact. He had this natural ability to convince a potential customer that an old swayback was specially contoured that way for your long-distance riding comfort or that horses only bite the people they love.
The only problem was that not all of the horses Uncle Bob sold were actually his to sell. His inventory had the habit of just showing up in the corral, but not in the books.
One day he tried to sell a horse to the cousin of the actual owner of the beast and immediately found himself behind bars until a judge could be found to hear the case. Two days later, he had his moment in court. No matter how much Uncle Bob tried to talk his way out of this now very serious situation, his words landed upon deaf ears.
The gavel came slamming down, officially classifying my great-great-great-uncle as a convicted horse thief. His dance with the gallows was swift and immediate. There will be no appeals, no second chances, no tomorrows.
As a young lad, hearing this story intrigued me. I had questions to ask, blanks to fill in. My gene pool was proving to be an awesome one, and I couldn’t wait to tell everyone I knew who my uncle was and the circumstances that led up to his early demise.
When my father found out that I knew the family’s dirty little secret, he hit the roof.
“Who told you about this?” he barked at me.
I replied, “Aunty Mamie” (his sister).
Needless to say she ended up on the Black List and would remain there for some time.
A promise was made to never divulge our little family secret; to keep this skeleton locked up deep within the family closet. Over the decades since that oath of secrecy, I only told my dearest friends the truth about my great-great-great-uncle. I may have also told my neighbors, a guy sitting next to me on an international flight and, of course, my co-workers. And now, I open myself up to you with complete transparency.
It has now been 50 years since I made the promise I would never be able to keep. How could I keep this tidbit of family dynamics all to myself? After all, isn’t it the coolest thing to have a piece of Americana history interwoven within my Canadian DNA? How awesome is that?
I wonder what else they didn’t tell me.
Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.