My dad was gone and with him went some adventure. Fishing was what we did most together and my mom did great for a single mom of three but the adventure wasn’t the same. I looked up to my dad even though he wasn’t always there. I think he wanted to be but had never learned how and so I forgave him. I can remember thinking long and hard about the few years that we lived in the same house watching Archie Bunker and Mash. I never understood the jokes but I would laugh just because he did. I had fished a lot with him during those few years and had developed a great sense of adventure. We camped in a pick-up camper at the boat ramp and me and my twin sister would run around in the woods by the boat ramp.
My first memory of my Great Grandfather was at his home in Flat Creek Tennessee. We had went there to visit and he gave my sister and I bubble gum from an old cigar box. It was hard and we could barely chew it but he was so proud to have something for us and we finally got it soft enough to chew. They called my Great Grandfather “BOSS” in fact I am still not sure what his first name was. I just called him BOSS and that would do just fine with him. He was an old man when I first met him and he laughed out the side of his mouth and through a notch in his lip. The notch in his lip was created by snake oil BOSS had purchased from a traveling salesman out West many years before to cure a cancerous place on his lip where he rested his cigar for many years. The snake oil worked alright, it ate his lip away and any tumor that might have been there. That’s the story I got anyway.
BOSS now had a place for the cigar to sit and it did sit right there in that notch for the remainder of his life. BOSS was a great story teller and would sit and tell me stories for hours and I listened because these were stories of the old West and Indians and cowboys. BOSS was a hobo with a home. He would hobo a train and just go wherever it took him. He did this when he was young, 12 years old or younger. He told me tales of his trips while I sat on his lap and listened intently. I would take books, from the school library, to my grandmother’s house when he was going to be there and we would sit and talk about the pictures. I only wish I could remember all those stories because the certainly fascinated me.
One great memory I have was one of the last before he died. Most of his stories of the West were about the Indians there and how he had become friends with many of them in his journeys. He would stay with them on reservations and talk with them for days before returning home to Tennessee in a boxcar. He told me they were his friend but they had informed him that they would get the white man back for what he had done to them. BOSS believed this until his last breath and even though he had been friends with the Indians in the West he feared them greatly and knew that one day they would come and get every white man and kill them all. He told me many times he was afraid of the Indians.
On a trip to my grandmother’s I had taken my bow and arrow to play with in the woods. They had ten acres of woods leading to the garden and I would pretend I was shooting deer and squirrels. I remember leaning one of my arrows against a tree but was unable to locate it. I had a few others and probably lost interest in finding the arrow after a very short time. I left the arrow leaning on that tree.
BOSS came to visit my Granny one day when I was away. He always took a walk through those woods to the garden and back. The stroll to the garden went fine but the walk back jarred a lifelong fear in my Great Grandfather. The Indians are here he repeated over and over again as his 91 year old legs sprinted toward the house and finally in through the door and down the hallway. My Granny was frightened by his actions as he dug the pearl handled pistol from a drawer in her room. He was shaking as he attempted to load that pistol and unable to talk as rounds dropped to the floor. This was the same pistol he told me he took to Texas on a train and jumped out of the back and shot behind an old tom cat crossing the dirt road and announced, while dust still drifted in the wind, “You best put your cats away cause BOSS Wiggins is in town”. He was fourteen.
My Granny finally calmed BOSS down and asked him what was the matter, he wept with fear as he announced to her that the Indians had come to get him. “They told me they would get the white man someday and they are back to get us just like they told me”, he said. He was truly scared until he took my granny to the arrow leaned against the tree in those woods. She told him it was OK that it was Ken’s arrow and he had left it there when he was playing. BOSS felt much better and felt that maybe they would get the white man someday but maybe he wouldn’t be around when they did it.
It was that Christmas when he wore the blue suit. It was the Christmas we played Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots that he sat me on his lap as he cried. I asked him why he was crying and he told me he was the happiest he had ever been and that was good because he thought that this just might be his last Christmas on this earth. He told me that he loved me and all his great grand children and he really enjoyed me listening to all his stories. He told me they were all true as they could be, with a chuckle, I believed them all. I told him he was going to be around many more years and I believed it. He chuckled again and told me that he hoped that he would then he sat me off his lap and we began to play again and he laughed. He loved those Rock-Em Sock-Em Robots and I loved him.