My uncle R.B. was one of those winsome old men who draw kids like honey draws flies—an incorrigible teaser with a permanent, mischievous twinkle in his eye. He almost had me convinced that R.B. stood for “red beans,” which he had with dinner seven nights a week. This salty west-Texan did his time in a General Dynamics factory and savored retirement like it was his parole. He worked to live, not the other way around. He was my playmate, the closest thing I had to a grandfather, and easily one of the greatest influences on my life. Much of what I understand about manhood came from him. And when I think of a mentor, I immediately recall his sun-parched face and this story.
Uncle R.B. considered the dimple-C ranch in Duffau, TX his true home—several hundred acres of grassy pasture, Mesquite trees, a few dozen head of cattle, and an old, black farm truck from the Hoover administration. By the time I was tall enough to reach the floorboard starter button, I had mastered the art of driving. And, despite the sloppy manual gear stick and wobbly steering, I could proudly declare that I had never so much as scratched anything with it. Other, less responsible family members (I won’t embarrass them—they know who they are) had plowed into trees or torn a giant gash in the barn. But not me. At the ripe, old age of eleven, I boasted a spotless driving record. Continue reading “Uncle “Red Beans” and Me”