Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
As you go through life, there are certain people who make you feel special. My Uncle Earl was one of those people. For as far back as my memory takes me, he was there with open arms. Birthdays, Christmas or a cookout at the pond—it didn’t matter what the occasion was—he always seemed interested in what I had to say and made me feel like I mattered. He always had time for my brothers and I as we were growing up. More than that—he was fun. Boy—was he fun! His childlike enthusiasm was contagious and he seemed as eager as us kids to play a game of baseball, shoot baskets or go fishing. Looking back at my childhood, many of my absolute best memories has Uncle Earl playing a leading role. From watching home movies (which always ended with a Donald duck cartoon) to midnight soccer games or fishing along the North Fork or at the pond on our farm. He made every adventure fun.
I remember walking through the woods with Uncle Earl and we came up on a giant cotton mouth water moccasin. I had no idea a grown up could run so fast. We teased him endlessly about it but he didn’t mind. It was a good day.
He pulled our sleds behind his truck and took us camping and was a good sport about whatever schemes we kids might happen to cook up. He was always a willing participant to a fault. This actually led to a couple of late night visits to the emergency room. He is still the only person I have ever known who had to go to the doctor because of being attacked by a catfish. In a way, Uncle Earl made us feel like grown-ups by treating us as adults while acting like a kid.
My favorite memory of Uncle Earl was the time after the nationally televised race in Terre Haute, when I looked out on the raceway and saw him speeding around the Action Track in his shinny, black, 1969 Thunderbird. To make matters worse (or in this case—better) both Nana Gin and Grandma Peg were in the back seat whoopin’ and a hollerin’ like they were in a Dukes of Hazard episode. I can only imagine the conversation that took place before that joy ride. He was swerving around road graders and tractors with reckless abandon, as track officials yelled for him to get off of the track. He, of course ignored them and went faster. He threw the door open when he reached the front stretch, so us kids could jump in with them too. He was like the getaway driver at a bank robbery, Uncle Earl drove 3 more laps with the skill of A.J Foyt before leaving the track—victorious. That was the only time in my life that I ever saw any mud on one of his cars.
I never saw Uncle Earl speak with malice toward anyone. He liked everyone and everyone seemed to like him back. Besides leaving me with countless wonderful memories, he was hero and role model for my brothers and I. Earl Cornell was more than a good man, as far as I’m concerned—he was great. He was like my second father.
I miss him so much. But because of the time he made for me when I was young, all I have to do is close my eyes and he’s standing next to me with a fishing pole in his hand and a smile on his face. And then the world seems to be okay once again.
November 2, 2011