The Catholic Defender: A Story In Honor Of My Uncle Bud
My Uncle Bud just past away 19 February, 2018 about three something in the morning. I want to encourage my Christian family when you pray the Divine Mercy and the Rosary to please remember him and his family. My Uncle Bud and his wife, Aunt Margaret were married for 66 plus years.
The following short story was written by my Mother (Mary Ann) and published by my Aunt Marie. It is a story about my Mother and Uncle Bud when they were children many years ago.
Very late one night, Papa brought home the most beautiful horse in the world. I thought there must have been a miracle happened if we could afford such an animal.
The first time I saw him, he was eating oats in the extra stall in the barn. There was a small window outside his stall. I talked to him without going inside. We stared at each other, taking measure, as is the rule between animals and children. I could tell he liked me and would tolerate my friendship, but with a certain reserve. No king is going to give over completely to a ragged, runny-nosed little girl. This I fully understood. Even years after I had seen many examples of his disgraceful actions, he remained my friend. I often stood at the small window and told him my troubles. If those tales brought tears, he would stick his nose out the window and allow my tears to run down his beautiful faced, whiffling with sympathy.
It was a few days before I learned how our fortune had improved. My older brother, Buddy, had school and chores; no time for fun. I knew Buddy didn’t like the horse. His work took him inside the barn whereas mine did not. We had had several conversations about his idiocy and my stupidity.
I discovered the truth on a murky weekend when both Papa and Mama went out to harness the team. Usually, Buddy would harness while Mama and Papa had breakfast and prepared to go to the field. Mama always went along. Buddy and I often went too, with a hoe, to the cornfield. When Mama went out to help, I knew something was certainly different. I asked Buddy, and he told me he thought the horse was an outlaw, a killer. I replied he must be too dumb to handle him.
I went outside to watch from a safe place and saw at once what the problem was. Our other horse, Rowdy, was old, fat, and blind. He had been used to working with an old mule who had the temerity to lie down and die in hard times. Rowdy was scared of his new partner. Buck was a tall, arrogant individual, protesting his fate. He protested quite violently being harnessed with a peon like Rowdy. Mama at once understood. She took over the task, and I could hear her talking to Buck. I knew she was agreeing with him that he was indeed being put in a bad position. She begged him to do it anyway for her sake. Mama had a way with horses; never met one she couldn’t get along with. Papa was kept busy soothing Rowdy.
Buck never walked anywhere. He pranced and arched his proud neck like a circus professional. This sideways slant of Buck prancing and Rowdy plodding had Papa walking that way soon enough. He’d told Mama, weeks after we had Buck, never to ride him. Papa had gotten him cheap because he had tried to kill a man up north. Mama had been riding him all along. She said his legs were younger than hers and he had two more than she did. She’d place a had on his withers, jump, and away they’d go.
Buck had to have a pasture to himself. Fences had to be built not to keep him in, but to keep everything else out. At the first attempt to put Rowdy in the same pasture, Buck forced the poor old blind horse to back into the well. It was an old well, rock-lined, filled in to about eight feet of water. I watched with excitement as Papa, Mama, and Buddy got the fat horse out of the well and into another pasture. I think if we hadn’t been so poor, Papa would have shot Buck right there. But they built another well cover, filled the horse tank from that well, and left Buck to his own ten acres. He arched his roached neck and pranced around and around his fences. I had no idea of his pedigree but he knew. That had to be good enough for all of us.
For some forgotten reason, Mama went to the County Seat with Papa on business. They planned to return before dark, but in case something came up, had given us instructions on our activities. The outside work—caring for the stock, milking, cutting and bringing in wood—was assigned to Buddy. I was to feed us and take care of our two-year-old brother, William. William was fascinated by the coal oil lamp and would climb on the table to watch it glow. As darkness came on, I lit the lamp and began making supper. Buddy had killed a chicken, and instead of plucking it, I’d skinned it. Now I was having a hard time getting it to turn out just right.
Suddenly, Buddy came flying in, a foaming bucket of milk in each hand, yelling that a calf was missing. To lose an animal in those days was catastrophic. Our first thought was of course “ Buck.” If our three-hundred-pound butcher calf had gotten through the fence into Buck’s pasture, we had trouble. Buddy sat the milk down an as he flew back out the door to get a rope, screamed for me to bring the flashlight and come help him. Our winter’s supply of meat was at stake and although Buddy was only twelve, he knew the value of food through a long winter.
I’d lit the lamp because it was now dark; what was I going to do with William? I quickly dumped a bucket of milk into a crock so it would foam, gave William a wheat straw, threatened him with sudden death if he moved, and ran out to join Buddy.
I could tell from the screams coming from the direction of the old well that not only Buddy had found the calf, but Buck was hellbent on preventing any rescue. As I ran, I picked up a stick which I used to run Buck to the other side of the field. I then tried to help my brother. I knew Buck hated anything male, all the stories I’d heard about these killer outlaws came to mind. I began to cry, and by the light of the flashlight, I ran around the old well calling. Buddy was twelve years old, but scrawny, weighed sixty pounds soaking wet. He was soaking wet when I finally caught him in the beam of my flashlight. He was in the well, somehow clinging to the wet rocks on the side, one arm around the unconscious head of a three-hundred-pound calf.
There had been many times I’d thought of killing my brother, but faced with the possibility of him drowning, I begged and pleaded with him to please come out. He refused, screaming invectives that would have shocked Mama. He yelled at me to throw down the rope.
“I can’t!” I cried. “We can’t! We can’t!”
“Can’t fell in the slop bucket!”
“But William is alone with the lighted lamp!”
Buddy clung to the walls like a deformed elf. “Give me the damn rope! I’m not coming out of here without this calf!”
He told me how to make a slipknot, snake the rest out and lower it down. I was constantly interrupted by Buck who kept coming back. I’d have to make repeated rush attacks on him to keep him away. I cried with fear.
I held the light pointed into the darkness, watching in terror as Buddy held the calf with one arm and struggled to slip the rope under the two front legs while maintaining toe-holds on the wall. I just knew my brother was dead because he was too stubborn to let go and come out. I dropped the flashlight in the well where it cast a yellow glow through the mud below. He continued to scream curses, his voice getting scratchy, as he struggled with the rope and calf. In my excitement and fear, I dropped the other end of the rope into the well. How he managed to throw it back to me, I’ll never know, but I caught it and stood there crying. Buddy called me a few choice words and told me to go around the nearest tree with it.
“For God’s sake, shut up and help me!” He croaked. “I’ll heave and you pull up the slack!” With each heave, he yelled, “Pull!” and I pulled the rope around the tree. He heaved and I pulled. In the dark, we worked as if trying to inch our way out of hell itself. I cried constantly for Mama and to this day I’m not ashamed. Buck rushed me, causing me to lose my grip on the rope which produced more curses from the well and more tears from me. My mind was filled with pictures of little William engulfed in flames and all three of us dead by the time Mama and Papa got home.
After what seemed years, the head of the calf came over the edge of the well. The body followed inch by inch. When the calf lay stretched out on the ground, I let go of the rope, screaming at Buck ran to help my brother over the side. He and the calf lay there together, a large unconscious calf and a scrawny half-dead kid. I can still see them. Two bodies and me standing over them with a small twig to fight off a mighty horse.
Buck made another running charge. The pounding hooves brought my brother to his feet in a rage as I’d never seen, and haven’t seen since. With a board from the ruined well cover, Buddy took after the huge outlaw with such a sure and intense desire to kill, that the horse immediately left and didn’t return. Buck could have killed us both but apparently preferred to pick on other four-legged animals. Thank God!
Together, Buddy and I dragged our winter’s meat supply under the fence to safety. We couldn’t tell if he was alive or dead. Buddy went off, leaving me with the corpse, and returned presently with a tarpaulin to cover the prone form. As he ducked under the fence, the barbs tore a long gash down his back.
We ran to the house to check on William. He was still perched on the chair innocently sipping dirty, foamy milk through the wheat straw. God looks out for children.
When our parents returned shortly after, we were all in the kitchen. The only indication of our time in hell was burned chicken, the long scratch on Buddy’s back, and the black eye I received when applying too much iodine to his wound.
When Buddy, Mama, and Papa went out to view the remains, they found the tarp empty. The calf was eating grass on his side of the fence, all desire to roam gone forever,
Papa worked Buck every day, and Mother rode him often. I was away from home when they found a buyer for Buck. I remember how beautiful he was as he arched his neck and pranced. I remember my brother as an insanely brave fool. Buddy is now a minister of the Gospel, and remembers me as a crybaby he had to constantly protect and discipline. He remembers Buck as that stupid show-off we couldn’t get rid of. Not even in trade for an old mule.
The early 1930's and 40's were tough times as I remember my Mother telling us that times were hard during the "Great Depression", but they lived in a time when family was stronger and they worked together living on the farm. Today, my Mother and Uncle Bud have both left this life and have entered into eternity. May the perpetual Light of Christ shine upon them now and for ever Amen.
Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.
For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.