In my grandparents household, the grandparents on my mother’s side of the family, there were numerous sons and daughters, with the result that I had many aunts and uncles. All were born considerably earlier than I, and since I am near completing the eighth decade of my life, all have sloughed off the mortal coils of this life and transferred to another, perhaps a better one than this—at least it is to be hoped that it is a better one. I know of nothing that would have caused the powers-that-be to sentence them to a worse life for the remainder of eternity.
Did you get that—remainder of eternity?
Does eternity have a remainder?
That’s kinda profound, don’t you think?
The youngest of the brood of children birthed and reared by my grandparents was a boy named Braxton, known to family and friends as Brack), but to me he was Uncle Brack. I was far advanced into adulthood long before he left us, but I never had the temerity to call him by his name—he was always Uncle Brack, a man I idolized and longed mightily to be like when I grew up—I wanted to be just like him and do the same kind of work he did.
Over the years Uncle Brack was a share-cropper farmer, a farmer in his own right, a store-keeper, a used-car salesman and a bus driver. Only the profession of bus driver attracted me. He worked for the Miss–Ala Stage Line, a bus company that plied a route between various towns, and one of its routes moved passengers back and forth between Vernon, Alabama and Columbus, Mississippi, a distance of some 30 miles. Vernon was a small town with few people and few amenities, and Columbus had many, including theaters, restaurants, department stores and small industrial components that provided jobs for people from Vernon.
Get it? Miss–Ala? Mississippi plus Alabama?
Uncle Brack’s bus driver uniform was a white shirt with black bow-tie, gray trousers with a black stripe down the side of each leg, and a gray hat with a large metal cap badge and a shiny black brim—he always wore the cap jauntily cocked to one side like our World War II aviators wore theirs. A holster on his belt at his right side held his ticket-punching machine, one with which he always executed a quick-draw, twirled it several times with it coming to rest in his palm, ready to punch a passenger’s ticket. In the eyes of a small boy in the 1930s, he was a combination of all the heroes in Zane Grey novels and in James Fennimore Cooper’s stories of the Native Americans of our great Northeast. In short, when I was a small boy I wanted to be exactly like my Uncle Brax.
He was an inveterate joker—he could no more resist making jokes, practical or otherwise, than the sun can resist rising in the east and setting in the west, and he regaled any gathering which he attended with his stories. One that he told repeatedly involved a lady that had sneaked a black cat on when she boarded his bus. He said that before he left the station he saw the cat in his rear-view mirror and announced that The lady with that black pussy will have to leave. He said that five women left the bus and the others crossed their legs.
I never believed that story—I thought it was funny, even though I wasn’t sure why it was so funny. I didn’t believe it because in those days people rode the bus with pet cats and dogs, and even with a shoat in a gunnysack—for those unfamiliar with that phrase, that’s a pig in a poke, an actual young porker purchased at an auction in Columbus and now en route to a farm in Alabama where it would be fed and pampered until it became a hog, then slaughtered in the fall for the larder of a farm family, and that’s a fact—I’ve seen such cargo carried on a Miss-Ala Stage Line bus more than once, and I’ve also seen such cargo carried on trains that ran between Columbus and various small towns in Mississippi—that’s a subject for a future posting, so stay tuned!
People often bought baby chicks from a Columbus hatchery and boarded the bus with 100 peeping baby chickens in a flat box, similar to a pizza box but somewhat larger, with small round holes built into the sides of the box to provide oxygen for its occupants. Uncle Brack loved to tell the story of the time a lady—a very large lady—boarded his bus with such a box. En route to its destination of Vernon, Alabama, bumping along on a rutted potholed graveled road, the box fell from her lap and spilled the baby chicks, called biddies by country folk—out on the floor, and they scampered to all points of the globe, constrained only by the limits of the bus. The lady frantically ran around gathering them up and putting them back in the box, and at one point she leaned far over from the waist and the pressure on her stomach produced a certain sound, one that resonated all over the bus. A drunk passenger was watching the lady in her quest for the biddies and spoke up with a sage bit of advice, saying That’s right, lady, if you can’t catch ’em, shoot ’em! I remember other Brackisms, but most are not completely suitable for postings on WordPress.
Uncle Brack was a likeable fellow and ladies found him attractive, and he took full advantage of that attractiveness whenever the opportunity arose, so to speak. According to my mother—his sister—when Uncle Brack came in from a night out, usually tanked up with Alabama moonshine or beer illegally transported across the Alabama state line from Mississippi, his mother—my grandmother—would go through his pockets and retrieve any items that were manufactured ostensibly for the prevention of disease, but in those long ago days were mostly used for the prevention of pregnancies—condoms. As my mother told the story, on his wedding day she presented a gift, a cigar box filled with unused condoms. I believe the story because I believe my mother—had Uncle Brack told the story I would not have believed it.
After all that carousing around in search of a bride—that’s what he told his mother he was doing—Uncle Brack married a widow, a sturdy no-nonsense woman with two children from her first marriage, a six-year old girl and a boy of 12 years. The couple stayed married for many years, adding three more children to the family, and the marriage was ended only by his death. During those years of marriage I never heard a word—not even a hint—that Uncle Brack ever returned to his errant ways with women. It was, in effect, a marriage made in heaven.
There’s lots more to be told about my Uncle Brack, but I’ll hold it in abeyance for future postings, so stay tuned.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
August 2, 2010 at 8:24 pm
Although I have heard you mention “Uncle Brax” on occasion, I didn’t know this much about him. I hadn’t heard any of these stories before.
Great narrative description of him in this paragraph: Uncle Brax’ bus driver uniform was a white shirt with black bow-tie, gray trousers with a black stripe down the side of each leg, and a gray hat with a large metal cap badge and a shiny black brim…..
I had a picture in my head as soon as I read that paragraph. Now THAT’S great writing! 🙂
More, more, more!
August 2, 2010 at 9:21 pm
And my Uncle Brax is just one of several uncles and—are you ready for this?—dozens of cousins.
As for “great writing,” I kinda expected superlatives such as amazing, wonderful and fantastic, but hey, I’ll settle for great—who needs amazing, wonderful and fantastic?
I do, that’s who—me, me, me—it’s all about me!
August 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm
I loved him too. Did you ever hear him sing? Many times have I heard Uncle Brax (we pronounced it Brak) and my mother, Jessie, singing duets together–wonderful.
August 6, 2010 at 5:00 am
Hi, Vicki—we pronounced it Brak also, but I hesitated to spell it that way. I feared that viewers might think that an A was missing—that his name was Barak and that he was Muslim, and I wasn’t ready for that. Besides, if one takes the next step from Brak, it would become Brakton rather than Braxton—see?
Thanks for visiting, and thanks for the comment.
Special note: I have just changed the original posting to show my uncle as Uncle Brack, a corruption of the spelling in order to produce the correct sound when his name is enunciated—thanks and a tip of the kingly crown to Vicki!
September 28, 2016 at 7:19 pm
Is that the Brak Oaks that lived over toward Crossville? If so him and his wife were friends with my parents. The were a good bit older than my Mom and Dad back then. My mom is still alive and is 81 now. Your Uncle Esker, did he have a son that was named Esker Oaks also? A real good friend of our family was Esker when I was young and up until he died around 1975 or 76. He was a very good man. His daughter Elwanda died just a couple of years ago. His other daughter and he husband Clyde Motes lived by Esker and Elwanda. When I was first driving Esker would let me drive him around town some.
I first ran across your blog 2 or 3 years ago while looking up the old Miss-Ala bus line. I read a number of your post then but had forgotten about it I got a notice today thru email that you had posted today. I posted a link to your blog on Facebook right after I first found it and had a number of people from Vernon that responded about enjoying some of it. I don’t know if you ever got any responses on your blog from anyone else from there. I have been gone from Vernon since I moved to Corsicana TX back in 1984 – 86 then to Bowling Green KY, Nashville, back to Vernon for 2 years then to Greenville, SC and Simpsonville, SC now I have been living in Lawrenceville, GA since 2007. But I still get back there to visit my Mom, brother and others every few months. Keep posting and I will try to follow you a more.