How time has flown by this year. As the miles go by in this journey we call life I catch myself thinking more of my past than I do of my future.
If you will indulge me in this edition of Struttin’ Time, I would like to reflect on friendships that are still happening and those that have long gone. I would like to start with a friendship that is still as strong as it has ever been, my friendship with Ben Gish and The Mountain Eagle.
Long before Struttin’ Time, the Gish family and I were friends, and it still just as good today as when I first met the Gishes in the late 1960’s. It was than that Pat Gish asked me to serve on the Jenkins Housing Commission. She told me it would only last a year, but I was there for five years, as I could never tell any of the Gish family no.
When Ben and I started this venture, Struttin’ Time, we had not a clue if it would make it or not, but many years later we are still here. That is a friendship that is and has lasted. On the other side of the coin, is a friendship about me as a young child growing up in McRoberts, a small coal town located in the headwaters of the Kentucky River. As most youngsters growing up in that time, we all had some family member who stayed on the home place to help with the work. Mine was my grandpa’s brother we called Uncle Lo.
His name was Loranza Duncil, and he seemed old to me the first time I ever saw him. And he was a worker. He made my first bow for me and fixed my first arrows. He split firewood, cleaned, planted gardens, whitewashed buildings, fences, and tree trunks. I never saw him without his long sleeve shirt, hat, and a kerchief to wipe away the sweat. Uncle Lo hunted with me. His favorite was grouse hunting behind our house. He never used a dog, just his knowledge — and me to flush. He was the greatest hunter I have ever known. Although he never left McRoberts to hunt he was wise about how wildlife lived. As I recall growing up at his feet, I would like to share with you my favorite story of this man who I thought could walk on water.
I went into his basement one day after seeing him working on something. Uncle Lo informed me he had found an old shotgun barrel and was making himself a new shotgun. I thought, how cool can that be? Well rabbit season would be opening soon, a season that was and still is still my favorite. To hear those beagles on a rabbit brings thrills to my soul.
Uncle Lo said he would need to get busy on the gun so he could have it ready for the first day. I told my papaw what he was doing, and all he said was “Son, please stand clear of Uncle Lo. He is fixing to get killed. Well the big day arrived and a rabbit was jumped. When Uncle Lo shot his new handmade shotgun it flew into several pieces. He looked sheepish, but smiled and said, “I’ll need to do some adjustments.”
My Uncle Lo passed on in 1968. I’ll never forget him, still love him today, and miss him. Although my friendship with the Gishes is still ongoing, all the things I just said about my Uncle Lo are true about them.