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Friday, May 6, 2016

When following in the footsteps of a giant, keep to your left

Friday, March 23, 2012

During my grade school years my Mom's "little" brother stayed with us for a time while he chased work on the then booming oil rigs of North Dakota. Uncle Chris was anything but little in size, I would estimate he weighed more than 300 pounds and was approximately 6 foot 3 inches tall. To me, during my 4th to 5th-grade school years, he was nothing shy of a giant.

On the outside Chris was, other than his size, your typical late 70's early 80's biker/oil-rig hand, with dusty blonde hair and electric blue eyes. You could tell by looking at him he was the type of man that could sheetrock a house faster than most people could mow their front lawn.

Even as a child I could tell that Chris's greatest attribute wasn't his size or god given ability to work with his hands, but rather his heart of gold. He worked hard, but he made it a point to play just as hard.

He taught me many things, first and foremost the power of a smile, but also critically important things like how to hit my older sister in the forehead with a rubber band from across the living room, while still maintaining an innocent lying position on the couch. He also taught me that when your knucklehead nephew asks you for your last $5 to buy the latest He-Man action figure, or doll as he preferred to call it with a giggle, you poney it up.

Uncle Chris was my hero for most of my early years until my step-father's work took my family west to Montana and Chris's Harley took him on a wild ride that eventually ended much further south, specifically the State of Missouri.

I remember following Chris's wide frame up our front walkway one morning, almost tripping on his heels as I tried to stay as close as possible. Just before entering our house he leaned to his right and spit, ever so innocently, into my mother's flower bed. As a young boy it struck me as the coolest, most macho act I had seen.

I proceeded to drive my mother crazy for the next several years with my own incessant spitting.

I eventually got over the trendy habit of marking my trail with spittle, or at least learned not to do it when my mother was within eyesight. However I never forgot who it was I envisioned myself looking like, each time I leaned over my mother's latest flower bed.

It had been years since I had thought of those days in North Dakota, when the oil rigs boomed and my Uncle Chris routinely tricked me into pulling his finger. As I herded Declan up the front porch yesterday after picking him up from school, he leaned to his right and promptly spit all over the front of his own shirt.

I realized it was the third time over the last few days that I had seen him spit on himself in that fashion. I don't recall having the same accuracy problems as my little 6-year-old, although our memory is selective like that, but I think I may now know how my mother felt about the activity.

I routinely give him an earful to "knock it off," especially when I look into the rearview mirror to see him spit all over the door and himself, while targeting the car window.

He will soon learn as I did to practice his spitting only when I am not within eyesight. A part of me though, maybe it's my "inner child," would very much like to know how Declan envisions himself, as he leans over the bush just to the right of our front porch.


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Bruce Baker
Dinner with Declan