My brother was wrong. I was pretty sure of it.
When my dad was born, back in 1921, the doctor didn’t bother to check how to spell his last name. As such, my dad’s name on his birth certificate was recorded as “Otho Richmeyer.” Everyone else in the family had the last name of “Reichtmyer”, even his parents. My dad was the baby of the family, and that is how he went through life – as a Richmeyer.
I was thinking my brother spelled “Reichtmyer” wrong. I thought the “t” was before the “c” not after the “h.” So, I decided to use my library’s remote access of Ancestry to check how my dad’s brother, Uncle Harold, spelled his last name. I was surprised to learn I was wrong. My brother had spelled it correctly, but let’s keep that between us. He doesn’t even know I checked up on him.
I had another surprise, too.
Uncle Harold had lived in Michigan, but he didn’t like the cold as he grew older. Each winter in his later years, he headed south and rented an apartment in Booneville, Mississippi. On Ancestry, I learned that my uncle is buried in the national cemetery in Corinth, Mississippi. I’ve been to Corinth, and I had no idea my uncle was buried there!
Last May, we spent one night in Corinth, and we have three nights reserved there this coming April. The cemetery is 8.4 miles from Cross City R.V. Park where we will be staying.
I didn’t visit my uncle when he lived in Booneville. These were the busy years when we were raising our kids. I usually saw my uncle when I went to Michigan each summer, mostly during the years when I was growing up.
One summer when I was growing up, my family spent a few nights at Uncle Harold’s cabin. Uncle Harold had renovated an old church in Barryton, Michigan, and he generously offered the the use of the cabin to us. From what I recall, Barryton had a tavern, a post office, maybe a laundromat. Basically, it was an intersection. However, my uncle’s cabin was on the outskirts of “town.” Other than the Chippewa River, which was right near the cabin, not much else was around.
Now, there was a mobile home down a bit down the road. Aunt Edna, my dad’s sister, gave us the scoop on who lived there. It was Elmer and his wife. A few years back, Elmer had put an ad in the Personals looking for a wife. Elmer only got one response from that ad. And that is how Elmer had met his wife. Now my Aunt Edna, who was known for being long-winded, warned us that Elmer was a “talker.” She said Elmer would be down to visit us, and she said it would be hard to get away. It turned out Aunt Edna was right.
In the other direction from my uncle’s cabin was a farmhouse. My Aunt Edna filled us in on that, too. She said they sold eggs there, and the girl who lived there was my age. I think I was 12 years old at the time. As soon as we needed eggs, I tagged along with my mom, ready to meet a new friend. Maybe there would be something to do besides listening to Elmer.
We got the eggs, and that was perhaps the first time in my life I saw brown eggs. I also saw the “girl my age.” She was 10. I was devastated. How could my aunt think she was my age? Now, besides not finding a friend, I was going to have to eat brown eggs.
But actually, the brown eggs turned out just fine, and we ended up having a good time. We floated down the Chippewa River. I had my own room while my two brothers shared the A frame’s upstairs loft. Late in the evening, we could hear our local St. Louis am radio station – KMOX – 526 miles from home.
At night, I would lay in bed, lean against a bed rest pillow and read Nancy Drew books while I ate chocolate and caramel bars. I was in heaven, but I was also in the country where there were spiders and snakes.
Inside the cabin, there were lots of daddy long leg spiders. Outside the cabin, there were snakes in the yard. I know because I saw my uncle pick up a snake, whirl it around like a lasso and fling it across the yard. It freaked me out then, and it freaks me out now. I can still see that four foot white snake with brown spots going round and round an arm’s length above my uncle’s head. Thank heavens it flung in the opposite direction.
I think my uncle was a good brother to my dad. The day my dad graduated from high school, his step-mother told him goodbye. For you see, when my dad’s dad died, she had promised her dying husband she would see my dad through high school. She kept her promise, but no more.
It seems sad, but life was hard back then. So my dad left his home, and he went to live with his brother, Harold, on Mackinac Island. He would work on the island until he joined the Air Force and serve in WWII. While serving in the Air Force, he met my mom at at USO dance in St. Louis. Which brings the story back to me.
Who would have thought that trying to prove my brother wrong would lead me down this memory lane? Who would have thought I was just miles away from my uncle’s final resting place when we had a happenstance one night stop in Corinth, Mississippi? Yet, I am glad to have taken these journeys.
Now that I know, there’s one more road I want follow, and I hope to do it in April. I want to stand at my uncle’s grave, remember all the good, pay my respects, and say a prayer. After all, he’s my dad’s brother, even if their last names aren’t exactly the same.