As a fourteen year old boy, sitting in the middle of Paulina Lake fishing for trout wasn’t my idea of fun. It was unpleasantly hot, the sun was far too bright, the board I was sitting on was getting too hard and worst of all I was getting hungry. It might have been a little better if we were talking, because I was out there with one of my favorite people in the whole world. My uncle June, short for Junior. He had been my closest companion for as long as I could remember, since about age four, perhaps three. He was about twelve years older than me and probably the source of my still residual humor. We were always making up funny things to say to each other. Repartee. He was a farmer, born and raised by a farmer and living in the tradition of just plain folks, as his mother, my grandmother put it. Think of Dave Letterman or Johnny Carson without the fawning studio audience and speechwriters, but instead with an attentive audience of one, me. We made up our dialog as we went along, formed out of the situation and our previous banter.
He was basically a very kind man, and looked out for me in every way imaginable. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I was independent minded but I wasn’t a problem child, and don’t remember ever getting into any serious trouble with anyone. Probably it was because I was naturally emulating this fine man, whose only challenge to people, ever, was a funny one aimed at getting a good laugh out of everyone present and making a good story too. Finding a cockle burr stuck to your pants when you sat down, or a prune mysteriously rolling off of a roof, out of nowhere, and plopping down beside you, were the type of silly jokes of which he was the master craftsman.
So here we were sitting in a rowboat in the middle of a lake in the middle of Oregon. Because we were fishing we had to be quiet, so as not to scare off the fish, and because we had to sit still my butt was starting to hurt, and because it was hot and sunny I was beginning to feel like a lobster, and furthermore because I hadn’t eaten, or brought anything with me to eat, I was hungry and getting hungrier by the minute.
The point of this story is that in the midst of this minor travail, June breaks out a Snickers candy bar, my favorite, and rather unceremoniously peels back the wrapper and starts eating it. Nonchalantly, as if it was the most ordinary thing imaginable for someone to be doing, especially after sitting for an hour broiling in a rowboat in the middle of a lake—which of course, it was.
Rather hopefully, I inquired if he had brought a lunch for us or at least another candy bar. Nope, this was the only one. Might he share a bite? Nope, this was a single serving size. Fortunately for me, this conversation didn’t go on for very long because he ate it all up in the usual amount of time—a minute or so. There didn’t seem to be any point in contesting the issue.
I don’t think there was any planning of this little event, nor any particular comic malice, it was just what it was – just hungry him eating a candy bar and hungry me watching him eat it. However, I still remember the scene sixty years later, and how violated I felt.
What was the lesson I learned from this possibly impromptu event?
Don’t depend on anyone to take care of your basic needs.