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Posted by: Kathleen ( )
Date: November 28, 2018 01:44AM


Uncle Pete was Pop’s older brother, and my favorite uncle. He had one arm.

He was a sheep rancher in Central California. When the valley heat reached 100 degrees, he signaled, “let’s go!” to his McNabs and Border Collies, and they all showed up at our house in the mountains. With him came apricots and black grapes and every good thing that grew in the Sacramento Valley.

Mystery surrounded that missing arm. Mom said that he lost it in a side-swipe accident while resting his elbow on the edge of a rolled-down window. There were other stories. His arm was torn off again and again in a variety of ways, with each rendition ratified by Pop’s nodding head.

Once, for example, I climbed up high in our cedar tree, and called, “Uncle Pete! Look at me!” He cautioned me with terror on his face, pointing to the missing arm, and how he, himself, got too high in the cedar tree, fell, his arm got tangled in branches, and *whoosh!* it was gone.

If I got too close to a strange dog, Pete warned that it was a mean dog “just like that one!" that tore off his arm. --And ate it!

One time, he reached into a hot oven for a lick of cake batter, burned his arm and had to have it amputated!

Uncle Pete had amazing skill for a one-arm guy. He built a stock trailer for his truck with his own two hands—except the missing one. He worked with his empty sleeve tucked into his pants pocket and scratched at his itchy missing elbow.

He had astonishing abilities—like convincing Pop that alcohol was good. During one of those liquor occasions, someone hollered, “Let’s go see the bears!” We tore off in the night, in the car to watch bears roam the county dump. There were a couple of cubs. “I want one, Uncle Pete!”

One-armed people run strangely. I noticed it when Uncle Pete leaped from the car and ran through the dump to fetch me a bear cub. Just as the mother bear closed in on Pete's good arm, Pop darted out to rescue his brother. He grabbed him by the suspenders while we kids watched from the car. They scrambled over broken dishes, tires, hubcaps and beer bottles. Once they nearly fell out of sight with Pete’s only arm flailing overhead. They cussed and cackled all the way home. Mom was mad. You know those old Capricorns—beautiful, bright, pleasant ... or not. I heard her ask Pop, “When’s he getting out of here?”

He came back. He bought a 1960 Plymouth Valiant V-200 and had to show us. I loved that squashy-looking car with the spare tire on the trunk lid. It had a push-button transmission—handy for a one-arm guy. Sometimes he’d say, “Now!” and let me push the buttons. I saw a beautiful push-button Plymouth in a yard a few years ago. It looked just like Uncle Pete’s! I wanted it so bad, but held back to avoid covetousness. Vines grew up over the tire on the trunk. And then it was gone. Apparently someone else knocked on the door and said, “how much you want for that gawd-awful thing?” And it was theirs.

I wonder what Uncle Pete would say nowadays. What would he tell my kids about the never-to-be-seen-again arm? Probably too much texting would wear it to a nubbin. Excessive Coca Cola would shrivel it off somehow. The one thing that would never hurt his arm was lugging me everywhere. That’s what he said, anyway. But … he might have lied.

This true story comes with permission to be permanently displayed and archived at


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/28/2018 01:48AM by kathleen.

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Posted by: MexMom ( )
Date: November 28, 2018 02:04AM

That was a terrific story and one that pays great homage to your uncle. Thanks for sharing it.

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Posted by: Kathleen ( )
Date: November 28, 2018 03:15AM

Thanks, MexMom. I sure loved him. :)

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Posted by: Mother Who Knows ( )
Date: November 28, 2018 04:26AM

Your love comes through in the story!

What a character! The bear tale was awesome! It all seemed very true-to-life. Was it? I want to know.

I loved it!!!!!!

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Posted by: deja vue ( )
Date: November 28, 2018 09:58AM

My dad had one arm. We had the push button transmission control in our truck and the nekken knob on the steering wheel. Tractors all had Nekken knobs too. They were cool until you hit a rock and it spun the steering wheel and hit your elbow or hand. (I think they are probably illegal now.) Crazy times.

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Posted by: Amyjo ( )
Date: November 28, 2018 10:19AM

Great story, Kathleen.

One of my uncles had lost an arm in a farming accident. We weren't as close to his family like you were to your Uncle Pete. They lived in Wyoming, a state away from where us kids grew up. When we visited he was a friendly and cheerful sort. His wife was my dad's sister.

Loved the bear story too. :)

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Posted by: Done & Done ( )
Date: November 28, 2018 10:20AM

Kathleen, Kathleen, Kathleen. Your story is amusing, touching, and makes us remember how wonderful a family can be. It's the simple things. No? Your writing style takes a beautiful tale and propels the words to memorable. I love your story.

P.S. Had a friend's dad with one arm--hunting accident--who could do anything. Where there's a will . . .

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