Growing Up In Proctor: Uncle Okey
From the original C. A. (Charles) Eller farm, my dad wound up with a twenty-acre parcel where he built a house for us to live in when I was about four. Twenty acres was enough land for Pap to tinker with a small sheep band and let his beagles run rabbits. The rest of the Eller farm, something over one hundred acres, went to Uncle Oak (Okey). He was the second of the nine Eller siblings and my dad was the youngest. In order of birth: Berrell, Okey, Yonsell, Sherman, Neva, Freda, Vera, Dollie, and Thad. Due to the age difference between Okey and Pap, Okey’s boys were a generation older than me.
Okey was well known for his charm and wicked sense of humor. Probably he was quite a lady’s man in his younger days before he married Aunt Gay. Apparently, Okey still had that charm when my wife Teri first met him in his later years, when Okey was no longer farming and was working as a county “sessor” (tax assessor). She was much impressed with his glib talk and impeccable clothes, which included a nice shirt, beautiful fedora, and spit-polished white/black shoes.
As a kid, I spent a lot of time with Uncle Oak, who was still farming with big mules and Percheron draught horses. I don’t know why Uncle Oak let me hang around so much – perhaps he found it amusing. I “helped” with everything from setting fence and clearing brush to milking cows, but the highlights for me were haying with the horses or mules and hauling livestock in his truck to and from the sale barn in Moundsville twenty-five miles away. When working with mules (especially) and on sale barn days, I learned a lot of facts of life and some colorful profanity that I would find useful later on in life. For example, when Aunt Gay was around, the mules were called Jim and Joe, but they had unmentionable names when she wasn’t in earshot: Git up @#$%^!!! Git over there &*()–+%^!!! Whether Uncle Oak did that intentionally for my benefit, I’ll never know.
Oak’s life (1900-1991) covered a lot of changes in the world. He was my favorite uncle and I still think often about him.