The Devil in Uncle Watt

Uncle Watt bit off the head of a big, fat, juicy green tobacco worm, peed on his deaf cousin, and poked mules in the ass with a sharp stick just to see ‘em kick. Oh, yes, he was full of the Devil. Yes, he was! So people said, and thus my efforts to untangle dead ancestors one from the other to find the truth lured me down into a genealogical exorcism.

“Oh my Lord, he done got the Devil in ‘im BAD,” Raffie, an ancient-looking man who said he used to work beside Uncle Watt on the farm once told me back when I was a young lad. “Yeah, Lord, I’m tellin’ ya, it’s BAD!” As late as July 2009, Helen, one of my beloved aunts and a Beatnik artist in her 80s, when reminded of Uncle Watt called him “quite a character.” And so I tumbled down the dumbwaiter chute of a family mystery. Who was this “Devil?”

My Dad told me stories. Raffie told me stories. Uncle Willy told me stories. Even Uncle Aumon who got peed on told me stories. Willy and Aumon were brothers, and as they were also my Dad’s uncles they were really my paternal great-uncles. All of them would shake their heads with bemused dismay and chuckle. They could laugh simply because Uncle Watt was dead. He died young and wasn’t around anymore to torment anyone with all his foolishness. I never got to meet him. Dad said, “Uncle Watt died before you were born, Son, long before you were born.” He didn’t remember what of, tho.

“You don’t remember what he died of?” I asked all eaten up bug-eyed in impatient dismay.

“No, I don’t recall anything,” Dad replied. “Wait. Something about his toe. His big toe, maybe? Hell, I don’t know. Can’t help ya there. Got work to do now. Don’t you?”

Turns out Uncle Watt died long before my Daddy was born, too, as in a little over two decades before Dad’s birth. The strangeness about Watt Bass includes those who told all those crazy wild tales about him spoke as if they were there running alongside him in the same window of time. Whenever I asked way back then how long ago did those events happen not one person seemed to know. Asking a few questions turned into an unexpected adventure in genealogy as I dove into the rabbit hole of fading memories, cryptic notes on faded paper, and incomplete information online.

He was a fun-loving guy who apparently was constantly pushing people’s buttons, telling jokes, and playing pranks like biting off the head of a giant caterpillar to pee all over Uncle Aumon, who was but a laddie-lad, too. He lived life on the wild side. Chased pretty girls but never married. Or so I was told. Which I found out was wrong, wrong, wrong as he certainly did marry. Unless I stumbled upon the tombstone of the wrong Uncle Watt. Turns out I didn’t as the correct tombstone was also the same shared with his now-deceased wife.

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