Uncle Claude has no luck

By Bob Huber: CNJ columnist

I had an uncle, a farmer hounded by failure. When I was a kid in high top shoes and bib overalls, he tried to buy a one-way ticket to that Great Cornfield in the Sky and, true to form, failed.

It was Great Depression time and Uncle Claude’s luck was more disheartening than a Republican running for office. He was thousands in debt, drank too much, and his wife Buela was pregnant.

To avoid the bottomless pit that was his life, he decided to die and make it look like an accident for his family to collect double indemnity on his life insurance.

However, Uncle Claude knew what he couldn’t do. Being nonviolent as well as unlucky, he ruled out guns. He was fearful that he’d only shoot himself in the foot. He wasn’t that desperate, yet.

He thought about drowning himself, but the creek in my hometown was only 2 feet deep, and he was a good swimmer. He might have tried sleeping pills but they were years in the future.

So he plotted to drive his car off the top of Mount Zion, a barren, rocky crag that rose more than 1,000 feet straight up.
There was a narrow roadway going up, wide enough for a skinny donkey, twisting back and forth like a bony snake. Uncle Claude’s plan was to drive off the mountain in his Model A pickup truck, in an accident so horrendous that his insurance company will pay double indemnity before they picked up his pieces.

One night, he drove up there. With his engine running, he sat working up enough nerve to drive over the edge and thinking of the reasons why he should go on.

Then he ran out of gas.

So he got out of the truck and pushed, leaping inside as the truck dropped over the edge. His bad luck held; the truck went without him.

Uncle Claude had to walk that switch-back road all the way down the mountain. He found his truck sitting unscathed on the front lawn of the local funeral home.

It had sailed over cliffs, around rocks and through gullies, and finally came to rest where Uncle Claude wanted to be in the first place.

He went into Plan B.

Although he’d never fired it, he kept an ancient shotgun in the barn to threaten hay haulers. He told Aunt Buela he was going hunting and, if she heard a shot, not to fret. She shrugged and went on pruning the elm trees.

It was an integral part of Plan C to make it appear he’d become snagged in a barbed wire fence and accidentally shot himself. However, he miscalculated the dependability of ancient shotguns. By the time he staggered home late in the day, his clothes were in tatters and he had blistered fingers from trying to fire the weapon, which refused to go off.

Uncle Claude wasn’t a quitter.

World War II came along about that time. He enlisted in the Marines because they had the most casualties. But all that happened was, he caused planes to crash for no reason, ships sank mysteriously, and troops landed on wrong beaches. It was easy to follow his trail by failed campaigns.

Which goes to show how a little failure can succeed in a war.

Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. His phone number is 356-3674.