Long before our nation would find itself fighting to keep the right to bear arms, and long before people felt a serious need to teach their kids about guns at an early age, my Uncle Jim Wolfe was teaching his then two year old daughter, my cousin Shirley how to handle a gun. Much of her memory of that early time came from pictures of the process, but sadly those pictures were lost in a fire, and so live only in Shirley’s memory now. She remembers the picture showing a two year old Shirley standing in front of her dad, who squatted down to better match her size, and he was helping her hold the gun. I’m sure he began teaching her to shoot it then or very shortly thereafter, because from her earliest memory clear through adulthood, she remembers guns being a part of her life. By the time Shirley was old enough to hunt, she was an excellent shot, and the two of them very much enjoyed hunting together.
Hunting was not the only sport they enjoyed together though. Uncle Jim loved to fish, and taught Shirley to fish, build a campfire, and keep it going. Cooking those fish was a skill learned from her mother, however. Aunt Ruth had a way of cooking fish that was a family favorite, and if you wanted the whole family to like the fish, that was how you cooked them.
Shirley tells me that her dad taught her how to ride a horse, which surprised me a little, because her mom was an excellent horsewoman, who had even raced some. The she said that her mom helped with that, and it all made sense. If Shirley is anything like me, and most kids for that matter, she tended to learn easier from one parent than from the other. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love them the same, but your learning style just seems to fit better with one than it does the other. As for Shirley, she got the best training that both could give and ended up being a pretty good horsewoman herself.
Uncle Jim and Shirley were in many ways, inseparable. She would do whatever he was doing, just to spend more time with her dad. That is the way many girls are…daddy’s girls, and since I was much the same myself, I can totally understand. They worked on cars together, much like my daughter, Amy Royce, but the big difference there is that Shirley really got into it and loved doing it, while Amy just loved to watch her daddy.
Uncle Jim told Shirley that he knew the girl he would marry, long before he met her, because he kept dreaming of her. He just couldn’t see her face. When he came home from the war, he went to Twin Falls, Idaho, because he knew some people there. It so happened that the people he knew were Aunt Ruth’s cousins, who introduced them. He recognized Aunt Ruth before she even turned around. She was the woman in his dreams. It was love at first sight, and the rest is history. They were married for 46½ years before she passed away. Their love was meant to be.
Uncle Jim taught Shirley to dance by letting her stand on his feet, something I remember doing with my dad, although not to learn to dance. For Shirley though, the love of dancing continued all her life. She even danced on his feet while he was dancing with her mom…now that is a sight I would like to have seen. Shirley’s memories of her dad could go on and on, because they are far too numerous to name here, but suffice it to say that he was in every way, her hero. He made her life and the lives of the family, mine included, loads of fun. As his life wound down, I know it was hard for Shirley to see him in the weakened, forgetful state he was in, but she can always take comfort in the fact that his was a life well lived, and he is now in Heaven dancing with the girl of his dreams again…but waiting for that little one who likes to dance on his feet.