As kids growing up, my sisters and I were subjected to many stories, view, songs, and events that centered around the Old West. When I say subjected, I don’t mean that we hated every minute of I, because we didn’t. We lived in Wyoming, and therefore we embraced the Old West. I can’t say that my sisters and I always liked all things western, because that would be false too. We all went through our Rock and Roll era, and during that time, we pretty much hated Country music, although shows like Bonanza, the Rifleman, Wagon Train, and The Virginian…just to name a few, were among our favorites, and we each had our favorite actors, and we were going to “marry” them. I know, silly…right?
Back then, the Old West was still considered something that people were proud to know about, or even to know people who lived those times. It was the times that our grandparents grew up in, and that made it even more cool. I don’t suppose that the kids of today look back on the Old West or even the 1950s, 1960s, or 1970s, as being cool, because those times were before personal computers and cell phones, so I’m sure it seemed like the dark ages to the kids of today. Those years were probably best known for protests…unless you compare that era to today’s, when everyone is so offended by everything. Even when I look back on my childhood years, I can’t say that I think we as a generation did anything so amazing…at least not until we grew up, because of course, it is our generation that invented the computer and cell phone. Nevertheless, it was a vastly different era that the Old West…or maybe that’s just my opinion.
While we were little, many of the cities and states were celebrating their centennial years, and it was a big deal!! Contests were held to see who could grow the best beard, and I’m sure who had the best Old Western costume. My Dad, Allen Spencer, decided to grow a beard for the competition. I don’t know if he won or not, or even if he entered any contest at all, but he got in on the festivities…as did Dad’s girls. We each had a long dress, much like the women of the Old West wore, and our parents took pictures to document the events. It was a great time, and they made sure that they had plenty of pictures of it.
These days, you seldom hear of such events. I don’t know if states or cities are just not at the right point, or if many people have just lost interest, or what has happened exactly, but you don’t see these things happening. I find that sad, because our family found it to be very fun and interesting. Of course, there are still reinactments of old western robberies, the pony express, and wagons west trips, and I think those would be fun, but for some reason that centennial just seemed different…more interesting somehow…like we were a real pioneer family.
When brothers don’t live in the same town, and in fact live miles from each other, it is easy to find that your brother has changed so much that you don’t recognize him. Such was the case for my Uncle Bill Spencer, and my dad one time when I was a little girl of about eight years. Of course, under normal circumstances, Uncle Bill would have recognized his brother…even if it had been a few years since he saw him last, but my dad had a couple of secret weapons up his sleeve. Dad had grown a beard, which is something he never wore, but this was a special occasion…a centennial celebration, and contest. Since Uncle Bill had not seen him with a beard much, he was at a distinct disadvantage.
Another reason that my dad was able to pull one over on his brother is that Uncle Bill was a gun dealer at a gun show, and he never expected his brother to show up there. When we arrived, there were a lot of people milling around. While we stayed out of sight, but where we could watch, Dad went over and started looking casually at some of the guns Uncle Bill had. Uncle Bill was used to letting people take their time, and was waiting to see if anyone had any questions. He simply wasn’t expecting his brother to show up at the gun show, and so he actually looked right through him, paying no more attention to him that he was to anyone else. When Dad finally asked him a question, it still took a moment for him to connect that this was his brother, because Dad did not look like himself.
I’m sure that Uncle Bill was shocked to find that not only was his brother at his gun show, but he had successfully pulled one over on him. The brothers were always joking around, and to be so successful as Dad was in fooling his brother was the ultimate prank in a long line of good natured spoofs that the brothers had played on each other over the years. I can’t say that Uncle Bill never pull a better prank on my dad, because it is entirely possible, but this particular prank was one that was not forgotten, and was probably ranked up there as one of Dad’s best pranks.
This past summer, my mom, sister, Cheryl, and I had the chance to go to Wisconsin and visit Uncle Bill in the nursing home where he lives since Alzheimer’s Disease made it impossible for him to live alone. Because it had been nine years since we last saw him, the memory loss from Alzheimer’s Disease was quite pronounced for us…even though it had actually progressed at a normal pace. We were pleased that while he did not recognize us for ourselves, he did know who we were once we told him that we were his brother’s family. As is common with Alzheimer’s Disease, the patient has good days and bad days. These good days are days when their memory is better than other days. We were so blessed in that while most of the conversation centered around the past, Uncle Bill was able to remember and relate much of it to us. It was sad to leave him, because we don’t know if we will see him again in this life or not, but knowing what I do of Alzheimer’s Disease, I know that as quickly as we left, he had forgotten that we were ever there…a blessing in some ways. He didn’t have to feel the sadness of parting that we did. He didn’t even remember that we had been there, but that’s ok, because we knew that we had been there, and he enjoyed the visit while it was taking place. Today is Uncle Bill’s 93rd birthday…an amazing accomplishment for him. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a wonderful day!! We love you very much!!