For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Bill Spencer was a gun dealer. He went to gun shows, had every kind of gun imaginable, and every accessory for them. Uncle Bill is a patriot, and he hated anything that remotely resembled an infringement on our Constitutional rights…especially the 2nd Amendment. Not only did he sell guns, but he talked to people about the importance of fighting for our Constitutional rights. That’s not surprising really, my dad, aunts, and uncles on both sides of my family, grew up in a time when America was strong and people understood what it took to keep it that way. Of course, there are still patriots today, but there are also far too many Americans who have forgotten the reason behind our freedoms. And that government should not be allowed to infringe upon those rights.
My Uncle Bill, and my dad, Allen Spencer, who was two years younger than his brother, were around guns and dynamite most of their lives. The dynamite shocked me when I first heard about it, but after they finished their story, it all made sense. For anyone who has ever tried to get rid of a tree stump, dynamite makes sense at some point. However, these boys were just a little bit crazy with their dynamite antics, from sinking the gate post while their mom was in town and then fixing it before she got home, to blowing up dynamite to celebrate the fourth of July, I don’t think their mom ever knew what to expect from them. Nevertheless, they were both safety conscious too…even as kids. They knew what could happen if you weren’t safe.
One time my dad heard that Uncle Bill was going to be in Rapid City for a gun show. Dad had been growing a beard for a centennial, and so didn’t look exactly like himself. We showed up at the gun show without telling him we were coming. Mom and Dad sent us girls ahead to just look around Uncle Bill’s table. Dad’s plan worked. When Uncle Bill finally realized who we were, he was both pleased and stunned. It was such a great prank to pull on him, and he was totally fooled. Then we had a wonderful visit with him afterward. Uncle Bill has always been so special to me, and I missed him a lot. I think we had a lot in common. Our interests run along the same lines, and that made our visits special, and our partings tough. I’m thankful that we still have Uncle Bill in our lives, but I wish we could see him more often. Today is Uncle Bill’s 94th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
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!!
For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Bill has been interested in guns. I’m certain that interest dates back to his childhood days. Being the oldest brother, and with his dad working on the railroad and away a lot, Uncle Bill helped provide for the family by hunting and fishing. Of course, many men, and women have an interest in guns, but few turn it into a career.
For many years, Uncle Bill traveled to gun show after gun show, sharing his interest with many people. I remember him telling me about one particular trip that found him driving around Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. For those who don’t recall, that fateful day was the day the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was sunk in Lake Superior during an early winter storm that produced near hurricane force winds. No one knows for sure exactly how the actual sinking occurred, but my uncle told me that it was a storm to remember, and one he very much wished he had not been out in. I suppose I can understand how he felt. A storm that was bad enough to sink a 729′ ship, must have been horrible to drive in.
Since my uncle had lived most of his life around Lake Superior, he knew what an early winter storm could mean. Lake Superior had taken down many a ship and she was ruthless when she got a ship in her clutches. He said he wondered about the ships that might be on the lake in such a storm, and he was not surprised to hear of the loss of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald, when the storm was over. Oddly, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was the only ship lost during one of the worst storms to ever hit Lake Superior, but that sinking was a permanent reminder of the perils of a life at sea.
Being a collector, Uncle Bill collected all the newspaper articles that came out about the tragedy. A year later Gordon Lightfoot came out with a song called “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and when I mentioned the song to Uncle Bill, he told me of his harrowing drive around the lake on that fateful day. Then he sent me all of the articles and such that he had saved. When I was done looking it all over, I told him I was ready to send it back, but he said to keep it. That’s how he was and still is. He wants to get history into the hands of those who are interested. Maybe we are alike, he and I, because I enjoy getting little bits of history into the hands of those who are interested too.