My mother would weed in the garden and my uncle Jack would stand on the pavement. For him it was an old habit, because the communists in Eastern Europe didn’t have the Geneva Convention: They would hide their landmines.
When Uncle Jack took me fishing we always set down our gear left to right, neatly lined up. Like the parts of a stripped down rifle, he said, and always be able to find your clothes in the dark. Maybe he was just trying to make life easier for my mother, but I didn’t think of that then. One day we were fishing in the rain, talking in low voices, and he told me a bout the Geneva conventions for land mines. He said, “You’ve seen the TV shows where the police tape says do not cross?
“Well, every minefield is to be taped off, with strong white canvas mine tape.”
But then the bad guys know where they are.
That’s OK, mines never stopped anybody, they are only for slowing people down. You tape off the field. Do you know how you safely dig your mines back up again?”
My face froze with concentration. At last I said, “I don’t know.”
Easy. You make a chart, like a treasure map.
Wow, indeed. You start with a boulder, or a tree, something that won’t move. Then you pace off and every few paces you plant a mine. And you do this in rows, all paced off. It’s real easy to lift them up again…” Uncle was a long time tamping fresh tobacco into his pipe. At last he said, “The communists never made any charts. That’s why we all despise them… He sighed. “It’s always the young who make the worst communists.”
Years later I thought of Uncle Jack when Abdul down the road started acting weird. Jack used to say, “You never know when there’s an anarchist under the bed.” Another one of his saying that sounded like a joke until I grew up.
Years later, one day Mother said I had to be nice to Jack, go easy on him, because his old buddy had committed suicide. Jack remembered stuff I’ll never know.
Sean Crawford November 2016