Monday, July 6, 2009

The Mail Order Brides

Since this story is about my Uncle Dude, I think it is only fair to tell a little something about his life.

Uncle Dude was born Duvernia Keele in Belton, Texas in about 1896. He did not have a middle name so he had to make the best of the name his parents had unfortunately given him. He was my grandmother’s younger brother and the middle child of seven kids. He had the mumps when he was a child and they left him unable to have children. He was, without a doubt, my favorite uncle when I was growing up. He loved kids and was always handing me money to buy a coke or a candy bar. It was never much, maybe a dime or quarter, but back then you could buy a coke and candy bar for a dime. Uncle Dude was not rich but he always had a pocket full of money. He smoked these little roll-your-own cigarettes, and I can see him now sprinkling a little Prince Albert tobacco in the paper, rolling it and then licking it to get it to hold. I can still remember his scent, a combination of Prince Albert and tobacco smoke. Uncle Dude was always a neat and clean guy. He was always laughing and joking all of the kids. I never saw him in a bad mood. But the thing I remember most about him is that he always had time for me. So, I spent a lot of time with Uncle Dude when I was a kid.

Uncle Dude was married twice during his life, both mail order brides, and he was on his way to marry his third mail order bride when he had a wreck that ultimately ended his life. His first mail order bride was Minnie. I guess Uncle Dude was having a difficult time finding a wife so he decided to join what they called then ‘the lonely hearts club.” Now, this was in the 1920s. There was no such thing as the internet, and telephones were rare. So the only way two people, looking for love and companionship, could get to know each other was by writing letters to each other. So Uncle Dude and Minnie wrote letters to each other and exchanged pictures, at least that was the way it was supposed to work.

They agreed through mail that uncle Dude would travel to where Minnie lived, and they would tie the knot. Uncle Dude was very excited because the picture Minnie sent of herself was that of a very attractive young woman. When Uncle Dude arrived at Minnie’s, however, an old lady answered the door. Uncle Dude thought it was Minnie’s mother or grandmother. At first she said Minnie was her friend and that she was not there at that moments and that she would be there later. She finally confessed, though, that she indeed was Minnie. She said she sent a picture of someone else because she knew if she sent a picture of herself that he wouldn’t come. So, for unknown reasons, Uncle Dude married her. When he brought her to meet his family, they could not believe their eyes. They said that she looked like she could be his grandmother. They said she had skin that looked like rawhide, and the texture of her skin was like sandpaper. Minnie apparently did not possess feminine qualities. My grandmother got Uncle Dude off to one side and said, “Dude, what have you done?” He explained to my grandmother that he felt so sorry for her and felt like he could not go back on his word, since he had promised to marry her.

Minnie and Uncle Dude were married for several years. I’m not sure how many years they were married, but I do know that Minnie made a very good wife, and Uncle Dude’s family became very fond of Minnie. I don’t think she was that much older than Uncle Dude. She just looked a lot older. She lived to be almost a 100 years old and remained in touch with Dude’s family even after Uncle Duded died.

His second mail order bride was Aunt Nancy. She was an attractive and classy lady, and I have very fond memories of the time I spent with Uncle Dude and Aunt Nancy. Aunt Nancy had two grown children and several grandkids from her first marriage. I never did know what happened to her first husband. Uncle Dude and Aunt Nancy were probably married for twenty years, or so, and she started to lose her mind. Uncle Dude was always a little selfish and spoiled, so he decided it was time to move on. I won’t blame Uncle Dude totally for the demise of their marriage because Aunt Nancy had a terrible temper.

So, Uncle Dude moved back to Menard. It wasn’t no time until he became restless. He informed us that he had joined the “Lonely Hearts Club” and was writing a lady in Tennessee. In spite of our efforts to stop him, he loaded his 1960 Chevy with all of his belongings and several thousand dollars and headed to Tennessee to marry that woman. Uncle Dude was not your typical older driver. He typically drove eighty miles per hour wherever he went. He made it as far as Memphis, Tennessee before he got lost and made a U-turn in front of an eighteen-wheeler. The wreck totaled his car and scatters his life savings all over the road. By the time he came to, all of his money was gone. They thought he was going to be alright, but he died in his sleep a couple of days later. He never reached his mail order bride. They shipped him back to Texas, and we had to pay for his funeral. Uncle Dude was the first death in the family of someone who had helped raise me, and I still remember the hurt I felt. He died trying to fulfill his dream of finding that perfect mail order bride.

1 comment:

  1. John, You are a great storyteller! And I didn't even know you had a blog. Thanks for sharing.