Anderson Family History

Uncle John Howe, Center, South Dakota


Uncle John Howe, Dad’s brother, stayed with us at Center, South Dakota most of the time while I was growing up. Uncle John was a carpenter, plasterer, bricklayer who worked for most of the neighbors for many miles around. His specialty was plastering and his reputation for honesty and the quality of his work were known far and wide.

A couple instances stand out in my mind relating to Uncle John. One was when I was around six, I would try to build things to play with out of wooden crates and whatever I could scavenge that appeared useful. I would usually ask if I could use one of his hammers, or a pliers, or whatever tool I might need for the project at hand. Because of my young age, I never would get permission to use his hand-saws, but whatever I needed sawed, he would help out and cut it for me.

This one particular instance, I was working at my latest project in a quite corner of the store, by the furnace and the folks and Uncle John were having a cup of coffee around the dining room table. I needed a small board cut, and not wanting to disturb anyone, I decided to try the saw myself. The hard part of sawing was getting the saw started into the wood. Kneeling on one end of the board, on a small bench, I steady the board with my left hand and with the right hand holding the saw I prepared to draw the teeth into the wood to get my cut started.

The saw chattered on the wood, slipped and came down on my left thumb just as I was making an imposing effort to commence sawing. The blade ripped through my thumb nail and went clear to the bone all the way to the first joint. I foolishly thought I could keep it a secret from the adults, knowing I had done wrong, so I grasped my left thumb tightly with my right hand and ran to the upstairs bedroom where I began crying with pain.

My parents knew something had happened and ran up the stairs to see what was wrong. By this time I was bleeding profusely and crying with pain and worrying about what punishment I had coming for using Uncle John’s saw.

First aid was rendered and my poor thumb had to be bandaged for many days, but I lived through it and still carry a heavy scar on my left thumb, a continuing reminder of using Uncle John’s tools without permission.

Another incident I’ll always remember about Uncle John occurred one winter day when I must have been about five. I had gotten a new sled for either Christmas or my birthday, and I was playing with it in the front yard. There was a slight ditch just north of the property that had a coat of ice over an area perhaps thirty feet long and two or three feet wide. I was pulling my sled around on the ice when Uncle John came by and wanted to show me the art of holding the sled while running and then doing a belly-flop onto the sled. The momentum from your approach run would propel you across the ice for quite a distance. Only this time there were extenuating circumstances Uncle John had not figured on. The problem was the ice. While thick enough to support me and my sled, it was not thick enough to support Uncle John doing a belly-flopper with my sled under him. The thin ice shattered, and the water underneath was only five or six inches deep. This caused Uncle John to sail along through water, slush and shattered ice for several yards. The thin slivers of ice at his face level left their mark. He had many cuts on his face and it took some time in the kitchen in front of the mirror using a styptic pencil to go over his scratches and cuts to stop the bleeding.

 By Merland D. Howe, 2000.



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