My Uncle’s House
A poignant story and memories of an uncle, particularly his love of the outdoors.
It’s a small faded blue doublewide with a screened-in front porch, and sits on 100 acres of Georgia pines on the side of Little Canoochee Creek Road near the small town of Twin City in southeast Georgia. The carport beside the home holds an old red Ford Ranger sporting a front license plate that says, “When Guns Are Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Have Guns.” A sign outside near the driveway reads, “Nothing past this sign is worth your life.”
The front yard is laced with tall trees, pine cones and a large pond to the left of the house. Two large dogs, Ruger and Jack, lie outside beside the porch. Inside the screened-in porch, there is one green plastic chair with a small cushion on it. My uncle always smoked his cigarettes right there. I got my UK Vape for that reason, believe.
The house has been in the Creech family for decades. It once housed my great uncle Eddie B and my great aunt Mary Ella. Eddie B died while I was young, but I remember always visiting Mary Ella when my family would make the four-hour drive down to south Georgia every few months. Mary Ella passed away years ago, and my Uncle Travis moved into the house to be within walking distance to his son Gene and his family (his old place, his father’s before his, is slowly crumbling on another part of the property).
Being a single man and having two grown children who are out of the house, Uncle Travis only had to please himself with decorations—and he did just that. In the living room, besides the flower-covered drapes left behind by my great aunt, the walls are decorated with deer heads (I’m told it’s one of the best collections in Emanuel County), a 12-lb. bass from nearby George L. Smith State Park, and framed pictures of deer, turkey, fish and family.
The living room furniture is straight out of the 70s and consists of two dingy yellow chairs on opposite walls and two recliners on the back wall facing the television. The dark red recliner was my uncle’s. It’s where he always sat when we came to visit. The table beside the red recliner holds a camouflage hat always filled with loose change, medicine bottles and pocket knives. I can still see him sitting in that recliner and hear his hard crackling laugh while he spit out jokes. He always called my sister and me “boys” and told my mom “you’re my favorite sister-in-law” even though she was his only one. Behind the two recliners are space heaters Uncle Travis always used in the winter. Years ago he got mad at the gas company when they went up on price and refused to use propane ever since. Beside my uncle’s recliner, there is a tall glass case that holds a collection of Creek Indian arrowheads, rattlesnake rattles and other various items my uncle found in the woods.
Uncle Travis had hundreds of stories that involved the outdoors—hunting was his greatest passion. He once wrote in a notebook, which was a compilation of hunting stories dating back to when he was young himself, “The woods are the only place I know the rules, and they never change.”
The stone fireplace in the living room is decorated with two century-old mantel clocks and picture frames of my late grandfather and my uncle’s two sons. The television set is always on and tuned to the Western Channel. Uncle Travis could recite just about any line from any John Wayne movie. He never owned a computer. Beside the TV, there are still a few children’s books my uncle would read to his youngest grandson, Hunter, who is just over a year old now.
The kitchen is small and consists of an oven, a microwave and a small white refrigerator. The refrigerator door is covered in pictures of my uncle’s grandkids, my senior picture and pizza take-out numbers. Uncle Travis loved to cook for all of us, especially during hunting seasons out under the carport in his dutch ovens. The outdated wooden table in the kitchen always held white bread and chips but rarely people. My uncle would most often eat in his recliner, especially the past few months when his health worsened.
The two guest bedrooms are small and sparsely decorated. While a musty smell always permeates the house, it can be considerably worse in these two rooms. The room my sister and I always slept in consists of one full-size box spring that we have to lay a blow up mattress atop to sleep on. Dozens of fishing poles line the walls. Uncle Travis called it the Bass Pro Shop room, complete with saltwater department. The second bedroom holds a full-size box spring with a queen-size mattress on top of it. My parents always slept in that room and would always complain the next morning about how uncomfortable and risky that bed is. If you lie too far to the right, the mattress slides off the bed, and so do you.
The centerpiece of the house is the living room wall covered with dozens of wooden picture frames. My uncle called this his “Wall of Fame.” Each picture frame tells a different hunting or fishing story involving someone significant to my uncle, whether his family or close friends. One picture frame shows my uncle as he gazed upon the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. His tall body, covered by a camouflage jacket and hat, seems small and insignificant in contrast to the massive peaks in front of him. Another shows my dad down on one knee holding up a turkey he had taken while hunting with Uncle Travis. My dad was my uncle’s only and younger brother, and there was nothing they enjoyed doing together more than chasing turkeys.
One picture on the wall in particular always sticks out to me. Inside the wooden frame is a picture of myself at just 11 years old, my hair back in a pony tail while being swallowed in a clearly oversized camouflage jacket, and my sister at 14, bleach blonde thick highlights covering her small head as she modeled pink and green braces. We are holding up a deer’s head I had just shot. I remember the day well. My uncle had taken my sister hunting behind the house that morning, and she shot her very first deer, a spike buck. Uncle Travis wanted me to go hunting with him that evening, and even though I was barely big enough to hold a rifle and was completely unsure about the whole hunting thing, my dad and I agreed. We went behind my uncle’s house to a 2-acre food plot bordering Little Canoochee Creek, which cuts through the middle of the property. Covered in camouflage from head to toe, Uncle Travis and I climbed up into the homemade enclosed tower stand, stamped with a spray painted “CREECH” on the front side. My uncle whispered tips to me about shooting the gun while I half listened and half wished I were still back at the house. After about an hour of sitting there, my uncle heard a noise. He turned to me with his long and lean face and gave me a sharp look. I saw a large buck cautiously walking out from the woods into the food plot. We silently waited for what seemed like an hour while my heart raced and my hands shook. My uncle slowly and quietly brought the Marlin .44 lever action up from the tree stand floor and placed it in my unstable hands. I looked down the barrel, and even though I had never shot the gun before, I aimed at the deer’s shoulder just like my uncle told me, and I pulled the trigger. The loud boom resounded through the forest, and I remember watching the deer run frantically back into the woods it had just come from. I looked over to my uncle thinking I had either missed or grazed the deer, but he looked back over with a huge smile that showed his several missing teeth.
“C’mon, lets go find him!” he said as he patted my back.
I am always drawn back to that moment when I see this picture, one of the rare moments in my life where I saw my uncle, ordinarily a stern and hard man, radiate pure joy and excitement.
My uncle died on Oct. 14, 2014. My family went down the following weekend for his funeral. We pulled onto Little Canoochee Creek Road and drove down the rocky road until we saw that small faded blue house on the left next to the pond. The pond’s water level was the lowest I had ever seen it—the wooden boat that my uncle and his son had shot at until it sank in the middle was visible from the road. Ruger came running up to my dad’s truck, tail wagging, while Jack stayed in the shadows as usual. The house looked the same, and the red Ford Ranger was still parked in the carport.
We opened the squeaky screen door on the porch and walked into the house. The musty smell was still in the air. The television was on. The red recliner sat in the room—empty. The camouflage hat next to the chair was still filled with change, medicine bottles, pocket knives and cigarettes as if someone was coming back to use them.
The little house was the same. It was as if time had stood still, and my uncle was still with us while we sat in the living room. His memory is imprinted into that red recliner, into the kitchen cooking us breakfast, into the front porch smoking a cigarette, and definitely into the woods behind the house doing what he loved the most, hunting. I don’t know how long the house will stay exactly the same way my uncle left it.
I have a feeling, however, the house will continue to be stuck in its ways—just like my uncle.
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