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September 22, 2009

Travels with Uncle Chet: Time of anger has returned

COLUMBUS _ The dogs stirred at the sound of a truck pulling down the driveway, and when Uncle Chet came in the back door, Della jumped up to greet him. ``Down!’’ I commanded.

``I’ll take care of her.’’ He knelt by the black Lab pup, encouraged her to sit and stroked her thick coat. He looked into her dark brown eyes. ``Are you housebroken yet?’’ ``Jury’s out on that,’’ I said. ``She hasn’t made a mistake in while, anyway.’’

``Good for you,’’ he said to the dog, then straightened up with a groan. ``I brought the wood splitter.’’

``OK. Want coffee first?’’

``Sure,’’ he said as Hon came downstairs.

``What’s this I hear about coffee?’’ ``I made a pot,’’ I said.

``I’ll take a cup,’’ she said. ``Any luck with the phone?’’ I asked.

``No. The only way to get the photos off it is to e-mail them, and that costs 75 cents apiece.’’

``Crooked soand- sos,’’ I said. ``They stick a digital camera on the cell phone, then they won’t let you upload photos to your computer.’’

``And we took all our beach photos with the cell phone,’’ she said. ``Let’s get a different phone,’’ I said.

``But what about these photos?’’ She showed me one of Buddy and me in a little boat, rowing out in Long Island Sound.

``We’ve got to have that one,’’ I said.

``Let me see that,’’ said Uncle Chet as we sat down for coffee. He scrolled through the photos, found several of us, him and Alice and the kids _ the little miscreant verging on 16 and her 8-year-old brother.

``You mean you can’t share these photos without paying, even though you bought the phone?’’ he said. ``I’ll try Google next,’’ she said.

``There are probably a million people with this problem. There must be some way around it.’’ Just then, a girl’s voice at the top of the stairs said, ``Ooohh, gross! Dad, the dog’s sick.’’

``Clean it up,’’ I said.

``No way.’’ She shrank at the thought.

``Looks like she’s doing a pretty good job herself,’’ said Uncle Chet. ``That’s disgusting!’’ the girl said.

``Dogs do that; that’s how they feed their young in the wild,’’ said Hon, going for a mop.

``This isn’t the wild,’’ said her daughter.

``Sometimes I wonder,’’ I said. ``You’re lucky this is happening now,’’ said Uncle Chet. ``Under Obama’s health plan, if that dog pukes next year, you’ll have to euthanize it.’’

``That’s not true,’’ his niece scolded.

``I heard it at a tea party,’’ he said. ``And that anyone over 80 with a medical problem is going to be put down, too.’’

``As long as it’s not anyone over 60.’’ I sipped coffee.

``You’re next,’’ he said. ``Your children are going to turn on you if they keep listening to the black president.’’

``Now that, I have heard, but not the black part,’’ I said.

``Do you think they hate him because he’s black, or because he’s standing up to the rich?’’ asked Hon.

``Both. The insurance tycoons and the drug tycoons are protecting their turf, and there’s plenty of racist stuff on the Internet,’’ said Uncle Chet. ``Isn’t that what this birther movement is all about? Aren’t they really saying, `he ain’t like you and me?’”

``Seems it,’’ I said.

``You have to remember how the old Confederacy, heart of the beast, became Republican,’’ said Uncle Chet. ``After the Democrats finally took up the civil-rights banner, in the ’60s, the racists had to switch parties. Before that, they called it the `Solid South’ because it was so reliable for Democrats, but then it flip-flopped.’’

``That was an angry time.’’ I rose to take out the dog, although she seemed fine now.

``It was,’’ said Uncle Chet, and brought his coffee to the door. ``Reminds me a lot of now.’’


Cooperstown News Bureau Reporter Tom Grace is traveling with his Uncle Chet, who he says is imaginary. Grace’s column appears every other week.