Remembering the summer of 1963

By Bill Hodges

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Empire Tribune, Stephenville, Texas

In the study of physics, there are vectors. A vector is a force with direction. Part of the aging process is reflecting on the “vectors” that have occurred in your life. Most vectors in life are events or people, sometimes both. One of the biggest vectors in my life is Bob Jamison, my mother’s youngest brother. He is a lifelong resident of Dayton, Texas, and a banker by trade. But his passion is the outdoors.
I grew up in Edna, on the Gulf coast about 3 hours west of Dayton, but we visited our grandparents, and Uncle Bob, frequently.

From earliest memories, I wanted to be around him, because he did the things I wanted to do. In the community of Dayton, he was recognized as funny, witty, and popular―with a Pied Piper quality. He was the same with his nephews. We hunted, fished, trapped, and flew in his airplane, a two seated Piper Cub. I couldn’t get enough time with him no matter how much I got or what we did. I suspect he realized that our passions were similar but another factor was age―he was only 18 when I was born.

My uncle’s shooting skills are legendary. He started at such a young age that he had to ask the family cook, Beatrice, to cock his BB gun for him. Once, when he ran out of BBs, he dropped a straight pin down the barrel and shot a sparrow in the head. In the army, he scored Expert in his first qualifying attempt.

The biggest dose of my uncle came for me in the summer of 1963. We had moved to Plainview which is just north of Lubbock. My mother needed extra courses for her Master’s Degree at the University of Houston, so we stayed the entire summer at my grandparents in Dayton. Uncle Bob picked me up every single day after work, as well as the weekends, for the whole summer. It was the best summer of my life.

Sometimes, we would go to the bay to shrimp. We would drag our net for a while, then haul it in and sort the catch. He once asked me: “do you realize that if we kept choosing the largest shrimp, we’d take ‘em all?” I still smile about that.
On another occasion, our cooler leaked, leaving us with no water after hunting all day. I’m certain we were dying of thirst. Uncle Bob found some cattle tracks that were full after a recent rain. He said: “I will if you will”. So we did. After we drained the tracks of their contents, he told me: “I’m pretty sure yours wasn’t water”. That one still gets a belly laugh.

He also taught. I used his .22 to shoot rabbits. After a few were dispatched, he taught me a critical lesson by saying: “anybody can kill ‘em, when are you going to learn to shoot better?” After that, I shot cottontails through the ear just to mark them. The rabbits lived, and I still shoot better today.

My uncle also showed me aspects of life that I would, otherwise, have never known. He had many friends with whom we shared time. I painted duck blinds with Stuart Roosa, who would later fly to the moon with Alan Shepard on Apollo 14. I have visited with Charlie Duke, an Apollo 16 moon walker, and Hank Hartsfield, who flew on Skylab and the Space Shuttle.

Uncle Bob has always been devoted to his family. Once, stationed at S.H.A.P.E. headquarters in France in the 1950s, he had tickets to an event thrown by Ambassador Perle Mesta. Today, that would be like being invited to the White House. He didn’t go. Instead, he spent that weekend, at his mother’s request, traveling alone across Europe to take pictures of the grave of another Dayton man killed in WW II. The man’s mother had never seen her son’s grave. Actions always reveal character.

Today, my uncle is in the fight of his life, for his life. No matter the outcome, nothing diminishes him to me―not age or disease. He has made me feel like I am his favorite, and I know that he is mine. He taught me that love is spelled T-I-M-E.

Rudyard Kipling once said: “…all men should count with you, but none too much.”

As to the latter, with Bob Jamison, I am a failure.

Bill Hodges is a retired physician who lives in Morgan Mill with his wife of 40 years. He is also a member of the E-T's community columnists. 


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