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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)

TITLE: Uncle John and Aunt Mary Come to Stay
By Sherry A. Jackman


Chicken eggs hatching in an incubator in the garage to our apartment where we werenít even allowed a pet? What would our landlords, Jim and Norma, think? Uncle John put my husband and me in charge of his incubator of chicken eggs while he and Aunt Mary were moving to their acreage on Chena Hot Springs Road, 20 miles outside of Fairbanks. They had come to visit us in Fairbanks in 1972, liked the area, hit it off with our landlords, and got bitten by the Alaskan adventure bug. This was during the height of Pipeline Construction, jobs were plentiful, and it was an exciting place to be.

We tended the incubator and hoped our landlords didnít object. Everett had used incubators on his grandparentsí turkey farm in the 50s and knew what to do with any malformed chicks that hatched: flush them down the toilet and move on. Since our landlords had bonded with Uncle John and Aunt Mary, we were allowed to keep our apartment until Everettís job took him to Fort Yukon in October 1972.

Since the Chena Hot Springs Road undeveloped subdivision where John and Mary bought a 2 Ĺ acre wooded lot, had other lots available, we threw caution to the wind and bought the lot next door, not realizing how difficult it was going to get. The area was 20 miles from Fairbanks in which about 20 lots had been subdivided from an original homestead. Thus, it offered no service areas for road maintenance or utilities and had only a volunteer fire department. This gave us a lot of disadvantages of country living and not many advantages, with many neighbors nearby. Telephone wires were not pre-installed and the wait time for a 4 party phone line was 10 months or more.

John built a cabin, chicken house, installed a saw-mill on their land, and we put a small used house trailer on ours until we returned from Fort Yukon. John was a heavy equipment mechanic and owned his own bulldozer which he used to clear the trees for the buildings and plowed snow from the road in winter. John got a job repairing school buses and took eggs to town to sell and give Mary a small income.

In 1974, my parents came up and joined me on our property, because I was pregnant and there was no hospital near Fort Yukon, where Everett stayed until he got transferred back to Fairbanks. My dad built a garage around his motor home and I stayed in our house trailer. Dad found a job with a pipeline construction company. During Everettís vacation, we built an enclosure for the trailer.

Uncle John was an excellent mechanic and good with clearing land, but failed at wife tending. Even though he worked in Fairbanks, he would often balk at picking up small items, such as bread and milk, on his way home from work. Since my dad and I shared rides to our jobs in Fairbanks, we felt obligated to shop for Aunt Mary on the way home. Sometimes she would be out of egg money and have to write a check for one loaf of bread or a gallon of milk.

Everett got transferred back to Fairbanks five days before the stork brought our twins. Aunt Mary helped my mom babysit them on laundry days in Fairbanks. When Mom and Dad went to Detroit to buy a new truck in 1975, Aunt Mary babysat the twins. While the folks were gone, I heard that a close friend of mine from Fort Yukon was coming to town and wanted Everett and me to stay in town and have dinner with her. This meant Aunt Mary would have to take care of the twins for longer than usual.

I arranged for Aunt Mary to watch them for enough time for us to stay in town and have dinner with our friend. Since my friend had a heart attack and died a month later, this was the last time I ever saw. This sacrifice on my Auntís part was a tremendous blessing for which I thanked her repeatedly.

Mary and John returned to Missouri in early 1976, John died a few years later, and Mary now lives in Florida near her children. She is 83 and so ill I canít really talk to her on the phone, because she barely knows my mom when she calls. She was one of my favorite aunts, whom I miss very much.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Dee Yoder 04/24/08
You shared some loving memories of your aunt and uncle and what they meant to you while you were growing up close to them. Thanks for sharing these special moments!