Uncle Will, Wilburn, was a batchelor, which was a shame because he was better with kids than any of his brothers (and among them they had plenty). He took care of the farm for my grandparents. He had hound dogs: fox hounds and coon hounds, and he and his neighbors went out on clear fall nights and listened to the dogs run. They’d have a fire and tell lies and (I have reason to suspect) pass around a Mason jar. The only thing I knew him to bring back from one of those evenings was a fox kit in a burlap sack. He brought it into the living room and tipped it out onto the floor. It was small and scared and I wanted to make a pet of it. Uncle Will used his pen knife to cut a chew of tobacco off a plug and with the same knife whittled bits of twig to fit in spools for me to use as twirling tops or dolls. He died after he got caught in the rain riding my mare Gypsy to McEwen to be bred, and my grandmother blamed the horse, not being the sort to blame the child. During his wake the men sat out all night in folding chairs in the front yard and the women in the front room. It was all a quiet buzz. Upstairs, I couldn’t sleep. I’d look out the front window and watch the cigarettes flare and burn, go out, and start up again.

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