My uncle Tom was a family doctor in Rockingham, North Carolina.
Bald, with wire framed glasses and a wry smile, he had a joke
for every occasion and the driest sense of humor I have ever known.
Once my mother went to visit her brother Tom soon after
he returned from the war. She waved and waved and called to him
from the bus window as they pulled in. “Hi Tom!” she cried.
“I never forget a face,” he replied.
Uncle Tom used to tell a story about being invited to go
on a racoon hunt with some of his patients. He worked long hours,
but raccoon hunting is mostly done at night. It doesn’t interfere
with your day job. On my uncle’s first hunt the hounds had treed
a raccoon and were baying to beat all, but nobody went after them.
Everybody just stood around the campfire laughing and telling stories
and listening to the dogs—the males calling out in a low, throaty bugle
and the females a note higher, the sound rolling through the pine trees
and out across the river. My uncle was confused and a little impatient
with it all—he was a get it done kind of guy and it was well after midnight.
“Shouldn’t we go after them?” he said. His friends just laughed.
“That ain’t coon hunting,” they said.