On Friday, my family said goodbye to my uncle Evert. He had been in ill health for some time, having battled cancer and the side effects from his treatments for years.
I have fond memories of uncle Evert from my younger days. When I was a child, Evert and my aunt Frankie lived in the Texas panhandle city of Wheeler, a six hour drive from where we lived. On several occasions, my family made the long drive to Wheeler to drop me off and let me spend a week or two with Frankie and Evert. I remember that it was always fun at their house – their boys were grown and out of the house, but they had left behind a couple of metal ammo cases full of plastic army men, and I would spend hours creating elaborate battle scenes in the middle of the floor.
But for me the real excitement came when we went to Evert’s work site. He worked in the oil fields at the time, which means that he was usually living on-site at a drilling well. On my first trip there, I was given my own kid-sided hard hat just like the other “roughnecks”, and had seemingly unrestricted access to the oil rig. Most of these rigs would have an open-topped elevator device that could ferry passengers from the ground upward at a 45 degree angle to the raised deck of the oil rig. Even better, there was an emergency slide that one could ride from this deck back to the ground. I must have put hundreds of miles on those poor elevators, riding up and then sliding down. Uncle Evert was always watching, making sure I didn’t get into any real trouble. Most other parents (me included) would probably not allow a kid to do this, but Evert was very calm, patient, and laid back, and believed in letting a kid be a kid.
I remember the old 4-door Chevy – I think it was a ’56 – that Evert had. It wasn’t his daily driver, so riding in this beast was a rare treat. I remember riding around the streets (both of them) in Wheeler, Texas with the windows down (the “air conditioner”) with Evert at the wheel. I knew that a trip in the Chevy would often end in a stop for ice cream, which would usually get dripped on the seat on the way home.
At the time of his passing, I had not seen Evert in several years. I’m saddened to admit that I let life get in the way of visiting him in spite of the fond memories I have with him. He was a good man who helped to shape me in my younger years, and I’ll always remember with fondness and appreciation the time we spent together.