Janis’ family, on her mother’s side, comes from Oxford, Mississippi. There is a world of difference between New Orleans and Oxford. That is one reason I enjoy our rare visits there. Not many of her relations are left in Oxford, only her Uncle Dick (but his real name is Pat) and two of his kids remain. Others are either deceased or scattered across the US.
Dick is an absolute pleasure to be around. He has an outgoing personality and was born with a smile on his lips and an interesting story ready to tell. I have figured out what makes his story-telling so funny. It is really quite simple: He enjoys telling them so much he is grinning and laughing the whole while he tells the tale.
Dick mostly built houses with a few commercial buildings thrown in for good measure. He is 90 now but still spry and still builds things, albeit mostly much smaller projects like remodeling jobs for one of his kid’s homes.
It seems to be a tradition in Oxford for Dick (and his dad before him) to take what I call “tours” and show guests around to see the “wonders” of Oxford, MS, which, in Dick’s case, were the houses he built, including for some rather famous Oxford residents.
We were stopped and admiring one of Dick’s buildings, and he pulled out his pouch of tobacco and took a pinch for himself and offered the pouch to me. I have smoked cigarettes and a few cigars in my distant past but had never tried chewing tobacco. So out of curiosity, I took the offered pouch and retrieved a pinch and popped it into my mouth.
What followed was not expected. About the time I got it all situated over on the side of my mouth, my taste buds suddenly discovered its foreign presence and screamed, “FIRE! FIRE! QUICK, WE NEED SPIT TO PUT IT OUT! LOTS OF SPIT! SPIT! STAT!”
My mouth immediately filled up with spit, like fire-hose-wide-open full of spit! Good thing we weren’t moving, because I couldn’t get the car door open quick enough to rid myself of it. My mouth was so full my cheeks looked like a chipmunk hoarding a year’s supply of nuts. By the time I got the door open, tobacco-brown spit was already oozing uncontrollably from the corners of my mouth with a volcano-like eruption imminent.
BLAH! But that didn’t end the fire response from my taste buds. They continued to call for more spit to squelch the flames.
After a few minutes of me violently clearing my mouth and with tobacco juice running down my chin, I turned to Dick, who, by the way, was laughing, and I said, “That is the last time I’ll do that.”
The pic above is of Uncle Dick taken only a few years ago.