Uncle Toby's Temper

Uncle Toby learned the hard way that losing his temper could lead to disaster.

| February/March 1993

Or, how to disassemble your car...in minutes. 

Farmers tend to be easygoing, but once in his life-long age, my uncle lost his temper. I learned the details when I was 12, helping him work on the pump inside the tiny stone well house on his farm. I held the flashlight as he pushed on an old pipe wrench, straining to loosen a union on a rusted steel pipe. Without any warning, the wrench slipped, raking his hand across the craggy stone. Even in the dim light, the damage looked spectacular. "Outside," he gasped.

Uncle Toby held his bleeding knuckles to his chest until he burst forth into daylight. And then he spun gracefully, as if waltzing with his own arm, eyes squeezed shut and lower lip trapped by his teeth.

I had a question. "Gee, Uncle Toby, didn't that hurt?"

"Yup," he admitted. He pulled the dinged fist out of his armpit and took a peek. It looked like raw brains. "Go in the house and get—yeeouch—some— iodine."

I brought back a large bottle. He crouched, slowly dribbling the orange liquid over the open wound. Suddenly he breathed a frying sound, like bacon on a skillet, and leaped straight up to an altitude of two-and-a-half feet. If he had waltzed before the application of iodine, over the next few minutes he invented break dancing.

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