Dirt Poor Mohawk

As a child, my Uncle Emo was the only person in my narrow world who dared to be different. He was authentically oblivious to how others viewed him.

In 1954, Emo was 17 years old and I was 6. I was told by my mother I would be joining my grandparents, Pearl and Bully, on a road trip to pick up Emo from camp at the opposite end of our state. My great aunts, Audrey and Evil Jessie, also came along. We piled into Bully's old Chevy, with Bully himself at the wheel. He didn't believe that rules of the road applied to him, including speed limits, red lights, or any other restrictions for that matter. I sat sandwiched in the back seat with Pearl on one side, Evil Jessie on the other, and Audrey next to her. As a treat, Pearl handed out tomatoes. I bit into my small ripe tomato, the juice of which ran like a red river down my chin, creating havoc with my freshly ironed favorite yellow sundress. I waited for that tomato to taste like a treat but it never did.

After a long day of Bully's driving antics, we stopped for the night at a precursor of the modern day motel. It was a nasty, joyless, no-frills, one-room roadside cabin. There was a pot to piss in under the bed and nearby woods for other business.

The next day when we arrived at the camp, we spotted Emo dressed like an Native American Indian, sporting an audacious mohawk haircut. We all stood there frozen and speechless. Finally, Evil Jessie said "Well, I swan'."

Stunned, I remember absolutely nothing of the ride home. As young as I was I knew this look was not going to be well received in our small southern town, but Emo didn't care in the least. Later in life I recognized Uncle Emo for the beacon of hope he was for me. Being raised in the restrictive mindset prevalent of our town and time, he unknowingly provided me permission to roam free in the safety of my imagination. Uncle Emo showed me it was possible, it was all possible.