Yes, I had an Uncle Snook. That was his actual name.
My dad had seven brothers and two sisters. They grew up in a Newfoundland outport. Abraham and Sarah died in infancy, so I never knew them. Dad was number three son and Snook was number five. It was also obvious that he had great respect and admiration for my father.
I recall Dad telling the story of how difficult it was to keep Uncle Snook in school. His parents managed to keep him there until grade four but that was it. He needed to get to work. My father had set the bar high by making it to grade six but, apparently, Uncle Snook didn’t feel the need to meet that challenge. Dad would often say, “The only reason you would bother to go to high school was to become a minister or a teacher, and that wasn’t going to happen.”
I don’t know how old I was when I first noticed how big Uncle Snook’s forearms were. He wasn’t a tall man but his forearms were like Popeye’s. They were so disproportional to the rest of his body. This was explained by the fact that he was a ship’s rigger. He would be responsible for laying out, splicing and arranging a vessel’s lines and cables. So much of that work was done by using the forearms.
Uncle Snook lived across the harbour from Halifax, Nova Scotia. I was often in Halifax on weekends and in the summer, training with the Naval Reserve. If I didn’t visit Snook, I would at least call him.
Before I left the ship to visit him the conversation would go something like this:
One of my shipmates would say, “Where are you off to?”
“I’m going to visit my Uncle Snook.”
“You have an Uncle Snook?”
“Yeah. He’s a younger brother to my dad.”
“What’s his real name?”
“That is his real name.”
“His real name is Snook?”
“Yup. That’s his real name.”
“What’s his middle name?”
“He doesn’t have one.”
“Are you serious? His actual name is Snook and he has no middle name?”
“Why would your grandparents call him Snook?”
“He was probably named after one of my grandfather’s brothers.”
“So, your Uncle Snook had an Uncle Snook?”
That’s where the conversation usually ended.
I am sorry to admit it but there were times when I would simply answer the initial question by saying, “I am off to visit my uncle.” By not mentioning his name the conversations were shorter. I feel bad about that now.
Before I posted this I did a Google search for, “Snook Caines”. The first image that turned up was that of his and Aunt Jane’s grave marker – go figure. When I looked at the dates I was reminded that he died two weeks after my father.
How I miss the stories.
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