Heritage Profiles of Mountain People

Sinners and Saints

sinners and saints
See the gentleman sitting at the end of the couch-that’s was Pap’s Uncle Frank-my Great Uncle Frank. He died when I was in High School-but lately he’s been on my mind.

Depending on who you talked too-there would have been folks who liked him a lot and folks who didn’t care for him at all. He was what you might call an outlaw.

Frank served in World War II. As kids we were forever impressed he killed the Germans. We all told the tale of him fighting down a hundred machine guns at one time-and leaving the enemy in his wake. Looking back, I don’t ever remember Uncle Frank talking about the war-I think one of my cousins made the story up for the gospel and we all went along with it.

To say Frank had a drinking problem was an understatement. I believe all his brush ups with the law were caused by it.

One morning I was outside playing when a cousin ran up to Pap and Granny’s to tell me “the law is down at Papaw’s and they’re looking for Frank.” I chased him back at break neck speed. There leaned the officer against his parked car. As he stood by the line of mailboxes he said “I’ve got all day to wait.”

Where was Frank? As soon as he saw the law coming up the road, he went out the back door of Papaw and Mamaw’s house, up through the woods, down the bank and in the back door of my Uncle’s house. While the policeman stood his post, Frank sat on the couch and ate a sandwich.

Although they didn’t get him that day, there were other times when they did-like the night they busted in the doors of Papaw and Mamaw’s house.

Frank went back and fourth between Mamaw’s, she was his sister, and one of their other sisters who lived across the mountain in Pine Log. Sometimes on weekend mornings we’d wake to find him sitting on the front steps waiting for us to get up-waiting for Granny to cook him some breakfast.

After Mamaw died, Frank bought a trailer and put it in the pasture down the road. He entertained other outlaws-most harmless, and drank a lot till the end of his life. Not long after he moved into the trailer Paul was riding his bicycle up and down the road when Frank hollered out the door and told him if he’d go get him a jug of water from the old spring across the road he’d pay him a dollar. Being the little rat that he was and since he knew Frank couldn’t see him-Paul got the water out of the creek instead of going to the spring. A few day’s later Frank offered him another dollar for a jug of water-telling Paul-and “And this time don’t get it out of the creek-Go to the spring.” I guess Frank could tell taste the difference.

One Sunday night-Frank accidentally set fire to the trailer. While building a fire he got the gas and kerosene cans mixed up.

Once the trailer was engulfed he simply walked up the road to my Uncle’s, went in, and had a seat. You can imagine how he looked-how he smelled. They asked him “Frank what in the world happened to you?” He told them “oh I set the house on fire.”

When we arrived home from church-the blaze was huge-and the fire trucks hadn’t arrived yet. I was terrified he was still in there-Granny about had to slap me I got so worked up. Later that night, after the terror was over, and the fire was out, Frank spent the night with us-I’ll never forget the way Granny’s blue bathroom looked when he got done taking a shower let’s just say it was no longer blue.

Frank was good as gold to me, he served his country during a horrible war, he took Pap under his wing in Ohio and California, and yet somehow he was an outlaw too. That’s what I’ve been thinking about-how most of us to one degree or another are sinners and saints at the same time-just like Uncle Frank.



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  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    August 27, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Wonderful story Tipper and I agree with you 100%, we all have some sinner and some saint in us………….otherwise life would be soooo boring!

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    August 23, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Outstanding post and insightful comments. PTSD ….what a beast. It can and does devour many a good man — and women — and you better believe it has the possibiity of derailing veterans on this train of life. (And, I wouldn’t classify him as a black sheep – more of a “character.”)

  • Reply
    August 23, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    I had a fried like Uncle Frank. He always seemed to be in some kind of trouble but really was the sweetest person you could know. He never drug other people into his trouble, he was more of a danger to him self than others, lol.

  • Reply
    Paul Wilson
    August 22, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    Great post. Uncle Frank was a fascinating man for sure. If I could, I’d write the great American Novel about him. Did you know he was an engineer? Did you know that he would randomly go through long periods of sobriety? Sometimes as long as five years? He didn’t fight the Germans. He fought the Japanese in the Pacific Theater. He had a purple heart because he had fragments from a grenade in him. And no, I never heard him say a word about the war. His military pay bought all of the land that we Wilsons live on. Though it was wrong, all of his male grand nephews (including me) worshiped him because he was forever beating bigger, stronger men in fights, sometimes several of them at once. He seemed larger than life, like someone who made John Wayne’s characters look like whimps. Well, I guess I’ve rambled enough. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  • Reply
    August 22, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    What a great story and a colorful uncle. Sounded like life was never dull..xoxo

  • Reply
    August 22, 2010 at 6:22 am

    Your great uncle Frank must have been a remarkable man in more ways than one. My sinner and saint was my great grandfather Kyprianos. He used to smoke the nargile (hookah) and occasionally drink one glass too many in addition to eating too many sweets! Yet, he was a thin man and very fit for his age. He was always dressed in traditional clothes and at the age of 92 he’d ride a motorbike to get around. He had never been ill or been to a doctor. He was killed in an accident while riding his motorbike at the age of 98. Pity he didn’t live to be a hundred.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    August 22, 2010 at 5:42 am

    I had a great Uncle Frank…really…He was a teller of tall tales and mischeviouness
    but people wanted to be around him for a’spell, just to hear his tales of adventure…then they were glad to see him go on his merry way…LOL
    Sinners and Saints…must be a song in there somewhere…
    We all have sinner and saint in us..great post!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    August 21, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Sounds like your uncle Frank was a unique person. This was an entertaining story.

  • Reply
    Greta Koehl
    August 21, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Really enjoyed this – and, yes, there were lots of Uncle Franks in my family, too, especially on my Dad’s side.

  • Reply
    August 21, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Loved the story about Uncle Frank who, like many veterans, come home and try to drown those awful memories in drink. Who are we to condemn them. We never walked in their shoes.
    Thanks for sharing a thought-provoking story.

  • Reply
    August 21, 2010 at 7:22 am

    What a great story! Sounds like Uncle Frank lived a full life.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    August 21, 2010 at 12:50 am

    Great one, Tipper, and re: your last sentence – true, so true.

  • Reply
    Janet Pressley
    August 21, 2010 at 12:36 am

    Too bad granny had to slap somebody!!!

  • Reply
    Cheryl Soehl
    August 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    I am reminded of an Irish saying that drinking to excess is “a good man’s failing.” There are an awful lot of good men and women who succumb to it and we need to pay attention to their essential goodness when confronting their weakness to drink.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    August 20, 2010 at 6:54 pm

    Tipper (and all those who have commented)–Your Great Uncle Frank was a representative of what has often and rightly been called “the greatest generation.” We all have our dark sides and most families have one or more black sheep.
    What no one has mentioned is the terrible emotional toll war takes on soldiers, particularly if they see active combat. We have a pointy-headed psycholgist’s name for it today, “post-traumatic stress,” but it’s most certainly nothing new. Similarly, we now call certain types of dementia Alzheimer’s Disease, but it was around long before the name was. I remember a couple of old folks in my extended family who were simply described, lovingly, to the effect “she’s gone a bit quair in her old age.”
    On the flip side of things, I had a grand fishing buddy who saw combat duty in both World War II and the Korean War. The man, the late Frank Young, came home determined to wash those terrible membories from his soul. He did so by going fishing–something along the lines of 250 days a year for many years. He was a masterful fly fisherman, one of the two best it has ever been my privilege to know, and as someone who lost a corner of his soul to trout ages ago and who has written three books and hundreds of articles on the subject, I’ve known a bunch.
    Frank worked, and worked hard, but he would find an hour or two in early morning or late afternoon to fish. Better still, he did something which I may have mentioned to you before, but if so, it deserves recounting again. Every time Frank had an experience which touched him–maybe catching a big trout, seeing a particularly beautiful patch of cardinal flowers, watching a mother mink ferry her youngsters across a stream, or spotting a doe and her faw, he would pick up a pretty rock or two and put them in his creel.
    He took these home and placed them in a frame the size of a cement cinder building block. When it was full, he rearranged the rocks, leaving a few particularly attractive ones sticking out. He then filled the frame with cement, let it set, and removed the resultant block. That way, rock by rock, block by block, he built a house of precious memories. I challenge anyone to find a much finer example of mountain ingenuity.
    Frank was a Godly man, and a great fisher or men as well as trout. I cherish his memory, and he was one troubled soldier who came home and managed to be much more a saint than a sinner.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Tipper, I’ll bet that most of our family’s have at least ‘one black sheep ‘ in it… My Uncle Carl was so good me when I was little —but he caused my parents alot of distress since he also was an alcoholic. I didn’t know that about him until I was older… He was such a nice guy, you couldn’t get mad him… Talk about saint AND sinner…
    Great post.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Great post!!!
    My sinner and saint was Uncle Andy. He too fought the Germans and never talked about it. We got all the stories about his military bravery from Grandma.
    He was not in trouble with the law, but could have been. He operated just outside of it!!! Hunting and fishing out of season, getting more than the legal limit. You get the picture. He lived to hunt, fish and tell big tales. Plus his best friend was a preacher.
    We buried him last fall at age 88. His best friend preached his funeral–one of the best and funniest funerals I’ve ever heard. He told about all their adventures!!!!
    Somehow,I have raised a son just like him. Except he was born in the city and has taken to the W.Va country like a native!!!
    Thanks for bringing back the memories.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    August 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Indeed we are.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Its amazing how we all have similar relatives in our lives. I
    had an uncle Frank ( daddy’s younger brother ) who fought against the Germans in WW2 and your dad knew him. He drank too,
    maybe from the war he was in but
    folks liked him alot. He peddled
    apples and peaches in that old
    GMC truck all over the place and
    he was the best checker player
    ever. I remember playing set-back
    on our porch with him and he would
    get excited and slap a winning card down with that left hand to
    capture the deck. I was honored to
    be one of his pallbearers in the
    80’s. Thanks for bringing back the
    great memories…Ken

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    August 20, 2010 at 11:03 am

    tipper ; i had an uncle was called whitey, was nothing white about him ,i mean his heart, he robbed the local train depot. the man who worked there knew him, so he didnt get a mile. i dont know how long he got. but old uncle whitey was always great to me .see ya. k.o.h

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    August 20, 2010 at 10:55 am

    “Sinners and Saints”…we are all sinners but few, if any, of us are saints. Our Lord loved Uncle Frank so we should, too. (Love the sinner, not the sin.)
    We had our Uncle Shep and cousin Hugh Boyd who could be hard to love at times until we realize we are no better in many ways.

  • Reply
    Tim Hill
    August 20, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Not only do most of us have an Uncle Frank in our family, we have a little of Uncle Frank inside each of us. Great post Tipper. Thank you for all your work.

  • Reply
    Charline Venturini
    August 20, 2010 at 9:59 am

    Thanks for sharing about your Uncle Frank – it reminds me of some stories in my own family lore.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 9:34 am

    I strongly believe there is a bit of sinner and saint in all of us at one point in our life.
    Whitetail Woods Blog / Muzzleloader Testing

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 9:12 am

    Great post, as usual, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    August 20, 2010 at 8:46 am

    Tipper that’s the best one yet! Copyright it!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Tipper, this is a beautiful story. Keep up the good work!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 8:41 am

    Enjoyed reading about “Uncle Frank”. Guess most of us have a few saints and sinners in our family. Always enjoy reading your blog everyday.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 8:20 am

    That was a great story, and yes, we all have an “Uncle Frank” in our families 😉

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    August 20, 2010 at 7:56 am

    A good story, Tipper. I reckon we’ve all got some of each in us.

  • Reply
    Benny Terry
    August 20, 2010 at 7:19 am

    I understand about Frank; I had an uncle like that. I guess most families do, it’s how you look at them that matters. Most of mine grew up in the depression and then had to go off to war; that can take a toll on a lot of folks. I really enjoy your blog, keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    August 20, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Great post, Tipper.
    I have known a few sinners and saints in my life. And whose to say I’m not one myself.
    Your Uncle Frank had a problem, but that didn’t effect the person he was inside.
    I’d rather grow up with someone like him than some of these people in the world today.

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