Uncle Erskine was a trial. Nana would get a look of exasperation on her face whenever she talked about him. Most in the family simply shake their heads and say something like “That’s just how Erskine was.”
Erskine Laflonzy Gates (yes, Laflonzy! and no, I have no idea where that name comes from) was born to Irene Huntington Harris and John Henry Gates on 7 December 1907. He married Allie Lee Hancock of Wadesboro, NC.
Uncle Erskine was the great-uncle who would give you a five dollar bill for a present. Didn’t matter what your age, $5 was the gift. Of course, if you were male, he probably wouldn’t give you anything. You should be taking care of yourself. When he told my younger brother that, I had to work hard not to laugh. I think Kirk was maybe 13.
But in Uncle Erskin’s defense, he was pulled out of school when he was all of 12 years old. His mother had been working in the tobacco barn and fallen thru the floor or something and sustained injuries. As the “man of the house”, Erskine was the one put in charge. At twelve. Can you imagine?
When I was in college, I was visiting Papa and Nana one weekend when Uncle Erskine stopped by. He pulled me aside as I was leaving and gave me a sack with a jar in it and a $5 bill. The $5 was so I could treat myself to something. The jar was filled with moonshine. I’m guessing he thought that is what all college students would be drinking in the 1980s.
My youngest was born in 1999. Uncle Erskine was still around and ornery. We had a five generations photo taken. Five generations. My oldest didn’t like the fact that her great-great-great uncle smoked and so told him that if he didn’t want to die, he should stop. Uncle Erskine told her that he had been smoking since he was about 10 and he didn’t ever plan on stopping.
My mom and uncles have related many stories about Uncle Erskine and his gas station and little store. I may have to have Mom or Uncle Bill share some of those, but there is one that my uncle Al shared once as he was fixing breakfast for me. Uncle Al told me that Uncle Erskine didn’t really trust banks, so he would stash money here and there. Sometimes he would forget where he had put it. Once while Uncle Al was visiting with Uncle Erskine, he said Erskine got all agitated and took off. Seems Uncle Erskine had sold someone his old wood stove and didn’t realize until a short time later that he had stashed upwards of $2,000 in the belly of the stove.
That’s just how Uncle Erskine was.