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My Uncle Clem was the Only Pa I Ever Had (1 Viewer)


Senior Member
He dint walk bent over like most old folks. Naw. He walked strate up like the handle on a pitch fork stuck in straw. Hands like a gorilla. I no that cuz cupula times he took holda me for doin sumthin stooped. Think it was cuz he been workin his farm since he were a boy. Wernt like Ferns farm cuz we dint have no pig named Wilbur or spider named Charlotte. Wernt no Old MacDonalds Farm eether. Was my Uncle Clem's farm. One he got from his Pa.

He wernt my axual Pa jest the only Pa I remember. Heed take me into the woods at nite to shoot pawsum. I wood sit nexta him close as stink on a skunk watchin him stare into the dark, driftin off sum where I coodnt go. Weed go fishin sum mornins afor the sun came up. Heed sit there nexta me choowin tubacko, spittin in the creek and yankin his pole if sumthin nibbled his line. Did more fishin than catchin til he lernt me to pop em up with a cherry bomb. Thats a fire kracker for you city folks.

Thot he wuz a krusty old marshmellow afor he whipped me for shootin bee bees at a chiken with my dayzee. Sent me to the woods for my own switch. Cood tell he wuz mad as a wet rooster cuz he got that way cupula times and that was one of em. Told me "Otta brake that dayzee over yur bee hind boy!" It wuz a bee hind cuz it felt like hunderds of em had stung it good for doin bad. Caint tell ya what I thot bout my uncle that day cuz Ant Clara wood come outa her grave to make me eet a bar of sope.

Aint shur Clem was my axual uncle but new Clara was my axual ant cuz I red her name in Ma's bibel where it sed sister. Dint see his name so alwayz suspishoned Clem and Clara wernt axualy married. But they was like a horse and buggy. Think Ant Clara new she were the buggy. Alwayz suspishoned she new bout his Holler Hill moonshine too. Think I no why he called it that cuz one nite he gave me a sip and it gave me hankerin too holler.

Had a party when I was twelve. Cake and ice creem and Uncle Clem on the banjo. Wuz a reel hootnanny. Kids from naybor farms came too. Even Ugeen Hixenbaw who stole my skout nife when I was ate. Alwayz suspishoned Ugeen was meen cuz of his name. My Uncle Clem gave me that nife so one day while Ugeen was braggin bout sum thin to a girl by the lunch tabels I snuk over and fownd my nife in that bag under the seet on his bike. Ugeen never new was me what took it back and Uncle Clem never new it got stolen cuz heeda sent me into the woods for anuther switch.

That nite after my party Uncle Clem got sick so Ant Clara drove him to the hawspital in that big yeller pickup he usta drive to town hiself. Wernt nuthin Ant Clara coodent drive. Next mornin she came home but he wernt with her. My Uncle Clem never did come home.

Hunt and fish by myself now. Sum nites waitin for a pawsum to step into the moonlite I magin him sittin nexta me driftin off to that sum where I coodent go afor he dint come home. Now I no where he went when he got that far away look in his eyes cuz now I get it in my eyes too.

Caint never forgit my Uncle Clem. He was the only Pa I ever had.

adam c

Senior Member
Well, hmm. I'm fine with the hillbilly narration cuz I've heard folks talk like that. My problem is that the writing takes me out of the story. If you're going to intentionally misspell, then our character isn't just narrating, he's writing as well. So all his words are wrong, but his punctuation is accurate and he remembers to capitalize all the proper nouns. If we're going to authentic here, this passage would be completely illegible.

I liked the descriptions of Uncle Clem.

Did you have something specific in mind with this piece?


WF Veterans
I've known a person or two that talked in a similar manner, so the voice of your piece didn't strike me as strange. This being near what is called Appalachian English, but with subtle differences like your using "it" instead of "hit." I looked for your reversing "-ever" words (e.g. "everhow") without success, but did find double negatives which are indicative. Of course, though spoken Appalachian English can be found from Mississippi up to Pennsylvania, there is no real written form other than writers trying to capture such. For example, American writers throughout the 20th century have used the dialect as the chosen speech of uneducated and unsophisticated characters (a stereotyping largely disproven, I might add).

Which brings me to my point. The most successful attempts, that I can recall, hint more at the phonological, while striving for a semblance of the lyrical lilt. Such being a rather abstract distinction, I've quoted below a snippet from one of the more successful authors I've read.

Sample writing from "One Foot in Eden" by Ron Rash

The sun had been slaunchways over Sassafras Mountain so when Amy raised from the wash tub the water streamed off her like melting gold. There's no angel in heaven more lovely than this, I told myself. Then Amy turned as she stepped from the tub. I saw the curve of her belly, a curve no more than the scythe blade I held in my hand but enough to wonder me about her and Holland Winchester. I raised my finger to the blade and ran it across the edge. I felt the steel cut right through. Drops of blood bright like holly berries had spotted the floor.

In the book he employed a smattering of sounded out words (e.g. slaunchways), and more often word ordering (e.g. enough to wonder me about), to set the tone.

You've got a nice little piece, with character, depth, and flow, but all that is good in it may be lost to a reader. I do admire your tackling such a difficult task :)

Just my take though, and I'm just an old hick ;-)

Write on,
Lee C
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WF Veterans
I think I agree with adam c. It a pov issue. I often write (okay, attempt) phonetic spellings using standard spellings. In this case, I'd go with the authentic, but not indecipherable. My neighbor once wrote a sign that said: "Ckns 4 sel " The trick is to not make it so unintelligible that the reader can't read it.
You've got a nice little piece, with character, depth, and flow, but all that is good in it may be lost to a reader. I do admire your tackling such a difficult task :smile:
Yep, I agree 100%


Senior Member
Thanks for the feedback everyone. Valuable comments, as always. As you can see, I ain't no Mark Twain! Phonetic spellings shouldn't distract the reader from the story itself. But I gave it a go and glad I did. The story unfolded as I wrote it. Surprised even me, the author. Had no idea where my character was taking me until I got there. Began with trying to figure out how I should approximate his speech with my spellings, then found myself more interested in his feelings about his uncle. Russell Hoban's "Riddley Walker" was difficult to read but I didn't think the language he created for his character got in the way of the story. Anybody here ever read that novel?

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