Those who attended our wedding witnessed my brother toast Jay’s “primordial masculinity.” Both my brother and I have long been in awe of Jay’s manliness – he can fix things, move a dryer from the basement, pull poo-covered yarn from a cat bum without barfing, saw pumpkins and kill wasps with flame. The list goes on, but you get the idea. In my eyes there are very few people who trump Jay’s masculinity. At the top of the “More Manly Than My Husband List” are
Kerry King, Clint Eastwood, Lance Armstrong and my Uncle L. Yes, my uncle is in the same list as Clint Eastwood. Uncle Leonard has more heavy machinery than anyone I know. He spent time in Vietnam. He farmed dairy cattle for years. He rides a Harley cross-country with his equally tough wife. He is a pyrotechnics professional. He uses a big ass torch to light the evening camp fire.
More than 20 years ago my family drove 24 hours from Florida to Pennsylvania to visit the farm for the Fourth of July. One thing I remember from this visit was a cannon Uncle L. had built while in shop class. Mounted on two huge wagon wheels, L. loaded the cannon with explosives and hamburger buns and then exploded them into the corn field in celebration of our countries Independence Day. The noise was glorious and left your ears ringing. I told Jay about this and he looked at me with mouth agape – L. has what? He had to witness this for himself.
This year Jay and I joined my family for their annual 4th of July celebration. Uncle L. was busy playing croquet, drinking beer and being manly with the other men when I flitted by and inquired on the whereabouts of the cannon. “The cannon?” he asked. “Well I have not taken that out in at least 20 years. “But you HAVE to bring the cannon out! Jay and I have been talking about it for weeks!” Then it was his turn in the croquet game and the conversation ended.
That evening my young cousin came running around the corner, “Sarah! He is bringing IT out with the tractor! Come fast!” We ran into the field just as L. rounded the corner pulling the cannon. The grin on his face was priceless.
As a kid I remember Uncle L. as an intimidating tall guy with long dark hair. I had little interest in this man as I ran around the farm in a lacy dress, chasing kitties and day dreaming about fairies. Last weekend gave me a new, grown-up perspective of L. – not only is he a tough and accomplished man, he is a kind grandfather, a soft heart with his dogs and has a smile that can light up a room.
Shamelessly I followed him around, snapping photos and crawling on the grass to try to capture his expressions under the brim of a black cap. Several times he looked at me and said, “What are you doing taking photos of me?” “Uncle L. , you are amazing to photograph… Just a few more.” And then I would fire off another 100 images. By the time I got home I had 1,100 photos, a quarter of which were of my uncle. After many hours I have narrowed them down to a few favorites. Not particularly good from a professional standpoint, but special in that they capture a side of a man I am only now getting to know.