08-13-2013   Leave a comment

I’ve been sitting around for a while today trying to compile a list of five men and five women that I really admire.  What does it say about me that I can’t get it done.  I refuse to use celebrities or politicians because that’s just plain ridiculous but not many names are even making my short list.

So far my list of admired men consists of just one, Max Ehrlich.  I’m positive you know nothing about Max. He was as eccentric as they come, independent, smart, funny, irreverent,  and most importantly my favorite uncle.

He was a good old boy who worked hard all of his life.  He was badly injured in a work place accident at a young age and was pensioned off by the company for a few hundred dollars a month.  Did that slow him down?  He picked himself up and restarted his life and did it his way.  He knew almost everyone within a hundred mile radius on a first name basis and was what many servicemen would call a “first class scrounger”.  He retrieved items through salvage and resold them to his acquaintances.  If you needed something he could find it quickly and sell it to you cheaply.

For years he was considered the “black sheep” of our family because he refused to conform to what the family thought he should be.  He was funny and irreverent and made my mother and her side of the family just cringe every time he spoke.  I managed over the years to spend time with him because he was on the down-low, a friend of my dads.  Many times during the Christmas holidays when I was seven or eight  I remember riding along with him in his truck to deliver presents to some of his friends.  It wasn’t until years later that I discovered what those presents were.

After I joined the State Police I was assigned to an area that included his hunting camp and when time permitted I would stop and visit to check the house and property.  One sunny Sunday afternoon I pulled into the camp and while checking the house heard laughter from the back yard.  I walked around to where he had built his homemade swimming pool and there was Max at age eighty skinny dipping with what he called two young honey’s, both in their sixties.  I was speechless until he walked over without a stich on, patted me on the back, and introduced me to the girls.  We all laughed till we cried.

He passed away a few years later shortly after his girlfriend of some fifty years died.  My mother was one of the executors of his will and she soon discovered that good old Max had almost a quarter of a million dollars in his accounts.  No one could figure out where it came from until they began to clean out the garage at the hunting camp.  Above a hidden door in the ceiling they found a large still and all the necessary equipment for bottling.  We later found out from two of our other elderly uncles that he had been making moonshine for decades.  That was the presents the old goat and I delivered at Christmas time.

He’s still the only guy on my list and if I ever think of four more I’ll let you know.  I still miss that SOB.

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