Uncle Hubbard did not go to church

Published 4:33 am Wednesday, April 30, 2003

By By Lloyd Albritton
My grandfather's formal name was Marion H. Albritton. As to what the "H" stood for, there was always some question. He had no official birth certificate, but his middle name has been found in other public records spelled as Hubert, Herbert, Hubbird and Hubbard. None of this really mattered to me as I was growing up because I just called him Papa, as did his eight children and all his grandchildren. Some of his older personal friends called him Hubbard, but mostly I always heard my grandfather referred to by nieces, nephews and anybody younger than him, whether they were related or not, as Uncle Hubbard.
My grandmother, Julia Victoria Barlow Albritton(who was one of those few who called him Hubbard) was likewise called Mama by all her children and most of her grandchildren. To other neighbors and kinfolk alike, she was called Aunt Julie. Now, Aunt Julie was a religious woman and she always faithfully attended church. She taught a Sunday School class at a little church in Nokomis called Antioch during all the years of my childhood. Uncle Hubbard, however, rarely went to church.
The only exception was Christmas and Easter, when he would don his dress hat, his best long-sleeved white shirt (he never wore a tie) and his only pair of dress shoes and would accompany his wife to special church services.
It was not that Uncle Hubbard was not a religious man. Indeed, one Sunday morning my brother and I ambled up to his house as he was sitting alone with his fly swatter and Papa gave us one of the best Sunday School lessons I ever had. He knew what was in the bible, sure enough, and he believed in it, but Papa had no patience or tolerance for hypocrits and he thought the church was full of'em. Only a few preachers who he particularly respected had access to him, and even from them he brooked no talk of religion or getting saved. When church people came in the front door, Papa headed out the back door.
My grandfather was well known to be a sober, honest, upright man. I never saw or heard of him using tobacco or alcohol of any kind, and he never gambled or used profanity, at least in the general course of conversation.
I suppose he saved up all his cuss words for spasms of anger when he would spew them out like God's own fire. When the cow kicked the milk bucket over halfway through his morning milking, for example, Nokomis might hear Papa's daunting voice shouting GD's and SOB's as far as a mile away. And that cow was bound to get a whipping with the closest tree limb Papa could lay his hands on too.Papa was no less tolerate of insubordination from his children either. He was a big, brawny man, and was a fearful sight when he got mad. My father told me once of a family gathering when he was a young man, and under the influence of a couple of Christmas toasts, when he made a disrespectful remark to his father. He was sitting turned around backwards in a straight-backed chair, he said, and Papa quickly crossed the room and backhanded him so hard that he landed flat on his back on the floor. No more was said.
In the years of The Great Depression, many men in the Nokomis community drank moonshine liquor, which often led to violence and spousal abuse. One time someone came to Papa shouting that one of his nephews was drunk and was beating his wife. Not one to interfere in other people's domestic affairs, Papa reluctantly ran across the woods to investigate.
When the drunken nephew brandished a shotgun at his Uncle Hubbard, Papa fearlessly grabbed the gun out of his hand by the barrel and hit him with his fist so hard that the younger man sobered up immediately-after he woke up, that is.
In those days men routinely carried guns and knives and they shot and cut one another often during drunken arguments and brawls. One such man was named Emery Seales.
Emery Seales was a small man, but he always carried a sharp knife and a gun and was not reluctant to use them. He had killed at least one man and had even served some time in prison. During one of our many back porch conversations, I asked Papa one time about Emery Seales.
"Everybody always said Emery was a bad man," Papa told me, "but I always liked him and we got along just fine."
My father said that Emery Seales liked Papa and often came around to visit him. He liked to wrestle with his Uncle Hubbard. Emery was a determined man and much smaller than his Papa, but he was never able to pin Papa in a wrestling match. Afterward, my grandmother would chasten her husband, saying, "Hubbard, you had better quit that wrestling with Emery Seales. He is a bad man. He might get mad and cut you with his knife or shoot you."
"Oh hush, Julie," Papa would say. "Emery's a good boy. People just don't understand him."
Of the many things worth remembering about my grandfather is the fact that he hated dogs. Papa would run across the road to chase off a dog walking by.
Papa was a farmer and he loved horses and mules and cows, but he had no use for any animal that did not contribute something in those lean years of The Great Depression when he struggled to raise up eight children. He was not a hunter, and therefore saw no use for dogs on God's good earth.
No, Uncle Hubbard, alias Papa Albritton, never had much use for churches and rarely attended.
He was nevertheless a good, God-fearing man who left behind a legacy exemplifying great moral strength and courage. I have not met a man who knew him, in his younger years or when he grew old, who had anything negative to say about him.
Oh, but I do err. There was my grandmother, who said before she died a year after Papa died, "Hubbard shoulda went to church more!"
Have a personal story of your own? Why not sign up to attend a weekly storytelling symposium with Lloyd. For details and to enroll, contact Lloyd at LloydAlbritton@aol.com, or call him at (850)384-6676.

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