Uncle Doyle Has to Explain

Uncle Doyle with the 172 - the last airplane - not the first one.

However, this is the first one, somewhere in Alaska and missing its rudder and propeller.

Read all about it here.

Nieces, listen closely now, because I have an important story to tell you which has grave implications for your future. You may some day find yourself (I shall address you in singular form) in a situation which requires the proper response for the good of your husband.

I just read a passage in Tears of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith in which Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni finds himself plunged headlong into the moment of truth when he must explain himself to his fiance Mma Ramotswe. What has a story set in Botswana written by a Scot to do with you? Everything. But let us turn from Africa and look to our own family. Specifically Uncle Doyle and Aunt Louise.

You will remember that before Ray came along there was Uncle Doyle who lived a long life and died at a ripe old age with Aunt Louise steadfastly by his side. This is important to remember. Fix it in your mind. He was never murdered by Aunt Louise while in his late twenties or thereabouts.

Also recall that Uncle Doyle had an airplane. It was red, white, and blue, shiny and aluminum. You've seen pictures, no doubt. A Cessna 172. It was approximately, if my figures are correct, his sixth airplane from start to finish. I will now relate the story of how Uncle Doyle became the pilot of his own airplane.

Probably about 1959 or somewhere in that general era when men wore white shirts and a tie to church and still sang from a hymnal, Uncle Doyle was approached by one of his church buddies with a proposition.

"Hank," this guy says. "I'm approaching you with a proposition."

"Go on," Uncle Doyle says. Uncle Doyle was always on the lookout for something exciting.

"Me and so and so and some other guy are buying an airplane, and we're looking for one more partner." The friend looks Uncle Doyle squarely in the eye. "What do you say about going in with us, and I'll teach you to fly as part of the bargain."

"Well, alright!" Uncle Doyle proclaims, quick to spot the opportunity of a lifetime. "This will make me the favorite uncle amongst the nephews," he thinks to himself. "I'll be in good standing with the Army if things start heating up again in Korea," he reasons. "No more foxholes in the Black Forest."

"I'm glad to hear it!" proclaims Uncle Doyle's friend. And from there things began proceeding nicely. The purchase was made by the principals in the party; a Stinson Voyager 108-3. A very nice little airplane. Somewhere along the way Uncle Doyle begins receiving flight instructions.

And then a few weeks later the friend approaches Uncle Doyle, this time with Aunt Louise by his side, after church is out and makes an off-hand comment.

"Well, Louise, what do you think of Doyle's new purchase?"

Aunt Louise blinks once or twice at the friend and then turns toward Uncle Doyle, her beloved.

"And what is he talking about?" she asks in her crisp manner, not to be beating around the bush while the roast is still in the oven.

"Oh, uh, well...uhmm..."

And at this point in the story the reader suddenly realizes that Uncle Doyle has somehow failed to convey the critical bit of information to Aunt Louise that he has, in fact, bought an airplane.

Now, it would have been an opportune time for Aunt Louise to accidentally slip several hundred grams of rat poison into Uncle Doyle's coffee. Those who have drank Uncle Doyle's coffee claim under oath that no such thing would have a noticeable effect on the flavor. But no, Aunt Louise is a woman of much patience. A woman of mercy. Tried many times in the furnace and refined to a high pitch. Thus Uncle Doyle not only lived to a ripe old age but owned and flew at least six airplanes, that I can count, over the ensuing years, passing on important data to his nephews in the process such as not forgetting to apply the carburetor heat on the downwind leg.

So then, the day will likely come, providing it has not already come fifteen or twenty thousand times, in your lives, Taryn and Taylor, and will undoubtedly come into yours as well, Tacey, when your husband is forced to suddenly come forth with an explanation on which he has been holding back. It will be an important moment in your history. Remember Aunt Louise and Uncle Doyle. Show patience and mercy. Think of your nephews to be. They might one day write a story about it.