Uncle Moose and Curly

I have two Uncles, my late Mom’s baby brothers, who live together in Mt. Branson. Moose is 84 and Curly is 81. Moose is a lifelong bachelor while Curly is a widow for many years. They came together Saturday to share the Fourth of July celebration at my brother Perry’s home near Clever. It was great seeing them both, and recent and long-ago memories came flooding back as we visited. The picture is my Uncle Moose in his patented overalls with Curly and my brothers Mike and Dave at their home off of Mt. Branson.

Moose, or Elmer Dale Hensley, lived with his mother, my Grandma Margaret, first on College Street above downtown Branson when I was a boy, and in later years with her in the house he lives with Curly, or Clell Hensley, now at Mt. Branson. I remember spending the night with them  on College Street several times in my Jr. High years. After away basketball games I would walk down the hill from the junior high building to spend the night. In the winter Moose would sleep on the living room couch, as his bedroom in the back of the house was too cold. They would have a small mattress laid out on the living room floor for me. I remember Moose watching Mary Hartman Mary Hartman on TV as I drifted off to sleep.

Moose visited us often growing up. He would walk in with his booming voice carrying his spittoon. Moose loved playing games with us boys, like Chinese checkers, Yahtzee, Monopoly and Spades. He would take us down to Reeds Spring at their old Elementary School playground and hit us fly balls. Afterwards he would take us to Pop’s Dairy Dell for ice cream cones.

Moose, like my mom, was very smart. He would often bring his notebook in with him for one of his visits and would play along with Jeopardy on television. I remember him yelling out answers over and over again, almost always being correct. Later he started writing songs and poetry, talking about religion, politics, and life. He would bring in his guitar and strum it with his large hands, humming his tune.

Moose would take me outside in our yard to catch him. He envisioned himself as a fast-pitch softball pitcher. I remember spending most of my time climbing our fence to retrieve his errant pitches, dodging cow patties along the way. There is a famous scene in old family movies when Moose was younger pitching to my uncle Johnny and sending one twenty feet over Johnny’s head!

My sister Cindy remembers Uncle Moose when she was little, putting her and Perry on his back and doing pushups. He was always a very strong man. I remember always looking forward to his visits. He would shoot baskets with us, go fishing with our dad and us, play tennis with us at Swan Creek Park in Forsyth in his ugly jean shorts.

Uncle Moose was our hero growing up.

I did not know Uncle Curly well growing up. He lived with his wife Joan and five kids in California for years but moved back to the Branson/Hollister area when I was about 8. We didn’t see him as often as we did Moose, however. Curly had his hands full raising his five kids. Like us, there was an elder daughter with four rambunctious boys. I’ve gotten to know Curly over the years now in my adult years. I watched him be an amazing father to his kids. I watched him love his wife Joan through her lung cancer, which ultimately took her from Curly and the kids. I have watched him care for neighbors and friends in his gentle, unassuming way. 

Curly is a faithful follower of Christ. In his younger years he had a drinking problem. Today he’s been sober for close to fifty years I would guess, and when I see him he always talks about God’s love and grace with a genuine smile.

Curly can fix anything I believe. When my old John Deere mower my brother gave me broke down, I took it to a small engine mechanic. He said the transmission was leaking fluid and going out, and the only solution was to get a new transmission. I took the mower to Curly, and he figured out how to fix it. That was about 10 years ago. I still have the old John Deere mower! Curly will fix old, broken-down mowers, and then give them to his kids or someone who needs a mower. In the winter he cuts and splits wood to give to elderly neighbors.

Curly has worked for years at College of the Ozarks. At 81, he still does. What a blessing for young college students at Hard Work University to spend time with my uncle. He teaches them far more than what they can learn in a classroom.

I’m so blessed to have these men still in my life. As I sat outside under the shade tree with them both eating watermelon, I reflected on these two brothers who now live together with one of Curly’s sons. I remember calling them when Mom was near the end and watching them at her bedside patting her hand. She sure loved her brothers, and they sure looked up to and adored her. After Mom’s passing nine years ago, Curly and Dale consistently visited my dad, and when Dad last year was fading, they took turns with my siblings and other family staying with him. My Dad always looked forward to their visits.

I watched the movie, Second Hand Lions, with my wife recently for probably the tenth time. The brothers in the movie, played by Robert DuVall and Michael Caine, reminded me of my uncles, minus the shotguns on the porch. These men have both had great lives, impacted many along the way, and still bless and encourage each person that crosses their paths.

Everybody needs an Uncle Moose and Curly in their lives. I’m glad I’ve got to have both.

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