Uncle Josh was youngsters favorite curmudgeon

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

James Joshua Alexander Odom McCarthy was born after the Census had been taken in 1880. When Josh was twenty-five years old, his sister Susie Cornelia McCarthy Lee died from complications of measles, leaving her three small girls orphans. Before she died, she extracted a promise from her brother. Her girls, ages five, four, and two would be orphaned and would Josh assume the responsibility of raising them. He took them and raised them along with caring for his aging Mother. Uncle Josh was a good man.

His house was nestled in the edge of the woods with a split rail fence along the side. The height of the fence was just right to sit on and eat the big yellow plums that grew in his orchard. He was a good man and an expert at many things. He could make the bark slip off just right and make a hickory whistle. He could make slingshots and peel sugar cane and help us find bamboo-fishing poles.

Everyone knowing Uncle Josh remembers. His personality was colorful. His vocabulary caused our Mama to put hands over our ears when his temper became volatile. She and her sisters had experienced his temper when local swains came to call in their growing up years. He had rules! When those guys stayed later than permitted, it is said that he walked through the house dragging a squealing pig. When he and the pig exited the back door, the young suitors were making hasty exits out the front.

When the family grandfather clock handed down through generations struck twenty-four times, it is said that he jerked it from the wall and stomped on it. His family never quite got over the desecration and total destruction of "Maw's old clock".

The stories and sayings of Uncle Josh are worth preserving. His commentary about one well-known local educator was, "He ain't got the sense of a chinch!" A city traffic light catching him mid way between sidewalks changed and an oncoming car honked at him. "Sum gun" he said. "I bet it ain't paid for!" He responded to local radio station music with," Man, that's the Dellmore Brothers, I ain't heard them in years." When Dock and Carl's music was announced, Josh said, "Sum bums changed their name." When a member of the family brought home a good report card, Uncle Josh would say, "When it comes to brains you got to lay it to your Uncle Josh."

Several versions of Uncle Josh riding the sow story have been circulated but everyone agrees that he did put on quite a show after the sow ran at him and knocked him down in the muddy pen. Straddling the mad old sow protecting her pigs, and waving his hat over his head, he rode her around the pen saying, "Woosh, you old @#+! you! This is yore Uncle Josh!!!"

He was stooped, wore blue denim overalls and dipped snuff. He was an authority on politics and the Grand Ole Opry. He was colorful but he had character. We laugh and talk about the things he did and feel proud. He was our Great Uncle Josh.