When I was 8 or 9 years old I had won a U. S. Morgan Silver Dollar as a prize at a Halloween contest. That shiny bauble was the pride of my life. I cannot remember the circumstances but I wound up in an argument with my Uncle Duane about something or another and, so positive in my young mind that I was correct, I bet him my Silver Dollar on the chance on having two of them. We agreed on my grandmother as the arbiter of our argument.
Of course I was wrong and lost my silver dollar. Pride would not allow me to beg to keep it but I was very upset and went upstairs and cried. Duane allowed me to suffer for a while then came up and gave me a lecture about betting and gambling. Then he told me he would give me my Silver Dollar back but I had to promise him I would never bet again.
It was a hard lesson learned but it had a good outcome. I was not tempted to ever bet anyone about anything again for a long time.
In 1971 by parents has moved west to British Columbia. I was still a student at the University of Maine at Orono and with no home to go to faced a three week Christmas holiday alone at Sigma Nu, my fraternity house. My grandmother had invited me to spend the holiday with her but I could find no ride to Boothbay Harbor. Then Uncle Duane and Aunt Barbara invited me to spend Christmas with them and I was able to find a ride to Bridgeton. I was, of course, nearly an adult but this was my first Christmas away from my Mom and Dad and it all felt very strange with them so many miles away but Duane and Barbara were very close family and made me feel welcome and gave me a sense of 'home' that Christmas.
The day before Christmas was my 20th birthday, legal drinking age in Maine, and Uncle Duane booked off work early that day to do last minute shopping and to take me out to a local watering hole for my first legal drink. There wasn't much going on in Bridgeton so sometime after Christmas Uncle Duane and I went over to New Hampshire one night to see what bright lights they might have there. I cannot remember what city or town we went to. It was a drive of some distance., We went to a couple of bars, had a few drinks, but these places were quite dead. Finally someone told us that all the action was in a bar that was located in the loft of a big, old barn. It was a cabaret with a huge dance floor.
So off we went to find the place and finding it we trudged up the stairs waiting our place in line for someone to leave and make room for us. Finally it was our turn and, looking very young in years, I was carded and proudly handed over my I.D. The bouncer slowly shook his head and turned me away. The legal drinking age in New Hampshire was 21, not 20. Duane offered to take me somewhere else even if we had to drive all the way to Boston but the shine was off the evening. The thrill wasn't in going to a bar. I had been going to them at University for over a year with a fake I.D. The shine was in going legally and suddenly that didn't shine so bright. What difference did it make? Besides, the real shine, the real fun had been going out with Duane, two men of the Lewis family out and about and having a few drinks together. We had done that. Legal or not.
One cold, snowy, evening the phone rang. It was a car-deer accident. Duane got dressed back up and asked me if I wanted to come. I was always happy to go on patrol with Duane and so I agreed. Arriving at the scene the car had gone and there was a dead dear on the side of the road. It was pretty badly mangled but there was still some salvageable meat left there.
In the old days that meat would have gone to a prison or an orphanage but that had been made illegal like damn near everything else has been these days. Duane dressed the deer and took what meat as was left, putting it in a box in the trunk of the State car. After cleaning up the mess as best he could we went back home where he and Barbara finished cutting and wrapping the meat and putting it back into another box. Duane told me to come along and off we went riding I have no idea where until we stopped across from a house with a light on the front porch. Duane pulled the car ahead out of sight, got the meat from the trunk, and walked to the house. He sat the box on the front porch, knocked on the door, and then quickly walked off. After the door had been answered, the home owner looking around for someone and finally taking the box inside, Duane stepped out of the shadows and walked back to the car and we went home.
That was probably illegal also but good deer meat would not go to waste when Duane was around and there was a hungry family down on their luck that he knew about.
At the university I had joined a candlestick bowling league and I fancied myself as being pretty good. Hell, I was pretty good. I cannot remember my average but it was over 230 and that is good in anyone's league. There was a bowling alley in Bridgeton and after Christmas when Duane returned to work and Barbara was doing her thing, I would walk to town each day and hone my game by bowling a few strings.
Walking back home one afternoon Duane stopped and picked me up in his police car and asked me what I had been doing. After I told him he asked me if I was any good and of course I took the opportunity to brag on myself a bit. I asked Duane if he was any good because I knew he and my Dad and my other two uncles had spent their youth at Romar Bowling Alley in Boothbay Harbor setting pins to get the money so they could bowl.
Duane allowed as he didn't bowl much any more but added that in any case he was sure he could beat me no matter how often he bowled. Well, of course, the argument was on and it wasn't long before I bet Duane $50 I could beat him easily enough. Now in 1971 fifty dollars was a lot of money to a university student but one hundred was more and I was looking forward to doubling my money at my Uncle's expense. To my surprise Uncle Duane took me up on my bet and turned the car around and back to the bowling alley.
Inside we rented our shoes and got an alley. Duane took off his gun belt, tie and uniform shirt stripping down to just a T-shirt. We did a couple of warm up frames and then the bowling began.
Duane handed me my ass in a sling. He beat me so bad I wasn't even close at the end. He looked at me told me that he had said he didn't bowl much, not that he didn't bowl at all and that he was in a league also and his average was higher than mine.
I took out my wallet and got out the $50 and handed it to Duane without a word. He didn't offer to give it back with a promise not to bet again this time. Another lesson learned.
Duane Griffin Lewis, Sr. was a large part of my young life as a boy growing up in Boothbay Harbor and he was a large part of my life as a teenager in Princeton where Duane was Warden. He was a good man, a good uncle. I loved him then, I love him now, and I will miss him even though we seldom spoke in the last many years.
I love you, Uncle Dane.
(Originally posted to Multiply Novermber 16, 2008)