What A Character!

Over my 50 some odd years on this earth, I’ve met a lot of people. Plain vanilla people are fine, but in my adult life, I’ve always been fascinated by people who are different, people who might be labeled as strange, weird, eccentric, or people that just plain march to a different drummer. We sometimes refer to these type of people as characters. My dictionary lists the following as one of the many definitions of character;

…a person of a specified kind (usually with many eccentricities); “a real character”

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Uncle Marion’s Life

At 15 minutes after noon on May 14, 1967 my great uncle Marion Raymond Polka died of complications from Hodgkins Disease in Houston’s M.D. Anderson Hospital at the relatively young age of 55. I was 14 years old at the time but I still remember the intense hurt of losing my favorite uncle. Uncle Marion was born on a cotton farm on the outskirts of New Waverly, Texas, the youngest child in a large Polish family. He moved to a smaller farm on Fairgrounds Road in Marlin with his parents at the age of 9. After the death of his father Albert, he moved to Houston in 1925 with his mother. Marion served his country in the US Army during World War II and he spent most of his life as an interior house painter who specialized in mixing custom colors for an affluent clientele. He was a life long bachelor who spent all of his free time hunting, fishing or just roaming around in the woods.

In 1967, while he was dying, uncle Marion painted this picture of what looks to be a monk standing in prayer. The painting is very dark and gloomy as would be expected since Marion was on his death bed. Marion lived out the last year or so of his life at his sister Sophie’s house and this painting hung on her wall in her living room until shortly after her death in 1995. Sophie’s daughter Betty Joyce gave the painting to my wife as a gift for her helping at the estate sale she had at her mothers home.

When we got the painting, the light colored crucifix or cross with the corpus of Jesus on it was not visible on the painting, the whole thing was just varying shades of brown. We hung the painting on the wall in our home in Hockley and over several months time the crucifix slowly appeared until it was clearly visible and much lighter then the rest of the photo.

In addition to his fishing and hunting skills, Uncle Marion was a part of the legendary alligator and rattlesnake clearing crew at the Chocolate Bayou fishing camp. He was also very knowledgeable about the history and life of the various American Indian tribes in Texas and he spent a lot of time hunting for arrowheads and other artifacts. Before he died, he made arrangements for me to have his primary collection of over 200 arrowheads which included many small bird points, all mounted in a wooden frame that he had made. I have other mementos from Uncle Marion’s life but the arrowheads are special to me. I look at that collection every day and think about all of the good times I had with my Uncle Marion.

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Rest In Peace Joseph George “Joe” Smock

Joe Smock
March 25, 1956 – May 31, 2022

On Tuesday, May 31, 2022 my beloved brother Joe passed away in Round Rock Texas at the young age of 66. As his older brother, I cherish the many years we spent together. We grew up on the Spring Branch farm together and we learned together to work the land and provide for our families.

We worked hard together growing up but we also learned about life together. We hunted and fished together, we learned how to mount wild animals, we learned the art of tanning hides and making leather together. As adults, we raised hogs together, smoked bacon and ham and made sausage together.

Joe was not too fond of book learning but he was as smart and talented as they come and had a natural mechanical ability like no one else I’ve ever known. At 12 years old, with absolutely no training as a mechanic, he would regularly fix all things mechanical and he often fixed the beat up old Dodge pickup that I drove to high school. I could only scratch my head in wonder as he explained the workings of a modern gasoline combustion engine to me.

Joe dropped out of school and went to work in the body shop at the local Ford dealership before he turned 16 years old. While his contemporaries were still in high school and trying to decide what to do with their lives, Joe had already earned the reputation as one of the best body men around.

Not only smart and talented, Joe was simply a good person. He was always willing to help out anyone that needed help, especially his large extended family.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all of the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

R.I.P. my brother until we see each other again.

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Gun Safety

My Uncle Joe was a great man. As loyal as they come. He has always been my favorite Uncle. Growing up I would sometimes spend Spring Break up there and he would be a tough but fair old man that would teach me things while helping me build character.

He one time taught me gun safety when I got my first rifle at around 5. It was a BB gun but you still have to be careful.

Joe: *Pumps up the BB rifle many times.
Joe: First, don’t shoot your truck. *Proceeds to shoot his truck.
Joe: *Pumps up the BB rifle again.
Joe: Second, don’t shoot yourself. *Aims it point blank to his foot and pulls the trigger.
Young Jacob: Looks at his shoe with the BB hole in it.
Joe: Keeps a total straight face like he was not hurt.
Young Jacob: Wide eyed AF.

Years later after I was an adult. I asked him how bad that hurt and would he do it again.
He said something like “Hell no, that fucking hurt.”

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Rip and Five Cousins

Six young Polish kids in the early days of Houston, descendants of the Polka, Maduzia, Kloc and Steshaczynak families from Bremond, Texas. These families immigrated from the Debica and Pilzno areas of SE Poland.

Left to right, Clara Mae Stash, Mary Ann Stash, Dorothy Riess, Lucile Riess, Walter ‘Sonny’ Smock, Fred William Stash
Houston, Texas
circa 1927

Maria Jacob letter to Rip Smock

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