Uncle Benton Flippen died last night at the wonderfully full age of 92. My Aunt Lois left him about six years ago, after suffering a heart attack while she took a turkey from the oven for Thanksgiving dinner. (I have never gotten over that; turkey makes me feel that way, too...)
As a wee little Matty, I loved to see Uncle Benton and Aunt Lois. They lived next to my Great-Grandparents, where I spend part of my summer and whose farm my family now owns. Their only son, Larry, came to them later in life, and he was the apple of their eye. A big, rugged boy, he would run the woods with us, fish for flat heads in the creek, and climb trees to the top and set them to swinging (have you done that? Awesome!). I can still hear Aunt Lois screaming at him, "Now, Larry!" which Larry ignored totally. But, let Uncle Benton say, "Boy..." and Larry did what he was told Right Now.
From those memories comes the specialness of making molasses in the back of the farm at the old tobacco barn. My darling Uncles, Roscoe, Johnny, and Benton, along with a host of others, would set up the pan, build a nice, white hot fire, and start to stirring the green, thick cane juice. They'd walk along the edge with the paddles, talking, smoking, drinking pop, and telling lies. The women would bring lunch and dinner down and Uncle Benton could be convinced to "play a little" for us on his fiddle.
You see, while he didn't learn to read until he was 65, he learned the fiddle quite young. And, he was a marvel -- winnning more than 100 first places in fiddler's conventions all over the world. It was amazing to watch this man, who could barely see through his thick glasses and seldom said more than "Yep" or "Boy", come to life with the fiddle in his hands. He played up until last night when he went home to Jesus and Aunt Lois.
If you don't know anything about mountain fiddle music, here is a little clip of Uncle Benton from an interview when he was 82. There are many more videos on You Tube with him, if this wets your whistle for the music that makes my heart soar and my feet tippity-tap. After all, how can one be sad listening to Old Time music? I do hope God enjoys his latest musician and will clog a little when Uncle Benton sets up "Benton's Dream."