“Uncle David” contemporary figurative painting
Uncle David was my mother’s uncle. Just as my father’s family seemed to be mostly men from out in the Delta, my mother’s family was mostly women and lived in town, in Greenville. Uncle David was one of the few men on my mother’s side. I never met Uncle David even though Greenville was a small town. He was a shadowy figure I just heard about from my mother and my aunts, which wasn’t much. Uncle David was homosexual, which was something equivalent to being a murderer or a convict. It was only whispered about if mentioned at all.
When I was about eight, Uncle David turned up missing. Actually that was when I first heard about him because before that I had never heard his name. A few months later, some people riding horses found his remains behind the levee on a small bluff overlooking the River. The spot was coincidentally within 2 or 3 miles from our house, in the stretch of woodlands I knew quite well. I would always slip off any chance I got and wander through the unclaimed land between the levee and the River. There were fields and bar pits, snakes and cows and the wide expanse of the River. I would fish or look for turtles or dewberries, and hide in the brush if I heard any trucks or voices, but for the most part it was a wild abandoned place.
The LDS Church is very concerned with sexual purity, particularly in young people. It is standard procedure for the Bishop (local minister) to ask teens about impure thoughts or actions at regular one-on-one interviews. I was always mortified by these interviews. I already knew that God knew how much time I spent thinking about girls’ panties, about the way they squatted in the gym stretching before PE. I was guilty as sin, as guilty as Uncle David. I would lie to the Bishop with my face burning red.