27 June 2021

Ellis Millsaps: Uncle Al's Legacy

 It was 2007 when my son and I drove to Virginia to visit Uncle Al. Jack says it was 2007; I couldn't hit the year within five and if I did it would be a lucky guess. He can do this because it happened when he was young. I can pretty well date things that happened before 1985, the year I graduated law school, because up until that time significant events were associated with where I was and what I was doing-- what grade I was in, where I lived, who my girlfriend was-- but after that it pretty much all runs together in a middle and post middle-aged blur. I remember much of my life, but dating occurrences is often problematic.

 Uncle Al was neither of our uncle. He was the uncle of Jack’s Eastside friend Steven. He gave Jack and Steven work in his landscaping business at a time when both needed structure in their life.. Hell. he wasn't blood relative to any of us. He married Stephen's father's sister and they were divorced, but Uncle Al, as I was later to learn  personally, was a good man.

 We were visiting Uncle Al because he was dying of cancer. It wasn't on this trip northeast that the ice storm came. That was later. We took that trip to North Carolina because Jack had found a car there.. Although the meteorologists told us the blizzard was coming at three pm that Sunday, Jack didn't get his ass moving until noon.  


We found the car, negotiated a price and headed home. At three the snow started as predicted. Within minutes we could only see a few feet in front of us. We left my Prius at a truck stop in Gainesville and proceeded  in Jack’s new four wheel drive at 15 miles per hour down a solidly iced I-85. Chipper Jones did not have to rescue us, but it was four or five hours before we made it to TJ's house near Grant Park in Atlanta. There I was snowed in for two days. Fortunately there was a grocery store and a liquor store within fairly easy skating distance.

 The only thing memorable about the trip to Richmond was that on the way we stopped at a McDonald's in  small town North Carolina and were served by a beautiful girl. I mean Kate Beckinsale, Audrey Hepburn beautiful. Both of us wondered why the hell this girl had this McJob, but stern looks from my son who knows me well prevented my asking her.

 As I mentioned earlier, Uncle Al had a landscaping company, not the mow the lawn and weed eat kind but the kind where you lay sod and set out shrubbery at commercial buildings. And he had as I recall now around six or more greenhouses in which he not only grew exotic plants but several strains of excellent marijuana.

  After the last election I learned that Virginia had legalized recreational marijuana and cultivation therefor. That is what prompts this essay. Uncle Al could have got in on the ground floor.

Uncle Al died shortly after our visit but his legacy lived on because he gave us three stuffed baggies of different kinds of marijuana. Jackson ,Trent and I, the boys in the band and various guests smoked Uncle Al's legacy for what in hindsight seems like a year. I thought of it, obliquely I admit, as like the remnant of oil and flour the widow proffered Elijah when he asked for food. He blessed the oil and flour so that the remnant never ran out. I Kings 17 :16. 

- Ellis Millsaps

Ellis "Da" Millsaps is a recovering Attorney but has worn many hats over the years: father, bus boy, stand-up comedian, novelist, wiffle ball player, rock'n'roll band manager, and at one time wrote a popular and funny column for The Covington News. A Fannin Co. mountain boy originally, Mr. Millsaps now stays at the mill village of Porterdale by way of 20 years in Mansfield.