Kentucky History and Genealogy Network, INC.
Your Nickname is What?
My various uncles and family from my father’s side of the family have left me with many memories of antics, habits, sayings and just chance moments that leave me to chuckle as much now as they did when they occurred over the previous decades. Each one warrant a separate article to include their deeds and antics and the article would would be filled with hilarious recounts of their lives. It seemed to be a time of a more relaxed period and people always seemed to have more time to sit back and crack a joke in an attempt to see who could cause the most laughs.
John Wyatt and Sylvia Cobb Wyatt
As I grew up there were a ton of these chance encounters that still bring a smile to my face and a chuckle to my belly. Although many of my uncles and father are now gone on, I can still recall many of these laugh sessions from all of my uncles who became gleefully known as, Uncle Fuzzy, Mutt and Jeff, Soda Box, DuWat and a variety of others. I could not tell you what occurred to cause all of these nicknames but you can be assured that they can be contributed to some life event that was so funny to my Papa John that it deemed a nickname to be pinned.
My Grandmother, Sylvia, was affectionately known as “Sib”. Granny’s sister, Aunt Jennie, had passed away when her children were still small. “Aunt Jen’s” husband had also passed on about four years earlier so their kids were without their parents and ended up going to separate family members to live. My grandmother took in Harold, who we always knew as “Fuzzy” (actually a cousin but always felt like an uncle). This ritual grew to include all the grand-kids who had nicknames like, Chigger, Mink-eye, Coonie, Dough-roller along with a humorous collection of others that were steeped in some hilarious act that had been done at some point.
One of the most memorable of these names was “Wool”, a nickname my grandfather pinned on my cousin. The nickname came from an attempt to keep him out of a room that contained all of Granny’s glass what nots. Granny had moved them to a bedroom to keep him from breaking them. Wool always thought they were toys and was constantly in search of them. They tried keeping the light off in the bedroom so he wouldn’t go in there but that didn’t work. They had tried everything to keep him out of the what-nots and nothing seemed to work. Papa decided one day to hide behind the door and say WOOL in a low scary voice just enough so my cousin would stay out of the room. That worked and he never entered the room again. From that day forward he became known as “wool”.
Uncle Fuzzy (on the left) and an Elliott Man (on the right)
Uncle Fuzzy was a couple of years older than my dad so he grew up more as a brother to my aunt’s and uncles than a cousin. Well Fuzzy had a whole new concept in how life was to be lived and boy was he a character! Granny and grandpa always grew a huge garden to feed all thirteen kids. The responsibility of working the garden fell upon the entire household. Fuzzy didn’t think it should work that way. He also knew how to convince my father (dad’s nickname was Sam, don’t know how they got that from Sandlin). Fuzzy would talk dad into sneaking out of the garden and coming back to the house for an old-fashioned pillow fight. They got in trouble quite a few times for that after busting pillows and tearing up the room. I was told by an uncle that his nickname came from one of these pillow fights and him being covered in goose feathers from the stuffed pillows of the time. Papa said he was Fuzzy and from that day forward he carried that nickname.
The best one I heard on Fuzzy was when he was older and he drove a school bus. While waiting on the kids to load on the bus one day, Fuzzy picked up a can of black spray paint and began spray painting his shoes, or as he called it, polishing them. One of the younger schoolkids came up and asked him what he was doing. Fuzzy answered by saying “Why I am polishing my shoes”. The little boy was intrigued with the new process and asked to have his shoes polished with the paint. Fuzzy proceeds in polishing the kids shoes with the black spray paint and the little boy was on his way. The next day when the kid came to the bus he had a sour look on his face. Fuzzy asked the little boy what was up with the sour face and the boy said bluntly “You got me in big trouble”. He went on to relate “them was my brand new shoes you spray painted and mom is highly upset with me and you both.” Fuzzy looked confused as to why there was an issue with the polish job and the ill feelings and answered back “Why that is how we always polish our shoes, I leave a can of paint lying around just to touch them up with”.
My family seemed to always look for the best in people. They always seem to find humor in what everyone did and made life enjoyable. It always made you wonder what would happen next. They also accepted people for who they were and how they behaved , acted or reacted to life. Often times life with them was more like one of those television shows from long ago. (The television shows is another group of stories in itself.) Two of these characters led to a nickname that was pinned on another of my uncles and another cousin, Mutt and Jeff. All of my uncles were extremely tall with very long arms and legs. My youngest uncle was probably one of the tallest. His constant companion was the exact opposite and was rather on the shorter side. They were inseparable when young and papa nicknamed them Mutt (the shorter cousin) and Jeff (the taller of the two) after the comic strip that featured Mutt and Jeff. Mutt is known by his nickname till today (even though the nicknames got reversed)and no one even knew who you were talking about when Mutt was called by his real given name.
My youngest brother was called DuWat when he became older. He had worked around heavy equipment and didn’t hear well at all. I was talking one day in front of papa and some other family and mentioned something that my brother had said. Papa asked me who had said whatever it was we were talking about and I responded with my brother’s name. Papa said ” Oh you mean old DuWat”. I asked him why he called him that and he said for me to ask my brother what time it was. I did and my brother looks back with a puzzled look, not hearing what I had asked him and answered “Do What?” I cracked up and Papa had a big smile on his face then. Another great name from Papa.
Dough-roller was my aunt and the name had come from her days growing up in my grandparent’s large family of thirteen kids. She was the biscuit maker for the family. Papa would always ask where the Dough-roller was. Another uncle was from Texas and he was Cotton-Picker. He always talked about things and everything was that cotton-picking this or that.
There were many nicknames for my family and many require a large explanation as to why they came about. My papa pinned names to everyone but it was all in fun to make each day happy and something to look back on. I hear the nicknames mentioned today and have to smile because in a certain way my papa left a legacy to remember him by. These traits were passed down to uncles and aunts because it was always a joy to be with them. Everyday was funny and you were assured a belly roll from some funny phrase from one of them. Simpler days were these and oftentimes I look back with a bit of sadness on the way they were then and what each day brings now. I think we all need to stop and pause for a moment and bring a smile to someone’s face. It is well worth the small amount of time dedicated to that. Who knows, we may be remembered by these deeds when we are left only as a memory to everyone.
Author; Marty Wyatt
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