Uncle Leroy’s Big Idea (Part 2)

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This is an excerpt from the book Indians on Vacation by Thomas King.

If you missed it, you can read part one of this passage here.

When Bernie tells the story of Uncle Leroy, she closes her eyes so she can see the story, whole and complete. “I told you it wasn’t much of a house, didn’t I?”

“You did.”

“And that all the paint had been stripped off by the weather?”

“You told us that too.”

“And that Leroy had had a little too much to drink?”

Bernie would always pause at this point to let the tension build.

“So, Leroy’s big idea,” she’d begin again, after the proper amount of time had passed, “was that he would paint the Indian agent’s house. But he didn’t have any paint. And nobody else on the reserve had any paint, either. I’m guessing you can see the problem.”

“No paint.”

“So Leroy had to improvise.”

Just the word “improvise” would set Bernie off, and she’d begin laughing. And we’d have to wait until she stopped.

“In those days, there was a store in Cardston run by this Mormon family. They sold all sorts of used stuff, household and farming. Some of it was okay, and some of it was garbage, and if you didn’t know the different, the Mormons weren’t going to tell you.

“So, after Leroy sobered up, he rode over to Cardston to that store and bought an old milk pail, one of those zinc things with a wood piece for a handle. It was a sorry sight, that bucket. There was a story in the newspapers not long ago about a woman who collects junk like that.”

“Now they’re called antiques,” Mimi told her mother.

“So, Leroy took his junk antique and filled it with fresh cow flops. He mixed in some water, stirred it all up until it was brown and pasty, and went to work. He wasn’t sloppy either. He took his time and painted every inch of the house with cow poop. From a distance, it didn’t look bad at all. And as long as you were upwind, you didn’t notice the smell.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

Indians on Vacation – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

Meet Bird and Mimi in this brilliant new novel from one of Canada’s foremost authors. Inspired by a handful of old postcards sent by Uncle Leroy nearly a hundred years earlier, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace Mimi’s long-lost uncle and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe.

By turns witty, sly and poignant, this is the unforgettable tale of one couple’s holiday trip to Europe, where their wanderings through its famous capitals reveal a complicated history, both personal and political.

Copyright © 2020 by Thomas King.

More details on Goodreads can be found here.

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