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Uncle Remus Cigars


Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
Posted in

Monday, August 6, 2001

Editors note:
The author originally wrote this essay, about a personal experience with racism, as an exercise for a writing class he is taking at the Loft in Minneapolis.


Handsbury liked to smoke a cigar after breakfast. Not just any cigar but one of those that bend downward about a quarter of an inch near the middle, then go straight again. I surfed the Internet to find more about them, but the only thing that caught my eye was old coon cigars. In my day, they were Uncle Remus Cigars.

Handsbury savored his morning smoke relaxing on his bunk the one below mine in the Marine Corps barracks at Camp LeJune North Caroloina. Ordinarily his diction wasnt much different than anyone else in the barracks. But occasionally, after Id neglected to go to the mess hall for breakfast, Handsburyd bring back a carton of milk and a few strips of bacon then hed Uncle Tom me a bit. "Yes-sa, Mista Neil," hed say, "I dun brought back a day starter for you, Mista Neil." Handsbury was one of only two Negroes in our barracks of nearly one hundred Marines.

That was 1951, a half-century ago, when African Americans were Negroes. And I was in North Carolina where the common terms were Nigra, nigger and coons.

I grew up on a farm, in a predominantly Scandinavian area of southeastern Minnesota where there were no Negroes; or other minorities for that matter, except a few catholics. One time as a kid Id heard about a family of Niggers that came to the movie theater in town. Someone told my Mother they stunk so bad people within three rows of them had to move; and the first noxious weeds of prejudice were sown in my mind.

Handsbury was the first Negro Id ever met personally. Fortunately, my mind weeds hadnt flourished and I continued to be mostly ignorant of racial prejudices, so Handsbury and I became cautious friends. He made a very favorable impression on me, not because he was black but because he was Handsbury - a thoughtful, kindhearted, intelligent human being. Even though I knew him for only about three months, the name Handsbury has stuck with me all these fifty some years, while I hardly remember the last name of most of my marine friends. One time Handsbury was about to depart on a weekend pass, he turned to me and said, "Ill see you next Thursday Mista Neil."

"Thursday!" I said. "If you come back Thursday youll be AOL and thrown in the brig."

"No," he said. "I .....
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Sam goes to the show

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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Monday, July 30, 2001

There was a Dog Show held at the county fairgrounds recently and I thought that it might be fun if I entered Sam. Sam likes attention and I was fairly certain that Sam would make a good showing at the First Annual Dog Sho ..... 
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Commute 004

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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Monday, August 13, 2001

I am often asked why I live in a small town and commute forty-five minutes each way to work. I say that I prefer the lifestyle. If the person asking has ever lived in a small town, they probably know what I mean. If not ..... 
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"My mother went to town probably two times in the wintertime."

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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Monday, August 13, 2001

The Art of Farming is a project of the Collaborative for Watershed Sustainability to gather stories about farm life in southeastern Minnesota before World War II. Stories have been gathered from individuals near Harmony ..... 
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Butterflies through Binoculars

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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Monday, August 6, 2001

What creature flies; makes no sounds; does not bite, sting or carry disease; is bright orange with dark bands on its upperparts and silver spots below; and is common in meadows, fields and along roadsides in Fillmore Cou ..... 
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The Run Has Begun

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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Weaver Dunes Field Report Early Summer 2001By John LevellMonday, July 23, 2001

As Spring 2001 draws to a close, the season's exceedingly wet and cool weather is still cause for concern to those of us working on the Blandi ..... 
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Area Farmers Hit By Soybean Aphids

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, August 13, 2001

Soybean aphids have emerged to raise havoc in area fields. Until now, farmers have had little information about this relatively new pest. During the summer and autumn of 2000, heavy infestations of the so ..... 
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Edgar, Nucla and Niwot

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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By Wayne PikeMonday, August 13, 2001

I am looking out the window at our drought-scorched pasture. I should go outside to accomplish something, but it is too hot. I am just going to let my mind wander back to our trip to Colorado in June. We go ..... 
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Olympic Games With Chinese Tendencies

Fri, Aug 10th, 2001
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Monday, July 23, 2001

If you havent heard by now, China will host the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The country has been working for the last 10 years to get the games believing that the international spectacle will give China the prestige ..... 
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