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Uncle Remus Cigars


Fri, Aug 3rd, 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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Foods Weekly Ads

Sam goes to the show

Fri, Aug 3rd, 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 003

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2001
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Monday, July 16, 2001

I read an article last Sunday that said Americans are giving less attention to cleaning their houses. Once again, Im way ahead of a national trend.

My lack of cleaning skills is somewhat legendary in my family. ..... 
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"Buttered Bread with Brown Sugar"

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2001
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Monday, August, 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, L ..... 
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Butterflies through Binoculars

Fri, Aug 3rd, 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 3rd, 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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Highlights From the Fair

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2001
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Virginia CooperMonday, August 6, 2001

This years Fillmore County Fair was a complete success. Local master gardeners staffed our booth and answered many questions regarding landscaping, flower and vegetable gardening. The next two columns will ..... 
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Antiques and Classics

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2001
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Monday, July 30, 2001

There was an antique and classic tractor pull in town last Sunday. As I drove into the field where it was being held, I thought there must be some mistake. These tractors are like the ones my father made his living with a ..... 
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Jerry Laumb

Fri, Aug 3rd, 2001
Posted in

Mr. Laumb, 51, of Rushford, died Saturday (July 21, 2001) at his home of cancer.

He was born Jan. 27, 1950, in LaCrosse, Wis. He married Barbara Carrier on March 16, 1968. He worked at Farmer's Elevator in Rushford for nine years and at Cene ..... 
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