Fikes Generations

William Alvin Burke, Rest in Peace.

Uncle Bill sent my Dad a message when we lived in France and Uncle Bill was stationed in West Germany. He got in a little trouble for it, but I’m sure he thought it was worth it, and it may have been one of the first actual emails. Uncle Bill worked in a US Army Cryptanalysis bunker and had a state of the art telex message system, the one that would receive the flash message from the President to the US Forces in Europe if there were to suddenly be a war. Dad worked in a US Army Computer Center in Poiters, France, where they also happened to have a telex machine. Uncle Bill had a Top secret clearance, and dad had a Top Secret Clearance, so Uncle Bill sent his Brother in Law a message over the US Army Telex system. His superiors were not amused.
That was around 1962 or 3, around the same time Uncle Bill started teaching me to play Chess. A few years and a few thousand miles later in Northern California Uncle Bill took me out looking for Redwood Burls around the hills surrounding Gurneville, Ca., we spent an entire day hiking up draws and over ridges, avoiding wild Pigs and either cutting burls or marking redwood roots so they would have burls the next time he came up that creek bottom in a few years. We took dozens of Burls back to Los Angeles and I made a killing selling mine in Safeway parking lots, Uncle Bill made his share selling them in Bars and upscale florist shops around LA. I learned how to read contour lines, judge slopes, range distances, pace my self and many other things that would serve me well later following Uncle Bill up and down those hills.
A few years later he took me out drinking with him around the Russian River villages, I was not really old enough yet but that didn’t seem to bother him and nobody asked, my being “Wild Bill’s” Nephew. Not even the Town Cop, who’s car he stopped at and relieved himself onto the drivers seat before going into the cafe and telling the Cop he had just done so. Uncle Bill had a pair, there was never any doubt about that. The dawn found us again high in the Redwood hills, somewhere around the time the bars started closing Uncle Bill decided he was too drunk to drive and turned the duty over to me.
Not long after that I beat him for the first time in a game of Chess between us. He had taught me well and I beat him badly with a carefully crafted trap. He sulked and refused to play me for days.We talked about ancient Astronauts, Astral travel, mind reading and things that I wouldn’t hear anyone else talking about until years later. We laughed and fought and and got drunk and after I introduced him to Pot smoked our heads off a few times. He got me interested in Family History, showed me how to prospect for Gold, how to pick up a deck of cards at the 26th card almost every time and how to pick up girls in bar, even if the girls were old enough to be in the bar and I wasn’t and he always seemed to me one of the rare larger then life people you meet occasionally in life.Uncle Bill passed away after a battle with Cancer tonight. My thoughts and prayers are with him and all those that knew and loved him, knew and hated him or just knew him and didn’t know what the hell to make of him, because he was one of the originals.

Categories: 2. Burke