In my family, Uncle Renny is the entrepreneur… a man unafraid to take risks and also not afraid to avoid them. In this way, he covered all his bases. When I knew him, he was very old; but, years earlier, he had been very young… younger still in the years before that…
Uncle Renny arrived in New York in the 1920’s with a great idea and a nickel in his pocket. Sadly, he bought a newspaper and paid for it with his great idea because he reached into the wrong pocket. He got two concepts and a notion back in change but they were useless. So, he went to work in the coal mines in Pennsylvania as a Polish immigrant. He worked hard and, in two years, was promoted to Swedish immigrant. My uncle saved a few pennies every day until he was able to fill up a sock with them… then, he used that sock to knock a bank teller unconscious and took the money in his till. He fled south because, even though bank robbery wasn’t illegal in Pennsylvania, filling a sock with pennies was.
He settled in a small Georgia town where he used his ill-gotten gains to build the only hardware store in the state that was made completely out of candy. He felt it would draw curiosity seekers and little German children who’d been lost in the woods after having been abandoned there by their cruel stepmothers. Regardless, all it took was one unseasonably warm day and most of Renny’s inventory had oozed onto the sidewalk.
He fled to Alaska to escape his creditors. He fled from Alaska to escape other creditors and some polar bears. Uncle Renny settled in New Mexico where, using his knowledge of gems and metallurgy, he made money selling heroin to the Indians. It was there that he met his wife, Jasmine: A Chinese immigrant whose English was so poor that it is highly unlikely she ever knew she was married to my uncle. They briefly lived a life of marital bliss after my uncle had built a fence high enough to keep Jasmine from leaving.
But, New Mexico got too “hot” for my Uncle Renny, after he got into an argument with a tribal chief over whether or not the series F-Troop was funny… although both agreed it had artistic validity. Plus, he was having trouble finding enough heroin to sell because Janis Joplin was using up the world’s supply. So, he and my aunt packed up and left for China.
Using Jasmine’s knowledge of the Chinese language and customs, Renny found it easy to fill another sock with pennies and rob another bank. This time, the two escaped through the USSR but were stymied when they couldn’t find the land bridge that someone had mentioned to Renny just twenty-thousand years before that. Fortunately, the USSR had just fallen, so they managed to get out while everyone was trying to figure out where it fell to.
For his twilight years, my uncle needed a place to live where laws and regulations were basically ignored. Of course, that meant moving to Florida. I met him when he lived there and he changed my life in that he cheated my parents out of my college savings, so I had to attend Texas Tech…