I recently attended an 80th birthday party for my Uncle Vic. Milestones make you reminisce and there is plenty of reminiscing when it comes to Uncle Vic. There is not an intersection in my life that doesn’t have him standing in the middle of it directing traffic. Our first dog, Duke, came from Uncle Vic. I don’t think my mom was crazy about the idea, but Duke became one of her kids and she loved him for 15 years. We were also going to get a horse from Uncle Vic. Actually, I’m still waiting. When we were preschool age he would tell us tales of annual horse roundups on some island. He knew people and thought he might be able to get us a pony off that island. We didn’t know whether to believe him or not, but then in grandma’s National Geographic came a story about small ponies on islands off the coast of Maryland—that is where Uncle Vic came from.
The legend is that these ponies swam ashore from a Spanish vessel, a galleon, named the Santo Cristo, which had capsized off the coast, around the century 1600. The ship had been headed to Panama but never made it. It’s cargo of horses was to go to the Viceroy of Peru and help in the gold mines. The horses, lost at sea, swam to the nearby island. A famous annual "Pony Roundup" and "Pony Swim" was held each year during the month of July and had been going on since 1927. I told my brother, "Oh my gosh, we are getting ponies!"
Uncle Vic was a super car salesman, and still is. He worked for Buick in Flint, Michigan when the factory had it’s own sales lot. My grandfather often told me stories about Uncle Vic’s sales secrets. He would set a doctor’s appointment. When he showed up the doctor would say, "What’s wrong with you?" Uncle Vic would say, "Nothing, I want to sell you a Buick." Half the doctors would throw him out the front door, but the other half bought Buicks. So he kept setting those appointments.
When I was young I thought he made the cars. Everyone I knew that had a car got it from Uncle Vic. I was confident that his deal making expertise was going to somehow roundup a pony on a Maryland Island and get it to my backyard.
As we grew more and more impatient with the island roundup deal, Uncle Vic switched tactics. Whenever we were at my grandfather’s cabin in rural northern Michigan, Uncle Vic would take my brother and I out driving around the countryside looking for horses for sale. He would slow down and say, "This looks like a place that might have a few for sale." He would then pull into a farmhouse driveway and tell us to wait in the car while he went up to the house. With two wide-eyed kids in the front seat watching his every move, Uncle Vic would knock on the door several times. When there was no answer, he would pull one of his cards out of his pocket and pinch it between the screen door jam. This would happen several times a day. It wasn’t until years later that we discovered we were only stopping at abandoned farm houses.
There was always some excitement when visiting Uncle Vic. He would get a hundred silver dollars every time he sold a Buick Roadmaster. He’d let us reach in and grab as many as we could with one hand. He was always coming home with something he took in on a car deal. He had the first snowmobile we ever saw. He would come home with St. Bernards, Llamas, Myna birds and televisions with remote controls. He was told to feed the Myna dog food. They didn’t tell him "dry" dog food. He was feeding the bird "wet" dog food. That made the myna very regular and increased its trajectory to across the room on a regular basis. I think that bird went with the next car deal. Then there was Leonard, the parrot that could sing "I’m Popeye the Sailor Man," but only when the vacuum cleaner was running. Gaila and I were married in his home. I remember asking him politely if he would move the fish tank full of piranhas out of the living room where we would be saying our vows. After the ceremony someone shot off the miniature-to-scale cannon in the backyard—both cannon and piranhas I’m sure were from car deals.
I learned the art of the deal from my Uncle Vic. I somehow inherited a small outboard fishing motor when I was seven years old. My Uncle Vic wanted to buy it from me and he didn’t even fish. He offered me a check for six dollars or five dollars cash. I took the cash. I always remembered him saying, "Cash is King."
"No Problem" and "Keep Smilin’" are two sayings people associate with me. I got both of these sayings from my Uncle Vic.
When I mustered out of the Marine Corps, Uncle Vic was selling Jeeps. He arranged a great deal for me on a new CJ5 and told me it would go anywhere. He was almost right. Whenever I needed some accessory like a hitch or winch, he would find a customer that needed something towed or pushed or pulled and tell them if they bought the parts I would do the deed.
One time the car dealership burned to the ground. Uncle Vic had three suits he had just picked up from the dry cleaners hanging in his office. As they all ran from the burning building a mechanic grabbed the suits as he went by. Vic saw him with the suits and made him run back in and hang them back up— "That’s what insurance is for."
He can sell ice cubes to Eskimos. One day three migrant workers came in and wanted to buy a car that would get them back to Texas. According to Uncle Vic, he told them he had a great deal on a car, but it had no reverse. They said, "that’s okay, we’re not coming back." In reality, Uncle Vic probably gave them a car. He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it.
So the moral of the story is this: If you need a dog, or a car, or a good friend that makes you laugh every time you’re with him—go see Uncle Vic.