Uncle Jake

Well not my uncle but my Dads. Jake married Mary, dad’s  moms sister. Coming into the marriage they both brought some children, 5 on one side and 6 on the other or close to it. Not sure what happened to their spouses, died is my guess. Back in those days divorce wasn’t even mentioned. If you ended up with a drunk or loser well you just had to ride it out.
They lived in West Milford when I first remember them.I was a kid , from a family of 8 so when we came to visit it  wasn’t a problem. When you have that many kids running around the yard they didn’t seem to notice a few more. They gave us cool drinks and treats, they were very mellow and kind.
Their house was on a narrow road in the woods, two cars could pass but one was usually on the shoulder of the road a little. Just before their house was a hill and then on top to the left was their home. I remember it as white with red trim and big propane tanks out back of the house. A small dirt driveway was there but parking on the grass was ok, plenty of it for sure. Looking out there were many acres of scrub brush and small trees and a road that led to a pond. Well the pond was spring fed, dug by one or more of the family with their backhoes and dozers and it was muddy, ice cold and muddy.
As their children grew they would take their machines and carve a driveway through the brush. Soon a foundation then cinder block walls and my dad would do some electric. Like the Amish everyone pitched in and helped. Soon a family moved in and life was in session. This was repeated many times on the property, houses to the left and right of the narrow road, broken asphalt patched together with discarded blacktop from road jobs, some oil and gravel, it was all good.
Each summer though they had an event, at least one that we were invited to. At the pond the tables were cleaned and clothed over, the barbecue pit was fired up and the barrels of ice water were filled with beer and soft drinks. My eyes were happy. They had a rule, eat and drink whatever you cared to, even a whole can of soda for yourself but waste it and you were done. There were dogs and burgers, chips and candy, steamed clams by the bushel. Man was it a good time. The adults relaxed, smoked cigs and cigars and drank beer.The kids rode the rope swing in the muddy waters, always supervised by adults and big kids.  There were no arguments though, Uncle Jake wouldn’t allow it. Act like a fool and he would send you home or one of his boys would. These boys by the way were well chiseled 6 footers with muscles from lifting blocks all day or pounding nails. These were good times.The ride home in the ’57 wagon was always quiet, we were done.
My mom sent me a newspaper clipping written about Uncle Jake. His last name was Corter and he had so many children and grandchildren living there they named it Corterville. At the time of his death he had children and great grandchildren by the tons. Jake and Mary lived a good life. They inspired me, even though it didn’t take effect right away, to be a good person and take care of family. They gave expecting nothing, they lived their lives setting examples to others, they are sadly missed but have left many with a moral ethical way to live life. Well, i forgot to mention there was some moonshining going on down in the old shed but hey, no one is perfect.