The scene was always the same. My sisters and I sat in hushed silence, watching and hoping the man with the big tool box could work magic—again—on our on-the-blink Majestic black-and-white TV. If you twisted the antenna pole just right, you could pull in three stations—two in Savannah and one in Jacksonville. In time, there’d be others, but those three linked us to the outside world: Captain Kangaroo and Howdy Doody. Eventually, we’d tune in Perry Mason, Leave It to Beaver and American Bandstand. But when our TV was on the fritz, we were all frowns.
And that’s why the NeSmith kids cheered every time Harvey Stuckey knocked on the door of our tiny funeral-home apartment. Mr. Stuckey was Mr. Fix-It, and he didn’t mind our hand-wringing as we hung over his shoulder. First, he’d remove the set’s Masonite backing. Next, he’d explore the cavern of wires and tubes.
“Hmmm,” he’d say, “let’s try this.” Then, he’d pop out a tube and test it. I was anxious to see if he shook his head. Sometimes he’d say, “I’ll be right back.” Moments later, he’d reappear with a small cardboard box, containing a replacement part inside. About that time, Big Dink would walk in.
“Well, Harvey,” my dad would ask, “what do you think?”
Harvey Stuckey was an avid outdoorsman, and
one of his favorite destinations was the Altamaha River Swamp.
“Well, Dink,” he’d say, “let’s see,” as he screwed the back on the set and shoved it into the corner. Sandy, Sheila and I would hold our breaths as Mr. Stuckey clicked the knob. Bingo. WSAV was back on the air. A youthful cheer would go up, but Mr. Fix-It always added, “Dink, I’m not sure I can fix it again. I’ve done just about all I can.” And he had. Still, miraculously, his magic helped that Majestic TV limp into 1964, when NBC’s peacock spread its colorful tail feathers on our new RCA.
By that time, I knew Harvey Stuckey in another way. He was the uncle of one of my best friends, Pete Hires. Pete’s dad, Aubrey, and Harvey married Moody sisters: Kathleen and Lucy. Pete’s “Unc” became his second father, introducing him to hunting and fishing in the Altamaha River and its expansive swamp.
Two years ago, I listened to Pete, his uncle and another buddy, Davis Abner, banter about those swamp adventures. One of Pete’s favorite stories was when he and Davis shot five wild hogs. Pete remembers it as a Little Rascals skit, their trying to engineer a Tarzan-like way to haul the game out. When they finally got back to the camp, “Unc” was sitting on the hood of his Jeep, laughing. He said, “Boys, you’ve gotta learn to not shoot more game than you can tote.”
In 1969, Pete’s “Unc” became my “Cuz,” when I married Harvey’s cousin’s daughter, Pam. And “Cuz” is what we called each other until he died at age 92 on Jan. 24.
When our sons, Alan and Eric, learned of Mr. Stuckey’s death, they remembered the time he joined us at their maternal grandfather’s dove shoot in Mitchell County. Cuz put on a how-to-do-it demonstration with his multi-choked .12 gauge. “Dad,” Eric said, “Mr. Stuckey would twist that choke and boom! He was bringing down birds that no one else could hit.”
Indeed, Harvey Stuckey was as good with a shotgun as I’ve ever seen. But he was good in so many other ways, too. His physical stature didn’t suggest he was a giant, but Cuz was. He stood tall, very tall. And I was introduced to that admirable quality almost six decades ago, when Harvey Stuckey reconnected us to the outside world in glorious black and white.