One of the best things about working with family is that most of your memories are their memories, too. There is a kind of shorthand among siblings that can instantly transport you to a long-ago time and place with just the utterance of certain words. Sometimes it elicits a cutting glance (like “moose river”, but that’s a story for another day) and sometimes it results in an instantaneous eruption of laughter, like “Uncle Vestin”.
Who in the heck is Uncle Vestin, you ask? Nobody. And that’s what’s so funny about it.
“Well, we were on a road trip – isn’t that how all our stories start? – headed to somewhere around Houston,” Audrey recalled. “In typical McMullen fashion, we were laughing and cutting up. The guys (Mickey, and Cheryl’s husband at the time, Patrick), of course, were either tuning us out or in a mood because they didn’t find any of it nearly as funny as we did. There is a sign right outside Hallettsville pointing the way to Vestin. Daddy thought it sounded funny, so he started spinning a tale about our ‘Uncle Vestin’.”
“So we start building on to it,” Cheryl laughed. “Just riffing off each other, dying laughing, giving our ‘Uncle Vestin’ this elaborate – and ridiculous – backstory. Well, on the way home on Sunday, we all stopped to eat at the Cottonwood Inn in La Grange, and we’re walking out, and Daddy’s jingling the change in his pocket like he always did, and he glances up at some old timey picture of some random man, and goes, ‘Well, I’ll be damned, there’s Uncle Vestin right there!’ And I mean, we LOST IT.”
“That started the giggle fit back up again,” Audrey said. “And it carried over into the car and we’re driving back, and we’re either home or almost home and Cheryl asked Patrick why he was so sour, and he said, ‘I can’t join in the fun because I don’t know your Uncle Vestin.’ Which got us laughing even harder because, of course, there WAS no Uncle Vestin!”
[Maybe it’s one of those “you had to be there” things, but maybe not – Hedy wasn’t there (sadly, because no one can color a story quite like Hedy can) and it still makes her giggle.]
After all these years, decades, “Uncle Vestin” can still get us to giggling. He needed to make an appearance in the ‘I Go Back’ collection. Nashville just happened to be the perfect place for him.
“We had to create Music City in the middle of South Texas so we were setting the scene from scratch, and we can’t even tell you how much fun we had making up fake people and bands,” Cheryl said.
Actually, we can. And we will in a couple of weeks. But for now, let’s stick to how Uncle Vestin, a funny sounding town and an imaginary man, ended up securing his legacy in print.
“We knew we wanted a ‘Hatch Show Print’ wall,” Cheryl explained. “I mean, Hatch is a Nashville treasure – it’s legendary, it’s quintessential. Those show posters are unmistakable and instantly recognizable. And they’re still a functioning press, still doing it all by hand like they did a hundred years ago, so we commissioned them to make one of Uncle Vestin in the style of a vintage show bill and snuck it into the Nashville catalog. There are actually a lot ‘Easter eggs’ in that catalog that are inside jokes or nods to our family.”
If you, like Patrick, “didn’t know Uncle Vestin”, you probably would never even have noticed this little hidden gem of McMullen family history because, let’s be honest, the real star of the show in this shot is the lovely Miss Lozzie and that fabulous fur-trimmed Ketchup Soup Jacket -- Uncle Vestin and the Texas Swing Boys might as well be chopped liver next to that!
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