"Uncle Sean sure is pretty, but there's something wrong with him, anyway," writes 14-year-old Will Barnett, unable to understand the feelings that seize him when he first lays eyes on his troubled uncle. Just how troubled his uncle is becomes one of the things Will Barnett seeks to find out; why he falls in love with him is the other.
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The way certain materials came into my possession (including a Big Chief Tablet, a letter, dog tags from the Vietnam Era, and a spiral notebook) is somewhat startling. I was tearing down an old barn twenty miles south of Hachita, New Mexico, just west of the Big Hatchet mountains, where a long-time-ago farm had passed into oblivion. When the barn was merely a skeleton of itself, I was standing inside the slatted shadows cast by the remaining rafters, when a box fell the nearly thirty feet to the pile of rubbish in the middle of the floor. It was sealed with disintegrating duct tape and simply burst open upon impact. When I kneeled over the contents that had spilled out, I was amazed at the condition of the Big Chief tablet. I chose to pick it up first, since I had not seen one for at least thirty years. The first words I read were these: "Uncle Sean sure is pretty, but there's something wrong with him, anyway." From that point, I was hooked.