He sat quietly in church, hands folded, hunched slightly at the still proud shoulders. He was an aged man, one you’d never be able to judge the book by its cover.
He was tall and lean, except for his beer belly, around 6′-5″ or 6″, but with dusty cowboy boots and his ten-gallon hat, he looked ten feet tall, acted like it too. My uncle Buck looked like something out of a movie, or a nightmare to the man who he was at odds with, especially if he’d been drinkin’.When I was a kid, uncle Buck was almost bald, a sun-scarred dome surrounded by circular grey hairline below. He looked worn and old even before he really was. Truth is, he looked almost the same from his forties into his seventies. I’m pretty sure he never thought he’d live that long.
Buck kept a pair of tight fitting black leather gloves in his back pocket. He didn’t wear them all the time – and for darn sure not for fashion. He only pulled them on to fight.
It was hard for me to imagine the two sides of a person as a kid. My uncle was special to me, a second dad, what you think an uncle should be.
If it weren’t for my uncle Buck I’d have never got my first dog. He knew my heart and desire. That day at the grungy stables where he boarded his horse, I never left the new litter of pups in the barn. “A boy needs a dog, Harl,” he told my dad.
After a short dissertation about my mom and work associated with a dog, uncle Buck said,”Pick yourself a pup, boy.” I looked at my dad and he reluctantly nodded.
You don’t know that gratification of giving a youngster something they long for until you’ve walked in those shoes, but I could see clearly my uncle Buck was thrilled for me.
Growing up in a lake town has its advantages, one of them is fishin’. I couldn’t begin to recall how many times I’ve been fishin’, a lot, but the majority, probably seventy-five percent of all the times in my life, was with my uncle Buck.
Like a lot of folks from that generation, they didn’t throw around words like love, but they showed it with their actions.
As a young man, when I was in need, my uncle Buck, the man the world thought was crazy and mean as the devil, was there for me. He wasn’t perfect, but no one who knew the man who called out a gang of bikers and rode his horse through a bar could grasp that he was a caring person.
Hillbillies say that “blood is thicker-‘n-water”. Maybe that’s why our uncle Buck treated us the way he did. Maybe that’s why I understand now what I never could as a kid; the dark side of a man.
I haven’t done things my uncle Buck did, but things I’m not proud of all the same. I fight the flesh, what southerners call demons, too. All of us do to one degree or another.
When I think of my uncle Buck sitting in a church, the others referring to him as “brother” followed by our last name, I’m reminded of God’s precious grace and redemption… and that you can’t judge a book by the cover.