I’ve written before about how I grew up in a family neighborhood. There were seven houses in the neighborhood. My Uncle Bill and his family lived in one of those houses.
When I was a boy, there was a phrase that was used to describe a certain type of man. The phrase was, “He’s a man’s man.” The dictionary defines a “man’s man” as “a man noted or admired for traditionally masculine interests and activities.”
Here’s my definition of a man’s man: A man who is admired by others because of his physical strength, tough mindedness, confidence, loyalty, and resilience. A man’s man stands up for what’s right, and isn’t afraid to challenge other men who are not behaving appropriately.
My Uncle Bill was a man’s man.
To give you a glimpse of what he was like, I need to tell you about the time when he developed an interest in CB radios (citizen band radios). It happened during the early 1970s, when I was in high school.
After Uncle Bill saw what a person could do with a CB radio, he installed one in his work truck and another one in his car. He then set up a small communications center in his kitchen with state-of-the-art CB radio equipment that was hooked up to a tower antenna in his back yard.
It was customary for people who owned and used CB radios to give themselves a “handle,” which was a name that they were known by when they communicated with each other over a CB radio. The handle that Uncle Bill gave himself was “Hammerhead.” As I’m writing this, I can hear his booming voice talking into the microphone of his CB radio: “This is the Hammerhead, are you out there Juiceman?” The reply is almost instantaneous, “10-4 Hammerhead, this is the Juiceman, what are you up to tonight?”
Everyone who knew my Uncle Bill would agree that “Hammerhead” was an appropriate name for him. When it was necessary, he would justifiably hammer away at someone in order to get his point across. He took pride in being known as “the Hammerhead.”
I thought about Uncle Bill a couple of weeks ago when I went to the movie theater with Georgette and several members of our family. The movie that we saw was Toy Story 4. As I watched the movie, I couldn’t help but think about Uncle Bill. The character that reminded me of him was Buzz Lightyear, a toy space ranger character that has had a leading role in all four of the toy story movies.
According to the producers of the first toy story movie, the initial name for Buzz Lightyear was “Lunar Larry.” They weren’t happy with the name, so they brainstormed and ultimately decided to name him after Edwin Buzz Aldrin, one of the Apollo 11 astronauts. Aldrin was the second person to ever walk on the moon. The producers then came up with the last name of “Lightyear” because they thought it was a cool space name.
If you’ve seen any of the toy story movies, you know that Buzz Lightyear would fit within my description of a man’s man. He’s tough, confident, loyal, resilient, and always ready to come to the aid of his friends. He’s also built like my Uncle Bill was built. He has perfect posture, a barrel chest, and a rugged, manly face that shows that his mind is always working and is ready to come up with a solution to any problem that needs to be solved.
Another movie that I saw about 10 years ago that reminded me of Uncle Bill was Avatar. The character in the movie that reminded me of him was Colonel Miles Quaritch. He was in charge of a crew of men who were on the planet of Pandora. Their mission was to either convince the inhabitants of Pandora to cooperate with them or to forcefully take over Pandora, so they could remove precious and rare minerals that could be sold for commercial purposes.
Colonel Quaritch was a man’s man who behaved like my uncle Bill used to behave. Toward the end of the movie, when Quaritch and his men were at war with the inhabitants of Pandora, he was shot in the chest with a poison arrow that was designed to instantly kill a man. Every man who had been shot with a poison arrow before Quaritch was shot had instantly died. When Quaritch was hit in the chest with the poison arrow, he kept moving forward. It took a second arrow to kill him. That’s how tough he was.
I like movies that remind me of my Uncle Bill because they always trigger my memory to reflect on the multitude of great experiences I had with him, his son Danny, and my brothers who were often present when I was with him.
Uncle Bill has been gone now for more than 32 years. I can still see him in my mind’s eye — big, strong, imposing, and boisterous. At times, he was a bully. At other times, he was like a big, charming teddy bear.
But regardless of his demeanor, he was always a man’s man.
God has blessed each of us with a treasure chest full of great memories that we can dig into any time we feel as though nothing is going our way, or when we simply want to look back on all the great blessings we’ve had in our lives.
And then, of course, there are times when God reminds us of certain people from our past, so we can be thankful for the joy and happiness they brought to our lives.
I’m grateful for the recent reminder that jumped off the movie screen and lit up my memory of the man God put into my life to help me to become a better man.