My Uncle Nunnellee was one of my favorite kinfolks. He was married to Aunt Sis, my mother’s oldest sister. I never understood how they got matched up. Aunt Sis was a librarian who could have come from central casting. She had the ability to zap you with a librarian glare that would wilt your soul on the spot, whatever you were doing. Just as quickly her smile could light up the room. Uncle Nunnellee was a Navy veteran, a cattle rancher, and dry goods store owner. He loved tromping around in boots and overalls. I never saw Aunt Sis wear anything but a dress, usually with an apron. Uncle Nunnellee looked a little like Mr. Potato Head – bald but with eyebrows that required hedge clippers for a trim. He always had a twinkle in his eye like he was up to something. I guess opposites do attract: Aunt Sis was silk; Uncle Nunnellee was sandpaper. They never had any kids of their own, but they had plenty of nieces and nephews.
Uncle Nunnellee and Aunt Sis lived in Bonham, Texas, the same town where my grandmother “Nanny” lived. Whenever my mother’s clan would converge to visit the matriarch, Uncle Nunnellee was in charge of entertaining the young cousins. His favorite leisure activity was dominoes, but there was no way we were going to play an inside game. All we wanted was to visit his place on the outskirts of Bonham. He had a pond where we used cane poles to fish and poke at the turtles and tadpoles. The chicken coop always had eggs for collecting, and his bird dogs usually had a litter of puppies. There was even a storm cellar in the yard that we thought came straight from the Wizard of Oz. Nothing made us happier than piling in the back of Uncle Nunnellee’s old truck and bouncing around the pastures to check on the cows.
One time when I was about 12, just Uncle Nunnellee and I were out in the truck. I begged him to let me drive. I assured him I was a very capable driver (which I wasn’t) and my parents let me drive all the time (which they didn’t). We made our way to the middle of a pasture and he let me take over. Only then did I realize that the truck had a manual transmission. Even if I had known how to drive (which I didn’t) I surely wouldn’t have known how to drive that truck. Patiently Uncle Nunnellee explained how I should step on the clutch, give it a little gas, then push the gear stick down, all at the same time. I tried, and I tried, but all I got was a bucking, stalling truck lurching its way through a bunch of panic-stricken cows. A pale Uncle Nunnellee finally said, “You really don’t know how to drive, do you?”
Another highlight of a visit to Bonham was a trip to Uncle Nunnellee’s dry goods store on Main Street. I remember walking into the store like it was yesterday. The light was dim and there was no air conditioning, but the store was cool because of its darkness. The smell was a mix of gardening chemicals and livestock feed. I always rushed to the leather goods in the back, hoping to see saddles and halters for horses. Every imaginable type of screw, nut, bolt, hammer, screwdriver, and chisel were on display. Nails were sorted in barrels by size and type. Pocket knives glinted in glass cases. Chains and chicken wire were on huge rolls, sharp shears nearby. Young visitors always got a free cold drink from the lidded cooler up front.
At Uncle Nunnellee’s memorial service, the preacher described meeting with him shortly before his death. He told the preacher he had not always been the best person and wondered if he had been “good enough.” The preacher then told us the story from Luke 5:4-11, where Jesus instructed Peter to row his boat into the deep water to catch some fish. After a long night of catching no fish, Peter was reluctant but did as he was told. Soon he had so many fish that his nets were breaking and his boat was sinking. Taken totally by surprise, Peter said, “Lord, don’t come near me! I am a sinner.” But Peter eventually left everything, became one of the first disciples and ultimately was chosen to be the foundation of the church. (Matthew 16:18.)
Were any of the disciples good enough? Are any of us good enough?
The Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 2, verses 8-10,
You were saved by faith in God, who treats us much better than we deserve. This is God’s gift to you, and not anything you have done on your own. It isn’t something you have earned, so there is nothing you can brag about. God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.
I always knew Uncle Nunnellee was good enough.
Offered by Mary Thompson.
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