Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rodney the Pistol Packing Preacher

The phone rang and I listened to my father tell me that his buddy, Rodney had a Police Positive .38 revolver that he wanted to sell. Rodney had a great reputation as a gun dealer because he was also a preacher. Sight unseen, I agreed to buy the gun and forwarded the money.

When my Papaw Harry Shepherd returned home from World War II, family lore holds that he went and purchased a snub-nose, Colt .22 revolver that he easily concealed in a pocket and often wore in a leather holster on his hip.

My dad added to the legacy of the gun when he sneaked it out of the house as a boy and lost it in the creek behind the house. Papaw went down to the creek and found it some time later, drying, cleaning, and oiling it back to operation.

Today both guns rest in my gun-safe, locked in my parent's home in the United States. When we lived in Ohio, I held a concealed carry permit, and on any given day you might have found me carrying one of those classic revolvers. 

Guns were part of growing up Shepherd. Papaw Harry gave me my first bb-gun before I was strong enough to hold it. He used to laugh about that day as he would add my story to family legacy. He'd tell that he held up the weight of the gun as I stood in front of him while he wrapped me with his great arms. 

I took my first aim at his mailbox, pulled the trigger, and put a hole through it.  He laughed... shocked that I'd hit it. Thinking it was a lucky first shot, he encouraged me to try again... and I put a second hole through it.

I later repeated this scene with my Dad when he took me squirrel hunting a few years later. I had graduated up to a .22 rifle. Dad pointed out a squirrel... and after following that squirrel until he looked just right... I pulled the trigger and passed the lead through its skull. 

I can remember going squirrel hunting with Dad and his older brother, my Uncle Lee. I watched them hunt together, work together, and walk through life together. My Uncle Lee passed from this world this past Thursday.

I remember fishing with Uncle Lee and my Dad somewhere in Indiana as a child. We were there with our cousin Pete. I was standing on the edge of the lake shore, near a large, square-shaped spillway (that looked like a vortex to the underworld. Suddenly I heard Uncle Lee's voice coming from the depths of that hole. My Dad tried to tell me that Uncle Lee was shouting at us through a drainage pipe on the side of the lake... but I was convinced he'd fallen into that hole. 

If you knew much about Shepherd lore, you'd know that we have quite the colorful history. There's been a lot of shenanigans. Through the years... we've had the friendship of Rodney. He's sold our family a lot of guns. He's also walked beside us all in friendship. 

Rodney the Pistol Packing Preacher visited my Uncle Lee just a short time before his passing... and Rodney introduced Uncle Lee to Jesus. 

Life has a funny way of coming full circle. I think of my tiny little self with that first bb-gun, in the arms of my Papaw. I think of how guns were an identifying characteristic of what it meant to grow up Shepherd. I think of the figure of Rodney that walked beside us all for years. It seems so perfectly fitting that somehow we'll all end up in heaven together someday... recounting the master-crafted weave of family, guns, and preachers that bound us all together.

I'm quite hopeful that heaven is not a gun-free zone... well, I'm quite certain it isn't... at least not now. I have no doubt that my Papaw Harry and my Uncle Lee are taking shots at God's mailbox. And I know that God has them wrapped in His steady, great arms. God is smiling and laughing as He sees that we're all on target.  

I think Papaw Harry would still be amused by his grandson. I'm a preacher these days, his faithful Colt is shined, oiled, and locked away, and I'm sure that I can still shoot the eyes out of whatever gets on the receiving end of my gun sight.