Between the ages of 5 and 11, my family and I lived in Clay County, Alabama. My father owned a funeral home half-way between Lineville and Ashland. These were some of our best days as a family (and some of our hardest). We all got to experience small-town living for the first time. While most of my family now prefers living in bigger cities like Augusta (with the exception of my oldest sister, who married a man from Clay County and still lives in rural Alabama), I like to think that it planted a seed in my heart for small towns, which I think is what brought me to Harris County in the first place.
When I was about 8 or 9, I used to go over to Joel Pettus’ house in the country. We spent hours on his family’s farm, exploring the dusty trails on four-wheelers, sneaking between electric fences, and fishing in muddy ponds. Joel’s father would take us out with BB guns, and let us shoot at tin cans. Once or twice, he let us shoot his thirty-aught-six. I remember falling backward as that thing kicked and having a bruise on my shoulder. This gave me a very healthy respect for guns in general.
Over the years, being in more suburban areas, I never got to shoot again. Even though my brother-in-law, who is a police officer, regularly went for target practice, I never asked him if I could join him. At the time, I never saw it as a past time that would interest me.
Then I moved to Harris County.
As you might have heard in my Christmas Eve sermon (didn’t anyone else think that it was ironic that the Christmas message included shooting guns?), I recently was invited to do some target practice by Doug Martin, III. Doug, Ivy, and I went on the back porch of Doug’s parent’s house and shot his 270 and his M-16. Hopefully, Doug is going to take me hunting sometime soon.
Doug re-taught me how to shoot, and let me go. My only mistake was not asking for the ear plugs, so when I shot that first time, my ears were ringing for hours! After all was said and done, I actually hit the target a few times.
More than a few people are surprised by my newfound interest in shooting and hunting, including my family. It certainly has surprised me as well. It doesn’t really fit the whole Episcopal-priest-peace-and-justice-left-wing-liberal stereotype that many of us get. The funniest thing said that day on the Martin’s porch was when Ivy said, “I can’t believe I’m shooting with my priest!” But, I have done much more fishing over the years than anything else, and I tend to keep and eat whatever I catch. The same is true of hunting, if I ever shoot anything. Gun control is a sticky subject, though, and while I think some people get carried away with their right to bear arms, guns should always be treated with the utmost respect and care. The bottom line is that I’m still so inexperienced with and afraid of guns that safety is paramount.
Once Doug takes me hunting, I’m sure I’ll have some great things to share! Also, since getting invited to hunt was such a treat, I wonder what other hobbies our parishioners have that might be fun. In my 5 1/2 years at St. Peter’s, not one person invited me to play golf, and it was a golfing community! I love seeing what our folks are passionate about, so if you have a stamp collection, like to sculpt bowls or plant gardens, enjoy obscure foreign films, or anything else, invite me!
I thought you all might get a kick out of seeing the pictures that Ivy took while were shooting. Feel free to poke fun, I certainly have been!
And somewhere in the world, Joel Pettus’ dad is smiling.