My first church was, literally, in the middle of the national forest. Privately owned land was all along the highways and the church was a strong country church. Naturally, the congregation included a game warden, Buddy, who was also a deacon.
The area was populated, infested some drivers might say, by deer and wild turkey. In fact, the headquarters of the National Wild Turkey Federation was in the same county. I’d done a bit of deer hunting (too much of a mess if you killed one), rabbit hunting (too much trouble for such a little bit of meat), squirrel hunting (same as rabbits), and quail hunting (long stretches of boredom interrupted by a few seconds of a startling explosion of birds followed by inexperienced hunters shooting everywhere) but never turkey hunting. I’d hear the turkeys calling early in the mornings and often see a flock when driving in the area.
So, I started asking questions about turkey hunting and Buddy offered to take me. “You bet,” I replied. I’m always up for new experiences and what could go wrong if you had the game warden as hunting guide?
Buddy told me to come over to his house and he’d check me out with one of his shotguns. I dutifully arrived and he had a target, silhouette of a scrawny hen, set up in the backyard. He handed me a loaded shotgun and said, “OK, preacher, take a shot.”
The target wasn’t far away, maybe 25 yards, and I took careful aim and fired off a shot.
“Let’s see what you got, preacher.” I couldn’t tell but there might have been a hint of skepticism in his voice. Perhaps a decided lack of confidence that the beloved pastor, a city boy, could actually handle a shotgun.
We walked down and scrutinized the target. It was obvious from a distance that I had completely missed the bird high and to the right. Nice, big hole in a blank part of the target.
Buddy got real close looking at the target and exclaimed, “Hey, preacher, look here! You killed him. Broke his neck. Good shot!”
I squinted and, sure enough, one stray pellet of bird shot made a tiny, almost unnoticeable hole in the bird’s neck. Killed the sucker indeed. I don’t know how many individual pellets were in that load, maybe hundreds. One of them, an outlier, hit the bird. The other several hundred missed by a mile.
If I had been slick like some preachers I know, I would have said, “Yeah, thank’s Buddy. I always aim so that just one pellet hits the target. Don’t want to mess up the meat.”
As it was, Buddy made his preacher look good, not a bad way to approach things in the church. God knows pastors are flawed and miss the mark at times. Pastoring is a tough job and it’s tougher when folks take shots at him. It helps both the pastor and the church if folks look a little harder to find something good.
Oh, we went hunting the next morning. Didn’t see any turkey.
And that’s how Buddy made my deacon hall-of-fame.
And you can keep your secret recipe smoked wild turkey. The cajun fried Bojangles turkey suits me just fine.