Jake got his first .22 from his Grandpa........and through the generosity of one of our forum members this story may now be told. *************************************************************************** JAKE AND THE LONG SERMON The preacher kept talking. After all, his job was to talk, or to preach, and I guess that's a matter of intent and interpretation. Jake sat quietly in the pew, with his hands on his lap. His Mama had taught him to sit quietly in church and he did so, now even decades after she was gone. But, Mama never did figure out how to keep him actually listening to the pastor. He looked like he was listening, but his mind was doing laps around the little church, looking out the windows and visiting other more interesting places. Jake had been at the dime store during the week buying some cotton yarn to mend some socks. The Pastor saw him and cornered Jake between the knitting needles and the dress patterns. This really was not Jake's world to begin with and he was pretty uncomfortable being faced down by the Pastor. "We'll be having a covered-dish luncheon after church this Sunday, "said the Pastor, "and you should be there. Lots to eat and you know how the church ladies love to cook." "Well.......I'll think about it." said Jake. "And, uh, thanks." And he meant it, but he usually stayed away from the little church on the corner. He seldom had any spare change for the collection plate, and the collection plate always came around. And, everybody knows, the catfish bite better on Sunday than any other day of the week. Sunday dawned on schedule, but a cold front had moved through and the rain would be steady all day. Jake's chickens knew this and were poking around in the yard, picking at things no one else could even see. If the rain was going to quit later, the chickens would know this and stay in the shed where it was dry. So, putting on his better overalls and giving his boots a quick wipe with the dirty clothes, he went out he front door and turned toward the little white frame church. He was happy to see there was still an open spot in a pew, and happier yet that it was near the back. He sat down just as the organ groaned out the end of the last prelude tune. Time marches on, unless you are Jake and sitting in church. Then time dawdles and meanders. After the gospel reading, something about striving to get to the Promised Land the preacher launched into his sermon. Jake looked out the window he could see. He looked at all the other people, and the trusses holding the roof up, not really hearing much. Then, the preacher slapped the pulpit and said, "WHERE THERE'S A WILL, THERE'S A WAY" and off he went on a new tack, telling the congregation to work harder and attain their goals. All Jake heard was the word "will". For some reason, he was transported back to the front hallway of the old family home on the edge of the prairie. You see, Jake was of an age now when he sometimes found things hard to remember, and more often when he found other things damned near impossible to forget. Sometimes a noise, or a smell would bring back waves of memories, just as real as real-life and he couldn't stop them. In a heartbeat Jake was standing with his Grandpa in that front hallway. Grandpa lived there now with Jake's family, sleeping on the couch most nights, and a simple life is a good thing, because that worked out alright for everyone concerned. "Lookie here, boy. I want to show you something." And with that, the old man reached deep in the closet and pulled his hand out gripping his old Remington .22. Not an elephant gun, not much of a duck gun, but the best squirrel gun the men in this family had ever used. If there is a squirrel heaven, there are trees full of squirrel angels all talking about Jake's grandpa. "This'll be yours one of these days, when I'm gone, Jake, it's in my Will. By the way I'm feelin' you'll be huntin' with it next Fall." The two men, one old and one much younger, met eyes and they both knew what had been said, but neither followed up on it. "Thanks, Grandpa....." was all that Jake could stammer out. Then, the old .22, all the dark wood, the darker metal and the incredibly bright memories they carried went back, deep into the closet. The preacher took a breather and the organist filled in with a rendition of "Onward Christian Soldiers", but the singing didn't sway Jake from the visions passing through his head. Truth be told, he was enjoying just sitting still for an hour or so. It was a luxury he seldom allowed himself. As he sat there, the memories continued, as if on tape. He remembered clearly the day his Dad had handed him that Remington. He held it, and cherished it, but would have rather had his Grandpa back. No one has ever loved and respected a rifle like Jake did that old, worn Remington. It was cleaned and oiled and wiped down and stood up in the corner as carefully as if the Queen herself had entrusted him with the Crown Jewels. With a start noticeable to the folks near him in the pew Jake flinched, he could SMELL the leaves, feel the wind as it rustled the pecan trees in the river bottom and hear the crack of the old .22 as his grandpa dropped squirrels, one after the other. No shortage of "tree rats" here, as God had seen to it that the pecans were plentiful, too. "Go get 'im, boy" was the command, and Jake would run off and drag the squirrel back by the tail, and pop it into the gunny sack. He loved hunting, even before he could hunt. And this was "male bonding" of the best sort, practiced since mankind stumbled out of the first cave, and long before some college professor dreamed up the term. Truth is, if that college professor had been squirrel hunting as a child he might have made something worthwhile of himself instead of settling for a teaching job. With a squirrel apiece for everyone at the house and one more for the bag they headed home. If the light was right Grandpa would show off and shoot pecans out of the trees with his Colt .38 Special. He carried it for snakes, and because a man should have a pistol. He just should, that's all there is to it. A lady in a gingham dress elbowed Jake.....twice. Peering at her, through a mental image of pecan trees, he nearly laughed, and then remembered where he was. She passed the woven white-ash collection basket to him and then looked directly at Jake, till he reached into his pocket and anteed up a nickel, and dropped it in. Having done her Christian duty, the woman turned to face the pulpit again, and Jake passed the basket on. Later, Jake found the covered dish luncheon very good. If there's one thing for sure, it is that those church ladies can cook. And, they let him fill his pockets with cookies before he left. But, the potato salad and ravioli and chocolate cake, although very filling left Jake with a certain hunger. Between the luncheon and the Pastor's fine sermon Jake should have been full on all levels. Jake cranked the old truck till it started, reached over in the big bench seat and felt the walnut stock of the old .22, and headed for the river bottom. Just for an instant he thought he could smell his Grandpa's old Pendleton hunting coat.