It was a beautiful, scenic 40 minute drive. Sprinkled with nostalgia from my childhood, we drove past Lake Logan and I remembered fondly trips there with my grandfather. I smiled at what he would say if he knew what I was up to this Saturday morning. Most people I knew were asleep in their beds–and I must admit, that did sound nice. After a grueling week at work, a morning of snoozing and lazing sounded ideal. However, I had told Craig I would go with him, and I truly did want to go. So, here I was, riding up front in a blue station wagon at 9 AM, with a hatchback full of guns and ammo.

I spotted the sign for the shooting range first, but a moment too late, so we drove past the entrance initially. Finding a turn around spot was tricky, but we were able to head the right direction and up the gravel road to our destination.

It was eerily quiet. We pulled into the parking lot and it was a moment of familiarity and mystery–these mountains are my home, but I had never been to a shooting range like this before. It was isolated and serene, and with only 3 other people there (who were packing up), it was easy to feel like you were on top of the world.

While the boys set up targets and packed magazines, I explored. I climbed on top of a rock and looked as far as I could. There was lush green and bird calls for what seemed like infinite miles, and it was chilly. The breeze took us all by surprise, but the sun basked my freckled skin like I was a happy lizard. Knowing it would take them a few minutes to get ready, I took out my ear plugs and enjoyed the stillness. As single clouds passed over us, it changed the whole sky’s hue. I felt close to heaven.

I could feel my grandfather there, even though I didn’t know if he had actually been there. Everything about it reminded me of him. The sounds of nature, the nearby river, the tall grass that I used hide, but he’d always find me. I hadn’t thought much about him in awhile, and for that I felt guilty. This past Sunday, my parents asked me if my grandfather had “visited” me lately. As an extremely spiritual family, we believe that our loved ones that have passed are always surrounding us, and often show they are around through various acts and symbols. I was sad to say that he hadn’t visited me in quite some time. They said they were surprised, and honestly, I was too.

This past Tuesday, Craig and I got 7 chickens. Anyone who knew my grandfather knew about the years he spent raising chickens. Like most rugged grandpas, the original intention was to have them for eggs and meals. But, my Papaw was a softy. He fell in love with those chickens hard and fast, and even put bonnets on a few of his favorites. He loved those silly birds with his whole heart, and when a fox came and killed them all in the night, he was devastated. When Craig told me he wanted chickens, all I could think about was my grandfather. And now that we have them, I can’t help but think he’s standing guard around their coop to make sure the same misfortune doesn’t happen to them.

So, it could be that my parents’ mentioning of my Papaw, combined with the arrival of my new feathered friends, made me think so much of him yesterday at the shooting range. Maybe it was because we drove by his old small engine repair shop on our way there. It could have been the signs for Sunburst and the memories of our family picnics, and him holding my hand as I tip-toed on the freezing rocks. Maybe it was because I was shooting guns–a hobby I started after he died, but something I wish i could have shared with him. Perhaps it was because I was with Craig, who in so many ways reminds me of my grandfather, and whom I am certain my Papaw sent to me. It could have been all of these things that made me so certain that morning that he was there. It could have been a faux illusion, and maybe I’m just too much of an emotional dreamer to separate my thoughts from my reality.

But dammit. I know he was there.

My handsome daddy and his handsome daddy, my Papaw

It was a relief and a comfort to think of him, to feel him present with me. It was a joy. It was an honor. My grandfather was one of the kindest, most loyal, and amazing men I have ever met. He instilled a morality in me that can’t be taught, simply shown through examples of friendship, love, and forgiveness. My freckles, my red hair, and my spirit are so much like his. I was reminded of all of these things up there on that shooting range, surrounded by sky and the smell of gunsmoke. I couldn’t help but smile and feel grateful.

Me, my Auntie Dawn, and a typical goofy Papaw in 2008

Papaw always took my sister and I trick-or-treating, and my sister and I always had THE BEST costumes.

I love this picture of my mom and my Papaw.


The epitome of cool, y’all.

And to conclude, my favorite picture of Papaw and me, in which I have titled “The Most Tolerant of Grandfathers”.

3 thoughts on “papaw.

  1. This is a beautiful tribute to your Papaw, I know he was with you. He was on minds today a lot also. I love you and your loving kind spirit, it is so like his. I Love you baby and proud of you.

  2. Michelle, these are priceless memories. Thank you for taking me back in time just now, so I could spend a little time with your dad, my wonderful uncle Jim. I will always love him like a father.

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