My Daddy always liked to say

“The Blue Ridge Parkway

is the prettiest place

on God’s green earth.”

‘Course his heart

calls that part of the country home

so you have to allow for some bias.

He said it again

the day my cousin Tim drove us

crazy fast,

flipping us around

hairpin switch backs

on a one lane

unpaved country lane

that stepped like stairs

up the side of a round top mountain

not more than nine miles

from the spot my Daddy was born

and his own Daddy dropped dead.

“This is the cutest little church

you ever seen,” Tim is saying

‘cause he’s a preacher

fresh out of bible school

and he got himself an old country church

he wants to show us real bad.

The road just stops,

butts right up to Blue Ridge Bible Baptist,

like the road was just a long

twisted ribbon of driveway.

The church is one, cavernous

brown room

with dark pews down

both sides of a central isle

leading strait to a pulpit.

Tall windows

along the sidewalls

with dried glazing

and cracked panes

let the



mountain air

blow straight through.

Tim stands up front,

strides around,

his tennis shoe stomping pretty good

sending echoes off the walls

telling us this and that

about his plans

for the souls

of the dirt farmers

who gather to learn the wisdom

that my twenty-two year old cousin

has to offer.

After a time we pop the trunk on his car

and pull out a squirrel gun

Tim called it a “four ten twenty-two over under”

Which I know now

means it had two different barrels for two kinds of ammo

stacked one on the other.

Behind the bible church

we drag an old log

across a gully

and line it with the rusted

tin cans we find

lying around

plus the fender

off an old motorcycle

that quit running

decades earlier

and was left to rot.

I stand with my back to the church

close one eye

line-up down the barrel

and fill the mountain top

with thunder.

That first shot kicks,

I stumble over

fall on my ass

in wet leaves.

I stay there,

in the wet

looking up at the sun

the canopy swaying

over head

as the boy preacher

and my Daddy laugh and laugh.

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