GALEN HOLLEY: Firearms, philanthropy and fellowship at First Baptist Tupelo

By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal

On his television show “Home Improvement” comedian Tim Allen used to do this Neanderthal grunt. He’d hunch his shoulders and drag his knuckles like the dawn of mankind, usually after he’d created something dangerous and manly, like mounting a helicopter motor onto his lawnmower.
If you’d been within a block of First Baptist Church Tupelo last Friday night you might have heard that grunting. It was pouring out of a wild game supper presented by the Catch-A-Dream Foundation.
“How about some deer meat on a Friday night, boys!” said one young feller, whipping the testosterone-driven crowd into a mild frenzy.
They were hunched protectively over their meals, snarling, like dingoes, with broad, flannel-covered shoulders, and even a United States Senator didn’t mind putting his elbows on the table.
The brutes feasted on deer chili and fried deer stakes, along with heaps of spicy pulled pork and gallons of ultra sweet iced tea.
My friend, Chad Grayson, pulled up a seat next to me and slapped me soundly on the back. “How bout it there, son?” he asked.
I grunted my approval, chewing a hunk of pulled pork like a plug of tobacco.
Catch-A-Dream was started 10 years ago by Brookhaven resident Bruce Brady. An outdoor enthusiast, Brady decided to fill a gap created when the Make-A-Wish Foundation stopped allowing sick children to live out their fantasies of hunting animals.
A dainty, pale fellow might have recoiled in horror Friday night at seeing the slides of emaciated, bald children clutching dead deer by their antlers. But, for the brave of heart, there was something rather noble about the images.
At the very least, any fool could see that each of the 160 men gathered there, in a kind of protective, tribal circle, cared deeply about children.
There were many fathers among the ranks, gnawing their food alongside their sons. Each time a slide of a sick child came up, a paternal moan rose from the herd, the unmistakable lowing of men who work fiercely, and love fiercely.
Some of the images were almost impossible to look at, like a boy so sick he had to blow through a straw to fire the weapon.
Others, like a video of 20-year-old Trace Manning, who got his final wish of hunting with the Mossy Oak crew, squeezed your heart like a sponge.
Still, other images made you feel just plain weird, like this dark clip of a strange, bearded man known only as “The Duck Commander.” He looked like that mountain man singer for the Oak Ridge Boys and interspersed his brief – almost Shakespearean – message with quotes form the Bible.
Bill Smith, a Catch-A-Dream volunteer from Saltillo, praised Bass Pro Shop for donating clothing for all the excursions, to the tune of 65-70 each year.
My buddy, Chad, after he preached for a good, long while – even though he said he wouldn’t – drew the name for the winner of a shotgun.
Chad racked the gun with his left hand, admiring its smooth, chambering action, then leaned it against his shoulder like Sam Elliott, and carried it to its new owner.
Events like these, and men like these, are not politically correct, and to those who don’t move in their world the meal probably would have seemed like a celebration of savagery.
On the other hand, there wasn’t a man in that room who would so much as pick up an apple from the ground of another man’s property, or who wouldn’t do anything in this world for a dying child.

Contact Daily Journal religion editor Galen Holley at 678-1510 or galen.holley@djournal.com