Divine Overkill

By Jacob VanDeman

I’m one of nine boys and the son of a Southern Baptist preacher.

Being a pastor’s son gives you a unique perspective on a lot of things. 

Growing up in Kentucky and southern Indiana, my father would round us up to head afield on Saturdays during the fall as religiously as we were rounded up for Sunday church. We were blessed with ample hunting opportunities from gracious farmers who were members of the small-town congregations where my father pastored. 

Packing gear, weapons, nine boys, enough Little Debbie snacks to fuel nine boys, and sometimes wily bird dogs into a double cab Chevy with an extended bed and camper shell, looked exactly like you would imagine. If you have an expensive bed drawer/organization system and a rooftop camper, then you probably can’t even fathom the level of disorganization and chaos. 

In the cab, we sat shoulder to shoulder and on laps with seat belts used sparingly. Between the warm bodies and the heater cranked on full blast to defrost the window, the cab got pretty toasty. Shedding layers of clothing while sandwiched between several brothers takes a unique set of skills. We also engaged in plenty of scraps. There wasn’t enough room to cock back and send a full-power fist, but we became skilled at applying pinpoint pressure with our knees, elbows, shoulders and heads—picture being in a scrum at a Rugby match or at the bottom of a pile fighting for a loose football. While we were acting like heathens, my father stayed cool and must have really been led by the Spirit, because I surely would have lost my shit dealing with so many knuckleheads in a confined space.

In contrast, the enclosed truck bed might as well have been the Four Seasons, although Motel 6 was probably more accurate. An assortment of duffels with clothes, bloody hunting vest, boots, boxes of ammo, tree stands and steps, bowcases, and loaded daypacks were spread across the bed. This made the perfect place for one or two lucky brothers to fully stretch out, even if you did occasionally get poked in the back with a metal tree step. The camper shell kept in some heat, but we still needed to wear our coveralls to stay cozy. 

I have many fond memories from that time, like accidently spilling a bottle of fox piss (popular cover scent of that time) into the enclosed camper shell. Or the time we got food poisoning at a small-town Dairy Queen before cramming into a small 10×10 room like sardines and waking up in the middle of the night, vomiting uncontrollably on ourselves and each other (I have PTSD from this occurrence). However, one story stands out the most. 

We were crossing over a river on an old railroad bridge while squirrel hunting, not having much luck, and asked my father if we could take some practice shots on any songbird or living creature within sight. I vividly remember my father firmly telling us, “Boys, we don’t just kill things to kill things…” 

Almost before he could finish his sentence, and much to our surprise, he swiftly raised up his walnut-stocked 10/22 and proceeded to unload an entire magazine on a water snake swimming across the river. You could see each impact and it was clear he was making contact with almost every shot, sending the snake into an involuntary convulsive dance like the scene from Scarface. Even in our bloodthirsty eyes, it seemed like pretty obvious overkill. 

He calmly finished his sentence, “…except snakes. Snakes are cursed by God and to be crushed under our feet.”

I learned two very valuable lifelong lessons that day:

 1. We are stewards of life and should take this responsibility very seriously. 

2. When face to face with the enemy, we do not hesitate to confront it head on with authority and a full magazine.

From the FE Films Archive

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