Working in the shade of a massive cottonwood tree on a hot September day in northeastern Kansas, I am building a board fence around the horse pen. I finish fastening another two-by-six-by-twelve to the corral posts. A stiff breeze kicks up dust and threatens to knock my hat off my head. I switch the stampede strings from where I have them draped above the back of my hat to underneath my chin, snug the slider, and begin fastening another board onto the creosoted post.
Needing another tool to finish the job, I head up to the garage.
As I walk out of the shade, I see my shadow formed on the gravel drive. The projected shapes of my five-pouch leather tool belt with hammer hangers on each side, combined with the curled brim of my cowboy hat and the leather work gloves made my shadow look like an old Western movie image of a gunfighter.
“Humph!” I laugh, half out loud, and think of those days from growing up on the farm in Todd County, Kentucky. From time to time, my older brother Paul and I would holster cap guns and occasionally persuade Mom to buy us some rolls of “ammunition.”
One of the cardinal rules of gunfights in that household was that there were no gunfights inside that household. Our showdowns took place in the yard, the garden, the hayloft or, aptly enough, in the old Oliver Family Cemetery located in the pasture close to the house. We may have had to make do without real bullets, but we had the loud pops, a tiny bit of smoke and the smell of gunpowder.
I smiled at the memories and watched my shadow moving across the curled wisps of dried grass of a hot autumn day. For just a moment, I was headed toward the saloon instead of the garage.
It is good to take some pleasure from those good memories of our past lives. But since there are times when the darkness of our personal history play across more than memory, it is also good to let go of guilts and regrets. As long as we keep walking toward the Light, we can keep those shadows of our old lives behind us.
Which is where they belong.