In the front grocery store aisle, looking for Glad bags with an empty 12 gauge shotgun crooked casually over my elbow, I noticed something felt very different. A policeman was staring at me!

Since Dad left home about a year ago, I achingly missed him. I had been recreating some of the fun times we had together until recently. Like Dad teaching me how to plow. Last week, I harnessed our neighbor's huge Labrador, to pull a rope on a forward facing machete through the ground to gouge seven fairly straight rows, fertilized…in the same neighbor's long lush lawn. I then played all the chess openings Dad taught me against the old masters' recorded games. Today, I took his shotgun from storage, went upstairs and borrowed three double ought shells, and went out to the forest to blast some mistletoe from the tree tops, like we did last year. I planned to sell these bags of mistletoe door to door in my small town. Later, with my burlap bag full, all I needed was some red ribbon and Glad bags to earn enough money to buy my Mom a present for Christmas. I knew she missed Dad too.

Even at 13, when I saw the officer smiling, I knew instantly I wasn't in THAT much trouble, so I was over-confidant. He walked over to me and asked me what I was doing. I explained. Then the policeman said, "That's a nice 12 gauge. Is it yours?" I chided him no, but that I cleaned it, loaded it, and used only three shells to get this big bag full of mistletoe. I told him I was no stranger to gun procedures and gun safety. Next, I challenged him that my gun was cleaner than his. That's the way Dad taught me. I'm that kinda kid! He said his name was Barry, and asked to inspect my gun. I checked to see it was unloaded, and handed it to him barrel down. He looked down the chamber and said "I think yours IS cleaner than mine! Come on, I'll help ya." He crooked the 12 gauge over his elbow just like my Dad. I decided right there I liked him.

We sauntered to the cashier, and he surprised me by paying for my stuff. Putting my gun in the trunk of his squad car, he offered to give me a lift. Home was just two miles away, but we might save enough time to sell some tonight, so I said OK. When we got there, nobody else was home, so as I assembled my gift bags, Barry asked me about my family, our house, and Dad. Next, he suggested he'd escort me through the neighborhood. At each and every house, Barry taught me to ring, or knock softly, and to state my aims quickly and politely. To my proto-teen amazement that nice policeman and I sold all 24 bags of mistletoe in less than two hours. Even the man next door whose lawn I plowed, bought two bags! I watched Barry and decided right there that I respected him.

I did buy Mom a real nice Christmas present, and had enough left over to pre-pay for some pretty flowers on her birthday in three weeks. It was a surprisingly wonderful Christmas! And, three years later, Barry "that Cop" intervened again, by marrying my older sister. I knew right there that I loved him. I gave him the same shotgun as a wedding present!