A musical group from northeast Iowa has found a way to combine their love of the old West with their faith – and they’re sharing it with others.
Most Sundays in the summer, Jim Gates and Jim Meyer of Shell Rock are involved in what’s called cowboy mounted shooting. Participants ride horses as fast as they can and shoot balloons with .45 caliber revolvers.
Gates explains that because competitions are held on the weekends, that kept them away from church, so the two formed the Double J Wranglers, combining their love of God, music and everything cowboy.
“I really like the outdoors, the cowboy way, the history, and the lessons it teaches. That’s how we got started,” Gates said. “We were just asked to play music to start with and then it evolved into church music.”
There aren’t many so-called “cowboy churches” east of the Missouri River, but Meyer thinks that may be changing a little as more people seek ways to worship in a nontraditional manner. “It’s just a great way for us to share our faith with people and maybe reach some people that don’t always come to church because they don’t feel comfortable. We want to make them feel comfortable,” Meyer said.
The group has booked about a dozen appearances at various churches. Along with the songs, there’s a children’s sermon and a message for the adults delivered by Larry Wildeboer, who also doubles as a member of the group, playing bass. When it’s time for the offering, instead of the traditional offering plates, they literally pass the hat, a western straw hat of course.
Photo and story by Pat Blank, Iowa Public Radio