By Kelli Dugan
MOBILE, Ala (Reuters) - There's something to be said for going out with a bang.
Two Alabama game wardens have devised a smoking send-off for avid hunters and gun enthusiasts: For a small fee, the pair will turn cremated ashes into ammunition that the deceased's loved ones can fire at will.
Holy Smoke LLC has serviced only two clients since launching in July, but founders Thad Holmes and Clem Parnell said they have seen an uptick in prearrangements thanks to word-of-mouth and a recent flurry of international press.
"It's about celebrating life," Holmes, a 16-year state conservation officer, said on Friday. "We know how strange it sounds to people who aren't comfortable around guns, but for those who are, it's not weird at all."
Four years in the making, Holy Smoke was born during a late-night stakeout to thwart illegal hunting. Parnell had recently lost a family member, and the conversation shifted to their own reservations about traditional methods for disposing of the departed.
Parnell and Holmes dreamed up a company that would fill shotgun shells and rifle or pistol cartridges with ashes, allowing gun enthusiasts to spend eternity the way they lived their lives.
"People take ashes and spread them across lakes or forests or throw them in rivers, and nobody thinks twice about that. This is no different," said Holmes, who noted that a pound of ash fills about 250 shotgun shells.
Costs start at $850. In addition to handling the ashes of one client each from Kentucky and Florida so far, the Stockton, Alabama, company has received inquiries from members of law enforcement, fire departments and the military who wish to have their service honored in that way when the time comes.
Other clients have requested the service be carried out for their pets, particularly bird dogs who have remained faithful companions throughout the years, Holmes said.
Joyce Harrison of Spanish Fort, Alabama, said she understood why some people might recoil at the concept. But she wishes the option had been available seven years ago when her husband of 42 years died of cancer.
"Toward the end he wasn't able to spend as much time hunting as he liked, but he took off any time he felt strong enough to get through, and he always came home so relaxed and at peace with everything," Harrison said. "This would have been perfect for him."
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston)