ROBERT SMITH, host: When a loved one dies and is cremated, family members face a tough decision: what to do with the ashes. Some folks want the final resting place to be spectacular, spread in the Grand Canyon, launched into space, sprinkled in Times Square. And then there are those who choose to keep the remains in an urn at home.
THAD HOLMES: The ashes get put on a mantle, stay there for a couple of years, and then a couple of years later, they get put in the attic. A few years later, the house gets sold and, oh, gosh, we forgot the ashes.
SMITH: That's Thad Holmes. He's a conservation enforcement officer in Alabama who, along with his buddy Clem Parnell, came up with an unforgettable way to honor the dead. Their company is called Holy Smoke, and what they do is they take your loved one's ashes and they turn them into ammunition: shotgun shells and bullets. The idea was born one night. Thad and Clem were working late, and they were talking about how they wanted to be buried. And Thad said he wanted to be cremated and sprinkled on a nearby lake.
HOLMES: That's when my partner said, well, not me. He said, I want my ashes - I want to be cremated, but I want my ashes placed into some good turkey load shotgun shells, and somebody that he could trust to kill a turkey use those turkey shells to kill one more turkey. He could rest in peace knowing that one more turkey, the last thing he saw, was Clem screaming at him at 900 feet per second.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SMITH: When you first heard that, did you think that's crazy, or did it have this light bulb in your head? Like, I think other people might want that.
HOLMES: Well, actually, what I thought was, you know, he just expressed what I'd like to do with my ashes.
SMITH: So, Thad, how does this work? How do people order this thing, and how do they get the ashes inside a bullet or a shell?
HOLMES: Well, I'm not going to tell you the specifics of it.
SMITH: Ooh, it's secret.
HOLMES: That's our trade secret.
HOLMES: But the process begins after the funeral, after the cremation, after the mourning. Then you can send the ashes to us. We will take those ashes, put them into shotgun shells or rifle shells or pistol shells and then ship them back to you.
SMITH: This must be somewhat sensitive. I mean, it's a great idea, and it's an interesting idea, but you are dealing with a very emotional topic and a very sensitive one, you know, handling people's loved one's ashes. I mean, what do you do to make sure that this isn't cavalier, you're not just, you know, spilling ashes around the floor or, you know, not treating it properly?
HOLMES: Well, that's our biggest concern. We want people to understand that each shipment of ash is handled with utmost care. So it's not a simple process, you're just going out, finding somebody that can go: Here, I'll throw them in there. It just doesn't work like that.
SMITH: And I know your company's only been officially up and running for a couple of months.
HOLMES: That's correct.
SMITH: You charge $850 for a case of shells and you've shipped out two orders. What did they have to say about the process? Did you hear back from any of them about whether they used the shells?
HOLMES: Without going into detail - I can't tell you who she was - but she was absolutely most appreciative. She thought it was the best thing in the world for her husband. He had been an avid outdoorsman, avid duck hunter. She wanted to have her husband's ashes put into some shotgun shells, a duck load, and a portion of them she sent to his friends that he hunted with, so they could do a 21-gun salute for their fallen friend.
SMITH: So, Thad, how do you want to be remembered when you die? Do you want to be put in these shells?
HOLMES: I am going to be put in these shells.
SMITH: You've decided?
SMITH: And how do you want to have those fired?
HOLMES: My son is a dove hunter, and he loves the outdoors as I do. I want to have my ashes placed into shotgun shells with dove and quail load. If I have 250 shotgun shells, which is a case of shells or 10 boxes of shells, each year for 10 years, he can start off a dove season by grabbing one of my boxes with my ashes in them and go out to a dove hunt and say: Dad, this one's for you. So, at least for 10 years, I'll be remembered by my son.
SMITH: And, of course, if he misses the bird, he can always blame you.
HOLMES: Well, I'll be dead and I won't care.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
SMITH: That was Thad Holmes. He's a conservation enforcement officer in Alabama, as well as one of the co-owners of Holy Smoke, the company that takes your loved one's ashes and turns them into ammo. Thanks, Thad.
HOLMES: Hey, thank you.
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