A teenage shootist from Adair County, Missouri, won two Big Buck contests before enrolling as a music major at FWBBC...
by Jack Williams
Outfitted in camo gear and a Hunter’s Specialties cap, 17-year-old K.D. Harden stares at the world from the front cover of Rack magazine (December 2007 issue) while posing with a record-setting 24-point buck shot in the heart from 120 feet by a .243 rifle. The lead article teaser beneath the photograph shouts: “Getting an Amen in Missouri!”
“Guess what we did with that big deer as soon as we hauled it out of the woods by tractor, photographed, and field dressed it,” K.D. said. “We loaded it in the truck and took it to Hazel Creek Free Will Baptist Church, so I could enter our pastor’s Big Buck contest. I won and got a Buck knife, which I later gave away.”
Later that day, the Harden family drove around Hazel Creek community with the trophy buck, stopping at Hazel Creek Taxidermy long enough for K.D. to enter another Big Buck contest and win a full shoulder mount.
Shooter Without a Gun
The pages turned quickly, and 18 months later K.D. locked the .243 rifle in a closet, relocated to Tennessee, and enrolled as a music major at Free Will Baptist Bible College. That’s where K.D. learned how to track and bag game more elusive than wild turkeys and white-tail deer—rigorous Bible and music classes, international mission trips, choir tours, ministry teams, and campus leadership roles.
K.D.’s first outreach ministry at FWBBC began in 2008 as a member of Rejoice Ministry Team, a touring musical group that travels thousands of miles promoting the college. By 2009, K.D. had been named as a campus SLG (Spiritual Life Group) Leader. The 2010-2011 academic year marks K.D.’s third year as Music Department secretary, a position with never-ending responsibilities that demand a professional hunter’s woodcraft to flush out wily scheduling details.
‘This Little Light of Mine’
“My goal in life is to be a music teacher,” K.D. said. “We hear so much about how there’s not much light in public schools, and I want to help change that. I want my light to shine so people can have an opportunity to come to Christ. When I first enrolled at FWBBC, I had some attitude issues. But I’ve long since learned that whatever God wants is what I want to do, and wherever He wants me to serve is the place I want to be. His plans and timing are better than mine!”
That noble life-goal may be no more than a rifle shot away, since K.D. consistently makes the Dean’s List and prompted this observation from Dr. James Stevens who chairs the Music Department: “It has been a great pleasure having K.D. as my music assistant the past two years—hard working, dependable, fun to work with, and exhibits outstanding Christian character.”
Like most students, K.D. carries a heavy academic load, balancing course requirements with job responsibilities and personal spiritual growth. A five-member FWBBC team led by Missions Program Coordinator Ron Callaway spent 10 days ministering in Cuba during the summer of 2010—K.D. Harden was one of the team members who worked with Cuban Free Will Baptist youth as a vocalist and musician.
“Yes, I can play a guitar when needed, but my best musical instrument is my voice,” K.D. said. “I’ve been using it to praise God in church and youth camps since I was 10 years old.”
The value of carving personal quiet time from the daily rush of collegiate life is a frequently heard admonition for FWBBC students. However, a Missouri sharpshooter’s idea of quiet time sometimes startles fellow students.
“My favorite quiet time is to go deer hunting about 6:00 a.m., standing in God’s creation listening to His orchestra in the timber,” K.D. said. “An owl hoot, a squirrel chattering, wind in the trees…the quiet presence of God. Other people sit in a rocker or take a walk, but I prefer my quiet time with a rifle in my hands, waiting for an eight-point buck to step from the brush.”
Whenever possible, K.D. travels back to Missouri for seasonal hunting during breaks in the academic calendar. The extended Harden clan is at home with shotguns and rifles in the deep woods, and K.D knows that any hunting time in the schedule will find a covey of relatives locked-and-loaded, eager for another trophy hunt.
The youngest of three children, K.D. became Dad’s (Carrol Harden) shadow at age seven watching him shoot squirrels and deer. By age 12, K.D. got serious about deer hunting and hit the woods with a .30-06 pump rifle that kicked so hard Carrol replaced it with a single-shot .243—the rifle that brought down the famous 24-point buck.
David Williford, vice president for institutional advancement at FWBBC, said, “K.D. loves guns, hunting, singing, and people. If you have a job that needs to be done, call K.D., and it will be done right. Consistent, reliable, rock solid—that describes K.D.”
Dancing With Sadie
Two Missouri natives who work at the college and have known the Harden family for decades—Ernie and Lila Thompson—invite K.D. to their home for overnight visits where they reminisce about Missouri, eat well, and laugh a lot.
One morning Ernie (FWBBC’s cleaning operations supervisor) and K.D. hitched a pony named Sadie to a two-man cart and started down a nearby sloping street. They enjoyed the ride until Sadie decided it was time to go home and headed back up the hill toward the open gate. The cart shifted and the weight of two adults made the cart tip backwards. Ernie went one way, K.D. went another way, and Sadie went her own way.
Lila Thompson, FWBBC’s Business Office secretary, said, ”I remember the day K.D. showed me how to make noodles with only one egg, a handful of flour, and a little salt. We rolled out the dough paper-thin, let it dry for a few hours, cut it into 1/16 inch strips, cooked them in chicken broth, and made a wonderful meal. K.D. can do more than shoot and sing!”
Brown-eyed K.D. Harden, who stands 5’-8” tall and is at home in coveralls and gum boots, was saved at age six and has been a member of Hazel Creek Free Will Baptist Church in Kirksville for 15 years. Church members know K.D. as a singer, camp worker, spinner of yarns, guitar player, hero to local youth, a trustworthy leader who does not panic when life gets hard, and a young adult who respects parents.
“Carrol and Denise Harden (my mom and dad) are some of the best people in the world,” said K.D., a non-graduating senior this year. “Whatever I am as a Christian starts with them. They lived the life before me and took me to church. They are amazing spiritual leaders in the community.”
Back in Adair County, K.D.’s tough-as-leather reputation includes big knives, trophy bucks, and centerfire rifles. But in Tennessee, the Missouri sharpshooter wears a dress to class. For you see, “K.D. Harden” is better known at Free Will Baptist Bible College as Kimberly Dawn Harden, third floor resident assistant in Polston Hall, the women’s dormitory.
About the Writer: Jack Williams is director of communications at Free Will Baptist Bible College. Visit www.fwbbc.edu for more information.