Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Deputy Brings Native American Perspective - and Rattlesnake Pot Pie - to Job; Avid Hunter, Gunsmith and Outdoorsman Is Nominated for Award

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Deputy Brings Native American Perspective - and Rattlesnake Pot Pie - to Job; Avid Hunter, Gunsmith and Outdoorsman Is Nominated for Award

Article excerpt


Clay County Sheriff's Office Deputy Kerry Redgate said his tranquil nature, derived from his Native American heritage, has helped him thrive in law enforcement.

"I'm not an excitable person," said Redgate, of Cherokee and Pawnee descent, who demonstrated his even keel when he disarmed a suicidal woman in 2007.

For his heroics and sterling record, he has been nominated for the 2008 Deputy of the Year award given by the Florida Sheriffs Association. The association is slated to select the winner Tuesday.

The suicidal woman had called 911 from the woods in Mike Roess Gold Head State Park near Keystone Heights. Responding to the call, Redgate and his then-partner, Deputy Robert Dews, closed in on her from opposite angles, not knowing at first that she had a cocked and loaded revolver.

Redgate snuck up behind her as Dews approached her head-on. When branches cracked under Dews' feet, she looked up. Redgate then lunged and jumped on the gun. Days later, the woman thanked Redgate for providing her a second shot at life. For this, the Clay County Sheriff's Office gave him an exceptional service award.

"He deserves every award he can get," said Margie Straka of Keystone Heights, the woman involved in the case. "He put his life on the line to save mine. If he didn't do what he did, I wouldn't be here today."

"He successfully prevented her suicide and probably prevented Deputy Dews from harm as well," said Capt. Lee Harris, Redgate's supervisor. "We feel he is a fine example of law enforcement at its finest."

Though placid, Redgate is fascinating, said friends, who say he's crafty, can fix anything and can cook.

"He's a cross between [fictional TV hero] MacGyver and Martha Stewart," said his longtime girlfriend Wanda Underhill.

She showed off wood carvings Redgate has churned out while sitting in a hunting tree stand in his back yard, a jar full of animal teeth he's collected from the creek behind his house and his freshwater aquarium with creek critters.

In his spare time, he rides and restores Harley-Davidson motorcycles. He rides horses - he owns five in his backyard. He's a gunsmith, an outdoorsman and a gourmet cook, she said.

One of his culinary specialties is rattlesnake pot pie, adorned with a rattle carved from leftover crust. He brought the dish to the sheriff's office for an in-house diversity training class for employees. Students were asked to bring a dish related to their ethnicity.

"I didn't tell them what it was until after they finished eating it," said Redgate, who has been eating rattlesnake, dove, moose and deer tenderloin all his life. "After I told them, they wouldn't eat any more of it."

He's not the only deputy who has captured and killed a rattlesnake, for residents, while on duty. But he suspects not many take it home and eat it.

Redgate's grandmothers were Cherokee and Pawnee.

He remembers one grandmother's long hair braid, which she used for discipline purposes. He recalls campfire stories such as how loons - deemed magical - got their spotted backs from a medicine man who threw his necklace in a pond and the beads scattered. While living with his grandparents in Alaska, Redgate learned to hunt moose, net salmon and live off the land. …

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