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A scholar and a sportsman

by: Darryl Swan How do you read it? — Here’s the scene: Someone has recently smashed your    storefront window with a brick. You fill in the open hole and hire a local artist to scribe a phrase from the Persian mystic poet Rumi over the scene of the crime. Peiravi says many in town thought the phrase, one of Peiravi’s favorites, was meant as a threat to the lawbreaker. Instead, he says he wished the person had asked him for loan if he was desperate, and hoped the message could be a vehicle for communal thought. Besides, he adds, he had plans to remove the window anyhow because it let too much sunlight into the store.

Upon meeting Clatskanie's Khosro Peiravi, aka Uncle Sporty, it quickly becomes clear his story isn't one that can easily be scrunched into a tiny newspaper article.

Dressed in what appears to be paramilitary garb, complete with a side-slanted green beret that calls to mind scenes from early 1980s machine-gun cinema, such as Rambo or Missing in Action, all instinct screams this is not a guy to mess with.

Need further proof? Inside his shop - Uncle Sporty's Gun Shop (yes, gun shop) at 275 Columbia River Highway, Clatskanie - are located a myriad of death instruments: there's a 50-caliber machine gun on the back counter, racks of high-powered hunting rifles, assault shotguns, handguns, samurai swords, broad swords, nunchaku, knives, laser sights and a bonanza of ammunition to fit any projectile weapon under the sun.

Shoplifters beware, right?

If appearances deceive, seldom has proof of the adage ever been so evident. Peiravi, 54, has a fast wit, a disarming and genuine smile that gleams with no small amount of mischief, and the kind of back story that is the stuff of literature. He is generous to a fault, though he wouldn't perceive it as such. He's loaned out thousands of dollars to community members in need. Sometimes it comes back, sometimes it doesn't. In 2010, for instance, he loaned $200 to a woman who said she desperately needed it. Peiravi keeps the hand-written note of her pledge to return the money at his desk, alongside his own and his son's poetry, a copy of the Torah, and - as a proud leader for the Boy Scouts of America - scout photos, among other collections.

'It's not my job to think for the person about how they're going to pay me back, or if they are,' Peiravi says. 'I have to let that go. If it returns to me, I need to thank them and be thankful that I was able to help them and that they were able to pay me back.'

Born in the mountains in the Tehran Province of his native Iran, Peiravi moved to the United States in 1978, one year before the full-fledged Iranian revolution captured the attention of Western media. He first landed in California and made his way north to Oregon in the mid-1980s, where he would continue with his love of windsurfing.

That love eventually steered him to Clatskanie, where he opened a windsurf shop.

The Spotlight caught up with Peiravi last week for an hour or so in Clatskanie. Here's some of what he had to say.

On arriving in Clatskanie:

I learned to windsurf with a friend when we went to Hawaii, and I thought, 'Whoa, that's a good idea for somewhere around here.' Windsurfing was really a big sport, and it still is in Hood River. What I found out is that six miles outside of Clatskanie is a place called Jones Beach, and it is the second gorge. So I named the town at the time, 'Clatskanie, the other gorge.'

On the name Uncle Sporty:

Everybody in the community and in the business knows me as Sporty. It's just difficult for them to pronounce my name. And I'm just a sporty kind of guy. If you read the definition of 'sporty,' you find that every one of them kind of fits my character. My motto is live fast, take chances [laughs]. That's how the Sporty name came out. I also used to fly helicopters. I skydived. So whatever it is that you could get hurt, I've got to try.

On hunting and guns:

My father was hunter, and he had many guns, but he really didn't want his sons to have much to do with that. He preferred us to be scholars and teachers. He didn't get us into hunting, or anything with firearms, but he was into it before, even all the way before I knew what guns were. [My brother] is the shooter. I don't do much shooting.

I know how to use [guns]. I know the history behind them. I know how mechanically they work, for taking them apart. I have spent hours and hours educating myself with both the history of firearms and the mechanics of how they work. And also listening to my customers. They know much more about the items that they have than I, as a dealer, would know. I'm dealing with thousands of products, and my customers are dealing with just a few. So they learn so much about it. They have hands-on experience with everything they buy from me.

On growing up in Iran:

It was a life. I grew up in a very happy family. My father was a teacher and mom was at home. I had five sisters and one brother. In summertimes we would pack our stuff and go up into the mountains. And that's why Oregon resembles so much the spot I was born in summertime. I was born up in the mountains in the summertime, when all the cherries and everything was there. So that urge to wanting to find the same kind of locations has driven me to Clatskanie.

I am a Kurdish Iranian if you go into identifying me from what part of Iran I am from. I am a Kurd, by bloodline. So my father is from Kurdistan Province Iran, because you have a Kurdistan in Iran and in Iraq.

On business:

My goal is not to get you in the shop and sell you everything I can sell. In fact, I had to let an employee go who was a hot-shot salesperson who would load up a lady who wants to buy a .22 rifle for her husband's birthday and walks out the door with $600 in accessories. A week later the man is upset and comes back and says, 'That wasn't very nice what you guys did to my wife. She was being sweet buying me a .22 and what is all this $600 crap?' And I said, 'No, no, you bring it all back. This is not right.' I don't want to make money overnight and go brag about it. I want to brag that we made a little, but we made a lot of friends. I want that people wave at us with all fingers, and when somebody says they're going to Sporty's to buy something, they know we're going to take care of them.

On treating other people:

I don't have a strong voice to condemn others. When you sit down and say, 'Americans are stupid.' Someone is going to be balancing that in the universe and say, 'Iranians are stupid.' And another person is going to kill somebody else. A guy once leaned over and tells me, 'Freakin' Mexicans.' And I look at him, and I said, 'What makes you better?' I will defend any Mexican that is being insulted and is not there. If they're there, they can take care of their own business. And it's not only about Mexicans. If my best friend tells me something about his ex-wife, I tell my best friend that for every negative thing you tell me about your ex-wife, you must tell me something positive about her, or I don't have time for it. Tell me that she was a bad cook, but she paid the bills on time.

On poetry and philosophy:

The Rumi poet says, 'What you own can vanish. It's only a dream.' And I read that every day I come to work. Really everything you have can vanish, and it is only a dream.

I can call myself a philosopher. I love life. I read the Jewish Torah, which is in Farsi and Hebrew. I read it in Farsi. And a Jewish rabbi tells me, 'Why are you reading that?' Well, my father read all of these. My father wrote many books. My father wrote over 100 books and literatures. All his life he studied religions. I remember him telling me he had 54 different branches of religions he was studying to see what they have. And from them all he put his own book together about how he sees them, how he believes. But I remember the title of his first book was, 'To love people, just because they're human.' Don't love him because he's the chief of police, don't love them because they buy you ice cream, don't love them because they're Mexicans and you are too. Don't love them because they're Christian and you are also. Love them just because they're human, and that is a lesson that he taught us. He wrote about human rights and freedom of religion. He constantly was fighting for rights for people. His poems and his books were all asking to help the people.

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