I have no memory of the first shots I ever fired. If my brother had anything to do with it (and I’m fairly sure he did), it was probably around the age of two that a rifle was put into my hand, and my finger directed towards the trigger. My brother was pretty enthusiastic about guns, and it would have been perfectly within his nature to stake some sort of claim to having guided me to my first shots. Just to calm the reader’s nerves; my brother was 19 years my senior. So it was not a case of a child leading a child.
Guns were a huge part of my home-life and childhood. Not in the sense that there was an Olympic shooter in the house, but in the sense that they were a tool of ubiquitous purposes. Every door hid a long gun of some sort leaning in the corner behind it. Every drawer or knic-knac bowl held stray rounds of various calibers. And the wildlife of the area in those days, whether it was wild dogs, snakes, coons, possums, squirrels or blue jays, necessitated some kind of shooting incident with almost boring frequency. Either there were squirrels or jays in the figs (or grapes, or pears, or plums, or pecans, or etc.) or there were dogs amongst the chickens. At the very least there were coons and possums in the trash.
As a small boy of maybe six or seven, one of my chores was to sit out in the back yard and kill squirrels and blue jays to keep them out of the pecans, grapes, or figs. We tried various kinds of scarecrows and pie-plates and other such gimmicks, but shooting them was the tried and true method. Besides…if the offender was a squirrel, he was always welcome in our freezer!
Some will think I’m exaggerating here, but I swear it’s the truth. By the age of seven I had the privilege of taking Daddy’s single-shot .22 and going squirrel hunting in the woods behind our house – unsupervised. I can still see my father call out from his workshop the stock admonitions of either “Don’t shoot toward the house …boy” or “If you kill it, you better eat it…boy!” (My father, being a child of the depression, was sincere in his belief that a boy should be treated like a man as the best method of making him a man.)
I can honestly say that the hours I spent stalking and shooting squirrels down in that swamp were among the happiest of my life, and it is my fervent desire to revisit those woods and swamps in the twilight of my days when my mind becomes enfeebled with age.
At the ripe age of seventeen I joined the Marines - where I remained for the next 7 years. For a couple of those years I was stationed in places where there was no rifle range suitable to the fire Marine’s KD course for rifle qualification. But in the other five of those years I qualified as rifle expert (and pistol expert as well) with my personal best of 237 out of a possible 250. And for most of the years since leaving the Marines I’ve continued to hunt and shoot regularly. While I have no real trophies to speak of, I consider myself a pretty good hunter. (There is this small matter of a hunting jinx, but I’ll spare the reader that tale for another day.)
I come from a world where guns were highly useful tools that had a place in our lives. It’s sad that today they’re treated as catalysts of evil, accused of driving otherwise sane and law-abiding people to commit heinous acts of barbarism. One of the things I detest most about liberalism is the mindless hysteria it tends to incite, about many things, but particularly about guns!