As you may have read previously I did not grow up a hunter. My dad and I spent our time together at the baseball field, golf course or sailing at the local lake. Every once and awhile we did a little bit of fishing, but mostly my dad worked. He was the sole provider for our family and he did an outstanding job of making sure that my mom, sister and I had everything that we needed and, quite truthfully, a fair amount of stuff that we probably didn’t need.
I was born in 1971 and we moved into the neighborhood that encompassed my youth in 1978. When we moved into that house there was woods, a stream and a gentlemen’s farm across the street from us. We rode bikes, built tree forts and played sports, but more than anything we played war.
The kids that I played with ranged in age from a year or two younger than me to four or five years older than me. Basically if you were male and not in junior high school we were probably part of the same group. The teams were always built accordingly. Two of the oldest kids would argue and make compromises over the rest of us and attempt to assure that we would have a fair fight.
We started off simply using toy guns.
“Bang Kenny I shot you!”
Kenny was then “dead” until the war ended.
This worked out well until the first argument ensued.
“How could you shoot me? I’m behind a tree” yelled Kenny.
“Bullshit! I can see your leg” and so on.
The woods that we fought in had a bunch of apple, walnut and persimmon trees. So we decided to up the ante. We added grenades.
The rule was that you couldn’t “die” from a grenade unless it hit you. There was no “explosive zone” it took a direct hit to knock you out of the game. This new twist added a number of fist fights and crying to the mix. Getting hit in the side of the head with an apple hurts and usually the bigger kids took exception to getting hit by the younger kids.
We decided to add swords to the mix next. Every kid would carry a yellow wiffleball bat in addition to their toy gun and array of produce. The wiffleball bats stung legs, but getting hit in the fingers was the worst. Thankfully we were smart enough to outlaw head shots.
We then discovered the dirt clod…
I am not exactly sure what the technical name is for a dirt clod? It’s basically the 18” to 24” of the corn shock that remain after the harvest. The root system holds a little ball of dirt and this “weapon” could be used as a club or as a projectile.
They were devastating…
As we got older the love of our toy guns was replaced with a new found affection for BB Guns. We actually wanted to shoot something for real. As most of us know when you receive a BB Gun the first thing your mom tells you is “Don’t shoot your eye out”.
The lesser known comment is the second thing she tells you…“And don’t kill anything”.
This commandment is usually the first to go out the window. The first time I had the greenlight with my BB gun we shot cans for about 10 minutes. Within 15 minutes a robin had died. My buddies and I stood there, shrugged our shoulders and went on to kill at least a dozen more birds that day.
A monumental thing happened though not long after I got my BB gun. I decided to shoot a squirrel. Unfortunately, a single pump BB gun doesn’t dispatch a squirrel very quickly. As we stood there watching it die a slow and painful death it struck me that I had killed something. I had no intentions of eating that squirrel. My family didn’t need me to hunt for our survival. I simply shot it to shoot it.
One of the older boys came over to dispatch of the squirrel, told me that I was an asshole and we went on with the rest of our day. Prior to that squirrel I didn’t have the slightest understanding of life and death. I had shot hundreds of birds, but as I stood there and cried I can tell you with 100% certainty that I had a different outlook on life and death.
You see my generation hadn’t been desensitized to killing by a constant bombardment of TV shows, movies, music and video games that allow you to “kill” without actually seeing death up close and personal. Please don’t think that I am devaluing the life of that squirrel or those birds, but I had learned my lesson by seeing death first hand. It was an ugly death. I have never once thought about actually killing another human being. In fact, when I go hunting I am usually the one making sure that everyone is on the same page, from a safety standpoint, so that no one does get hurt.
As I got older if I had an issue with a classmate we did what should still be done today…we met at the park. I got beat up by bigger kids and I picked on the smaller kids, but never once did I consider ending their life. I do not condone bullying, but I think that there is a difference between todays bullying and the “circle of life” that many of us experienced as young boys. I believe that because of multimedia and social media there is a valuable lesson that is being missed out on by an entire generation.
Since those days I have become an avid hunter. I spend every Saturday and most Sundays with a gun in my hand either hunting or shooting sporting clays. I have probably killed more ducks and geese than the average hunter over the years and I don’t have an issue shooting doves, pheasant, squirrels or rabbits. I have never become much of a big game hunter, but that is purely out of laziness as I don’t really desire the work that is associated with the field dressing aspect of big game hunting.
One of the biggest regrets of my life is that I didn’t start hunting until I was in my twenties. However, looking back on it I was “hunting” with my BB Gun as a very young boy. There is something primal, something basic in us that leads us to hunt. Unfortunately for me I didn’t have a hunting mentor as a child. I would strongly encourage each one of you to mentor a youngster. Get them out in the field and teach them the proper way to behave around guns. I’ve had a blast spending time in the field with my son over the years.
Maybe we do need better gun control? Not governmental gun control, but teaching youngsters about proper gun handling. How to control the weapon and how to control yourself around one? Teaching them to shoot. Allowing them to feel the power they command when behind the trigger. Letting them see with their own eyes the sanctity of life and the responsibility that comes with taking the life of an animal. Allowing them to understand that in order to eat meat something must die.
Experiencing taking a life by pushing “Button X” in a video game, watching a movie where someone dies every minute or listening to a song about slapping ho’s and firing your 9mm promotes a culture where killing is simply considered acceptable. Unfortunately, that mindset is boiling over into an unprecedented amount of gun violence.
Maybe, just maybe, the cure to gun violence is providing more understanding of guns?
Teaching kids at an early age what it means to be a responsible gun owner.
Letting them learn the value of life…