6'1" tall, brown as a nut, thanks to the traces of Cherokee blood running in his veins.
Strong and practical and full of real life experiences and knowledge.
I was 5 years old - sitting in our dim attic, watching him carefully reload shotgun shells with powder and shot, and then placing it in the crimper and pulling the handle - crimping the red edges tightly shut. I would watch, fascinated, never tiring of watching that crimp appear in the top of the shell. It felt cozy in the attic, just me and Daddy.
I sat on the floor cross-legged as a 3rd grader, watching the light flicker on the gun barrel as Dad pushed the ramrod through the barrel again and again. The little square of white cotton would turn black with soot, and then he would oil the barrel. He would look down the empty barrel, and after it was clean and well oiled, he would put it back together. My brothers would be talking with Dad about guns and hunting, and while the scent of gun oil floated through the room, he would tell stories of Meshach Browning and his amazing hunts.
I listened to my four older brothers talk of hunts, and as a teenager, I knew I would hunt one day too. I went to Hunters Education Class when I was 14 years old, applied for my first deer tag when I was 15 and went hunting that fall.
I was excited and scared and proud that I was hunting deer for our table, in the fine tradition of country people. My girlfriends thought I was crazy. My guy friends thought I was cool. I was mostly nervous. I did shoot a deer that first year, at age 15, with some help from my brother. But I was not a crack shot and my many and varied misses gave my friends many a laugh.
My first deer at age 15
What does all this have to do with the gun debate? Not much.
I just wanted to put it out there what the word means to me.
It's not a scary word.
It means Daddy and stories and cozy evenings and butchering deer.
It means getting rid of the coon that's been eating chickens, and target practice on Thanksgiving.
It means teaching little kids that guns are dangerous. (we never had a gun safe, and we never had even a close call.)
It means Aunt Lovina telling my teenage brother that he "better not shoot my wrens!" :)
My first pronghorn in 2009.
But I think if more people grew up like I did - enjoying guns, using them to shoot many and varied animals, telling stories about them in the firelight... maybe, just maybe, we wouldn't have so many people scared of the very word, unsure how to use them, unable to see them as a good thing. Maybe part of the answer is to stop with the fear-mongering about guns, and start educating our kids, instead of instilling fear into them. Start teaching them the good, instead of making guns the enemy. 'Cause they aren't, you know. Guns are not the enemy, any more than needles kill drug addicts.
Maybe we should send our little boys out to shoot crows and prairie dogs and squirrels with a .22, and they will be too busy to shoot their teachers.
Stay safe... and go learn to shoot a gun. :)
ps - All the animals I have harvested - I have also eaten. The reason wild animals are running pell-mell and willy-nilly all over Creation, spreading disease and eating pets and children, is because people are so 'loving' that they don't remember where our food is supposed to come from. Sure, baby deer are cute. So are little lettuce leaves. I eat them both.