Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas Memory

Once upon a long time ago -- more years in fact than I care to count -- I received a shotgun for Christmas.  It was my first shotgun.  It was the first firearm that I ever owned.

I was taught the proper use and care of firearms from an early age.  I have hunted about as long as I can remember.  In fact, some of my earliest memories are of hunting with my Dad or my Grandfather (my Mother's father) or, hunting in the pasture in the company of my dog, a Beagle-Bassett cross named Daisy.  Dad wouldn't let me go without the dog because he knew she would discover any rattlesnakes before I did.

Although I was able to carry a gun and hunt, I was not allowed to own one until I turned twelve.  So, you know what I asked for on the Christmas just before I turned twelve -- a shotgun.

We had travelled to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, to have Christmas with my Grandmother ( my Dad's Mother) that year.  Her house wasn't very big and my Dad's family was large so there were lots of us crowded into the tiny living room for opening presents.  I had decided that I probably wasn't going to get my wish but sure enough, from behind the door, my Dad brought out a brand new single-shot 20-gauge shotgun for me.  I couldn't believe it.

I suffered for the next couple of days because I wanted desperately to go out and try my new shotgun but my Grandmother lived in town and there was no place to go hunting.  Fortunately, we were travelling on to Missouri to visit my Mother's grandparents and some other relatives as well.  They lived in the country at a place called "Swamp Holler."  It was just below "Jake's Knob."

Shortly after we arrived in Missouri to stay with one of my Aunts, it began to snow.  It snowed and snowed.  All of us kids sat in the house staring out the windows wanting to go out but it was snowing too heavily.  Finally it quit and we all went out in the country to Swamp Holler.  It was my first clear memory of going to my Great Grandparents house.  We weren't able to go there very frequently and so I had been very young the previous trips.

Dad let me take the shotgun with me.  I didn't realize it, but he and my Grandfather had a hunt planned.

The hunt began shortly after we arrived at my Great Grandparent's.  My Dad, my Grandfather and I headed down into the "holler" to shoot squirrels.  They were each carrying a .22 and I was carrying my brand-new shotgun.  We were planning on having squirrel for supper.  I'd never eaten squirrel and was a little unsure that it was something I wanted to do.  But, since the rule was that if you shoot it you eat it, I planned on having squirrel for the first time.

The snow was 10 or 12 inches deep as we traipsed through the fields and the woods.  I learned why the place was named Swamp Holler when my boots broke through the crusted snow and I found myself standing in the swamp bordering the creek which crossed the farm.  I was in heaven walking through the woods of Missouri with my brand-new 20 gauge shotgun looking for squirrels.  After awhile I began to wonder if we were ever going to see any squirrels.  In fact, I was getting a crick in my neck from looking up into all of the trees in an effort to spot the elusive fur-balls.  I think they must have had better eyesight than me because I don't recall ever seeing a single one.

Since the squirrels seemed to have left that part of the world, my Grandfather decided we might jump a rabbit if we would head toward my Great-uncle's place which adjoined.  He had some corn stubble that he felt sure would contain a conttontail or two.  Sure enough we jumped a rabbit.  I was excited that we finally saw game and brought the shotgun to my shoulder and let fly a blast of No. 7 shot that should have dispatched my target.  The only trouble was that it kept on going.  I just stood there in disappointment that my perfect aim had somehow missed and was beginning to doubt the quality of my new Christmas present.

My Grandfather saw me standing there and said, "Reload, he'll circle around and be back by in a minute.  Cottontails run in a circle."

I quickly took his advice and chambered another shell and strained to see where the cottontail might be.  Sure enough, I could see him bounding over the drifts and fallen corn stalks making a wide circle that looked like it might lead back my way.  Dad kept saying, "Hold on, don't shoot until he gets back in range."

I held my fire and watched until I couldn't wait any longer.  BOOM!  I let fly again and sure enough, that rabbit went somersaulting through the snow and lay in a heap.  Grinning ear-to-ear I ran to pick him up.  I had bagged my first game with my brand new shotgun.

We called it a day after that.  It seems the only purpose of the hunt was to give me the chance to try out my new shotgun.  We headed up the hill to my Great Uncle Bill's house where Aunt Lizzie was cooking biscuits in their wood-fired cookstove.  They still had a pitcher pump in the sink in the corner of the kitchen as well. 

The year was 1970.  It was a year I'll never forget.  That rabbit tasted pretty good but I still haven't eaten any squirrel.  Family and memories -- important parts of Christmas.  We must never forget however, what it is really all about.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  __ Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)


Plowing and Sowing said...

Great memory. I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas.

Chris McClure aka Panhandle Poet said...

Thanks, Matt. Merry Christmas to you also!

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Merry Christmas!

Sandy Kessler said...

great post- I am blessed to still rememeber . my son's father in law has descended into alzeimers at 62 Hard to take..

And yes the real reason is ever glorious ..sandy

Anonymous said...

Life is a test, and the Gods evaluate people based on their performance.
The Gods test people with the temptation for which they are most weak::::
Homosexuals desire sodomy, alcoholics crave a drink, junkies jones for dope, etc.
Addiction theory is a lie; it is Artificial Intelligence creating the desire, punishment for inappropriate behavior. Ironically, it compells people deeper into the behavior, minimizing hope for recovery.
The Gods chose Christianity for Europeans because it is the temptation to which they are most suseptable:::Entitlement. Something for nothing. A free ride. And the United States/Western civilization with accompanying wealth contributes to this perception. And other people from throughout the world happily subscribe to this punishment designed for Europeans, assuming this legacy once assimilated.
Next time you think of Muslims recognize these people are vastly superior to Christians. Whereas many throughout the Christian world no longer attend church and have fallen into Godlessness, the Muslim world worships the Gods for OVER AN HOUR EACH AND EVERY DAY.