My grandpa’s gun
When I was about 10 my grandpa gave me his 22. Winchester single shot bolt action rifle.
My stepdad and him spent a lot of time cleaning it before my birthday. It was an excellent squirrel and rabbit gun. It wasn’t super load so it didn’t scare off too many squirrels in our pecan grove near the Neosho River in south eastern Kansas when I went after them.
I became very proficient at that old iron sighted gun as a brick of 22. Shells didn’t cost much.
I knew many friends that eventually became gun nuts as they became teenagers and adults. Fascinated with the gun more than the hunt. Some went into military, some just spent endless days drinking themselves silly firing rounds into gravel banks. A waste of money and braincells in one place. Two for one I guess.
As the United States has become a culture of school shootings/mass shootings and mass incarceration, and I find myself living in Canada which has no problems in any comparable proportion to the states’ on many levels, teaching my son to use a rifle is strange feeling.
I grew up with hunters all around me, as soon as I was able, I began providing my family with food from the forest. I did so with pride. A provider.
Once I became big enough, my uncle gave me my first Remington 870 12 gauge for turkey and ducks. I fell through the ice once and lost that gun for two weeks while the river was high. Once the river went down my grandma drove me to the spot in our forest grove where I was hunting wood ducks and we found the gun. I took it apart and reblued it. I use it to this day for ducks and geese and it’s the most reliable shotgun I’ve carried. It’s heavy which allows for a good steady aim for waterfowl flight patterns.
When I turned 18 I got a savage .243 with lifetime Kansas hunting license from my parents and uncle. Funny I’ve spent more time away from Kansas than I have in while of hunting age now. That rifle was much better at taking down deer accurately than the SKS (an assault rifle) I had learned on from my stepdad. If I learned one thing about that sks was that it was meant for close combat, not hunting. It had a piece attached to it for a bayonet.
I’ve often said, the forest is my church. I then tell folks I enjoy hunting and it seems a strange thing to hunt in one’s church.
Participating in a primal action within the ecosystem is maintaining survival skills as well as a connection to the endless web of life that we live within while having humility.
When I told my oldest that we needed one of his meat rabbits he was raising to eat and finish the rest of his winter hunting hat I was making, he only agreed to do so with the rifle. I showed him how to use it a few times before placing the rabbit in a box.
I showed him the placement of the barrel upon the rabbit and he fired when he was ready after saying thank you to his rabbit. The rabbit twitched a bit but died quickly, which required an explanation of nerves to my son who wasn’t scared but curious to why the rabbit jerked around a bit after being shot in the head.
We skinned the animal, salted the hide and Oscar began coming up with a mixture of herbs for a brine and then dry rub for the animal.
Later that evening, Oscar on his own initiative, put out tables outside, gathered plates and utensils as well as side dishes of blueberries, romaine lettuce a chocolate chia pudding we made earlier that day as well as the pumpkin pies we cooked from one of our giant pumpkins we grew. We started a fire in our weber grill with some birch, cooked the rabbit and applied a bbq sauce made of some of our tomatoes, blueberries, onions, garlic and some of our peppers. It was a celebration. A feast.
The meal was fabulous and Oscar was very proud. In an instant Oscar had graduated in a way. Soon it will be labour day and He will start kindergarten. He’s growing so fast and learning so much about the world around him and cycle of life and food on earth. Silently he became a bit closer to becoming a man/adult that evening.
I shared a bit of the “graduation” to friends on social media. I knew it would cause some folks that have lived in the city their whole life to feel a bit strange but also allow them to have a bit of a view of the connection to life and death and not shielding it from my young son’s eyes. I found it interesting that praise of the “graduation” came mostly from my indigenous friends. Some came from others as well but also some criticism. I explained the connection that we have and value and all conversations ended well but yet I still felt the feeling being an “other”. I am sure it’s just in my own head but I can admit we certainly do live a life off the land like many others do not that in itself will bring a bit of “strangeness” to the audience living in the city.
I hope my grandpa can see from the other side his great grandson shouldering his 22. That he himself used to kill rabbits with. I recall hearing stories of him hunting rabbits along the railroad tracks when he was younger to feed his own family.
In a way I mourn the past, I grieve of the past and celebrate the today and tomorrow all at the same time with my son taking this next step in his life, a deeper connection to the web of life in which we all rely.