My Dad, assigned to a B-29 crew as a tail gunner at the time, also served as a gunnery instructor on the base gunnery range when they weren't actually flying. And, with all the skill he'd been taught along with the wealth of knowledge and experience of the men he worked with, I got the very best start a kid could hope for in things "guns". It began with, "You are NEVER to even TOUCH a gun unless your Mother or I tell you that you can." and, making me promise them I wouldn't.
A few days after that, Dad and a buddy of his were going rabbit hunting. And, Dad asked me if I wanted to go along. "Heck yeah, Dad!", I exclaimed. And, I asked him if I could shoot one. "No, son.", he said, "We'll do the shooting. But, we need another sharp pair of eyes to help spot those rabbits. And, you can watch us and learn just how it's done.", which was just fine with me! And, off we went.
As I tagged along just behind them walking through the desert, I remember watching them take shots with the .22's they'd brought along. At first, I could see the bullets hit the dirt near a rabbit they'd taken a shot at. And, it'd dash off out of sight. But, soon, they began hitting their mark and, the rabbit would jump a bit before flopping down on the ground, maybe kicking a couple of times. They sent me out to fetch them back when they got one. That took a bit of getting used to. But, I managed pretty well until one I picked up by the hind leg raised up and grabbed my fingers with its front paws before I dropped it with a scream! Dad came over and got that one! I remember, though, thinking with each one I picked up how much that must have hurt, getting shot like that.
We were done for the day and, walking back to the car. As we walked past a big boulder, me and Dad's buddy heard the hissing at the same time. He looked to his left and jumped back a bit exclaiming, "Holy SMOKES!" And, my eyes locked "dead-on" with the eyes of a rattler that was as big as ME! Ever seen a 6 year old kid shinny up his Dad's leg to crawl into his back pocket, pull the flap down and, button it shut tight? You would have if you were with us that day! "Pop Pop", went the .22! The snake reeled around to its body where it was hit. But, it wasn't done yet! And, Dad's friend handed his rifle to Dad and, drew out his pistol to finish it off. Kneeling down he took careful aim just as the rattler raised its head to strike again. "POW", went the pistol! And, the snakes head splattered as it flew back and slumped over the rocks behind it, dead!
I began breathing again as two rocks fell to the ground from my tight grasp. All thoughts of the poor dead rabbits vanished as relief came rushing in on seeing that rattler shot dead! Yes sir, yes Ma'am, I had to pee! But, you know; to this day, I still don't know where the heck those two rocks came from?
Days later, Dad invited Mom & me out to the base gunnery range to watch them practice. The guys were going to shoot their big guns...twin "50's". I remember asking Dad when he took me over to see the shiny red "drone" as some fellows prepared it, "Wow, Dad! Can I have one?" The guys, overhearing me, all laughed; one saying, "You could just about ride this one! Couldn't you?" "Gasp!", I thought to myself, "How'd he know I wanted to take it home and fly it around just LIKE MY DAD?"
"No, son.", Dad answered, "We're going to use it as a target and, shoot it down with those BIG guns over there.", dashing all hopes of flying alongside him in his BIG bomber and, me on my shiny red airplane. Disappointed and, not liking guns so much again, I replied, "But WHY?" He replied, "So we can keep sharp and hit what we're aiming at. And, shoot down the bad guys before they can shoot us down, son."
That was a "CHUNK" for a kid to digest. But, it was the truth. It was his job. I'd just never thought about it that way and never with such images of the possible outcome still fresh in my mind from the previous days. I loved my Dad! And, looking back on that occassion so many decades ago, I see just what a gift he and, yes, his buddies, the ones he flew with in the Air Force back then, who all worked together with my Dad to help me understand something important...our mortality. Thanks Dad. Thanks you guys. It worked.
You all have a wonderful season afield, this year. And, BE SAFE! We want to read all your stories when it comes to a close!
The Three Golden Rules:
ALWAYS keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Here's a link to the rest: NRA - Gun Safety Rules