I’ve always been both amused and disturbed by gun nuts. I grew up with them. My Dad, a couple of uncles and many family friends were serious firearms freaks.
To them the autumn morning ritual of trudging across the windswept, snow covered cornfields and slogging the muddy creek beds of southern Ohio while casually dispatching rabbits on the left, pheasants to the right or squirrels lurking menacingly in the trees was rapture beyond compare.
I got my first shotgun on my tenth birthday, a Savage 410, along with a hunting jacket with game pockets and elastic ammo loops that held enough shells to make Zapata proud. A hunting license with my name on it and a Buck knife and sheath with a rawhide thong (for strapping the knife to my skinny leg) topped off this boyhood rite of passage.
I remember distinctly the feeling that I had suddenly aged, grown taller, I imagined that my voice was deeper, more commanding. I was a member of the fraternity of “men,” a hunter now; I had left the gatherers behind.
I spent hours cleaning and oiling that shotgun in anticipation of my first armed outing with the other hunters. I had tagged along on hunts with Dad and his friends for a couple of years, but never armed. The thought of wearing full battle dress, hunting jacket loaded with shells, knife on my belt and that license pinned proudly to my back was exhilarating.
That’s how I became a part of a male family tradition, the Thanksgiving morning hunt.
While the women (the gatherers) were engaged in their kitchen business we warriors were stalking the wild rolling hills of exurban Dayton for scrawny wild birds and furry rodents to add that special gamy goodness to the feast.
I loved every minute of hunting, the sights, the smells, the company of men who now accepted me as one of their number, if a fractionally sized and squeaky voiced one.
The only blemishes on my infatuation were the cold wet feet, frozen fingers and cheeks and the cold, black, glassy dead eyes of my victims.