The Shotgun

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic


The Shotgun

 

© 2020 by Jim Shipp

 

Dad was always an avid hunter. With the used Winchester 12-gauge single-barrel shotgun that his dad had given him on his sixteenth birthday, he often brought home rabbits, squirrels, doves, and quails, which mom prepared in various ways and put on the dinner table.

In 1959, he was finally able to buy a shiny new Winchester semiautomatic 12-gauge and didn’t need the single-barrel anymore, so he organized a contest in the front yard of our old farmhouse.

He set a big Hi-C juice can on the top rail of our plank fence. Granddaddy, uncle Orus, and I moved back forty yards or so. Whoever knocked the can off the fence would get the gun.

Granddaddy rustled the leaves of an overhanging apple tree. Uncle Orus got nothing but sky. I hit more fence than can, but I did knock it off. The gun was mine. It never occurred to me back then that the whole contest had been a setup.

It was a good gun. It shot straight. I never entered a turkey shoot without winning the bird. Already dressed and packaged, of course. I wouldn’t have known what to do with a “real” turkey, dead or alive.

For five years, I used the shotgun to hunt with neighborhood kids and schoolmates. We hunted in the afternoons, on weekends, and throughout the summer months. More often than not, we missed what we were shooting at, but on some occasions, there were “kills”. The problem was that this game was never used for food. It was killing for killing’s sake. This weighed on me.

In the winter of 1964, near my own sixteenth birthday, I took the shotgun and went hunting alone. There was six inches of snow on the ground, so everything was preternaturally still. I used stepping stones to cross Shoal Creek and walked deep into the woods. I saw several targets – crows, rabbits, and squirrels – but I never fired a shot.

At the edge of a clearing, I found a ruined cabin and sat inside its crumbling walls for some time, just thinking.

After a while, I made a decision. I trudged home and gave the shotgun to my brother, never to hunt again.

That was almost fifty-seven years ago.


Submitted: December 15, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Jim Shipp. All rights reserved.

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