Of Boy, Puppies and Shotguns

I’ve always believed that if a parent can teach his children to love the outdoors, that parent is leaving his children a legacy much more important than any monetary wealth he might leave them.Those children will always enjoy life, and be a lot less likely to get in trouble. One of the most interesting correlations that I ever read concerning prisons is that very few prisoners have ever owned a hunting or fishing license.


The first time I ever shot a shotgun is a memory that I will hold and treasure forever. Looking back, I can readily admit that I was much too young and small to pull the trigger, but I begged my Dad so hard that he pulled the dogs in close just in case I could not hold the muzzle up. I never knew for certain whether Pop loved me or his bird dogs the most. At any rate, he handed me his 12 gauge, LC Smith double barrel and double triggered shotgun, and advised me to step on up. A covey of quail burst out from under my feet. I managed to get that heavy gun up to my shoulders, and promptly pulled both triggers at the same time. By some stroke of fate, a bird fell. As the bird was falling, so was I–minus my two front teeth that the shock of the recoil knocked out of my mouth. Pop always said that he had never seen anyone laugh and cry at the same time until then.


My favorite Christmas was the Christmas that Santa brought me a 20 gauge single shot, shotgun, a hatchet, and a non-folding knife. I already had been well-schooled in gun safety, but Pop went through the importance of gun safety again before turning me loose with this one piece of advice, ” do not shoot anything that you do not plan to eat unless it’s a varmint.” The only problem with that advice is that he failed to give me a definition of a “varmint”. I promptly went out in the yard and shot a squirrel out of a pecan tree. We always called them “tree rats”; so I figured that squirrels were varmints. According to Pop, a squirrel was an edible animal. Since I had killed him, I had to clean and skin him, and Mom would cook him for me to eat. In my later years, I cleaned an entire deer quicker than it took me to handle my first outdoor butchering process of my trophy squirrel with my brand new knife that would hardly cut hot butter.


My favorite memory involving teaching Cader IV to shoot was the year that I was training him and a new lab puppy at the same time. The day that I finally decided that both were ready, we took my boat to a little island on the river to try to bushwhack some doves flying in to water and pick up a little sand grit from the river. I had Cader standing in front of me, and had Josie on a leash. The action would go like this– a dove would come drifting in, Cader IV would shoot falling back on me. I would catch him with one hand, and grab Josie’s leash with the other hand while yelling,”Stay, Josie, and no, Cader, you did not hit that bird”. At the end of the afternoon, I was completely sweated down. If memory serves me correctly, Cader IV killed four doves, and Josie retrieved all four of them. Those are precious memories !


Both of my daughters can shoot also, but they kind of lost interest in it when they started wearing make-up, but they both still enjoy fishing. Thanks to the outdoors and the good Lord, none of my children, who are now parents themselves, ever got in trouble while growing up.


Hunting season is just around the corner. The weatherman says that we should feel our first hint of fall next week, and we are ready for it!