White Trash Weekend

I never went hunting as a kid. It wasn’t something my father or grandfathers were into, and therefore wasn’t something I was into, either. As variously reported, however, I was in the Boy Scouts (insert maniacal laughter and finger pointing here) where I earned merit badges in both shotgun and rifle shooting. I liked shotgun shooting because it was loud, overtly manly, and totally satisfying to blow the crap out of little clay discs. I liked rifle shooting for nearly polar opposite reasons. I derived quite a bit of satisfaction by lying in stillness yards and yards away from a target, slowing my breathing and heart-rate, and slowly squeezing off shots in a tight pattern. In fact, I enjoyed target shooting so much that my dad convinced my over protective mom that I needed an air rifle.

It was a pump-powered affair, with a lever that swung down for you to pump it to the correct pressure. It accepted the requisite BB’s in quantities of 100’s, as well as the more accurate pellets one at a time. A particularly deadly weapon it was not, but after the right amount of pumping, it was reported to have a similar muzzle velocity as a .22, and could therefore due some respectable damage.

One day, my mom dropped me and my gun off at my friend Eric’s to go shootin’. Eric lived on a sizeable piece of land, used minimally by his house, and mostly by a large orange grove. Within the first hour of arriving, scores of little green army men, and more than a few 7-Up cans had met their untimely deaths…at which point we decided to seek out something more exciting. “Let’s go huntin’!” he said.

“Hunting”, in this case, meant walking through the grove, talking and laughing loudly, and challenging each other to near-impossible shots like skewering the petals of a 50-yard flower, or tagging the odd rotten orange thrown into the air. This continued for an hour or two until we rounded a bend and came upon a power line hanging heavy with a line of sparrows. They were about 40 yards away, and sitting quietly in the shade of a large tree.

“Dude, birds!” Eric said, “Time to do some real hunting…get one Dave!”

He didn’t have to tell me twice. I stealthily pumped my gun to maximum pressure, opted for a more-accurate pellet, and sighted in a black blob. As the cross-hairs centered on my target, I slowed my breathing, blinked twice slowly, and gingerly squeezed the trigger.

THWAP!

I heard the pellet slam into the chest of the bird, and a lump formed in my throat as it dropped out of the tunnel I was looking through. Lowering my gun, I saw what looked like a slightly aerodynamic stone fall in tight circles to the ground with a thump.

“Yeah! Bullseye!” he said. “yeah…” I replied quietly.

The rest of the day has faded into distant memory, but I do remember that night after my parents picked me up. I walked straight into my room and laid on my bed, visibly morose. I’d been quiet the whole ride home, and had said largely nothing. Mom came in, sat on the bed, and with her hand on my shoulder said, “What’s wrong honey?”

“David?”

“I…” and the tears started to flow, “I shot a bird! We went hunting in the orange grove and found some birds and I shot him and heard it himandkilledhimandhefellandwasdead!”

Obviously, I have not the killer spirit.

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