"The first covey of partridges I ever saw, they were ruffed grouse but we called them partridges up there, was with my father and an Indian named Simon Green and we came on them dusting and feeding in the sun beside teh grist millon Horton's Creek in Michigan. They looked as big as turkeys to me and I was so excited I missed both shots I had, while my father, shooting an old lever action Winchester pump, killed five out of the covey... -- Ernest Hemingway, "Remembering Shooting -- Flying," in Sporting Classics, December 2012, Page 88.
I have no memories like Hemingway's of my father and hunting. This was not my fault, frankly, but my father's, who never took me. Indeed, he never allowed even so much as a BB gun in the house, since when he was 10 or so he had shot his brother Jack in the eye and, he said, he didn't want that to happen to us.
That's what he said, anyway.
For my father was a fundamentally selfish and emotionally distant man and I rather suspect that the real reason had more to do with the time and effort that would have been lost from other pursuits such as drinking and cheating on my mother.
Or, perhaps I'm being too uncharitable.
I didn't even own a firearm myself until I was 20, when Zane of Zane's Gun Rack on High Street in Columbus, Ohio really scalped me on a World War II production Radom 9mm pistol. (I later was able to return the favor one day when he kid, who didn't know crap from breakfast, was behind the counter and his dad was out, after which I called it even.) My first rifle, for the record, was an M1895 7.65 Argentine carbine made by DWM. I sure miss that little Argey. It waqs a sweet shooter.
Thus it was left to Matthew's mother's father (my future father-in-law) to introduce me to hunting. A hard man, also emotionally closed off to his family, we never hit it off. His favorite nick-name for me was "Harpo." Yet one crisp Buckeye day I was invited to go rabbit hunting with Bob and 9 or 10 of his friends. This seemed like progress, for I really did want to earn his respect.
I was handed a beater single-barrel 12 Gauge and told we would be sweeping a field on line. Given about 20 minutes of instruction by one of Bob's friends which consisted mostly of weapon mechanics and "Do what we do, stay on line and when we come to a fence line we'll take your gun until we get over." I was next to last in line on the right.
For me, the hunt was over almost before it began. We were moving through the field when the center of the line jumped some quail and they took off, veering across our front to the right and thus, toward me. The guy on my immediate left, who had a semi-auto started letting fly then described an arc through my head and let fly on the other side. That muzzle looked as big as the Grand Canyon and as black as a bowling ball when it pointed at my face and I will never forget that shot string, the fuzzy blackness of it, the speed and and the buzzing past my face so close I could feel it on my cheek. It was hot. I swear it was HOT. I couldn't have been close enough to feel that, but it was hot.
Now, immediately after this several things happened at once. The guy who was flanker on my right fed that semi-auto to the idiot. Or maybe he was just threatening to do it. Bob May was laughing his ass off. The rest of the party not amused were walking off. One took his arm and put it around me, I remember that distinctly. I found some place to sit down, exactly when or where in this narrative of events I am still unsure of to this day.
In retrospect, I wondered if the whole thing had been a failed assassination attempt. I never went hunting again and I regret that to this day.
Later, when my own kids came along, I could not transmit what I did not know.
Did I teach them to shoot? Certainly, but poorly, I think. That's why I' going to make sure they get Appleseed training in November. Did I teach them the importance of firearms to our liberty? Certainly. But I had my own failures as a father, too.
As their father, I was always too quick to respond to requests to jump into this fight or that -- to "save the Republic." "Only you can pull this off,Mike," they would say and yet, even if they were right, it took me away from my kids because I said "yes" more often than I should have.
I shorted my kids on time and I now -- too late -- regret it.
That is why the article in Sporting Classics titled "Remembering Shooting -- Flying" by Hemingway hit me so hard the other night. Also in the magazine was "Why I Taught My Boy To Hunt." The combination of the two impacted me greatly.
Take your kids hunting, and hold your kids close. You never know when you might be taken from them or they from you. But memories, like Hemingway's of his father, are forever. So go, now, make some memories before you, like me regret not doing so.