Friday, October 26, 2012

Remembrance and Regret

"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.


Bob said...

Have you ever read Robert Ruark's classic The Old Man and the Boy, Mike? If you haven't, I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

I never did take her hunting, but I did take her shooting.
And she was an active shooter until she died, at age 12.
I'm glad I did it.


Scott J said...

Thanks for the reminder to keep trying harder with my own two.

Baby girl is a southpaw though so teaching her to shoot is going to be interesting (and a convenient excuse to add to the collection in the future:) ).

Don't be too hard on yourself. The one child of yours I have met seems to have turned out alright (even if she does want to be a lawyer).

Drink water and press on because the war for liberty we fight is likely to continue until I am a grandfather and then some.

Anonymous said...

We all live with regrets of shoulda, woulda, coulda and so on but dont sell yourself short.
You have accomplished more than anyone in this nation in securing their liberty even if only for a short while longer.
That is worth something to them and us all.
Thank You.
Keep the faith.
Yank lll

Anonymous said...

Ah, Mike.
As has been said above, we all have regrets as parents. We all do the best we can, the best that we know how to do at the time. When we're young & stupid, we think we have all the time in the world to make up for lost time. Until something, usually death, slaps us upside the face & causes us to really look, really see what is all around us & who is living in the house with us.
Now we are doing the things we wish we'd done with our kids but it's with our grandkids now.
Thank God for His mercy!


Unknown said...

When is the next Appleseed shoot and where? I would love to take my wife to one.

John Otis Comeau said...

that brought me to tears, Mike. thank you. I'll bet your kids are damned proud of their Dad, and if they aren't now, they will be someday.

Anonymous said...

Well I started shooting when i was 5(five) years old. A .410 shotgun ,I hit the target too. My dad and his buddies at the VFW trained my brother and I(WW2 combat vets all) We went hunting every weekend. Dady would take us to turky shoots ,tell us to miss in the first rounds. Bet on us hevely. then tell us to win or he'd kick the liveing shit out of us. We ALLWAYS won. I missed ONCE and had bruses for two weeks. My brother and I got so good that we did trick shots,lighting matches ,shooting the fire off cigeretts. My dad liked to take the Colt woodsman when we went duck hunting and have me wing shoot ducks while he and his buddies (ww2 vets all) would get drunk and make bets.Knowing I'd get my ass kicked if i missed and cost dad money.( he beat the liveing shit out of us dayly) I never did. YEH Man, huntin' with the old man. Sometimes Mike Its better to have "missed" the fun parts.--- Hang In Mike Shit Happens in life we got no control over. Every day you fight back is a victory.Take the pain; fight back,never ever give in. You want to teach the kids somthin' show 'em what tough looks like. When yer gone have 'em say that the reaper had to beat you with a fence poast to get you in the ground. When your grand babies brag on you 20 years after your gone ;you got it right.

John Otis Comeau said...

this blog post brought tears to my eyes. if your offspring haven't already forgiven you whatever was lacking in their childhood due to your fight for their freedom, I'm betting they will in a few years.

Anonymous said...

Well... I still have lots of time with my young ones, but this reminds me to let them get out with grandpa too. He has had his hand introducing the oldest to fishing... Hope he is still kicking around enough for taking some trips hunting with both of them.

MamaLiberty said...

Parents are seldom truly able to spend as much quality time with their children as they should, let alone want to. That's why there are grandparents. Make that special effort for the grandchildren.

My grandparents were all dead when I was born, but my mother knew how important this was and promptly found good friends who would "adopt" us as their grandchildren. And so we grew and prospered. We never went hunting, unfortunately, but we had a wealth of other character building experiences.

If you (anyone) don't have any grandchildren... and even if you do, find some child or two without a good role model and make the offer. Take them hunting. It's never too late to start.

WarriorClass III said...

As for me, I'm glad you are who you are.

WarriorClass III

AJ said...

I don't know how many of us ever get to be the father we wish we were, but I imagine the number may be small.

Anonymous said...

My father was seldom around--he worked 15-18 hours a day. But working for the Voice of America in DC in the 50's, 60's and 70's whenever he was with us he told us about the most interesting people he met at work.

Sometimes he brought the individuals home with him. One time we had a Chinese dissident sitting right in the living room. I had no idea what they were talking about but we were always welcome to join in.

My father was from Ukraine and was a gregarious, happy person--that's what I remember the most. So I never faulted him for not spending more time with us--in fact we all are quite spirited and independent because we had to be responsible early on.

As a parent in my 20's and 30's I made plenty of mistakes-who doesn't? but love transcends time and space and in the end grown-up kids get it. Life isn't about being perfect, it's about being a better person tomorrow than I was today.

Dakota said...

We all get dreamy on occasion Mike. We can all look back and wish we had done things differently. I lost a farm and my marriage chasing liberty and other things. My children were split up like so much chattel and I cannot be in the same room with my ex. I have few regrets... my children know and have no doubts that I love them unconditionally as much as anyone can. They know, and respect me for what I have done ... it is all I could ask.

Roger J said...

Mike, this is an excellent column. My Dad taught me to shoot with his old Savage pump .22 which he had fitted with peep sights. This was one year before he died (I was only 10) and I remember him as a good teacher and excellent shot. You never know how you will influence your kids, but I believe yours has every reason to be proud of you, hunter or not.

T. Holmes said...

Better late than never, Mike, and there IS time to make it clear what your feelings are. Memories always start in the NOW, and you never leave the now till you're dead. So, take your NOW and live it - with them. And the comment about your grandkids is relevant, too. Do what you know to do. It always works out in the end.

Hefferman said...

I was a PMI (Primary Marksmanship Instructor)in the Marine Corps and shot Rifle and Pistol teams.
I have taught two nephews and a few of my nieces to shoot. One nephew though he knew how to shoot. After a little work and teaching the basics, he could hit the brass end of a 12 Ga shell from 100 yards almost every time.
The nieces I taught can out shoot most Marines with a pistol. They all carry .45s.
The other nephew's mother whines and cries when I work with him, because she is a liberal, and doesn't want her baby to be taught how to kill. He still sneaks down to the farm to shoot and hunt.

Gunny G said...

Taught the wife and kids to shoot. Took them all fishing. Dined in the chow hall with my son, who still remembers it, and took him offshore fishing. Gave him lessons in fieldcraft and he loved it.

Once he is at his permanent duty station in the Corps, he and I are going on a guided moose and bear hunt.

Hold them close and love them fiercely for they fly the nest all too soon.

Anonymous said...

Lever action pump Winchester?

Who wrote this - Hillary?

Anonymous said...

When is the next Appleseed shoot and where? I would love to take my wife to one."