Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bang Bang - one reason why I don't hunt

I grew up in a home with guns. My dad was a hunter, and he had several rifles. My brother and I were taught early on the guns were not toys, and were strictly off limits, so we never ventured into the closet where the rifles were kept.

When we were old enough, we got bb guns. I used to shoot at targets all the time. I got used to the way the bb would fly, and pretty soon regularly hit the cans, printed targets, knots in trees that I aimed at. I saved up my allowance to get more bbs, and begged for money when I didn't have enough.

I remember a carnival came to our town. It had a shooting game, and I saw a pretty knife with a white handle I wanted to win. I also knew that you had to get used to a gun to find out any quirks. I picked out one gun, shot, and missed. Adjusted, shot again, missed again. I looked at the gun closely. The sight was slightly bent -  aha. I compensated, shot again, this time hitting the target. I put up more money and kept shooting and hitting, much to the obvious annoyance of the man behind the counter. I finally achieved the number of hits required to win the knife, and I asked for it, but the man would not give it to me. Now it could be he was legitimately worried about giving a knife to a kid, but I took it as an injustice. I stormed home and waited for my dad. When he got home, I told him everything, and we went back to the carnival. He dickered with the man, and finally I got the knife. It was pretty, but cheap, and after a few months the pretty handle broke. Sigh.

Even though I shot almost every day, I didn't indiscriminately shoot at animals like some other kids I knew. I recognized birds, squirrels, cats and dogs were not legitimate targets to shoot at just for the fun of it. And I never developed into a hunter like my dad, or like my brother. I trace that fact to one incident.

For some reason, I got it into my head that I wanted a pet bird. Rather than buy one, though, I got the foolish notion that I could capture a wild bird - no thought about how unfair it would be to stick a wild bird into a cage.

I decided the best way to get a bird was to wing one, and then catch it. So I took my bb gun into a nearby wooded area. I searched and tracked birds; most flew away before I could get off a shot. But then one bird lingered on a branch high up in a tree. I aimed, fired, and the bird dropped. Success!

I ran over to where the bird had fallen and picked it up. The tiny bird was alive, but barely. I held it in my hand, and it move a little. Blood trickled out of its beak. Then it went limp.

I stared at the dead bird in my hand. I had killed it - a beautiful, innocent creature - just because of my selfish desires and the stupid notion that I could just wing it and not kill it. I realized I had unnecessarily caused it pain.

I buried the bird. I cried.

I  don't condemn those who hunt for food. My dad used to donate whatever he killed (and didn't eat) to programs that proved food for the poor. As a vegetarian, I don't have that excuse, anyway. (And my incident with the bird predated by many years my decision to become a vegetarian.) Nor do I condemn gun ownership.

But since that foolish, cruel act, I ceased shooting on a regular basis, and I've never since aimed a gun at another living thing.

Pax et bonum

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