Note: Doc Callahan, retired professor, part-time farmer, and full-time pontificator, occasionally adds his advice column expertise to our blog. Doc’s viewpoints are not necessarily those held by CAST—or, frankly, anyone else.
Caroline Aims Her Gun Questions at Me
Gun ownership, use, and regulation are not in my realm of expertise, so I have been surprised at the countless inquiries I’ve had about the issue related to living on farms. But it’s a hot topic now, and I never let a lack of knowledge interfere with my propensity to babble. This letter from Caroline sums up many of the issues:
I’ve never lived on a farm, but from the old Beverly Hillbillies to the modern day Duck Dynasty reality shows on cable, it seems that rural kids in your country learn to shoot before they are potty trained. Did you have a gun when you were a kid? Were guns a necessity on the farm? Did you ever have a gun accident? What do you think of the gun control debate?
Sincerely, Quizzical Caroline in Canada
I started with fully loaded sticks. We’d run around the farm play-acting scenes from Gunsmoke or Davy Crockett. The coonskin caps we received at Christmas helped us win a lot of battles against imaginary foes, but by late afternoon, we were ready to check our firearms at the door so we could turn on the black-and-white TV for The Mickey Mouse Club. We eventually went through the BB gun stage, but wildlife was safe around me. Years later when I read Harper Lee’s classic novel, I realized I must have been subconsciously following Atticus Finch’s edict, “It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” My poor aim took that a bit farther: “It’s impossible to kill much of anything.”
Your second question probably depends on when, where, and why. When we were kids, we didn’t even lock the doors, so I don’t think we gave much thought to personal protection. However, after my grandpa died, Granny kept a 4-10 shotgun in a closet on the porch of her house across the road from us. It had “Lil Pet” inscribed on the stock, and I’m glad to say she never actually shot it—Granny was tough and determined, but small. The recoil probably would have sent her into a backwards somersault, and by that time, her tumblin’ days were over.
In our house, we had a shotgun and .22 rifle, and I guess the necessity factor came up with another flashback to “Mockingbird.” Like Atticus, Dad emphasized safety and respect around guns, and he also had to put down a rabid animal—in this case, a skunk that was doing circles on the driveway one hot summer afternoon. Dad and my brothers became good at taking out raccoons with distemper or other problem critters. I’ve always made a point of not looking too sick when I visit the farm—no pus-filled eyes or frothing at the mouth, and I definitely don’t run in circles on hot summer days.
You ask about accidents, and yes we had one. Armed with BB guns, my brother and a cousin chased a rabbit until it hid under a small soybean bin. These two Elmer Fudds knew the best way to trap poor Bugs. One went to each end of the crawl space under the bin, and they peered in at the rabbit huddled in the middle. My brother shot first, and the rabbit knew when to duck. The pellet struck my cousin in the eye, but luck was with us--it hit him in the eyelid and not the pupil. Bugs Bunny got away, my cousin has a tiny scar, and my brother went on to be the best shot in the family and a dedicated proponent of safe, common sense gun use.
Your last question is the hardest because of the gap between the most fervent of both sides. Seems the extreme gun proponents think the gun control folks want to pass restrictions until only crazed criminals can get their cold, undead hands on a weapon. The extreme gun control proponents seem to think the gun rights people want to force children to get a semi-automatic for their tenth birthdays. I just hope common sense and compromise prevail.
In the meantime, I’ve signed up for the Keanu Reeves Matrix Defense System. It’s an online course designed so the purchaser can learn how to dodge oncoming bullets. I have to admit, the 90-degree backward bends are tough. I think I’ve reached Granny’s stage—my tumblin’ days are over.
Stay quizzical, Doc
(by dan gogerty, photo from greatamericanink.com)