Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fathers, Sons, Hunting, Shooting and Memories

I was out and about hunting (VA's late muzzleloading season goes through Jan 6, 2007) and as I went to where I was going I passed many places full of memories of my father. That's always a good time, I had a great dad.

Dad was a forester who worked for the US Forest Service from 1955 until his retirement about 1984. He worked on the Monongahela, Daniel Boone and George Washington National Forests, for Job Corps, fought forest fires as far away as New Mexico and before that had served his country in the US Army (1945-47 and 1951-52) and worked 6 months for the Soil Conservation Corps. Raised on a dairy farm near Cooperstown, NY during the depression, Dad knew about hard work and treasured everything he had. He also made a lot of sacrifices for his children.

Of course he liked being outdoors and most of my fondest memories have something to do with the outdoors. However, I wasn't of hunting age until we were living here in VA and so it was here that I got to go out with him and have the grand adventures with gun in hand that boys and young men so treasure. Very nearly everywhere I go in this area that I have already visited at least once with my dad I will be reminded of a wonderful adventure. I'm sure that Dad didn't think that many of these excursions were memorable. Many times we would be so busy looking that we wouldn't shoot. We just liked being there! I do remember though.

Dad told me about his shooting experiences. I have the shotgun with which he killed his first squirrel. It is an old Western-Field bolt action .410 chambered for the 2½" shell and sans serial number. His dad couldn't always get 2½" shells and so would sometimes just shoot 3" shells in it. The worst thing was that the 3" shells wouldn't work through the magazine! I, being a bit more careful than Grandpa, have a supply of 2½" ammunition for the gun but I've never taken the gun hunting. I suppose I ought to remedy that next year...

When Dad came back from his military service (May 1945 - May 1947) he bought a used Stevens (Tru-Test branded) 16 ga. SxS shotgun and used it for all his hunting and skeet shooting. Interestingly, the skeet and trap range at which he shot was adjacent to a small private airfield at which he took flying lessons. We went there once and some of the fellows with whom he had shot skeet were there, shooting skeet. Gotta love that!

The first shooting I ever did with Dad was Grandpa's Winchester 62A. Dad would stop at the hardware store in Fly Creek and pick up a box of .22 shorts. He'd set up a can on a stick and try to teach me to shoot. The stock was too long and I'd have trouble getting my head in the correct position so would try to "sight" down the side of the barrel. Of course this didn't work. Great fun though! And yes, there was no hearing protection. We did that every summer when we visited Grandpa until I finally caught on and satisfied Dad that I had safety understood.

With all that done I was allowed to go groundhog hunting on my own. I killed a few. I'd been with Dad and Grandpa when they killed a few, too. More fun. I was also allowed/encouraged to kill the starlings in Grandpa's yard and to shoot crows. Yet more fun. But it would be a couple of years before I got a shotgun (courtesy of my Aunt Ginny) and went dove and quail hunting.

(to be continued)

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