Column: Friend points gun at sky, pulls trigger and a duck lands at her feet

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 9, 2006

Love Cruikshank, Love Notes

I said very little about Vice President Dick Cheney’s shooting mishap. After all everyone knows my tragic problem concerning guns. Nor was there any malice in my remark that on future hunting trips he really should ask the president to accompany him. After all, there’s something cozy about a president and a vice president going off arm in arm to enjoy a hunting trip together. Gives the country confidence.

I’ve been brought up to start the morning with a little prayer the minute I wake up. After that I consider the possibilities of the day. There is always some sort of an adventure and most important something to be learned.

From the vice president’s adventure I learned about &8220;birdshot.&8221; My father, who like most of my relatives on both sides of the family, had a gun and knew how to use it but never went hunting. He had three brothers, but I believe only one of them hunted. Some of his nephews and a least one of his nieces hunted. He, also, had an aunt, who was supposed to make every other gun-toter past or present green with envy.

I, also, had a couple of great-uncles on my father’s side who were able to &8220;bark&8221; squirrels. As I understand it that means they could shoot so close to the poor creature that the explosion would kill him but there would be no bullets or buckshot actually in the body to hit when it was being eaten.

Personally I have no desire to eat a squirrel, but some people do.

I did have one close friend when I was an undergraduate at the university. You remember Alice S., whom I’ve written about before. The one who was given a shotgun or a rifle, I don’t know which, on her 12th birthday.

She was so delighted to have her own gun at last that she took it outdoors, pointed it skyward and pulled the trigger. To her surprise a dead duck, which she confessed to me she hadn’t even seen, fell at her feet.

Her father, a dentist, was so pleased by her skill, that he had the fowl stuffed and kept it at his office. He never missed an opportunity, she told me, to explain to one or another of his patients, how his little girl &045; a mere child &045; had shot the duck with her very first gun.

She said the story got better with every telling and that eventually he actually bent one knee, aimed an imaginary gun and on the words, &8220;Taking careful aim, she brought the duck to earth,&8221; pulled an imaginary trigger and waited for congratulations.

Said Alice, &8220;I never had the heart to tell him I hadn’t even seen that duck. It just flew into the shot.&8221;

Her parents weren’t always so pleased with her ability. They were celebrating their 25th or 30th wedding anniversary and it being the season Alice was given the task of bringing home a couple of pheasants for the family dinner.

So, gun in hand, she set forth hopefully to search for pheasants and found none. The family had a farm and she told me there were always flocks of pheasants fluttering around it.

&8220;I think the sneaky things knew I was coming,&8221; she said, &8220;And hid out.&8221;

Time, though, was passing. She was getting desperate. After all they would have to be cleaned and cooked. Finally in complete frustration she drove into the farm shot two or three of the plumpest hens and took them home.

&8220;If I’d have just wrung the chickens’ necks,&8221; she said, &8220;everything would have been all right, but there was quite a lot of buckshot in them. No one was pleased with me.&8221;

Alice was small, a natural blonde, and I couldn’t imagine her wringing a chicken’s neck or even shooting one. She knit and crocheted and, like me, loved poetry. We had both been brought up in families that expected us to memorize. We could spend a whole evening reciting lines to each other from Shakespeare to the Goops. We could spend a whole Saturday afternoon hunting Salvation Army bookstores for books we could afford.

The hunting was something we didn’t have in common, but only once in our years of friendship did I see her enthusiasm wane.

She and her family were visiting relatives in Canada. A note I received from her said that in the thinly populated area where their relatives lived a &8220;rogue bear&8221; was scaring the neighbors. He’d slashed several people and killed some livestock.

&8220;Everyone in the countryside with a gun is supposed to be out hunting for the bear,&8221; she wrote. &8220;My cousin, Pat, and I are among the hunters. We’re both praying. Only he’s praying that we find the bear and I’m praying that we won’t.&8221;

(Albert Lea resident Love Cruikshank’s column appears on Thursday.)