Sunday, May 11, 2008

My Early History With Guns

The first picture of me holding a gun and aiming it is when I am eight or nine. The gun I'm holding in the picture is my mother's Luger pistol, a spoil of war my biological father brought back from his adventures in World War II. I am a thin, long legged girl with shoulder length hair. The picture was taken at the city dump in Willamina, Oregon, in the summer. My new dad and I are out of school and shooting rats at the dump. He leans against our ugly green station wagon, a cigarette dangles from his lips, and when he isn't aiming a camera at me, he is holding a bottle of beer. I'm a good shot by then, but I don't remember when I held this gun for the first time. It has a fierce little kick that I have learned to control. I am standing there facing my dad with the gun held in my right hand, arm extended, head turned to the right, shot by the camera in profile, squinting slightly as I aim. My left arm hangs so nonchalantly at my side. I have very good posture. I'm wearing shorts, a camp shirt, and have espadrilles on my feet. It would have been so easy to swing that gun in a quarter arc and shoot my daddy dead. I remember thinking the thought, and then letting it go. And to this day I think it was an opportunity lost. I would have many more such opportunities as I grew older. But then as I grew older the penalties for me would have gotten so much worse. I learned that there were always consequences for me, just never for the adults in my life.

My father took me quail hunting, pheasant hunting, duck hunting, deer hunting. I was a fine shot with a .22 caliber rifle. But on most hunting trips I was the human equivalent of a hunting dog. Flush 'em and fetch 'em. When we spent part of our summers at my grandfather's cabin up Mt Aire, We went porcupine hunting. That's when I got to fire the .22 for real and I was a damn fine shot. So was my mother. On dull days at the cabin, we would take target practice with tin cans. I was always fiercely competitive. Whatever I set my mind to, I got good at.

Later, in my teens, guys trying to impress me would take me shooting, and were always shocked that I could handle a gun as well as they, and was almost always a better shot. Such is the cocky chauvinism of boys.