I gave Todd a rifle for Christmas but it was really a gift to me. I wandered the local Walmart until I found the gun counter and stared at the rifles behind the case, clueless. In that Walmart, their options for guns were pretty limited. Eventually a clerk came over and said, “If I sell you a gun, we’ll have to escort you out of the building.”
That took a moment for me to absorb. It seemed a sorry state for us to have arrived at, but if they thought I was capable of holing up in the laundry supplies aisle to load a rifle and unload bullets into people then by all means, take me by the elbows and get me out to the parking lot.
I told him that seemed to make sense and would he explain which of the rifles were 22 caliber. He walked me through the prices, I pointed at one, and he unlocked the case and brought it to the counter. “Could you show me how it works?” He said he couldn’t do that and then proceeded to show me how it worked. Then he said “semi-automatic.”
I froze; I didn’t want a semi-automatic. He tried to explain something about how it’s not the same thing as the stuff on TV but I stammered several times saying, “I don’t want a semi-automatic.” Finally I said, “isn’t there a gun that shoots just one bullet at a time no matter what?” He told me only one did that and pointed to a robin’s egg blue rifle a third of the size as the rest. “It’s really for kids to learn on.” There was no way I was going to buy Todd or myself a kiddie rifle. Instead, I bought a box of practice bullets and a box of real bullets and left the store. And that’s what I wrapped and put under the tree for Todd to open.
A few days after Christmas Todd and I headed over to a gun shop in Quechee. Camo socks, hats, and other hunting gear filled the front of the store and in the back where hundreds of rifles, cross bows and pistols. We bought a used .22 rifle – Savage is the brand – that has a cartridge that can hold 10 bullets but you have to cock the gun each time to shoot. Todd locked the gun in the safe we have in the garage and it sat there untouched until last week.
I want a gun to kill woodchucks. They may be cute fuzzy animals but they dig deep wide holes in the ground and those holes are a terrific risk to our sheep. A broken leg means a dead ewe. Currently there are five holes in the pasture and so, I would like to eliminate the woodchucks and fill those holes.
Last week I didn’t even know where the key to the gun safe was hidden. I do now. We got out the rifle, the practice bullets and headed into the woods. Todd showed me how to load the individual shots into the cartridge, how the safety lock worked, and how to cock the rifle with a single bullet. He set up a plywood board about 25 yards from where we stood with a piece of paper tacked on the surface and magic marker circles to indicate a target. Eileen, Todd and I each took turns shooting three bullets per round.
I lifted the gun and struggled to figure out how to see anything at all through the scope. Holding the gun as still as possible, the magnified target suddenly danced around in the lens. I figured I’d only get sloppier so I pulled the trigger. Todd made sure I was pointing the gun down at the ground as he walked to the target to see if I had even hit the paper. A small hole just next to the bull’s eye. Sweet. And it wasn’t just luck. I consistently hit near the center almost every time.
A few days later, after the 6 am bottle feeding, I unlocked the gun, loaded it with four real bullets and headed out into the pasture in search of woodchucks. They must have heard me coming. I waited. Moved to a new spot. Waited some more. Nothing.
When Eileen came downstairs, Todd told her Deadeye Daisy was out with her gun. I so wish I had been able to come back inside triumphant. Todd came home that evening with smoke bombs to drop into the woodchucks’ holes. “No faith,” I said. Channeling my best Bill Murray impersonation from Caddy Shack I will try again.