• 72°

First gun provides Christmas memories

By By Ben Norman
Advance Hunting Columnist
Old Santa's reindeer had to pull a heavier load this year. It seems a large number of young hunters asked for their first gun this Christmas. Most had asked for it a year or two ago but mom thought they were too young. This year, with dad's help, they were finally able to convince her.
Receiving one's first gun is usually the most memorable event in a hunter's life.
I received my first gun at Christmas when I was 10 years old. It was a little 20 gauge H&R single shot with a highly polished finish and beautifully grained walnut stock. I think dad paid Santa $24.95 for it at the local hardware store. Santa threw in a box of shells to show he appreciated dad's business n not an uncommon practice for merchants in the slower paced 1950's.
A severe bout with tonsillitis necessitated me staying in the bed while taking massive doses of antibiotics, but a platoon of Navy Seals wouldn't have had a remote chance of stopping me from jumping out of bed and racing to the Christmas tree on that eventful Christmas morning in 1957. The only way my mother could get me to go back to bed was by allowing me to stand the new shotgun in the corner by my bed so I could see and touch it to my heart's content.
Dr. James Ray, our family doctor and one of the finest doctors to ever practice in a small town, made a house call the following day to assess my condition. Mom and Dad were planning a trip to see my grandparents, who lived in the country, if my medical condition allowed. I knew I would get a chance to fire my new gun and maybe even go hunting.
Dr. Ray took one look at my throat and began shaking his head. I'll never forget his words to my mother: "Doris, he's just got too much infection to get out in this cold. We better keep him in or he is going to end up in the hospital."
Before mother could speak, I had laid down a barrage of promises to the good doctor that would have made a politician envious of my promising skills.
I can't remember everything I promised, but I do remember promising him how if he would just let me go to grandma's I would take my medicine and bundle up real good going from the car to her house. I then asked him could I please just go out in the yard with Dad to shoot my new gun and go right back in?
He scratched his head and told my mother, " I don't know if it won't do him more harm to not let him go than to go, and if it's a pretty day, let him go out for just a few minutes." My con game had worked!
I kept my promise on that trip and went out with Dad only long enough to bag a trophy blackbird. In the next few weeks my tonsillitis was cured, and we finally got a chance to go squirrel hunting. We were standing on a logging road bridge when I spotted the squirrel jump and pause for just a second.
It was a lucky shot. I can still remember my heart pounding as I ran in the door and shouted, "Hey Mom, I finally got a squirrel."