Copyright 1994
Sam Elmore

GUN CONTROL

Wait, now---gimme a chance't to s'plain, 'fore you hairy-legged ol' boys from down 'ere in Dorcheat Bottom start jumpin' in ye' pick-up trucks and headin' this-a-way with a bucket of hot tar and a mattress tickin' full of green-head mallard feathers.

Yes, I titled this article "gun control"; a-purpose. I can readily imagine that a lot of questions have popped up in your minds right off the bat. So, before I get too far along with this, let me try to anticipate some of your questions, and offer my response.

Q. Does Sam really believe in gun control?
A. Yep!
Q. Has he gone slap-dab crazy?
A. Nope!
Q. Maybe we orta let him dig this hole a mite deeper, 'fore we shove 'im in 'ere and fill it up.
A. Even though that wasn't put in the form of a question, let me answer it this-a-way: "thanks for the opportunity".

First off, I will not try to persuade any of you to cross over to my way of thinking. That ain't what this is about. My aim is to tell you a couple of things, then let you make up your own mind. All I ask is, read the whole thing before you come to any hard and fast decisions. After you've read it, see if you don't think some measure of "gun control" is warranted.

Papa and Mama brought all twelve of their kids up with the strictest sense of gun safety. They were intent on seeing that we learned the proper way to handle guns, shells, traps, axes, saws, hatchets, and anything else that had the potential to harm anyone (more often than not, ourselves).

In this article, I will cite two instances where a modicum of gun control might have been beneficial. See if you don't agree:

****

With a piece of two-by-four, I paddled the square-ended cypress boat to take Papa to the other side of Alligator Bayou, to get us a mess of squirrel for supper. He stepped out on the far bank, told me to "abide", and was back at the boat within forty-five minutes, holding five squirrels by the tail; enough to feed the six of us (still living at home) a fine supper of squirrel, brown gravy, and cat-head biscuits.

As he'd taught us to do, Papa broke open the double-barrel Remington 12-gauge and looked down the barrels, to prove to himself that he'd already unloaded it. He had. He tossed the squirrels into the bottom of the boat, cautioned me to hold the boat steady while he got in, then sat down on the nailed-across board in the front portion of the boat. He laid the shotgun stock in the bottom of the boat and leaned the barrels forward across the seat beside him. Then Papa pointed his finger to'ards the house and said: "paddle".

I took up the 2 X 4 and started the quarter-mile trip upstream and across the Bayou, to where our back yard bordered on the bayou's bank. As I paddled, I was looking at all the "game" in sight. Alligators floating with just their eyes above the surface, snakes laying on logs in the pale sunlight, turtles, shike-pokes, water turkeys; there was something in sight no matter which-a-way you looked.

I was about nine years old at the time, and (if you believe the lies my big brothers tell about our younger days) somewhat shy of total "coordination". (Things just seemed to "break" whenever I happened to walk past them; that's all). My brother Barge (called Todd) was three years my senior, and twice my size. Papa was already allowing him to shoot the .22 and, occasionally, Mama's single-barrel .410. But, I was still "untried" in the area of shooting, and I was plumb sick-and-tired of it.

Papa must have overheard me grumbling and complaining under my breath as I paddled the boat, because he turned half-sideways and asked: "What-in-the-dickens ye' mumblin' about, boy?". I took a deep breath and decided that, although I might get cross-ways of him for being downright impudent, I was gonna let it all a-loose, once't-and-for-all.

"Wa'al, Papa....seems to me like ever'body 'round here gets to do ever'thang they want to, 'cept'n me. I don't never git to do nothin'!"

"What is it ye' wanta do?"
"I wanta shoot the shotgun, 'at's whut!....like Todd gets to do all the time".

He turned his head forward without a word or a gesture. I figgered I was in a mess of trouble this time for certain, so I hushed and kept paddlin'. In a little bit, Papa turned around on the plank seat and told me to quit paddling. I did; and sat there wondering whether he was gonna use the 2 X 4 to kill me with, or wait 'til we got to the house and pick some other way.

"Ye' wanta shoot the shotgun, hunh?"
"Yessir, I sho' do!"
"What ye' gon' shoot at?"

My heart jumped up in my throat. He hadn't said no! I was so surprised, I couldn't think of what to pick out to shoot; but I finally settled it by pointing and saying:

"....'at water turkey yonder in 'at button-willer."

Papa looked all around to see if anyone else was in sight, but nobody was. He took up the shotgun, broke it open, fumbled in his shell-sack, and came out with a purple-color, high-brass, Peter's High Velocity shell. Holding the shotgun where I could watch every move, he slid the shell into the right-hand barrel, and snapped the breach closed.

After all the teaching and showing, I figgered I knew as much about guns as Papa or anybody else did, by the time I was nine. Papa eye-balled all around once more, then reached the shotgun back to me.

"Now, it's gon' kick a little bit, but jest hold 'er tight and it ort'n to bother ye' too much."

I twisted around on the seat-board, looking for a semblance of a shooting position. The water-turkey was about thirty yards away, and the boat was absolutely still in the water. The position I was in was awkward, so I slid off the rear board and knelt in the bottom of the boat, facing sideways, to the right of the boat. Papa nodded approvingly.

I shouldered that long, heavy shotgun and, when Papa saw I was about ready to shoot, he turned his face to the front, so the blast and noise wouldn't be so bad.

"Take a fine bead, and squeeze the front trigger."

I didn't bother to respond. I got a bead on the water-turkey, and was already "takin' up the slack", when the dang thing flew off up the Bayou! Papa was looking straight ahead, and didn't notice it fly. I did the natural thing any hunter does in a situation like that, and commenced to "tracking" the bird.

It seemed like every time the front bead sight would catch up with it's tail, the water-turkey would "speed up" or something. I didn't give up though; I kept on a-tracking it. Finally, I got the sight on the bird and yanked that trigger hard as I could.

The water-turkey had flown straight upstream, the way the boat was pointing. I had tracked it around to the left until the shotgun barrels were almost laying acros't Papa's right shoulder when I shot. The muzzle of the gun was out in front, past Papa's face, but when that thing roared beside his head like 'at, he fell down in the bottom of the boat on his knees, with his arms wrapped around his head.

Later on, at the house, Papa had several things to say to me about guns, and shooting, and so forth; but mainly, his words were slanted towards "minding" him when he told me how to do something. Earlier though, in the boat, I only recall him saying just one thing after the gun went off beside-a his right ear:

"You've done killed your own $#@%$# Daddy!"

****

Big brother Barton was married and had a family, and lived just "over yonder" from our house. He came over one misty, rainy day, borrowed Mama's .410 and brother Todd, and went to get us all a mess of squirrel. Standing in Mama's kitchen, Barton stuck a finger the size of one of Papa's smoked sausages under Todd's nose, and said:

"Now, you lissen to me; I'm gon' let you tote the shotgun, and the shells, but don't load 'at thang 'til we get in the woods and see something to shoot. Ye' hear me?"
"I hear ye'. No prog-lum."

It would be safe to assume that, somewhere between the time the kitchen screen door slammed behind him, and the time he stepped off the back step, Todd had loaded a shell into the .410.

They walked across the thirty-yard-wide oat field, and came to the edge of the woods.

The wind had blown over a slender willow tree, and fox-grape vines had draped it solid. Barton stooped over to go under the bent-over willow. Todd, three steps behind Barton, waited his turn to duck under. A red fox squirrel streaked out of the vines and ran along the bent willow. Todd threw up the .410 and fired.

The squirrel, dead as a door-nail, and weighing about two-and-a-half pounds, fell down and hit Barton right in the kidneys, driving him to his all-fours in the mud. It takes no great stretch of the imagination to come up with the same thought that Barton must have had: Boom!---Thump-in-the-back---Down in the mud. Nor does it tax one's mind to arrive at the same conclusion Barton reached, then bespoke:

"Boy, ye' done killed ye' own %$#@%&^ brother!"

(Are there any questions at this point regarding the need for a little "gun control"?)