My father was a hunter. Of sorts. He was a working class Ohio high school dropout.
But once a year he got into this thing about hunting. I have no idea why. There wasn’t much game in my part of Ohio, mostly rabbits and pheasants that lived in the fields of farms, subsisting on grain and soybeans left over after harvest. One of my uncles was a farmer, so in the fall. After the harvest and during hunting season, my dad would wear his hunting gear. Which as I remember consisted of a leather jacket with his duck stamp—a kind of license—fastened to the back. Then he’d stalk rabbits and pheasants.
He was a good shot. I remember him coming home with pheasants and now and then a rabbit, their soft fur and feathers still bloody.
We didn’t need the meat. There’s maybe one meal in a pheasant, and a rabbit hardly seemed worth the bother. And of course my mom wound up skinning the rabbits and plucking the feathers off. I no longer remember what they tasted like. I sort of remember rabbit gravy. I got the long tail feathers of the pheasants, which really were regal. I no longer recall what I did with them.
The shotgun was kept in my dad’s closet. I think it was a 30-ought-six, at least that’s what I remember. I always was careful. Our vacuum sweeper was kept in that closet, too, and vacuuming was my special chore. When I got the vacuum out, I always felt a slight sense of danger. The gun was in there, although it was kept unloaded and the shells were separate.
One day the game was something besides rabbits and pheasants. My father came home from work and found the door open and a few things neatly stacked. He found a burglar in the act. As my dad got in the house, the burglar jammed the shotgun into my dad’s belly. My father was not a big man, but he grabbed the barrel of the gun, jerked it away from the burglar and proceeded to load the gun as the burglar started to run. My dad went hunting, scaring hell out of the neighbors when he asked them if they saw a man running from our house. Fortunately he found no one. I’m quite sure he would have killed the burglar.
You see, I would normally have gotten home four or five minutes before my dad. That means that I would have gotten there when the burglar was there. That’s why my dad yelled hello or something when he got home and thought I left the front door open.
My father was a deeply flawed man, but he loved his family with a fierce and abiding love. After that, for the rest of the school year, instead of walking home, I walked to the florist’s shop where my mom worked. I was in first grade.
Deep knowledge, and happy reading.
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