Friday, December 14, 2007

Little Beaver

When I was twelve years old, more than anything else I wanted a Red Ryder lever-action BB gun for Christmas. God, I wanted that gun. Cock. POW. Cock. POW. Ping. Ding. Hi ho, Silver. Home on the range.

My parents wouldn't hear of it.

These days five-year-olds get guns that can kill a 440-pound bear.

I can't tell you how sad this story made me feel.

I didn't get the BB gun, but I "borrowed" my uncle's .22 and went squirrel hunting with a friend. Slipped that little golden bullet into the breech, took aim at the squirrel in the top of the tree, and fired.

BAM. First shot. The squirrel tumbled down. Lay writhing on the ground, a bead of crimson oozing from the hole in its gut. I didn't have the heart to kill it. My friend dispatched the squirrel with the butt of his gun.

That was the last living thing bigger than an insect that I have killed.

I'm not trying to sound holier-than-thou. I have friends who are hunters. I know this is an issue on which reasonable people disagree. Let's just say I have no taste for it.

What made me so sad about the Arkansas video is the way that little boy was petting the dead bear's head. I think he may instinctively know something his father and grandfather have forgotten. Something that dawned on me one terrible moment in the piney woods of Tennessee. Compassion is a seamless web. Love and beauty and life are better than anything that comes out of the barrel of a gun.

But, Lordy, I still admire that Red Ryder airgun.