I recall the day I came home from school and walked through the front door to be surprised by my brother holding a new shotgun, the simple but beautiful little Stevens single shot .410. I had been ragging on my father to get me a shotgun of my own for some time and now a dream was fulfilled. It was the autumn of 1959 and I was 9 years young.
Often times I have entertained the question of why my brother, Rick, and I developed such an interest in hunting at the early age that we did. Both were given Daisy air rifles at age 5 years and have never looked in the half century since. Is it a primal need that is buried deep within the genetic code of all people, suppressed by some but resurrected by others in a time of need or at a selected point in ones life? The answer is an elusive one and to be dealt with on a personal level at one time or another.
I do know that in historical accounts of young Anglo boys being captured by Indians during the 19th century pioneer era, few if any of the boys wanted to return to the ways of their parents. The love of the chase was too alluring to be left behind. I think without doubt that allure still exists today if only given a chance.
Dove season is almost upon us and I wait in anticipation for the first evening of that day. It might seem a bit funny that I want to be on site, standing in the simmering heat of late summer, sweating profusely with 28 gauge in hand and eyes and ears trained to the sky alert to the whistle of incoming game. But in the whole scheme of the hunt, I really don’t care if I kill a dove or not. If they don’t come I will fire a shot anyway, perhaps at a rock or even an emaciated mesquite tree, but I will fire that one round. The rest is a ritual that has defined the life of so many boys from the rural outback of our Texas.
When the smoke is gone and the echo of the little shotgun has faded away I will pick up the empty shell and inhale the fragrance of burned powder. A hint of insanity… perhaps it is. You see, that one empty shell and the fragrance within will take me on so many hunts from the past, some great, some ok but all worthy of revisit.
Once again I will clutch that little Stevens .410 and the two precious shells given by my father and fantasize about having a full box of 25 to shoot as I wish. Once again I will be 12 years of age and standing with my brother at the stock tank near our home on the League Ranch and shooting dove so fast that we were hard pressed to retrieve all of the downed dove before they were partially devoured by our mixed breed ranch dogs. Once again I will be with my young sons, coaching them on the importance of safety and watching with pride as they too clutch that same old Stevens .410 and create memories for themselves to revisit someday. And I will think to the near future when I can stand with my grandson to coach and tell him stories of days gone by and of hunts from another time.
Yes, the ritual of autumn is almost upon us and I hope you can enjoy it with a loved one or friend and share those great memories with them as I have shared mine with you.