Abe introduced Calvin to Top Shots, a marksmanship TV show, when we went to visit. Grace and I went to bed when they began watching it, but they stayed up until 2:00 a.m. The next morning they turned it on while they were cooking breakfast and Grace and I watched the last few episodes of season one with them. By the time Calvin and I came home we were well into season two. Now I'm not much of a TV watcher, but there was something about watching all those shooters out in the high dessert wearing carhartts and double-cotton shirts along with the cinematography of gallon jars filled with bubble gum balls spilling, mason jars filled with blue liquid exploding, and ceramic plates cracking that just pulled me in.
Calvin called Ray and Cali and told them they'd enjoy it. He was right. Cali texted a few days later saying they stayed up until 2:00 am watching it and that she "almost cried when Jim got eliminated tonight."
Calvin has always enjoyed shooting. Always. His Grandpa Lunt bought him a b.b. gun when he was about six years old. Grandpa Lunt promptly regretted it saying it was the worst mistake he'd ever made because Calvin shot at anything and everything that moved - lizards, snakes, bees, flies, scorpions, spiders, birds, it didn't matter. Grandpa Lunt said he'd kick Calvin's hind-end if he ever caught him shooting a horny toad so Calvin left them alone.
I can attest to Calvin always wanting to shoot. When we were dating and Calvin was a bachelor living by himself he shot a mouse in his house rather than set a trap. He said it was faster and cleaner. (That mouse was in the cupboard among bottles of green beans and peaches and pears that Calvin's mom had canned for him. I hardly thought shooting a mouse could be cleaner knowing what that bullet would do should he miss. But obviously Calvin doesn't doubt his aim.)
Calvin's been loading bullets this week in anticipation of the hunt next month that he, Ray, Abe, and Trevor are going on. Usually Calvin reloads out in the shop, but he's been rolling paper patch bullets at the kitchen table the last few nights. He's meticulous and very methodical, and sits there quietly measuring, rolling, and carefully arranging the bullets in a pattern. Until I bumped the table and set nine bullets rolling. He wasn't so quiet then.
All this talk about guns and bullets reminds me of when I learned to hate shooting.
We had lots of jackrabbits that ran wild when I was a kid. Instead of looking for different states' license plates on passing cars as we made the long drive to town, we counted dead jackrabbits on the road. True.
For a few years, the rabbits were ruining the farmers' crops so we had rabbit drives. I was too little to join in, but I remember Dad and my brothers and sisters going. Several families would gather in a field of sagebrush where the men had constructed a make-shift pen from chicken wire with one side open. Everyone would fan out and walk toward the open side of the pen swinging bats and boards at the sagebrush as they walked to scare the jackrabbits. The rabbits bounced before the walking group straight for the pen and when everyone drew close the men would pull the wire around across the open side and then everyone would kill the trapped rabbits inside. It sounds a bit stark in today's politically correct world, but that's what it took to save the crops.
It was also common for high school kids to go out hunting rabbits at night with .22 rifles and spotlights. It was a fairly inexpensive date.
About once a month Grandma and Grandpa Hoops drove out from town to visit and eat supper with us. Sometimes Grandpa would take us kids up to the sagebrush-covered hill a mile from our house and let us practice shooting .22 rifles and jackrabbits. He had a brown station wagon and the kids and guns would all pile in the back. Since everyone had to take gun safety and Grandpa was really careful with the guns it shouldn't have been a big deal.
But one day it was. I was too young to have taken gun safety yet and I got tired of sitting in the back of the car waiting and waiting and waiting while the kids took aim. I don't remember who was shooting, but Grandpa was off to the side of them. Whoever it was was taking f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to zero in on the target. Finally I decided I'd waited long enough and I was sure I could walk in front of that gun and get to the other side before the trigger was ever pulled. I walked right in front of the barrel. It was just a few feet away from my head.
Grandpa yelled. Loud. Grandpa didn't raise his voice when it came to us grandkids. He humphed and smiled and laughed and tickled us, but he never yelled. But this time he yelled. He was mad. Or so I thought. He yelled at me to get in the back of the car and not get out. I felt stupid.
Not long after that he had everyone pack up the guns and we drove the mile home. Not only had I made Grandpa mad, I'd made everyone else mad by making Grandpa mad. I'd also cut the shooting short. I'd killed the party. It was a weight being number seven when the six above you had good reason to not like you. I was a pariah the rest of the day.
It didn't take me too many years to realize that Grandpa probably wasn't so much mad that day as he was scared. He had a passel of us kids with him that afternoon and my stupidity could have made a terrible scene. It would have traumatized them all if I'd been shot (but at least they wouldn't have been mad).
So just like that time when I got sick after eating red licorice and I didn't want to eat it for years after that, I still get a bit of a sick feeling every time I think of that afternoon of shooting with Grandpa and I'm perfectly happy to sit in the back of the pick-up and watch.
But Calvin doesn't mind. Not at all. That means more bullets, and jackrabbits, and red licorice for him.