When I was eight or nine, Dad took me to a friend’s farm and threw clays for me until I got the hang of leading, until I began to shoot as if I meant it. I had a Sears 12 gauge, full choke, that think Dad paid $12 for, with a box of shells and a gun case thrown in to sweeten the deal. The shotgun worked fine, but it was so damned cheap the receiver was investment cast and painted black instead of blued. It was in perfect condition, which is to say, like new, in that even the new shotguns of this model tended to lose their forearm after a couple shots. Then you had to take a pair of pliers and flatten the little spring back out so it would work again. it had a little thumb catch instead of a beavertail, and all in all, it was a good working gun.

For a couple years I used that shotgun, wanting a rifle so bad I could taste it. When I hunted rabbits, I had to flush them, acquire them, follow them until the old full choke was going to spread them far enough that I wouldn’t just turn them to rabbit burgers, and shoot. Or shoot far enough above them so they’d take two pellets and not 400.

When I finally did get the rifle, it wasn’t at all what I wanted. being the ass that I was as a kid, I made no effort to conceal my disapointment. I wanted a 22!! Instead, I got a Sheridan Blue Streak.

You could get 22 velocity and muzzle energy (almost) out of this thing, but you sure had to work at it. It took eight pumps, and sometimes a little kid had trouble doing six. Anyway, while all the other kids were whacking away with their Red Ryders, I was confined to the not-so-tender ministrations of the Pump Action Pneumatic Air Rifle.

If yesterday’s lesson was Target Acquisition, todays is “make each shot count”. I learned that first summer as I took shot after shot at squirls that there was just too damned much work in pumping that rifle up to miss a shot. For weeks, I came home empty handed and worn out from pumping that rifle,until it slowly dawned on me i needed to make each shot count, or I was going to be worn out before bird season began.

Dad could have bought me that 22 for less than the cost of the air rifle, but he knew what he was doing,. Because I had to sacrifice for each shot, pumping until my arms were sore, I made a point of making the shots count. I didn’t waste ammo, I still don’t. I developed a habit, out of necessity, of making sure i was going to hit what i shot at. Only two generations previous, my grandfather as a kid used to (or so he said) only shoot when he could get a tree behind his target, so he could recover his lead. I got off pretty easy by comparison.