8 January 2002
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Grayís Sporting Journal, August 2002
(With apologies to Ivan Turgenev)
I was thinking about how I got into the wing-shooting thing, and remembered that it was through the efforts of a high-school pal. Jim and I did a lot of trout fishing together, and in terms of those always-competitive adolescent male relationships I think I maybe had the edge on him there. My family took only fly-fishing seriously. Hunting was done with a rifle, for deer. Bird shooting was considered, along with games like golf; a nice enough way to spend an afternoon, but not, you know, serious.
Jim insisted that I was missing out on something good - as good as trout fishing, he said. Well, he would say that. I was already turning into the kind of arrogant bastard that does not compete at anything in which he is not an expert. I saw a set-up, but I reasoned that I couldnít be embarrassed at anything I clearly knew nothing about. I would be further handicapped by having to borrow a gun, so I reckoned I had nothing to lose.
It turned out to be a rusty old single shot hammer gun that Jimís father had hunted rabbits with as a boy. It had a thirty-inch barrel; the kind, according to the old boys, that made for a hard shooting gun. You know the kind of thing. ďWell, let me tell you, that old gun could carry? Reach way up there and just swat those ducks out of the sky!Ē
This gun also had a worn and very touchy trigger seer, of which I was advised to beware. Thus armed, and knowing just enough about pheasants to pick one out of a police line-up, I reckoned that Jimís desire to wipe my eye in a fair stand-up competition was sunk, and I could relax.
Jim and his family were real first-generation Italians, and you know how they are about their guns and bird shooting. Jimís family circle demonstrated many of the values made familiar by the films of Martin Scorcese, but they sure didnít run with the types who, after the morning goose shoot, flush the mud from the action of their Browning auto-fives with the nozzle of the farmyard diesel tank. Even at 18, Jim had clearly chosen an epicurean approach to life; he sported a pretty little side-by-side twelve bore and sort of went sniff