Tuesday, January 1st, 2019
I grew up in the city. I don’t even know if guns were allowed in my state, but I do remember when I was about 9, my mother’s doctor was shot on the street by a gunman trying to steal drugs from him, and there then started a big gun control campaign. So maybe. But we never had firearms in our house (that I knew about).
When you move out to the country, guns become a Thing. Upon my arrival here, I wondered if I should know how to shoot a gun – so I took a few classes. I liked the pistol target shooting, although the burst of fire in the first shot I ever took in my life at age 40-something made me shriek. I made up for this serious faux pas by being a pretty damn good shot. The shotgun class was not so much to my liking – I got a big bruise on my shoulder and never could figure out the trajectory of the clay pigeons. It all seemed so pointless. And that was just about the end of my gun career. Nipped in the bud by disenchantment at flying clay and a seriously sore shoulder.
Until my first and most beloved rooster Kramer was taken (and not without a tremendous fight, judging by the trail of feathers that started in my fenced back yard and went well into the woods). I cried and mourned, and then I pulled myself together and drove myself up to a gun store and told the man, “I need to shoot a fox.” He gave me something called a “varmint rifle” which I took home and promptly placed in the closet. I reflected on this closet-living gun for a week or so, and then decided that I needed a dog, not a gun. I mean, who was I kidding? I thought foxes were cute. This began a long and unresolved emotional war of my loves for prey and predator.
Derry was the first of many truly remarkable livestock guardian dogs who have called my farm home. He was a Maremma. I drove 12 hours north to pick him up; his owners had left for Australia the day before and tied him to the barn, trusting me to actually show up to get him. He was big and hairy and stinky and panted in my ear for the 12 hour ride south, and we became best friends. Derry really knew his job. I don’t know if there is any such thing as “training” a livestock guardian dog – they seem to be just born with it (or not). He patrolled the fence and went after anything that was not supposed to be here, including the occasional hapless pet whose owner didn’t realize would NOT have a good time on our farm. No harm done, but Derry was a serious dog. I nearly broke his heart when once I ended up in the hospital and he didn’t know if I was coming back. And he surely broke mine when he had a stroke and died at age 10.
Fairly soon after Derry settled in here, I returned the varmint rifle. They wouldn’t take the ammo back; God only knows where it is now. But it was an odd sensation, taking back this gun: I was brought up short at the invisible but impenetrable wall between city-bred and country-bred. Part of me felt like a failure (“no, I am not going to shoot any living thing no matter what kind of mischief it is up to”) and the other part of me felt as though I’d figured out the most organic way possible to handle my predator problem.
Everyone around here has guns. They shoot them off quite a lot. I yell curse words, because, I guess at heart, I really dislike guns. Maybe it comes from my mother’s murdered doctor and the grief I witnessed. Maybe it’s because I have seen an awful lot of organic death, and I see no need to actually cause it myself. Maybe it’s because they are loud, and disturb and scare the animals. Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s because I am a wuss. But while I mull this over, I have, as it happens, acquired some new guns. Quite a lot of them, in fact.
You see —- it’s the goats’ fault. Anyone passing by during morning or evening feeding time will hear a long string of curses like to turn your hair white. “No, no no, get away you xz(*&$&!*. Goddamit, get off of me, *&^*!*%$” It’s a problem. It’s enough to ruin your mood for the day. It’s enough to want to hide in the house and pretend one doesn’t really have chores to do. Being something of an observer of animals, however, I know that there is one, and one thing only, that will deter a goat from molesting you: water.
So in the spirit of bravery and just getting on with things, I am now armed, daily, with tiny plastic water guns when I go out to do the feeding and by golly, they work. I’m not sure what the long term psychological effects will be on the goats, but I have a fairly strong confidence that instead of having hurt feelings, or realizing “aw well, there’s no point to bothering her anymore” they will now start plotting how to remove the gun from my person.
My next tools: a tiny holster and a water reloader. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!