Bob Howell

It was a beautiful week all across Alabama. The high temperature ranged throughout the upper '70s and the days were getting shorter, faster. I was a  freshman in college enjoying life away from home for the first time.

I had met people from all over the country, learning in the process that different was not necessarily bad, just different.

For instance, I met a fellow from a place in the midst of New York City who had a “thing” about shooting things. Now, don’t get the wrong idea about his fetish about shooting something. It’s not like he had carried out his firearms fetish by whacking some small-time, wannabe mafia type. He was clean cut, made good grades in some pretty tough subjects ... especially in math, and he was polite to boot.

His name, which I've changed to protect the innocent, is Joe. Is that a good ole, all American name, or what? 

One day, I was in the dining hall sitting across from Joe when the subject got around to hunting. Joe was immediately brought into the conversation. I want to go hunting with “youse guys and shoot something,” said Joe. “Anything in particular?” came a question from a guy sitting next to Joe. It took only a few seconds for Joe to reply. “I want to shoot a bunny rabbit.” 

The table erupted with laughter. Someone nearby overheard this part of the conversation and let out a country yell before pounding the dining room table with his fist. That entire table grouping that was within ear shot followed suit. 

I explained that I wanted to continue the discussion later that night after dinner. When dinner-time rolled around, there wasn’t an empty seat near where Joe was sitting. I asked the first “shooting something” question and right on cue came Joe’s response. “Yeah, that’s right. We’ll start with a rabbit and work our way up the food chain.” The laugh was noticeably more subdued than the one at lunch.

For the rest of the evening, the discussion was concentrated on logistics: which one of us would take Joe home with us for the weekend, whose gun would he use and what would we hunt for. 

Within a few minutes all was decided. He would ride home to Geneva with a pair of good ole boys. I would supply him with a couple of small-gauge shotguns. He was told he’d have to buy his own shells. Probably a box each of .410- and .20-gauge shells. I would be responsible for training him in the rules of safety in the pursuit of doves. It all seemed simple enough.

I hadn’t shot a rabbit since I was in seventh grade. It never occurred to me that we should hunt anything other than doves this time of year. 

So, then we had to find a suitable open field with an owner willing to let a carload of college boys line the hedgerows and fence lines. By the time we got down to Geneva, Joe had been given a crash course in gun safety, how to safely load his single shot .410-gauge and .20-gauge shotguns.

Once in Geneva, we found a field to hunt on and were off and running. Joe stayed close to me, in case he had any questions. By the time we had emptied Joe’s boxes of shells, it was time to head back home for the night and back to school the next day.

When we were driving back up the driveway at my mom and dad’s house out in the country, I spotted what had the making of a great ending for my new, New York friend’s trip. 

A big “bunny rabbit” came hopping along the center lane of the gravel driveway. He was a big bunny, too. I quietly pointed him out to Joe. I glanced at Joe’s empty chamber. He quietly aimed at the rabbit who for the moment did not move. I watched as Joe drew a bead on the rabbit and pulled the trigger. There was a loud click ... no explosion of gunpowder ... and the rabbit disappeared as quickly as he appeared.

I never told Joe the story of how my mother hand-raised that big gray and white cottontail. He was practically her pet. It was the last time I brought anyone home with me who just wanted to shoot something.

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