On our hundred-acre farm, hunting was a tradition. As a youngster, I would beg to go hunting with my Dad and two brothers, who were 9 and 14 years older than me. The one way that I would get to go along was to do a job for them. The job was to be the dog. I was instructed to go out in front about 20 yards and try to scare out a rabbit. The rabbit would go zooming past me, zig zagging in front and whoever had the cleanest shot, would shoot over or around me. If we got a rabbit, Dad and the brothers would make over me like I had done something great. I loved it, never thinking about the implications of this particular ritual until many years later. And I’m sure it is not culturally current content for today.
Now that may seem cruel or unwise to many, but it was a team effort. We all got to participate and, quite frankly, it was probably safer than you think—at least I’m still here and alive. But there were a couple of times where it wasn’t so safe. I remember walking through the woods one autumn Saturday morning and coming to the clearing that led up to the sawdust pile. The sawdust pile was like a mountain, the remains of a sawmill that cleared out some of the land there. It wasn’t unusual for me to go on long walks where I would make up these adventures in my mind and drift away into the woods acting them out. On this particular morning, I was just enjoying the walk in the woods. Until I heard a gunshot.
And the splinters of the bullet landing in the fallen tree next to me. I jumped behind the tree and yelled out, “Hey, you can’t be shooting at me,” as I located the guy about 100 yards away. He replied, “I can do whatever I want. Who are you to stop me?” And he shot at me again, missing by a considerable margin. I yelled back, “My dad owns this land and you are not allowed on it.” And the guy shot at me again, laughing and yelling back, “Your dad isn’t here right now is he?” It was kind of a stand off, but the man with the gun most certainly had the leverage. I yelled that my dad was a Deputy Sheriff (which he was in the mounted patrol), and that I would turn him in. That seemed to bother him and he ran off into the woods.
Another time, Sonny and I were in our teens. We were walking back in the woods when we heard repeated gunfire. We kept walking until I felt the whistling wind of a bullet nearly graze my cheek. I said to Sonny, “Get Down.” We dropped to the ground and the shots kept coming. After one shot, I yelled, “Ahhhh, they got me!” All of a sudden these two guys came running out toward us. They were scared to death that they had shot someone. They were from the city and were visiting our neighbor who let them “target practice.” We explained that they couldn’t shoot into the woods and they apologized over and over again. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.