It was a particularly cold winter morning in December. I had some free time and was determined to get out of the house for awhile. I would go out into the woods along Pleasant Street. I loved the peace and solitude that the woods afforded me.
James Oliver Curwood was my favorite author at the time. Most of his books were about adventures and romance in the cold, Canadian north woods. I loved pretending I was one of the heroes in his novels, especially when I could return home from a day of working in the woods to an inviting, warm cabin and a loving woman who would have my meal waiting for me in front of a roaring, crackling blaze in our huge fireplace.
I thought back to June when I had turned 16 and how my father had shocked me by buying me a rifle in the first place. This was very unlike him, being as stern as he was.
The thrill of the hunt, or I should say, the thrill of even owning a gun, was beginning to fade. The first week I owned it I had gone out alone and shot a couple of innocent wild birds.
A week or so later I killed an innocent raccoon while it was minding its own business. I’m sure that it was probably sound asleep when I fired at it some thirty feet above ground, nestled in the branches of an old oak tree.
I had been out for over an hour now and saw nothing moving about on this frigid morning. The wind was picking up, and it started to snow much harder. The visibility was now very limited.
A few moments later I saw something moving along the ground. It was as if the animal was being moved by sudden gusts of the wind. It was probably 40 yards away. The object stopped, and I shot at it. I fired a second and third time with no apparent results. I cautiously headed for the illusive target. Upon arrival, I discovered that I had been firing at an old paper bag. I was seriously beginning to wonder about myself at this point.
I’d had enough hunting, and I was cold. As I was about to leave the woods I stopped and peered into a deep ravine. A rabbit was skittering around at the base of the gulch. It seemed to be hundreds of feet away; it would be an absolute miracle to hit it with my .22.
I carefully aimed the Stevens single-shot rifle in the direction of the innocent rabbit, waiting for it to be still. The rabbit paused. I fired the rifle. The poor animal instantly became still.
“No way!” I said to myself as I made the long descent into the ravine.
The bullet struck the rabbit directly in one of its ears. It had died instantly. A feeling of loss, remorse and sadness overwhelmed me. “How could I have killed such a beautiful, innocent creature of God?”
I shed a few tears of remorse, and asked God to forgive me. The least I could do was bury the poor rabbit.
The ground had been frozen for weeks. I could not find a place anywhere in the area to dig through the earth’s surface to bury my last kill.
After walking around for what seemed hours and carrying the poor, dead rabbit with me, I found a grove of pine trees.
I cleared away a thick area of pine needles where, underneath, the ground seemed soft enough to penetrate. With a sharp rock I dug a shallow grave for my last victim.
I put away that .22 rifle for good and never did become a hunter. I had learned the hard way I really had no use for the gun and that there was no moral or wisdom in killing an innocent animal you weren’t planning to eat.
God bless you.
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