Being in Michigan, I spend a few days at my sisters house. Her husband and two kids welcomed me in their house, as they always do: as part of the family. This time, the first thing that jumped up on me was their new addition to the family: hunting dog; Bella. It was the first thing that jump up at me when I arrived; a 30 pound slim black and white german short haired pointer. He is only 6 months old and bound to grow more even though he is already a fairly medium sized dog as it is. if I ever though my dog was hyper, this one beats it by about a mile. She is all cuddles and movement making her jump and lick as much as you can an preferably at the same time.
They got the dog as part of Tim’s (my sister’s husbands’) hobby: hunting. Although he now mainly hunts for deer, he wants to expand his hobby towards bird hunting, and that is where Bella came in. In reality it was also a promise ’daddy’ made when he came back from his 3rd and final tour abroad with the National Guard, to get the kids a puppy. I am not sure who was more excited about it, the kids or Tim. One person I know wasn’t very excited about it, was Karen, my sister. She is not much of a dog person, and I am sure she tried to push it back as much and as far as she could, but in the end the puppy eyes won and Bella entered their lives.
Hunting is a rarity in Holland, and certainly not practised as much as it is over here. Even though I used to be dead-set against it, I feel in my ever strive to become aware and open to any possibility, I also needed to open my awareness on hunting. Being in heart awareness makes it a lot easier to be able to see all sides to the story instead of ending up in a dead-end discussion and therefor it was a lot easier to try to understand a little more about live with hunting.
I had already talked to Tim about it the last time I was here. In the conversation we had and the differences between Holland and America, he wanted to show me something he was proud of, that he had just gotten. I didn’t know what he was going to show me, so I went with him to the bedroom and out of the blue magically a handgun appeared out of nowhere. It wasn’t any sad looking gun either, it was a huge handgun, that looked like something out of a hollywood movie. In reflex, I startled and backed away from the gun. I had never seen a real handgun before and something inside me was shocked at the sight of it. Tim showed me the gun that he had bought to protect himself and his family from house invasions, and a shockwave went through my system. Having never been confronted with a weapon before, I wasn’t prepared somehow but I didn’t know exactly what had caused it. It took me a while to figure out why it would shock me so much to see it. Was is because of all the television around guns? Was is because I had never seen a gun before? Or was it because the energy behind the object held many not so pleasant experiences somehow entrained in my brain. Or perhaps it was a little of all of that. I could not talk to him or hear him while he was holding the gun and I finally decided to excuse myself and walk out.
It stuck with me and being back this time brought back memories of that one single moment two years ago. When I had lived here in 1991, my (host)dad had a bb-gun, and he did show me how to shoot properly once. However a bb-gun, which is more like a riffle, is relatively small and not-so-harmful. I couldn’t remember it having the same frightful effect on me. But hunting, in any case, was still the furthest from anything I could resonate to. The notion of it being fun, still eluded me, but at least I was prepared enough to be able to want to learn to understand a little bit more. I had a little time to prepare because Tim wanted to show off his new ’toy’ to other people and while Karen and I were inside, we heard the shots in the backyard. For a moment I fell quiet. This is real. This is what people do. Unreal for someone that lives in a crowed country where guns are illegal. When you are not raised with it, it has a really surreal effect on you to hear guns going off in the backyard.
“Wow”…. is all I said.
“Yeah, I know”.. my sister answered. And with those few words everything we felt about it was exchanged.
Later that afternoon Tim invited me to see and ’take a shot’ with his new ’riffle’. An M4, from what I understand. But of course that means nothing in the eyes of someone that doesn’t know what that means. Probably it would be the same effect as telling someone you have a Mercedes that has never seen a car before. So all I could do is knot my head. My sister tried to protest because she didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable or feel obliged to say ’yes’. But this time I was ready and perhaps even a bit excited to be able to put this on my bucket list.
I must say that Tim was being really nice about it and really wanted me to understand and feel safe about it. He showed me the riffle and that is was ’safe’, being locked and unloaded and handed it to me….
“wow, that’s heavy”, I replied.
Tim laughed: ”That is actually quite light!”
That about showed how much I know about anything. Apparently riffles are usually quite heavy and this was one of the very light versions of it. This time again the rifle, much like the bb-gun, didn’t have the same affect on me as the handgun and Tim’s explanation for it made a lot of sense.
“A handgun”, he said after thinking about it for a little bit, “is …. personal”. He said this with the emphasise on the last word, indicating that it meant that firing a handgun is done short range and you see who you shoot and have a specific reason for shooting that person. “A riffle, being more long range, is much less personal.”, he added. It made sense to me and explained the difference in experience with this riffle and the gun.
He started explaining that his army gear was a little heavier but much the same. It wasn’t until then that the reality of ’a tour’ (a period of service abroad) really was. Even though he works for the National Guard and his missions were mostly to pick up wounded, it doesn’t mean it is without risks.
I suddenly saw an image of young men carrying real weapons around. He told me how it works when you are out in the field and images of how it must of looked liked entered my brain. What drives these men to risk their lives for others? And how nobble it is to do that even though you have a family at home that needs you. It was a change from the ’you have to be nuts to be dumb enough to sign up for it’ that I would have ’judged’ it before.
He took me to the back of the house and told me all I needed to know to fire. He showed me how and then handed it to me. A few minutes later, I had fired my first shot. It didn’t even feel that hard to do it. I took a few more shots and handed the gun to Tim, who then proceeded the finish of the round. When I walked back to the house with him. I realised how easy it is to shoot a gun, and not be aware of the consequences. I suddenly understood a lot better how kids can get into their father’s gun cabinet and ’play’ with them. I had just fired a semi-automatic riffle and it was easy. Except for the noise, not much different from any computergame I often see. But the reality did hit me that with that shot that I took at some scrap metal in the backyard was built to shoot living targets.
Tim took me inside and showed me the rest of his collection. He explained more about ammunition, the different kind of weapons there are and their effects. It was all very fascination and it was easy to forget how these weapons are used to kill and harm to protect what we have or get what want to have. I was excited to have fired the riffle and know more about weapons. I am proud that I did it, and it didn’t get me upset and I even learned a lot. I am happy to cross this off my list as another thing I never thought I would experience. But it also leaves a nagging feeling inside about the purpose of these weapons. I asked Tim what the reason he had for having them, because it didn’t seem to fit or be very intelligent to keep them for ’burglars’. He agreed and explained the real reason.. and in that moment, beyond weapons and ammunition, wars and fear .. we found common ground. A same believe and each our own way of doing what you feel you need to do, or can do…
I realised how I got to this point and how I wish every ’fight’ or ’war’ could be resolved in this way… be open to what the others way of life is.. try to understand it… do your best to explain your own point of few without getting aggressive or defensive… .and.. find your common ground.
If we all do….daddy’s wouldn’t have to leave their family and home, to safe, fight or defend that of others.