I shot a gun. That’s a sentence designed to strike fear in the hearts of everyone who knows me. When I was younger, I had grand plans of jetting off to Churchill Manitoba to be a park ranger. My Gran upon hearing this exclaimed “But there are polar bears up there!” To which I replied “It’s ok Gran, they give the park rangers rifles.” Ironically the idea of me holding a firearm was more concerning than my becoming a polar bear’s amuse bouche because my Gran threw up her hands in mock surrender and cried “Oh my god! My crazy grand-daughter has a gun!”
This is the conversation I thought of when Tex*, my hottie, hottie boyfriend, tried to hand me a .22 pump action rifle. My hands shook from fear. I was terrified that I was going to shoot it. I was terrified that it was going to go off accidently. I was terrified of it backfiring. I was terrified of the kick-back. In that moment, I recognized what my Gran had known all those years ago; no one should give me firearms. This fact and my obvious fear didn’t deter Tex, in fact, it made him even more determined to teach me to fire the rifle. For the eighth time that morning, he went over the steps to load the gun.
With a baffling relaxed calm, considering I was convinced that we were both likely to be killed just by my handling the rifle, let alone trying to shoot it, Tex explained the parts of the gun; the magazine holds the bullets, the action moves the bullets into the chamber, the stock was to rest on my shoulder. He also went over basic gun safety; assume it’s loaded especially when it isn’t, point it up and away from people, no touching the gun without hearing and eye protection.
I watched once more as Tex loaded the gun, slid the pump back and forth to chamber a bullet, then fired with an assured confidence that only a cowboy can have, knocking the one of the cans off of the fence that he had set up beforehand as an impromptu target.
The time for stalling was over, it was my turn. The gun was so heavy my hands couldn’t shake; they were too busy trying to hold the rifle up. Carefully I loaded a bullet into the magazine. Tex had put in three at a time, but we had agreed I would only shoot the gun once, so I carefully slipped the ammo in. Then I pulled back the hammer with a heavy sense of doom, utterly shocked that no one had been injured yet. Tex stood next to me, reassuringly repeating the instructions that he covered countless times that morning during my Firearms 101 lesson.
Finally the gun was ready. I was instructed to lift the butt to my shoulder, which would absorb the kick-back. Tex gestured to the sights which I was supposed to use to aim, as though I could hit one of the cans even with my eyes open. However much like when I began ski racing and whizzing around the gates at top speeds frightened me so badly that I would shriek and shut my eyes as I whipped past the blue and red plastic poles, holding the rifle which was trained on the general vicinity of the row of cans, I squeezed my eyes tight and braced my body for both the boom of the shot and the kick of the butt into my shoulder. They remained closed until after I heard and felt the small bag of the gun firing in my hands.
As quickly as I could, I placed the gun back down and stepped away from it, as though it might explode even though it was no longer loaded. “That was great Unwashed” said Tex, hugging me close with tough boyfriendly pride. “Now you can fire the bigger gun!”
*Names have been changed to protect people nutty enough to hand me firearms, no doubt if his identity was leaked, people with butterfly nets might appear to cart him off for trusting me with such dangerous items.