Monday, January 28, 2008

1972 - More Gun Play

Dad somehow knew of this back-blocks dairy farm whose owner had a small rifle range squared away, deep in the foothills, immediately below the treeline. Up along a steep twisting, single-lane track, deep in Heininger Country in the shadows of Marshall Mount.

Having discussed our Proposition with the farmer, we proceeded through several paddock gates, careful to stop the car and close and secure each one before reaching the range.

Dad then produced a hessian bag from the boot, and slid his gleaming .22-calibre rifle from it, along with a box of shells. He then found the dozen paper targets he’d laid flat under this lethal load. Slinging the rifle over his shoulder, he then strode over the cow-shit strewn, uneven ground to fix several targets in their frames some 100 yards further on.

After several hours of lazy shooting, when our tiny valley seemed weighed down with the stench of gunpowder and decidedly mixed results showed we were generally poor shots, we left.

Several weeks later, with Dad’s approval, I took the car, my friend Tony Clarke, the same rifle, another box of shells and more targets back to the same farm.

Not more than 20 minutes into our target practice, the furious farmer, in shorts and singlet, his black gumboots slapping against his bare calves, strode up demanding what on earth had possessed us to shoot near his cattle. And without permission. Several cows too busy grazing in the next field to even look up, moped gently along in the shadows more than 100 yards to our right.

The farmer demanded we leave immediately, and never return, promising us he’d discuss our transgression with Dad. When I got home, I realised there was no hiding. I blurted it all out to Mum and Dad, who curiously, displayed a meek oh-well, boys-will-be-boys reaction.

The fast and furious phone call came that night, and afterwards, Dad gently, matter-of-factly, told me he agreed with the farmer. That we should have sought permission again, at least forewarning the man of our intention.

I later reflected on the casual familiarity I’d assigned to our outing, and the equally casual way Clarkie and I had handled the weapon.

I never picked up a gun again.


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