Friday, November 30, 2007

I Shot the Sparrow

The time, as I now recall some 43 years after the fact, was the spring or summer of 1964, the year I graduated from high school. The place was a farmyard on the outskirts of Galien, a small, rural village located in extreme southwestern Michigan.

I had pulled into the driveway of my girlfriend’s parent’s house early one evening to pick her up for a date. I was immediately greeted by one of her younger brothers who was in the front yard plunking away with a BB gun at the omnipresent sparrows (Passer domesticus) and starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) that are the hallmark of any farmstead. Knowing of my love for birds, he challenged me to shoot one.

At that point, my adolescent male hormones must have kicked in. To put what happened next into context, you have to understand that I had not been brought up in a family of hunters, so the thought of killing things was rather foreign to me. Heretofore, my experience with “hunting” had been limited to shooting at the ground squirrels (we called them “gophers”) (Spermophilus tridecemlineatus) that burrowed beneath the tombstones in the local cemetery, an activity engaged in by several of the neighborhood boys.

Well, I grabbed that BB gun and said something like “Sure, I can shoot that bird,” as I pointed the barrel at a nearby sparrow perched on an overhead wire. Aiming in the general direction of the bird, but not really knowing how to sight down the barrel and knowing full well that I would soon embarass myself with a wildly inaccurate shot, I pulled the trigger. To my utter shock and amazement, that sparrow fell from its perch and plummeted straight to the ground—dead. I recollect feeling shock, sadness, and remorse at this senseless deed, even if it was only a sparrow.

Needless to say, the brother was astounded at my incredible display of marksmanship. I think I went up a couple of notches in his eyes. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was chagrined that her kind, gentle, bird-loving boyfriend would be so cruel as to shoot an innocent bird. It took more than a bit of coaxing from me to convince her that I really never intended to kill that sparrow, that it was merely a lucky shot—lucky for me, but not so lucky for the poor bird.

4 Comments:

Blogger J. Karl Clampit said...

I too remember one such instance in my childhood. I thought it fun to 'hunt' for birds in my backyard. It wasn't such a great feeling when I finally killed one. I think I stopped after my first kill.

November 30, 2007 5:36 PM  
Blogger MojoMan said...

I, too, killed a few animals as a boy in ways that I now regret. I still clearly remember a gray squirrel shot through the eyes with a .22 and a family of baby muskrats trapped out of season - all wasted and not used in any honorable way.

As a young man, I fell in love with the sport and tradition of upland bird hunting for a couple of years. I vowed to eat any bird I shot, so I don't feel bad about the few grouse I bagged. Luckily for the birds, unlike you, I was neither skilled nor lucky with the shotgun.

Now, as an aging man, I have no personal desire to hunt, but don't have any great problems with those that do hunt legally and with respect for the ethics of the sport.

December 03, 2007 7:48 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

I've shot a couple of animals when I was younger but have no desire to any more.

December 03, 2007 7:19 PM  
Blogger Bird Advocate said...

Wouldn't you know it? In the early 1980's I witnessed a scene that has since haunted my sleep, as if PTSD weren't enough to deter me from sleeping.
I lived in a small community in the Big Thicket of East Texas, and watched as one of my step-daughters boyfriends delivered her home from school. He reached behind the seat of his truck, and pulled out a rifle.
I didn't see any obvious targets, but wasn't yet worried as the young man usually had good sense. He aimed across the street and shot, and I saw a the distinctive shapes and colors of a large woodpecker fall from a tall tree. I shouted "Now we know what you're having for supper! The rest of us are having steaks." After the butt chewing I gave him he apologized and swore never to kill anything he wasn't planning to eat, but I'm sure the question that lingers in my mind is obvious to all of you.

April 23, 2009 11:58 PM  

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