Lately it seems every newscast includes a story involving a shooting. Certainly the spotlight is shining brightly on gun control. Gun regulation is a volatile issue with strong points taken on both sides, making it a difficult issue to regulate fairly. Stirring the pot when it comes to the right to bear arms is not new, as evidenced with the date of Patrick Henry’s quote in the title of this piece.
Growing up in Nova Scotia, a hunting and fishing paradise, men took to the woods during hunting season in droves. Glassy eyed trophies of successful trips decorated walls of private lodges and country inns, the animals last expressions held fast by a skilled taxidermist’s needle. In the fall of my eighth year, I asked to accompany my uncle and two male cousins on such an outing. The women in my household were not firmly in agreement with my going, if not outright against it. In protest, my grandmother dressed me for protection that blustery fall morning. So many clothes were layered on my body I would have made a suitable understudy for the Pillsbury Doughboy. My hat, as I remember even had flaps covering both ears giving me the look like a pint-sized Amelia Earhart. Heavy boots were pulled on over woolen socks, and secured with strong metal grips. All were topped with a warm plaid jacket with a hood and gloves. I could barely move.
Where we were to go was not unfamiliar territory to me. Fred, my grandfather’s younger brother, ran a country store in a small town nearby. As a child I loved visiting my great-uncle. Summers a double scoop ice cream with my name on was scraped from the sticky tubs in Fred’s cooler into a sugary cone. Winters, Fred’s companion (or “housekeeper”, as my family referred to her as the two never married), Nan, would offer me a cup of steaming chocolate with melting marshmallows. Like a grown-up it was served to me in one of her delicate china cups accompanied by a generous piece of buttery melt in your mouth shortbread. Huge glass jars on the counters housed all manner of candies and sweets while others displayed boiled eggs in brine and enormous pickles. It was a junior foodies nirvana.
Standing by the pot belly stove in the cozy store that crisp morning, I waited while the men exchanged stories of the ones that got away and those not so fortunate. A gust of cold wind intruded on the circle of warmth emanating from the stove as the front door swung open. Standing in front of me was a man who stood as tall as I. Not knowing what to think of a grown man who met me eye to eye, I was struck silent. After a moment the unusual man extended a gloved hand in my direction, and by way of introduction said, “Benny, it is”. After he’d gone, the men spoke among themselves about the small man. A dwarf in size perhaps, but his prowess with a firearm elevated him to a position head and shoulders above other hunters in the area. Hunting, not a sport in his case but a means of putting meat on his table for his family, was a full-time affair during the high season and it was whispered off-season on occasion as well. Twice after that visit when in the area I spotted Benny from the Buick’s back window, dressed head to toe in red plaid heading towards the woods. Years later is was rumored a bear prematurely ended his hunting career.
As we entered the thick woods, echoes of my grandmother’s words rang in my ears. “Don’t stand to close to the guns. Keep your red hat on. Don’t wander off.”
Being asked to remain quiet for an eight year old, can make one hour pass like three. Told to sit behind my uncle and be still, I found myself looking up at the high tree branches above me and building a nest on the ground with the leaves around me. After what seemed like days, in the meadow before us a massive buck strode into view. Shortly, as if by magic two does materialized from the bushes behind him. Mesmerized, I watched the beautiful creatures sniff at the air then bend to nibble at the ground. Although having been told what to expect, when the shot rang out and the buck dropped to his knees I did what little girls do in such situations, I began to cry. Panicked, both does disappeared as quickly as they came. Men, their breath hanging suspended in the cold air, surrounded the dead animal. Knives were removed from their sheaths and expertly they field dressed their kill. It felt very primal to me, and I suddenly had to tinkle, as my grandmother would have put it. Sniffling and shuffling about, I was directed to a tree with cover and relieved myself.
Quiet without being asked to be I sat in the back seat on the ride home. On the roof the buck’s hooves tapped occasionally beneath the straps that held it. Never again did I ask to join a hunting expedition, and I didn’t have any experience with guns again until I was in my thirties.
Once home, my grandmother sensing my distress ran me a bath and dressed me in warm pajamas. Sitting on the side of my bed, she spoke to me of her childhood. Brought up on a farm as she had been, she explained, killing animals for food was a part of every day life. Farm children, at least in rural Ontario, weren’t encouraged to make “pets” of farm animals lest Miss Piggy or Nanny the goat be found starring in Sunday supper served nestled atop a savory dressing or alongside spiced crab apples. Life, as they say, does not always serve up easy lessons growing up.
Since then I’ve only shot a weapon once, a rifle. Being lightweight in frame, the moment I fired the recoil knocked me flat on the ground leaving a huge bruise where it was cupped in my shoulder. It was at that point I gave up all thoughts of a second career as a commando.
The problem is we can regulate the honest citizen in our country, but who’s going to regulate those with other than hunting a deer or a rabbit in mind? Our government has it nose firmly stuck in so many areas of our life sometimes it feels like nothing is sacred anymore, but I sit on the fence on this one. As usual only questions but no answers.
This is the best soup ever.
Turkey Tortilla Soup
2 Tbsp. plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 lbs. ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots sliced thin
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 pkg. Lawry’s taco seasoning
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup sliced black olives
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes w/jalapeno peppers, with juice
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 14 1/2 oz. cans chicken stock
2 cups water
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
Garnish with sour cream, chopped green onion, cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips.
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large soup pot over med.-high heat. Add turkey and crumble. Cook until browned and cooked through. Drain on paper towels.
Add additional 2 Tbsp of oil to pan. Add yellow onion. Cook for 5-6 mins. until onion is translucent.
Add carrots, green pepper, and celery. Cook 7-8 mins. or until carrots are tender.
Stir in corn, garlic, taco seasoning, dry seasonings and cilantro. Add cooked turkey. Cook 2 mins. longer.
Stir in tomatoes, kidney beans, olives, chicken broth, water and lime juice. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 40 mins., stirring occasionally. Garnish with suggested garnishes. Yum