Triumph over Tragedy

Bound by our human limitations, we might not ever come to know the reasons that things happen the way they do in our lives–the good or the bad. Somehow, though, we most often seem to ask why about the unfortunate events.

When I was growing up, folks didn’t talk about tragedy the way we do nowadays, especially in the Scots-Irish Presbyterian household in which I grew up.  Of course, no one talked to a therapist unless they were certifiable, if you know what I mean. Depending on the circumstances, maybe, just maybe, that was a good thing.

I believe everything happens for a reason, but at the time, neither Jessica H. nor I knew the very specific reason why she had invited me to the first LA Bossy Hens Women in the Outdoors event that took place near Bunkie, LA recently.  Since it was sponsored by the Wild Turkey Federation, one could assume most of the women attending were turkey hunters—hence the name “Bossy Hens” for their local chapter.

But first, I have a confession.  I have never been turkey hunting.  Actually, I am not a hunter at all.  If you’ve read the blog stories about past duck hunting trips that I’ve made with my sons, you might not have picked up on the fact that I was just shooting photos, not ducks. Please, let me clarify.

It’s not because I’m against killing animals for food.  It’s not that I can’t stand the thought of a dead duck (or other animal), because I clean and cook the ducks, plus I cleaned squirrels with my father until my baby brother was old enough to take my place.  However, Daddy never taught me how to to shoot a shotgun.  He just took me along to shake the vines!

Through the years, my sons who hunt, now 28, 26, and 17, have all asked me to practice shooting their shotguns with them or to go shoot ducks with them. My answer was always “No thanks”, followed by either evasion or a feigned disinterest.  So, when I printed the registration for the Women in the Outdoors event, I signed up for Basic Shotgunning and set a goal to get over my aversion to shotguns once and for all.

Fast forward to last Saturday morning and the Basic Shotgun class. Under the canopy on the table lay three shotguns, and Mr. Randy talked about each one, pointing out the differences. We would take turns shooting either a 12 gauge or a 20 gauge shotgun at a “following” bright orange clay pigeon. Since a 20 gauge has less kick, that is what we would shoot.

Muddy Mary went before me, shattering clays mid-air with her personal shotgun, a sweet little over-and-under.  She was a dog-gone good shot already, which made me think that I might be the only woman in this group who didn’t know how to shoot a shotgun.

Fighting the Shrinking Violet Syndrome, I forced myself out of the chair after the fourth woman had taken her turn.  As I approached Bubba, the brave instructor, I told him that he most certainly had his work cut out for him.  Bubba just smiled and said, “You’ve got this.  It’s easier than you think.

Bubba:  “Do you have any experience with guns?”   Me:  Well, not shotguns.

Bubba:  “Are you afraid of guns?”  Me:  Uh, I don’t know.  Maybe.

When he placed that long, heavy powerful hunk of metal and wood into my hands, a flicker of fear ran up my arms and through my core like a lit fuse to a stick of dynamite.  It took me a few seconds to force my jelly arms to firm up and get a grip.

Bubba then patiently showed me how to hold the gun properly and how to aim at the clay pigeons. After giving me ear muffs and getting me into the proper stance and gun hold, he then loaded one shell into the chamber and instructed me, “Now, take off the safety, and when you’re ready, shout pull”.

It’s now or never.  It’s all or nothing.  Everyone is watching, and I can’t back out now. Ready, aim, “PULL!”.  KABOOM!  I missed the clay, but I shot the gun.  I SHOT THE GUN!

Bubba loaded another shell into the chamber, and I repeated the process, missing again.  After shell number five and just as many misses, my shoulder couldn’t take any more, and my body was trembling like the Tin Man’s.

I didn’t care that I didn’t hit any of the bright orange clays, as I returned to my chair on the fringes of the group of lady hunters, all chatting gaily about some recent event.   They paid me no mind, and I was glad of it.

For at that moment, I was fighting back tears as adrenaline coursed through my veins and emotions swallowed me up.  The tears won the battle, falling slowly over the rims of my eyes, one salty drop at a time.

The first was a Tear of Sadness.  The second, a Tear of Regret.  The third, a Tear of Triumph.  And lastly, a Tear of Relief.  And as quickly as those tears had washed ashore, they receded.

I had done it.  I had made the first step toward accomplishing my goal of conquering this unacknowledged reason that I don’t like and avoid shotguns. On my second attempt, I approached with a newly-gained certainty and confidence, hitting two out of the five clays.

By my fifth turn, I was able to load three shells into the gun without help, raise it to my shoulder, shout pull, and hit 3 out of 3 clays, two rounds in a row.

And it was exhilarating.  The chains of fear and worry had fallen from my body and my soul. I had literally been set free.

Triumphant!

Triumphant!

Through the tears, I had clearly seen what had been holding me back all these years.

The Tear of Sadness was for the older brother I had lost to a shotgun accident in our home when he was 12 and I was five.   This tragic accident happened in 1960 and was the underlying reason for my latent fear and dislike of shotguns–a fact I had never consciously faced until after I had taken those first five shots.

The Tear of Regret was for not overcoming my phobia sooner so that I could have hunted with my two oldest sons when they were growing up.

The Tear of Triumph was for my fresh victory over a stagnant fear.

And the final Tear of Relief was for the feeling of relief that I don’t have to be afraid any more.

It took over 50 years for this to happen in my life.  Why now, I don’t know, but better late than never.

I, the Bayou Woman, now have no excuse not to hunt with my sons next duck season. Whether or not I will be comfortable doing so remains to be seen. Whether I can hit the broad side of a barn also remains to be seen.  Meanwhile, I want to borrow a Remington 1100, 20-gauge shotgun and “strike while the barrel is hot”, so to speak, and practice shooting clay pigeons so that I may continue to familiarize myself with this new tool, the shotgun.

Again, I want to say thank you to Jessica H., Bubba, Mr. Randy, Mrs. B., and Mrs. Cathy and the Women in the Outdoors founders. You all played a huge part in this chapter of my journey to becoming the best outdoors woman I can be.  As avid shooters and/or hunters, you are all an inspiration to me.

Thanks for helping to set me free,

BW

 

Muddy Mary

Muddy Mary shooting her over-and-under shotgun

Brave Bubba teaching me how to shoot a 20 gauge shotgun

Brave Bubba teaching me how to shoot a 20 gauge shotgun

Knocking down the clays!

Knocking down the clays!

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Comments

Triumph over Tragedy — 44 Comments

  1. What a wonderful story. There are so many parallels with my learning to sail I can’t list them all, so I won’t. Suffice it to say I remember with absolute clarity the moment when I realized that, despite the seas and the storm, I knew what I was doing and knew I wasn’t going to die.

    That you had to experience the death of your brother is sad beyond words. The effects of that kind of experience can linger forever. I’m so proud of you that you took the steps to move beyond that. You may have missed shooting with your kids when they were younger, but now they’ll have the chance to brag about their never-too-old-to-learn Mama!

    No wisdom here at all about the right kind of gun for you, although I did do some browsing on the internet and learned a good bit. And I had to laugh at the article that added a “fantasy listing” of a predator drone – for passive-aggressive women who want to kick some &$&% but don’t want anyone to know who’s doing the kicking!

    I remember the first time I shot a gun. I was up at the place outside Kerrville, and it involved tin cans and a .22 rifle. By the time it was over, I was having a lot of fun. I even hit a can or two!

    • It seems so obvious why I didn’t want to shoot a shotgun, but because we never talked about the event, it wasn’t in the forefront of my mind and was certainly not a cloud under which we lived. All my focus was on making sure my sons were safe when hunting so there would not be an accident with them. Funny you mention drones . . . . that was the topic of yesterday’s radio show, which I guest hosted! I think I’m going to like sporting clays. I’m about to sign up for another one-day event like this in Baton Rouge next month.

  2. I’m dressing for work and had a few extra minutes before leaving. I started reading your post. I knew where this was heading. Now my mascara is running down to my chin. I vividly remember that awful tragedy and think of him often.

    So very proud of you, my dear, lovely Cuz.

    • Yes, well, I’m sorry I caused your mascara to run. I’m sure it wasn’t mentioned in your household either, after the initial news was received. I know me well enough to know that I must keep at this so the fear doesn’t sneak back in like a thief in the night, stealing my triumph! Love you, too, Cuz.

        • I thought it was very cheesy and that’s why I didn’t post it at first. Can you tell my bangs are braided? Part of my problem in accuracy was that my bangs kept falling over my eyes, so before my final turn to shoot, I braided them and stuck them under the ear muff band, and VOILA! I shot 6 of those orange pigeons in a row!!!! Oh, and another thing. At first, they had me aiming with both eyes open. I’m just not that coordinated, so I decided on the third turn to just use my dominant eye, and that made a huge difference. Also, on the third turn, he switched me from a Browning that had control of me to the Remington 1100, which I could control much better. Those two things made all the difference between misses and hits!! After that, it was just plain FUN!

          • No, can’t see your bangs are braided but only that you banged the shot! Ouch. I couldn’t resist. Not cheesy at all but a great picture of you grinning and happy.

            Oh, I can’t aim with both eyes, either. I have to use my dominate eye, too.

  3. Wendy, you definitely have a way with words, a gift from God! I enjoyed your story and felt you were speaking for me as well as many other women I suspect. I feel the same way about guns and hunting, although I haven’t had the tragedy of losing a family member as you had. Thank you for sharing your story, maybe next time I’m given a chance, I’ll be as brave as you and try shooting!

    • It was great meeting you at the WITO in Bunkie, Sharon, even though we weren’t very competitive cabin-mates! I think the gals in Cabin 3 have done that a time or two before!!! Thank you for your kind words, and next time I see you, maybe it will be in Shotgunning class!

  4. Whoo-Hoo!!! Good for you Bayou Woman! My sons helped me conquer my fear of guns too, and now….I. LOVE. TO. SHOOT.
    Not a duck hunter, don’t like the cold and wet, but I am looking forward to a deer hunt with my boys.

  5. As a Hunter Ed Instructor, I get to share this awesome experience with so many people. I get to see how (Hunters and Non-Hunters) react to shooting. There is a certain fear shown when it’s their turn. I see grown men who have been hunting all their life and small young girls whom have never held a gun take the shakes when the shotgun is placed in their hands. It makes my heart melt when they realize that the “tool” they have just been taught to use and respect, didn’t cause them harm. I get to encourage them to never give up and with practice becomes confidence. I am so proud of you Wendy. Now I am encouraging you to become confident and never give up.

    • Thank you for the encouragement, Kim, and I’m moving forward by signing up for the WITO in BR next month. However, I can’t attend the event in Woodworth you told me about–scheduling conflict; and with family to care for, I can only go so far away once in a while–not every month. But I really am thinking about a nucleus event at Camp Dularge. I can get y’all in my neck of the swamp!!!

  6. Raised around guns but only shot them off and on. I am now retired and learning to be comfortable with several guns, 22’s, AR15 and pistols, I am learning to shoot a small crossbow and recently throwing knives. The knives are the weapon all women should learn to use. They are light weight and easy to throw. I will be teaching my grandsons (age 8 and 9) to use them. They already shoot guns better than me.
    I was very touched with your story about over coming your fears. Can’t imagine the lose of your brother. Women have no idea how strong they are if they don’t face their fears.

    • Olivia, you are so right about women becoming stronger by facing their fears; except that I already considered myself pretty strong!! I’m going to learn archery, too, but I have not thought about throwing knives. That should be interesting! I’m impressed with what you are doing, and keep it up. You inspire me!

  7. So glad you have started overcoming your aversion and fear of shotguns. I certainly understand why you were uncomfortable around them. (I have an aversion/hate/dread of dump trucks since that was how I lost my older brother when I was 10 and he was 16. And I am married to a truck driver now!! Just not a dump truck driver.)

    I was raised around guns and love to hunt squirrels and rabbits. I also love shooting clay pigeons and have since I was eight. I agree with Olivia about learning to handle a knife. They are lightweight and easy to manage. As we grew up, I learned to use them, a hatchet, bow & arrows and a crossbow. I carried a knife for years as I drove back and forth to work in the dark and a bad area.

    You keep up with practicing and hopefully, you will be not only cleaning and cooking those ducks but, bringing them down too. And a delicious Christmas goose would be nice too.

    • Cammy, I would love nothing more than to sit down at your kitchen table with a pot of coffee or a pitcher of iced tea and hear all about your growing up years. Between you and your mom, I think you two might just take the prize for strong, industrious women! And inspiring? Who can’t use some inspiration now and then? I love your comments when you share about your life (and your mother’s), and I hope that you are getting along well. And thank you for the encouragement. (someone said it’s a shame the Bayou Woman doesn’t hunt. I felt rather sheepish, but down here, the men do the hunting and the women do the cleaning!)

      • I would love that sit and chat too. My mom called me yesterday and told me she had to give away about 8-10 lbs of okra since the rain hit because it went crazy! Then she said she had made a dozen jars of the fig/mock strawberry jam along with 5 pecan pies and she gave it all away! Now, her fall garden is growing like crazy!

  8. Although it took many years, I’m happy that you’re now looking forward to learning to shoot. I don’t care too much for shotguns myself, but my daughter loves shooting at clays at our Ms property. She and her neighbors drive up to shoot pretty frequently. In fact, she wants her own shotgun for Christmas. I prefer a rifle or pistol myself. Having had trouble with my shoulder for years, I don’t wish to push my luck using a shotgun and reinjuring myself.
    BTW, Will you be adding “Hunting Guide” to your Bayou Woman adventures?

    • There you go again, always looking ahead!!! No, I won’t be adding hunting guide because the lease I hunt on doesn’t allow any commercial activity. Besides, I feel so bad on a guided fishing trip when folks don’t catch fish, that I give them fillets out of my freezer! I’d probably be giving away all Termite’s ducks, and then I’d just be in so much hot water! Guiding puts me under a lot of pressure, and honestly? I’m really looking to enjoy fishing and hunting and not create more pressure for myself. I just found out last night that Termite’s first shotgun is a Remington 870 pump 20 gauge, and that is exactly the gun I think I need to be practicing on. Now, to see about getting some kind of shoulder pad . . . . .

    • And you know I just love you right back! I thought about you last week while scrubbing out the tub at the camp getting ready for next customers. Now you’re wondering why in the world would that make me think of you. Well, it’s a long story about a time y’all came to visit. I set out clean towels just for you and Tim and a new bar of soap in case you didn’t want to share all our family body germs. Well, in your frugal missionary way, the soap remained unopened, and I remember thinking, “I should’ve known they wouldn’t mind sharing soap”, and so every time I see a used bar of soap in the shower that a customer left behind, I take pause before throwing it away, thinking how wasteful it is, wishing they had taken it with them, knowing that the next strangers who use this shower will NOT want a used bar of soap . . . . . . . bet you had no clue that nothing reminds me more of you, Tim, and Boone than a used bar of soap . . . . . 🙂

    • It was such a joyous atmosphere that I didn’t want to bog too many folks down with my story. I did, however, share this with B. and Mr. Randy by way of explaining why shooting a shotgun was such a “big deal” and an emotional one for me. And you were instrumental in getting me there and allowing me this opportunity. By the way, I have a proposition for you next gator season that involves a story . . . ..

  9. I’m just speechless. I had no idea you were struggling, but did see that grin when you busted those clays! Thank you so much for sharing this story. And I have to say, you are a much faster learner than I am. It has taken me lots of practice, lessons at two B.O.W.s and at two Women on Targets to start to get the hang of it, but I was bound and determined. Having mixed dominance of right handed/left eyed like I do makes it an even bigger challenge.

    The over/under was my anniversary present last year. It is a CZ Redhead 20 gauge, youth model. I also have a Remington 870 pump in 20, also a youth model. How the stock fits you is very important in a shotgun. For me, the over/under is much easier to shoot. I hope we can shoot clays together again!

    We had a spirit award at WITO, but I think you deserve a bravery award for facing your fears like you did. You rock!

    • That cheesy grin was for VICTORY!!! And in order to record the historical occasion, I asked you to take those pics for me! I hid it because I couldn’t be a scaredy cat in front of all you sharp shooters!!! It was fun, and I hope we can do this again, too. Are you going to the one in BR on Oct. 19th?

    • If any of you are lucky enough to have an old Long Tom, and you get BW down there again, pad her shoulder, someone brace her from the back and let her see how our forefathers hunted. 🙂 I was black and blue for a couple of weeks on the shoulder and the behind (from a hard landing) when I shot my cousins! But, oh my, it was worth it. Not many people can say they have shot one. 🙂

  10. Just another thing I did not know about you. Isn’t it funny how it takes half a century to learn things about ourselves? I’m amazed at the things I’m still learning about myself. So glad you’ve discovered this. Hope you have fun in the future with a new found hobby.

  11. Grew up on a farm. Guns, tractors, rope and pills all took somebody away but the focus was always on the individual not the trigger, pto, fancy knot, or empty bottle. Brother’s friends got me first killing power bb gun at 6, got a .22 at 7, followed shortly by a .410 shotgun. Really want to go wack a pheasant out of air this year.

    • You’ve seen a piece of his work? What the heck are you talking about? I’m so confused, so help a girl out, even if you have to email me privately. I will go catch some flounder when I can. Hopefully, he can put me on the flounder hole for the GI Ladies Rodeo Oct. 11-12 so I can catch the winning door mat!

    • Thank you, Gue`. I haven’t practiced down here yet, but I did sign up for another shotgunning class in Baton Rouge next month. Lil Sis and another friend from here are going, and it’s another Women in the Outdoors event. For the price of $45, we get to take four classes and have a free meal. Can’t beat that! Termite is excited about getting me in the duck blind, and that is when the real test of courage will come for me.

      • Despite having grown up with all the menfolk in Dad’s family being hunters, I’ve never shot a ‘real’ gun before. I would likely have gotten into it in my teens but I think Mama (coming from a non-shooting and hunting family) put the kibosh on any fledgling ideas Dad and I may have had about getting me started. She was not comfy around guns and I think the idea of me hunting terrified her.

        What I did have, was a BB rifle. Not an air rifle; just a plain old BB rifle. I was a tomboy and asked for one for my 16th birthday. Got it, too, which I think was also over Mama’s objections. It came with stern instructions on what I could and couldn’t do with it and how to handle it, inside the house and out.

        Dad got a little target thingy with it, too, much like the clay shooter. It threw plastic discs. If you hit it right, the center of the disc would come out. I got pretty good with it. I’d do the disc shooter and I would also set up targets and shoot the bejeebers out of them.

        I still have that thing. It’s old and has lost all it’s ‘oomph.’ You can watch the BB come out of it. I’ve used it in recent years to to chase off stray dogs or coons trying to get into the garbage or otherwise get into things outside. I just aim right behind them and scare ’em.

        I still know a few folks that hunt, I’m just not inclined to bother with it, at this point. If Hubby hunted, it might be different.

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