It was a bit elegant the way my dad would sit down on a Sunday morning in our burgundy leather recliner, his church shoes on his knee and an old can of shine, a horsehair brush, and a t shirt rag kept in a ziploc bag. And I’ve seen Pappaw do the same thing. Guns were treated with some of the same reverence, I was just remembering. I pulled out my shotgun again to clean it before the weekend was out and regular life must resume.
The only other thing to think about is 8:30 AM tomorrow which is my doctor appointment to get the metal arch bars taken off my teeth and have this little broken-jaw-bit-of-life behind us.
Ashley just made me a grilled cheese, because we had those for lunch and it was so lovely, and I just bit into the sandwich like a person would. Not very long ago this wasn’t possible, and I decided I should have an 18 oz. ribeye my first night in South Dakota since I could do so, and that’s what I did. Now I’m eating a grilled cheese, and if there was ever a better deal than butter, bread and cheese it would be having someone to love you, and having that someone let you leave them to go hunting.
Anyway, I’m cleaning this shotgun. It’s a 12 gauge Browning BPS I’ve had for a long time. My dad bought two of them, trading in our old 20 gauge, and Ryan and I each have our own which are just alike. We were 15 and 14 I think.
The BPS is a good gun, engraved with turkey on one side and pheasant on the other. The gun can fire a 3 1/2″ shell or hold six 2 3/4″ shells in the magazine with the plug taken out. That fourth or fifth shot, even the sixth maybe, is what it takes when you have a camera around your neck and the grappling rooster is losing plenty of tail feathers in the sky. I generally shoot behind the bird, twice out of sheer enthusiasm, then get in front of him, assuming he isn’t already at 100 yards. Then I go ahead and empty my gun. With six bursts of a shotgun, a modified or improved modified choke, a bird had better be in the mouth of a dog or else you have a fine image on your DSLR.
The BPS is a heavy gun, and slow, and it pulls up like a Mercury. My brother probably hasn’t fired his in over ten years. He’s opted for the semi automatic, a fine Winchester and a Beretta which are both beautiful guns. The semi automatics don’t favor the left handed shooter, ejecting a smoking shell right across my nose, and I’ve never been spoiled by borrowing someone else’s. Plus I agree with the agression of a pump shotgun. The BPS ejects straight down, which is why my dad bought them interchangeably for each of us.
Right now, I’d like you to pump and fire six shells in your imagination. Count all the way to six. ”Boom, chuck chuck” times six. I get a little excited after four, holding a bead on a bird for that long, even sitting here on my MacBook. It was Hemingway who said,
“What is about the sound of whirring wings that moves us more than any love of country?”
It is with no small amount of arrogance that I opt, when the sloughs allow, for my dad’s over-and-under Citori. A gentleman’s gun, a two hole, with a modified choke in the barrel above, to be fired first, and a full choke below for the further shot, assuming the target is still in the air. I’m the guy who needs all six shots in my BPS, yet I opt for only two as a matter of style and one of sport. We had sometimes 18 hunters and 9 dogs; a pheasant that flied was one that also died. My small contributions of lead in the air had little consequence. Still, I did finally kill a bird with that second shot which filled the sky with no small amount of feathers. A flight pattern interrupted by 12 gauge copper plated no. 5s is not unlike a sky diver pulling his rip cord, and such photos I have been mannered enough not to show you.
But I certainly needed my BPS when the family hunters were gone and only the five Kentuckians remained.
I have stories of my fourth and fifth shot still vivid in my mind. When the bird finally fell, sweet heavens finally, and I’d marked it there somewhere in the high grass. Gracie had found it, and it had not been dead because pheasants are tough-as-nail birds, and Gracie had killed it brutally in the match. Then the next day, on the fifth shot, there was no dog on my side and I’d shot after the bird clear into to the next field. It finally fell in the cow pasture with an audience of 50 head, and I’d sprinted from out of the milo patch, thrown my gun in the dirt and rolled under the electric fence, grabbed my gun again and bound across the cow pats, out of balance the way one does when they think about running and think about pulling the Mercury up to their shoulder again. And the determined rooster ran ahead too, and we crossed the corner of pasture together until he made the road ditch and under another fence.
The hunters were jeering behind me, “Fetch him up!” ”Bird in there!” When five or six shots isn’t embarrassing enough, try flailing alone through fifty head of cattle after your prized rooster. I never found that damned bird. We walked the ditch a hundred yards and I even brought Kota back on a leash a couple hours later by myself. Never found him. But he fell with a thud in the mud, and those wounded cock pheasants would rather run down a gopher hole than die in the teeth of a Kentucky labrador and I don’t call them chicken for that whatsoever.
Anyways, I cleaned the gun and gave it a conditioning polish, thinking of the shots I made and those I didn’t make. Since I was 15 even, then put the big blundering BPS back in it’s sleeve and into the closet. I should keep the shotgun by the front door, I think. For no true Southern hospitality isn’t without it’s warnings. Of course, I’m kidding. Come on. I keep it next to the bed.