The Words of the Ellanson Family
There are few events more inspiring to me as a parent than that of sharing my enthusiasm for a sport that I love with my child. Yet fewer joys fire me up more than when my child's passion for that sport and her skills turn out to be far superior to mine. This was exactly the case with my 14-year-old daughter, Christina, and our mutual love of firearms and the shooting sports.
Firearms have long been an integral part of the lives of both my husband and I. Remarkably, both our fathers served in Italy during World War II; both our fathers taught us well to respect and to use firearms safely or not at all. (Indeed the only thing that I inherited from my late father was his 50 year-old Marlin 336, 30-30 rifle. (I still use it to hunt deer today.) It was the strongly held conviction between my husband and me that we dispel ignorance about firearms with our children. Since there are so many popular misconceptions about firearms and their use, we decided to educate, thus demystify, these misconceptions with the truth. The one salient truth that we conveyed was that a firearm (an inanimate object), its value and use, is always determined by the user's purpose and motivation.
In other words, if a firearm is used with selfish intentions, the consequences are always evil: When a firearm is used with an unselfish motivation, the outcome is always moral, virtuous and just.
We inculcated the importance of gun safety, proper handling, and focused on shooting hobbies. Happily, our children were raised with the understanding of how firearms sports benefited our entire family -- they brought us closer. After all, shooting has such a wide appeal; it is a sport that can be enjoyed by parents and children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, young and old, able-bodied and the disabled, and by every socio-economic demographic.
But I digress.
Christina, who was born on God's Day 1996, is the youngest of four. She was a fan of the shooting sports since age seven, plinking with BB guns alongside her older siblings. She received her first.22 rifle at age ten. It was then that I observed her raw talent: Blown out bulls-eyes were common at 25 yards with iron sights; two inch groups in and around the bulls-eye were habitual at 50 yards. Plainly, my baby could shoot.
At age 13, Christina's skills and self-assurance really bloomed when she was rewarded with her first shotgun, a 20-gauge, Remington 870 Express, she named, "Diane". Nearly every Sunday afternoon after church service we were off to our local trap range, blowing 50 to 100 rounds of ammo. She said again and again how trap shooting was just way too much fun.
As soon as she turned 14 (legal big game age in New York State), we made plans to hunt together. After having received a ninety-percent score on her hunter safety test, we made ready for the 2010 spring turkey season to hunt one of the most elusive animals in creation. I tell you what: It tickled me to watch that child during hours of hunting shows on television rehearsing her friction calls, honing realistic turkey clucks, purrs and yelps. Then came the annual New York State Department of Environmental Conservation sponsored Youth Turkey Hunt. The April hunt was open to youth ages 13 through 15 just for one weekend. And because we are allowed to hunt only until 12 noon, we both hoped to harvest a bird before the busy regular season in May.
Christina and I rose at 4:15 a.m. Following Hoon Dok Hae, we devoured a quick breakfast, loaded the pick-up and headed for the woods near our home. The April air was crisp, almost icy, with a soft frost shrouding the fresh vegetation. Bright early morning sounds of cardinals and crows, and the Neversink River was only matched by the sights of burgeoning hues of green leaves and diminutive blossoms dotting the forest floor. Silently, I walked with my daughter, musing at her growth in this last year: I suddenly realized what the phrase, "fleeting moments", came to mean. She could now carry her shotgun, her blind and her decoys without my help. Wait, was I not just changing her diapers not that long ago? Why just yesterday, she peppered all those empty soda cans at ten feet with that little Red Rider of hers- and left that big mess. Good Lord, she is taller than I am! How could so many years sail by me so quickly? I then remembered how my father mused about another time, a time long gone when he watched the coming of age of the ensuing generation- and it was I. And here I was, watching the next generation, my own daughter, walking ahead of me. Honey, the phrase, love, life and lineage, took on a whole new meaning.
We found a quiet open area and placed our decoys at 20 yards; two hens and a jake. Christina set up at the base of a small tree behind her wrap-around ground blind and held her shotgun in the ready. I sat at the base of an adjacent tree and helped her call. Not 15 minutes later, we heard the thunderous gobble of a tom crooning for his true love with a bellow that pierced the still morning air.
"Get your gun up", I whispered. "Sit still. Easy. Sit still:'
As hunters, we all know those primal sensations -- your booming heartbeat, the effort to control what sounds to you like your own deafening breathing, your hands (and body) trembling; oh Lord, the adrenaline rush, itself! We likewise recognize that parents and children are bound in both mind and heart and I can emphatically declare that to be true. Christina and I were later to admit how we simultaneously experienced a freezing of our thoughts and a racing of our hearts at the sound of that first gobble. Oh man, was he ever so very close. We dared not turn our heads. We could not see where the torn was, or from which direction he approached.
"Easy. Sit still," I whispered again, and silently prayed, "Oh, Heavenly Father, if it be your will."
What I witnessed next amazed me.
Christina held fast to her shotgun, her entire body trembling with her finger alongside the trigger guard. I observed her steadfast focus; such an intensive resolve that I shall never forget it. The huge tom came in from our left in full strut. She spotted him in her peripheral vision and froze. Instantly, her mind and her body became one. The bird was at 35 yards. She swiveled her head left, just barely. She then rotated her gun, slowly, scarcely. She sat tense and immobile, silent, patient, waiting. The turkey saw nothing; he advanced toward the decoys still at full strut. At 30 yards, Christina squeezed the trigger. The bang startled me. It seemed to happen so quickly. Then I saw the big tom flop over, kick out and lay still.
There was a split second of mutual silent, disbelief. We flashed a glance at each other. Suddenly, our bulging eyes were replete with the ultimate, elated, "OMG!" I ripped off my mask, jumped to my feet and ran over to the torn with Christina right behind me. All I could do was high-five her and seize her into my embrace. My baby! My baby had her first hunting victory. If I could verbalize my emotions with language, mere words would be woefully inadequate to convey the heart of pride and my happiness for her. I held her face in my hands and looked into her smiling watery eyes. I was reminded of my own past hunts. It thrilled me then, and that very same thrill found itself in the next generation- in my daughter.
"Baby, you are so awesome! Thank you, God!"
"Oh man, I'm still shaking," Christina stuttered gleefully, while she inspected the spurs, beard and his huge fan. "He's so beautiful! Thanks, Morn. Oh God, thank you so much!"
We prayed together over the turkey, laying our hands on its beautiful plumage. Humbly, we expressed gratitude to God for His stunning gift and for bequeathing this incredible world to us, this creation which provides us with so much. We thanked True Parents for the understanding of why we appreciated all this.
Christina then filled out her tag and I returned to our nearby home to bring back my husband and the camera. In the end, we recorded her turkey's stats: Undressed at just less than 30 pounds, seven-and-one-half inch beard and one inch spurs. "Miss Diane" (so- named after the hunt) now has a special place in Christina's heart and I am certain that 'she' always will.
Grateful and happy, I know that my daughter the hunter will someday out-hunt and outshine my husband and me. Knowing that is a wonderful blessing; so much so that we launched the Family Firearms Association, with the goal to provide others with the opportunity to take pleasure in the great outdoors. Thank you, Heavenly Parents for Your love, our family and for your amazing creation. Hey and by the way, that turkey was delicious!