My Idea of Shooting
I have seen a Pima Indian put a bow and arrow into a baby boy's hands who was not more than three years old and, with a patience born of having nothing else to do, teach the little redskin how to draw the bow, aim the arrow and shoot.
And I have seen the men folks of the white race, both backwoodsmen and city dwellers, put a gun into the hands of a boy scarcely large enough to hold it and show him how to shoot, tell him what he could do and what he must not do with it and I have had occasion to observe that the man and his boy in such cases became the closest kind of pals, for the father had confidence in his son obeying his instructions, and sensing this confidence the son did his level best to do exactly as he was told.
Where such happy conditions exist I can render no useful service, but as I have said before I am writing this book for the boy who has no older head to guide him, and if you are that boy and can get a gun I want you to do just as I have told you all along from the first to the last chapter, for I am your friend and I believe in you.
Now, don't ever lose sight of the fact that a gun is dangerous if it is not handled rightly, and that it is quite safe if you know how to use it. In this respect it is like lots of other things that we make use of in our daily lives and think nothing about.
Take matches, for instance. Dangerous? No small-bore arm has ever been made that could compete with a match as a real source of danger. A lighted match carelessly thrown away before it was put out has burned down many a house and burned up lots of people, but grown-up folks do not say to a boy of twelve, " Don't ever take a match, much less light one."
How is it, you may wonder, if matches are as dangerous as guns that people are not afraid of them? And the answer is because they are acquainted with them and they know by long experience that if they use them in a certain way they are safe enough. So in every home you will find enough safety matches to set the whole town on fire.
Since it is possible to teach a boy how to use a match safely, why not also teach him, or let him be taught, how to use a gun safely? We are always afraid of that which we know nothing about, and while it is just as well that this is so as long as we won't learn, the best way to get rid of fear is to learn all about the thing we are afraid of.
The reason a boy shoots at objects he should not shoot at is because he is not provided with the right kind of targets. Give him a fixed target at 25 yards with a bullseye 1 inch in diameter and a bell back of it so that it will ring out when he hits it and he won't care much about a tomcat over yonder that looms up as big as a barn door.
Or better, give him a hand trap that will throw a clay pigeon through the air so swiftly that it will make a wild duck look sick and he will have but little temptation to take a pot shot at the first object that comes into sight. Best of all let him belong to a rifle or trap-shooting club where competitions are held and loose shooting will make no appeal to him.
As to preparedness, my idea is this: At the present time we are all of us living in a transition period of the world's history and as a result we have a civilization that seems to be all right, at least the crust is nice and brown; but all you have to do is to cut off a slice and you will find the inside of it only dough—half-baked—and this accounts for the wide differences between those who cry for war and others who want peace at any price.
Before the great European conflict the nations vied with each other if not in culture then in boasting as to which one had the most culture. Art, science and philosophy had reached the highest pinnacle yet attained in the world's history, and although all of the nations had men resting on their arms, to the ordinary person at least it seemed that in virtue of a civilization as far advanced as ours, and when it was to the advantage of every country to be on friendly terms with every other country, that war on a large scale was simply out of the question.
But in a night war came and, strangely enough, by the very advancement in knowledge that made a high state of refinement and progress possible it also provided the means for staging the most stupendous, barbaric war that has ever been waged. Gigantic guns, huge automobiles, the submarine, the flying machine and hundreds of lesser devices have been called into service, but as effective as they are, the man with the small-bore gun is just as important to his country as he was in any war ever fought in the past.
Germany's early successes were due to the fact that she was prepared and because of the laxity of preparedness on the part of the Allies; and these two factors are accountable for the latter's early defeats. In the two years that the war has been going on the Allies have prepared and they are winning now since their resources are greater, and this gives them the balance of power.
The effect of being prepared and the lack of it has made a deep impression on the people of the United States, and hence the discussions in the newspapers pro and con as to the value of military instruction in schools. Some educators are in favor of it and others are just as strongly opposed to it, but this much is certain—if you are going to have a country you must be prepared to stand up for your country.
In this respect countries are just like boys. Just as soon as other boys find that you will not fight for your rights there will be one or more among them that will commence to bullyrag you, but once show them that you have the courage to fight, especially if you have the punch to back it up with, and you will never be molested again except for cause.
And this is just as true of your country. If a country is to remain a country she must be prepared to defend her rights; and not only to fight for them but to fight hard. If the colonists had not been courageous enough to fight for what they knew was right and had they not, each and every one of them, been sharpshooters, this great land of the free and home of the brave would still be paying taxes on tea as well as on several other things to Great Britain. And for these reasons and some that I have not mentioned we must have war if needs be.
That war is all wrong everybody with a grain of intelligence will admit, but this is not the fault of civilization but because civilization is hardly out of its short pants, and so every now and then it reverts back into savagery. This being the case, the only thing to do is to meet conditions as we find them.
However much you may hate war and preach against it from your steam-heated, electric-lighted and velvet-carpeted library if you were suddenly set back in time when you were a cave-boy again, you wouldn't care much about the ethics of preparedness but what you would do is to grasp a club —or a .44-caliber repeating rifle would be better— and sally forth to do battle with the wild beasts and wilder men in the effort to get some food and save your life.
And you have to do the same thing now even as you did away back there when the human race was young and you and I had left our tree homes and went to live in cave homes, for it is just as much a matter of self-preservation and the survival of the fittest today as it was then, only we are not put up against it so often and this makes it seem all the harder when it comes. The code of civilization says, " Thou shalt not fight," but the code of Nature says, " Thou must fight for thy rights," and Nature is older than civilization.
That fighting is foolish in our age is patent to every thinking person and it seems doubly so to the onlooker, especially if he is of a peaceful turn of mind and is a writer safely tucked away in some sleeping little village like myself, and the fight is on in far-off Europe. But if he caught some sneaking thief taking his chickens from the roost would he say, " Brother, these fowls are just as much yours as they are mine, so help yourself! " and go quietly back to bed? Rather the chances are that, however much he loved peace and his fellow-man, if he had a sawed-off double-barreled shotgun loaded with No. 8 shot he'd let go and say something else.
This great United States is your country and you love it because it is your country. And the reason it is yours is because the boys of '76 and again the Northern boys of '61 fought for it and I can't see how any one could have the unadulterated nerve to call it his country just because he was born here if he wouldn't fight for it and die for it if needs be.
Yes, if you are going to have a country you must be prepared to fight for it to the last trench and the best way to be prepared is to learn how to shoot and to shoot straight, and then should a real call ever come when your country needs you, as it came* to the boys of France and England, you can shoulder arms like a veteran, salute the flag and say, " / am prepared."
Collins, A. Frederick. Shooting, for Boys,. New York: Moffat, Yard and, 1917. Print.
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