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Growing up country

by Robert A. Waters

Most country people grow up with guns. In fact, city folks don't understand that firearms are a necessity for farmers, cattlemen, and other rural residents.

I spent much of my childhood on my grandparents' 200-acre farm in central Florida. They raised me until I was eight years old. After we moved away, my brothers and I spent every summer and Christmas vacation on their farm. As soon as high school was over, I moved back to the farm.

My grandfather owned shotguns, rifles, and handguns. They weren't there for window-dressing--they were tools, like his backhoe and plow and tractor.

The farmhouse sat in the middle of a migration route for snakes. In central Florida, that meant 6-foot-long diamond-back rattlers. Each spring and fall my grandfather would use his shotgun to kill rattlers that invaded his yard.

On one occasion, when I was a teenager, my grandfather and I drove his Ford Fairlane back from town and parked in the driveway. As we got out, we spotted a rattler coiled in the sand about ten feet away. My grandfather pulled his .45 semi-automatic from the glove box, handed it to me, and told me to kill the snake. After five shots, the only thing I'd killed was the dust around the rattler. My grandfather then took the gun, aimed, and blew off the head of the snake.

Most country people know how to shoot.

In addition to growing beans, corn, peas, watermelons, and countless other vegetables, my grandfather raised chickens. Foxes, raccoons, hawks, and predatory critters of all stripes would make occasional raids on the henhouse. Chickens are important to farm people--they provide eggs and meat. If my grandfather heard the chickens squawking in the night, he'd get up, put on a headlamp, and shine it into the chicken coop. Any fox or raccoon trying to get a quick meal would end up dead.

My grandfather also raised cattle. But deep in the woods lived a pack of wild dogs which saw newborn calves as an easy meal. These dogs were vicious roamers that would kill anything that moved. When they began to slaughter my grandfather's calves, we would go back into the woods and hunt them down. It probably sounds cruel to city people, but cattle, like chickens, mean a livelihood to many farm folk. And wild dogs aren't like Spot and Fluffy--they're mangy, rabid, ruthless killers.

The Depression left lasting scars on my grandparents. They talked of being unable to find work, of having no money, and of surviving on what my grandfather could grow and kill and catch. (In addition to hunting, most country people also know how to fish.) Cat-squirrels were on their menu during the Depression. The meat of a squirrel is the color of charcoal. It's greasy, foul-smelling, tough, and tastes like sulfur. But if you have nothing else, you'll eat it. In fact, my grandmother developed such a taste for the rat-like creatures that even when she was eighty-years-old she would ask me or my brothers to go out and kill a squirrel for her.

After my grandfather's mother died, her house (a quarter-mile from where my grandparents lived) was abandoned. It sat on a hill near U. S. Highway 27. Vandals, rogue antique collectors, and transients would invade the house, stealing and destroying everything they could find. Over the years, they set several fires inside the house, eventually burning it down. As long as it stood, we would check it daily. We always took our handguns for protection. On more than one occasion, a belligerent intruder would suddenly become reasonable when he saw that we were holding firearms.

And that's how I grew up. Thinking of guns not as some evil instrument made for killing but as tools for protection.

Guns helped my grandparents and millions of others survive the Depression. They were used to kill predators which would destroy crops and chickens and cattle. They were there for self-defense if needed.

I learned to shoot when I was 10-years-old, though I never became the shot that my grandfather was. I've owned guns most of my life. So when I hear some elite, city-bred anti-gunner talking about banning firearms, I remember my grandparents.

I later went to college, moved to the city, and got a job in town. Things changed over the years: hawks are now an endangered species in Florida; to kill a dog means to risk a lawsuit, a fine, or even jail; and most of us don't raise our own food anymore. To pull a gun on an intruder in a vacant house nowadays would be inviting a civil suit, if not criminal prosecution.

Growing up with guns gives one an entirely different attitude than the politically correct gun-banning mentality. I can understand how someone who was born and raised in Los Angeles or New York City or Washington, D. C. would be unable to comprehend what life is like in rural America. What I don't understand is how gun-banners like Diane Feinstein, Charles Schumer, and Rosie O'Donnell want to mandate to farmers and ranchers that they cannot own guns.

I still have all of the guns my grandfather left me.

They are an integral part of the culture I grew up in. They are a part of my life, and part of what I know and believe. They are my heritage.

I will fight to the end to keep what is mine.

Also from Robert Waters


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Americans need not fear the federal government because they enjoy the advantage of being armed, which you possess over the people of almost every other nation. James Madison.

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