My family always hunted. I don’t remember a time that there weren’t rifles in my life. Our family super-8 films with their quick snippets of memory jump from me as a baby to my dad standing over the still spurting carcass of a wild boar. I remember helping my dad reload ammunition for his Mauser action .308, and I can’t have been older than four.
It was about that time that through happenstance, my father came to point that gun at me. It was loaded. It was cocked. It was the middle of the night.
I’m a light sleeper these days but as a child I slept justly. But not this night. I woke up, terrified that I had (or was going to) wet the bed. So I got up, and being embarrassed and not wanting to wake my parents, crept through the house without the lights on, trying to feel my way to the toilet.
And then the corridor lit up. My father was standing at the end (which was really only maybe 8 feet away) in his underpants. It would be a comical memory if three of those eight feet weren’t filled by the barrel of a rifle.
It gets retold as a funny story sometimes, but the retellings are getting farther between. As we get more removed from the time when it was normal to keep a loaded gun in the house, the punch line of “Daddy, don’t kill me! It’s me!” doesn’t seem so funny.