Archives: Take Them Along

From the January 1930 American Rifleman comes this sweet story about mentoring a girl who had a strong desire to learn how to shoot. 

by posted on March 19, 2021
Archives Take Them Along Lede

This article was first published in the January 1930 American Rifleman

By J. Irving Moore

A girl on her way back to college after the holidays stopped in for a few minutes before train time and said she wanted to learn how to shoot. They had different sports at college, she said, but no rifle-shooting. How could she get that started?

Glad to oblige, the writer began searching books and magazines; but, alas, literature on organizing a rifle club in a girls' college was almost as scarce as hen's teeth. However, all that could be found was given her.

A letter was received from the girl later stating that the college authorities were not interested in that kind of sport. Shortly before a well-known naturalist had almost been engaged to give a lecture, but the college had backed out, declaring that they could not stand the expense, although they always had sufficient funds for other purposes.

A year later, when this same girl was on another trip home, I inquired about the shooting. She declared that she still wanted to learn to shoot, but had never fired a gun. Getting a revolver from its holster in the car, I cast about for a target. A stray newspaper caught against some reeds had a picture the size of one's hand.

Using that as an aiming point, I stepped back six paces and handed over the gun, with instructions to keep the little gold bead in the notch of the rear sight, and hold just at the bottom of the picture. Raising the gun, the young lady aimed for a time without firing, then lowered it, saying, "I can't keep it still; it wobbles all around." 

Removing the cartridges, I handed the gun back with a "Let it wobble. As the sights swing on the target, tighten up on the trigger. Now try a few times with it empty." After a few snaps she caught the idea, exclaiming, "I see what you mean." With the reloading of the gun a hit was made on the paper; then another, while the third hit center. Again, and still again! until, filled with enthusiasm, she began backing away a step at each shot until halted, and there continued firing until the ammunition ran out. Carefully folding up the remains of a once good newspaper, she declared, "I'm going to take this home to show daddy."

Time passed. The young lady, now a school-teacher a few miles away, came in one evening with an invitation for the folks to come down for Thanksgiving, and said she was getting the gunning fever. I asked about a hunting license, but the folks laughed at the notion. She had no gun, either. Bringing out a little 20 double and some lightly loaded shells, I showed her how to load and unload, and advised that for safety the gun always be carried with the muzzle pointing down. Putting gun and ammunition into the car, she went home that night a very happy girl.

At the Thanksgiving dinner I asked what luck she had had gunning, and was told that the school work had required all her time until dark, so she hadn't been out. Disappearing for a time after dinner, she soon reappeared dressed in old clothes, two sweaters, and a pair of high-top galoshes buckled to the knees, and carrying the gun, with her brother's old Army gas-mask bag half full of shells slung over a shoulder, and wanted to know where to go to get a squirrel.

Feeling that as long as she had gone this far she deserved a little help, and also that it would be a good chance to find out what a woman could do, I said, "Let's take the car and go over to the old squirrel woods."

My first squirrel hunting when a boy was on the plan of tramping through the woods until a squirrel was found on the ground, whereupon there ensued a wild chase through brush and around trees until it disappeared or went up a tree. All too often the chosen tree had a hollow limb or a hole in the trunk, and that was the last of that squirrel for the day.

Leaving the car and crossing a cornfield, it was interesting to note how the young lady earnestly strode along, trying to keep in step.

Entering the big timber near an ancient rail fence, we proceeded down an old road to a ravine, and near the edge sat down in the leaves at the foot of a giant beech to await the appearance of the little tree folk.

As we carefully inspected each nearby tree, the circle under observation gradually widened, we making certain that each odd projection was real wood, and not a squirrel. The first inspection was nearly finished when an immense flock of migrating blackbirds circled around and alighted in the tree tops overhead, and their constant chatter made it quite impossible to hear any squirrel that might be working among the leaves. Occasionally, with a sound like the waves of the sea, a group of the birds would take wing; and as we began to despair of getting any game, the entire flock arose with a tremendous roar and soon disappeared in the distance.

The sun had touched the tree tops when at last came a faint rustle of leaves on back a way in the woods. As I turned to see if my companion had heard it, she whispered, "Shall we go closer?" and with a "Yes, let's," we slipped on as quietly as possible toward the sound. Taking seats on the trunk of a prostrate tree, we waited until the querulous bark of a squirrel came nearby; but not seeing it, we again moved.

The sun had disappeared and a bluish haze was filling the lower bushes, when there came a scratch on bark, a pause, a rustle of leaves, another scratch. With half-raised gun the girl whispered, "I see him, you shoot." I replied, "I don't see a thing, go ahead."

She brought the gun up, and—Bang!

Dashing hastily through the brush, and crawling through the tangle of a fallen tree top, I began looking for the squirrel, until the girl called, "Not that tree, the one beyond." Backing out and retrieving my hat on the way, I reached the other tree in time to see her bending over a handsome squirrel that lay in the leaves.

Delightedly she cried, "Oh! isn't he a beauty? I can hardly believe I got him all myself. Did I really?" She proudly slipped the squirrel into her shell bag, and we made our way through the gathering gloom, out of the woods and back to the car.

On the way home my companion kept half humming to herself, and finally said, "I'm so glad we went! Isn't this better than staying in the house all day? The smell of the leaves and the fresh air is worth all the trouble it took. I feel better than I have in months."

So thus was one skeptic entirely convinced. And now if you should ask me, I would most whole-heartedly suggest, take "her with you; and if she is the right sort, you will never regret it.

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