At my first — and last — shooting party back when I was twenty, shortly after my sister had married Fitz Coker and moved to Hartsville, South Carolina, my lack of manly prowess was on clear display. We Great White Hunters — Big Charles, Fitz, their friends, and I — had lined up on either side of a field baited for quail. To the amusement of the troops, it was a meadowlark I mistakenly winged on my first shot. Good humor ended when I ran into the field, distraught, swinging my borrowed shotgun to and fro, thinking to finish off the poor flapping bird with one more blast.
“No!” yelled Fitz, “No!” as he and the other hunters ducked for cover.
My next calculation added up to “nobody here is going to help me rush this bird to a vet.” As I was anxious to end my poor victim’s agony and terror, I crushed his-or-her head under the heel of my boot. My grandfather and father, not hunters but at least dedicated fishermen, would have blushed.
A classic moment in our home movies from the 1940s shows Granddaddy standing in his fishing boat and, for the camera, he dramatizes the drinking of a Coca-Cola. Another of these long preserved family records shows Granddaddy trying to teach my sister and me how to fish.
After The Great Quail Shoot, I hoped I would never kill anything again, fish or fowl.