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Thread: In the Middle

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    In the Middle

    In the light of “In the Beginning” being so nicely received I thought I would write some of my other shooting memories. They stretch from about eight years of age up to my thirties which is 1963 to the end of the 80’s. Many are from the time when a fifteen year old could get a shot gun certificate without the interest of the paparazzi and when it came it was a neat for inch square of paper that did not specify the weapons owned. This instalment is up to the age of about fourteen.
    Uncle Sam kept a shooting journal, I often saw him writing in it, it went back to the late 1940’s and detailed every shooting trip he undertook. I found my name in it a while ago while they were in my keeping after his death. The journals recorded where he went, which gun he used the cartridges used, the bag, who he went with and diagrams of fields, decoy patterns, hide positions and flight ponds with wind directions and weather conditions. They make fascinating reading.
    In the early days of pasting the bean can with the .177 I asked Auntie Audrey if I could have one of Uncle Sam’s decoys to shoot at. She politely refused, but it shows my eight year olds lack of understanding of what decoys were for but also that I wanted to progress in some way to being a hunter rather than just a target shooter.
    On afternoon I decided that when I got home I wanted some pet white mice. Sam took me into his shed. It was an Aladdin’s cave, tools on racks, electric lights and a characteristic smell all of its own. Wood, creosote and oil. He sorted out a suitable sized box made of half inch ply and then in a few minutes fashioned a close fitting wire mesh lid, he had made me a mouse cage. We used it for ages until it got too smelly.
    Sometimes I helped to feed the dogs. Sam had a dog food store, at our house we had a tin of PAL, it contained big lidded bins of dried dog food. Chudleys I think, as if memory serves me right Jack Chudley was a friend of Sam’s.
    I had a couple of experiences at the local charity shoot Sam organised. It was where I shot my first clays. There was a shoot of in the local competition. One of the Prest’s who was about 12 I think was in the final and after three rounds of the shoot off with neither missing he missed one and lost. At one point he ran out of cartridges, I still had five left in my pocket and gave then to him so the epic could carry on. A talent for sure, perhaps one of the perks of being the keepers son.
    Also at this shoot I watched a man in the open shoot. He hit clay after clay I watched in awe. I met him later at Auntie Audrey’s and Uncle Sam’s. He was Clarrie Wilson, he reloaded his own cartridges and he was livid. He’d hit 49 out of 50, the one he missed was a miss fire. I guess that’s what comes of loading your own, you have total responsibility and can’t blame the manufacturer. My cousin and I went outside to look at his car, a Riley Ruby. They don’t make them like that anymore.
    Uncle Sam had a couple of clay trophies himself, and I of course thought of him as a champion. Later they matched my own, two C class trophies but perhaps he was the better shot as one of my shooting companions said at the time, ‘the days you got them it was cold, blowing a gale and p***ing down, there was only us there and I shoot B class’. Mates eah.
    Sometimes in the evenings particularly in the winter, while my cousins and I watched TV with a clear picture, I would hear the clack of typewriter keys. Uncle Sam would be sat at the end of the dining table before a blue portable type writer. Laboriously typing with two fingers. He wrote many articles on shooting, dogs, dog training and of the life of the small holder in general. I mention the clear picture as at there home on the Cheshire plain had a really clear sharp picture, I lived in the north Derbyshire hills and our picture had so many ghosts it looked like 3D without the glasses on.
    One evening at dog feeding a ferocious growling erupted behind me. Tess a working fox terrier and Jill a retired fox terrier and now the house dog, retired because auntie Audrey became heartily fed up with her coming home with the immovable smell of the just worked foxing dog, were either side of the training pen fence. Heads through the wire locked together in a massive fight. I was frightened, panicking and called for uncle Sam, he bellowed at them to cease to no avail, but further diplomacy with the liberal use of a sweeping brush brought a halt to hostilities. But while putting Tess back into the dog run she slipped past us and they got back together on the lawn. This time they could not be separated. They were locked together, throat to throat, spittle and blood flying as they shook each other. Uncle Sam tutted. Lifted the lid off a 40 gallon water butt, picked up a dog in each hand by the scruff of its neck and dropped them into the butt, this was on the third time they came up apart and the fight was over.
    Another evening my step father and I were in a local pub. At the time it was owned by Pat Phoenix, Elsie Tanner from Coronation Street, not that I ever watch it. Ahhmm. Geoff Hughes, or Eddie Yates from Corri. and Lonzo from Keeping up Appearances, was behind the bar we got talking and I told him about my new Airsporter, it turned out he had an air rifle to and he disappeared for a few minutes and came back with a box. Here you are he said, I was a telescopic sight. How nice was that, this famous bloke was just nice to an unknown kid with a gun.
    As we had no idea about guns liking different pellets we had no idea much about how to zero it. The vertical adjustment was to physically wind the whole sight up and down there were no turrets. If I’d used as many .270 rounds as we did pellets I’d be bankrupt. But it did look the dogs dangalies with a scope on. This was replace eventually with a Nikko Sterling 4 x 20.
    I learned a quick hard lesson about under lever air rifles one morning when a starling landed I the garden. I very quickly cocked loaded aimed and fired. But in my haste the under lever had dropped back down. Pulling the trigger brought its swift lesson. The lever smashed up into my hand and I had a tram line bruise for a week and it was rather sore.
    When I was ten mum took me to Ferodo Rifle Club where they shot .22 rf. They met at the TA range and later moved to the police station. I used a club rifle a BSA martini action and I had to rest the front of the fore end on four ammo blocks stacked up. When I first went I was really surprised that there was no recoil from this real rifle. Eventually I managed to shoot 100, ten bulls, prone at 25 yards. It was very good of the club members to let me attend.
    There has been debate here on the SD regarding the need to clean guns using modern ammunition. Uncle Sam had a theory and put it to the test. He used a semi auto for a while and never cleaned it at all for a year. It never misfired or failed to recycle a cartridge nor appeared to have suffered for its ordeal in any way when it was finally cleaned. Having said that I do not think it was a policy employed on the AYA’s.
    It would be about this time in our teenage years that we experimented with weed killer and sugar. We also found that if you crunched up the head of a match and pushed the red coating into the back of a .22 pellet and fired it in the dark it was like tracer. Goodness knows what deposits this leaves in the barrel of a quality air rifle.
    With our air rifles we developed the technique of 1, 2, 3, Bang. So when a rabbit came along we would both aim at it, one of us would whisper off the count, 1,2,3 and then simultaneously we would both shoot, two .22 pellets on their way. It worked great on cans but we never had any success on rabbits.
    While tinkering with something in our garage, the one who’s foundation wall is our range backstop. To my abject horror I noticed a neat .22 pellet hole right in the middle of a 2 foot by 4 foot window pane. I knew my step father would not be happy, as a friend had just put a cricket ball through our kitchen window which was smaller. My step father, a self employed builder, complained that the new glass was 4 and it was “unremunerative work”. I knew it wasn’t me or Zorro, we were far too careful for that, so it had to be one of two friends who had a go the week before. Accidental / negligent discharge, good job the car was out.
    Its not the only accidental discharge that I have been associated with. In the early days of our shot gun shooting we came to cross a style. Both our guns were pointing skywards. I gave mine to Zorro and climbed over the style, he handed me my gun first into my left hand and then his into my right. I rested both butts on the top of my cartridge belt and stepped well back from the style. Bang. “Owww”, I hasten to say no one was shot. The Argyles safety was large and prominent and easily pushed off. It was winter and I had gloves on. The web between my thumb and first finger must have slipped the safety off and I must have put my padded finger through the trigger guard. The recoil shoved my cartridge belt down into my hip and I gained some more bruises, a neat row of purple stitch marks and three cartridge crimp marks. At no point was there a danger of shooting each other, the muzzles were always well away from us, but huge lessons were learned here that unexpected bang focuses the mind in a unique way and is never to be repeated. I still have the same cartridge belt today and use it routinely, probably the best 17/- I ever spent.
    We had some land about 400 acres we visited a lot both with air rifles and later with shot guns. On a cold grey day we were walking round and I looked down and there was a leveret lying right under my foot, hunkered down ears flat to its head, fur slightly ruffled by the wind. We had not shot a rabbit or hare yet. I could have put the barrel to its head. We just looked and walked on, “that was nice” said Zorro, “ worth coming out for”.
    A few minutes later we noticed something in a tree, but we couldn’t identify it. We looked and looked some more, it was very still, It was sitting upright on a branch against the light. Its not an owl, its not a bird, by elimination we came to squirrel. Bang, down it tumbled and sure enough it was a grey squirrel the first we had seen close up. They are now a common site in our parks, gardens woods and as road kill.
    Often I have found we do not appreciate what we have until its gone, my Granddad was a professional golfer yet I had very little interest in learning while he was around, Uncle Sam was a gun dog trainer but I didn't want one, yet as I said earlier I read his book, a while ago, why to help me train my Springer, and convert this puppy into a working dog of my own. But Uncle Sam was then to ill to help and has now passed on. But as I sit in a hide or snuggle down on a cold marsh my memories wander to those early days, as a pair of brown eyes look up at me, as Sam my Springer waits for action.
    Last edited by Tom270; 27-07-2010 at 15:53. Reason: cut and paste error from original, Tom

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