Posts Tagged ‘12 gauge’

Santa at the library. Warning: humorous content

December 16, 2010

The problems of running a sleigh!

With six months of night and of day,

     To deliver a toy

     Or in Hawaii, some poi,

I don’t send the elves out to play.

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa, transitioning my career.  While my one-year non-compete clause ticks out I’m doing locum tenens work, and having adventures.  Currently I’m in southeast Iowa.  I played Santa this week, and my sense of humor broke loose.

I put on a red suit and went to the Keosauqua Public Library as Santa.

I talked with one of the librarians after the rush of kids slowed down.

He commented he hadn’t seen my sleigh.

“It’s second shotgun season,” I said.  “You know, I was crossing the Van Buren County line just before dark, keeping the sleigh low along the river over there by Bonaparte, I heard a shot and I’m darned if a 12-gauge slug didn’t crease Donner’s left hind hoof.  Scared the heck out of me.  I took her up about two hundred feet, swung south there and crossed into Missouri, set her down in an alfalfa field to check out the damage, wouldn’t you know up drove a guy, a doc, in a ’98 Toyota Avalon.  We yacked a little bit, he said he’d do what he could for Donner even if he weren’t a vet, and let me drive his car into town.  That’s why I came in late.”

The librarian nodded.

“Heck of a deal,” I said, “You know at the North Pole we get six months of daylight to make all those toys but when the sun goes down on September 22, it goes down and it stays down, and I’ll tell you what, it gets dark.  And we just keep working through the winter solstice, it gets to be December 24th and I head south, I cover a lot of ground.  You know, I remember back winter of ’93 when we had all that snow, I was fixing to land on the roof of a farmhouse outside of Effingham, Illinois.  Well, they hadn’t shoveled the snow off the roof and wouldn’t you know, the thing caved in and I put the sleigh down in the farmyard about the time the family came running out of the house. Everyone was OK and I gave out the presents one on one and when I turned back to get in the sleigh, well, you know how the Santa’s breed of reindeer makes AGH?”

He furrowed his forehead at me. 

“Anti-Gravity Hormone,” I said.  “Well, those animals got awful hungry with the cold and the snow and all and they smelled some of those apples still at the top of the apple trees there around the farmyard and, well, you just can’t trust those reindeer with your back turned.  Except maybe Prancer, and even him…

“So I turned around and those reindeer were browsing on the twigs at the top of the tree, getting the mummy apples, they were going at it pretty good and wouldn’t you know I had to borrow a ladder to get back in the sleigh, and climbing that thing isn’t easy when you’re as short and fat as I am, it’s not like you can just put your finger on one side of your nose and whoosh you’re up like you can in a chimney. 

“That was the year I got a letter from a fellow in the jail in Lame Deer, Montana, on the Northern Cheyenne reservation.  What he wanted, see, what he wanted was lithium.  I had checked my list on this guy, twice, and I can tell you he hadn’t been good.  Really, pretty naughty.  But I looked at what he wanted, and, you know, I figured, lithium.  You know, why not.  Ever since then someone asks for lithium, I don’t even check the list, I just figure I’ll make the stop.  And it’s a simple package, doesn’t weigh much, not like those cotton-pickin’ ponies.  Doesn’t take hardly any elf labor.

“Me and the reindeer we get back from a run and we’re really, really tired.  So are the elves, so is Mrs. Claus.  But we get the animals out of the harness, and even if the elves are getting sleepy I get ‘em to hang up the harness, we don’t use saddle soap anymore…”

“No?” he asked

“No, we went to all-Kevlar harness, oh, heck, it’s got to be twenty-five years ago.  Just saves one more step when I bring in the sleigh.  Takes twenty-four elves to curry-comb the reindeer and they’re getting a little edgy at that point in the season.  If they haven’t mucked out the reindeer stables, well, I got to get on ‘em about that, oh, I’d say three years out of four.  But me?  I’m the one that feeds ‘em.  You know, we got some really first class hay out of Montana last year, good clean alfalfa.  Not like that, you know, Santa shouldn’t use such language, so I’ll just say stuff with a capital SH that we were getting out of Siberia.  Tell you what, don’t sign a contract with a Chechen.  I should have known better than to deal with a company’s got everyone on the naughty list.

“By the time the reindeer are taken care of and stabled, we sit down to darned fine meal.  You know those dry does in the reindeer herd, I’ll tell you what we eat pretty darn good.  Then we go take a nap.  Now, remember it’s the Arctic night, and we just snooze for a couple of months.  When we get up Mrs. Claus keeps making breakfast, coffee, doughnuts, reindeer salami and cold storage eggs, till the sun comes up on March 23, and then we’re back at it.  Magic reindeer drop their antlers when the sun comes up like that, that’s when they stop making AGH and they don’t fly till they’ve scraped their velvet.

“Then you gotta watch out.   Rutting deer are bad enough, but when the flying reindeer go at it, it’s dangerous for the aircraft.  We took to tethering ‘em just before they take off.

“But there was one year, ’01, Vixen was still in velvet and I had a bad run of Barbies in the shop…”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah, you know, the Somali elves had just come on board and they didn’t know metric from English, and if you think Barbie’s proportions were unrealistic, that run was just plain science fiction.  Anyway I just didn’t send the elves out to tether ‘em quick enough and before you knew it, Vixen was off.  You know how those polar air currents are.  Well, he went chasing the does outside of Atqisut Pass.  I had to harness up an empty sleigh to go looking for him, and he was darned hard to catch when I got there.   Good for me he was closing in on a bunch of estrus females when some Inuit opened fire and he lit out of there just as we were flying in.

“That’s the year I put GPS tracking onto their collars.”

Dear Readers:  This is my first attempt at a humorous post.  Please let me know what you think.

You meet the nicest people around a shotgun

October 31, 2010

Found ammo is better than loot

But friends are a much bigger hoot.

     The lesson I got

     For the shotgun I brought

Improved the way that I shoot.

Men like projectile weapons.  If we didn’t have constraints like time and money, most of us would do little else besides practice.  As kids we never got our fill of shooting because our dads had limits like time and money.

Thus men of retirement age gravitate towards sporting clays courses, trap ranges, golf courses, and archery lanes. 

Today I took my shotgun to Grand Island’s Heartland Public Shooting Park. (Explanation: a shotgun cartridge contains multiple pellets.  Today, I used loads of #8 shot, about the size of poppy seeds.  Good for killing clay targets but not for much else; you can buy them in Castro’s Cuba.) 

The facility ranks as the nicest shooting park I’ve been to.  It has up-to-date equipment, well maintained paths, and great habitat.

The sporting clays shotgun course covers seventy-five acres.  A mile-long gravel path encircles it. 

I enjoy a lot of things about shooting sports, among them the camaraderie and socializing.  A stranger here, I had to set out on the course by myself. 

Still, the weather cooperated and at the first of ten stations I hit 7 of the ten electrically thrown targets.  

At the third station I found a whole box of shells.  A brand I’d never heard of, Rio, with bright blue plastic husks, the only words on the box not in Spanish were MADE IN TENNESSEE.

Ammunition constitutes the biggest cost in shooting.  Occasionally one might find a shell that another shooter has dropped; to find an entire box outranks finding five dollars. 

I resisted the temptation to shoot them all right there.  I put them in my backpack, telling myself I’d turn them in at the clubhouse when I was done, then thinking, Yeah, right.  I grinned to myself as I walked away from the station and a button buck deer crossed my path.  

I considered the irony; the deer can’t find a safer place to live than a shooting range.  People who own firearms tend to be law-abiding.  No one would risk getting kicked out of a shooting park for discharging a firearm in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

As I walked up to station #4 I saw two golf carts pulling away with five people.  Even at a walk I caught up with them at station #6.  I pulled my muffs from my ears and asked, “Who’s shooting Blue Rio’s?”

They all were.  I told them I’d picked up a box of their shells, they invited me to shoot with them.

Tim and John were teaching three adolescents.  As I got into position, we saw a rooster pheasant gliding into the thick switchgrass ahead of us.  I had just loaded my 12 gauge when one of the young adults pointed out a deer almost hidden in the tall grass, less than 50 yards in front of us, probably the same button buck I’d seen earlier.  He stared at us for a while, got bored, and browsed off into invisibility. 

I didn’t shoot very well; Tim gave me some pointers, and I smoked two flyers in a row. (When one hits a clay target with enough pellets, it breaks into a cloud of debris, like smoke.)

I had a yoyo in my backpack and I did a minute’s worth of tricks.

“You know,” Tim said, “You meet the nicest people around a shotgun.”

Getting good with a shotgun, it’s practice just like anything else

September 15, 2010

I went to the range to shoot clays,

With the sun burning off morning’s haze

     In order to get good,

    Practice, practice I should

While I’m enjoying my leisurely days.

After I went to my Hospice meeting this morning I went shooting at the range near the airport.

I met my friend there.  We’ve been shooting clay targets several times a week since I got back.

I’ve been teaching young men and women how to hunt and shoot for more than twenty-five years.  One of my apprentices turned into my long-term hunting buddy and friend, and he’s a very good shot.

I taught him the basics when he was twelve.  He trained a Border collie to hunt when he was fourteen.  When he was sixteen he kept his grampa’s 12 gauge pump-action shotgun in the trunk of his car when he went to school (that was back in the day when such things were common and not against the law), along with a box of clay pigeons and my thrower.  He would talk one of his classmates into going out with him after school to a parcel of land his father owned, and he’d shoot half a box of shells at a time.  By the end of spring term he was a good shot.

That fall he and a friend of his made a bet about who could shoot the most birds in the season.  The friend had a much nicer-semi automatic shotgun and an actual hunting dog, a Brittany Spaniel. 

Both young men had become incredibly adept at making the shotgun do what they wanted by the time pheasant and quail season opened.  That year a blizzard on Halloween closed the schools, the roads, and my practice.  Of course I went hunting with three high schoolers.  We hunted a field four abreast, maintaining a distance of twenty yards between us.  I walked second from the left and I couldn’t see the gunner on the far right for the snow.  At one point as I walked with my shotgun at the ready I heard the cackling of cock pheasants on my left.  Two roosters broke in front of the hunter beside me, and a moment afterwards a third did the same.  He shot the first two and before they hit the ground he killed the third. 

(We ate so much pheasant that year that I have some really fine-tuned recipes.  Around here we never had enough quail to become expert cooks with them.)

Rarely does a hunter hit a double on wild birds; declaring you’ve shot a triple in some circles will bring polite skepticism and in others will get you called liar.  To have three dead birds in the air at the simultaneously ranks as a once-in-a-lifetime feat.

Both sixteen year olds have come to middle age with grace and aplomb, both still shoot much better than I.  But at last I have the time to practice frequently. 

Achieving competence demands practice, having innate talent shortens the learning curve.  For many activities, whether shooting a shotgun or speaking Spanish, training at an early age brings a level of expertise not possible in later life.

Most regulars at the shooting range are retirees, and most of the best shots practice because as young hunters they never had the chance to shoot a half-box of shells a day, five days a week, and get really good.

I’m a family practitioner in Sioux City, Iowa.  While my one-year non-compete clause ticks off, I’m having adventures and working when I want.  To make a comment on a post, click on the title.

Shotguns, saxophones, and Tae Kwon Do: being a teacher and being a student

September 2, 2010

I went out with Aaron and Max

With shotguns, just to relax

     I didn’t joke

     Those targets I’d smoke

Though missing the ones with the quacks.

I drove down to the firearms range this morning to shoot clay pigeons with a friend, Aaron, and his cousin, Max.  I’ve been teaching young men (and a few young women) to hunt and shoot since 1983.  Aaron is my most recent apprentice.  He’s old enough now that he can drive himself and buy his own shotgun shells. 

At the trap thrower we ran into a man who had just purchased a “coach gun,” a double-barreled, side-by-side 12 gauge shotgun with a short but legal barrel.  He plans to start into Cowboy Action Shooting, the latest shooting game on the American firearms scene. 

Clay pigeons are neither clay nor pigeons; they come in boxes of 90 or 135, they fly like Frisbees, most are colored blaze orange, and they shatter easily. 

While setting up, I learned that the man with the coach gun is a twenty-seven year vet, and now retiree from the army.  I said that I was taking a sabbatical. It turned out he’d not shot clay birds before. 

I told him I could help him learn.  We set clay targets against a dirt bank, and starting five paces away; I had him destroy stationary targets at increasing distances.  Then I had him stand by the thrower and track the movement of the flying clay bird with his shotgun.  When he was tracking well I had him load his scattergun and shoot.  He broke the first two pigeons, and we applauded. 

When it came my turn, I shot my 20 gauge over-under well, turning target after target into small clouds of black smoke. 

We left when the rain started.

I lunched sushi with Aliya, our youngest daughter.  I came home and napped and went to my saxophone lesson.

My playing brought a smile to the face of my teacher, Diane.  She explained some very simple, very basic things about jazz pentatonic scales.  Then she put on a Miles Davis disc, showed me the sheet music, and we traded solos at the breaks.  I don’t know who was more pleased. 

Had I had the kind of musical encouragement, nurturing, and education forty years ago that I got this summer, my career might have gone differently.  All in all, I think things have gone for the best, and my teacher would agree. 

I’m sure my music has acquired a depth that it would haven’t had if I had stayed in the music world.

At five I drove with my friend, John, to Onawa for Tae Kwon Do.  John hopes to test for his fifth degree black belt in October.

I can’t stop being a doctor, and in Onawa I’m outside the thirty-mile limit of my non-compete clause.  Nor can I break confidentiality about what advice I gave in the parking lot (no, I didn’t send a bill).

I will say that real hypoglycemia occurs less often than people think.  Growing adolescents make a lot of a growth hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF), and hypoglycemia in that case tends to come in the morning.  Good treatment demands good diet, with low glycemic index foods, and especially a good breakfast.  But that’s good advice for everyone.

Though four years have passed since my last Tae Kwon Do lesson, I remembered my form well.  John gave good instruction.

Being a student is part of the human condition, and there are those of us who have the urge to teach.  I had a day of being both teacher and student.