My girls asked how I was spending Boxing Day, I sent them this note and thought I'd share it with you:
Tomorrow I'm getting out of Toronto for the day.
I'm off to my friends farm fifty miles north of here to do some shooting with my air rifles.
Time was, I delighted in killing thousands of Gods' little furry and feathered creatures. No more; these days I delight in watching them in the countryside and only shoot at paper targets and beer cans.
It does remind me of a story though:
I turned nine years old in November 1958 and my birthday present was two fold.
First, I received a single barrel .410 shotgun. (no cartridges)
Second, I received an invitation to the next Boxing Day pheasant shoot with my father, providing that he was satisfied with my safety training with the gun.
I can vividly remember taking the gun to bed with me, and when I woke up, wondering if mom would be annoyed at the oil stains on my pillow....... she never said a word.
I knew all about the Boxing Day shoot. Every year my father put our Spaniel in the car at about 8am and we didn't see him again until late afternoon. He always came home with an exhausted dog and at least six pheasants, and we sat down to a large Christmas leftovers meal. He would tell me about the days events while he cleaned his gun, and there by the fire, he taught me how to clean mine.
I went shooting with my father on Boxing Day for the next twenty years.
Several of those shoots were close to our home in the western Isle of Wight. My father was a member of a syndicate that had two thousand acres of shooting throughout the Island and for many years the Boxing Day morning would be spent along the banks of the River Yar with lunch being taken at The Causeway Bridge just a few minutes from home. The landlord of the local pub was always invited, always brought along a crate of beer, (wooden crates in those days), and the women folk would show up with a great cold lunch.
Our village was typical of hundreds in Southern England in that law enforcement was carried out by the local policeman on his bicycle, everybody knew him and he knew everybody. When I come to think of it, if he caught any of us doing wrong, scrumping apples for example, we would get a clip around the ear and the most terrible of warnings... "If I catch you at that again, I'll tell your Father".
There was a law in England that had been in effect for over one hundred years. It stated that in order to shoot pheasant, partridge, grouse and several other creatures you needed to take out an annual Game License. The cost was never changed at one guinea, in other words, one pound one shilling, long an obsolete measure of currency, except perhaps in the world of horse racing. My father maintained, and he was right, that this law was an anachronism put in place to deny common game to the common man, and preserve it for the sport and eating pleasure of the gentry.... No one on our Boxing Day shoot ever bothered to obtain a Game License!!.
For a number of years our local policeman would cycle down to the Causeway Bridge just as we were having our lunch on Boxing Day. Behind his saddle he had the standard large black bag that carried whatever the police regarded as emergency equipment in those days. He would open up his saddle bag which was empty, and state his intent to inspect our Game Licenses. A fine brace of pheasant found their way into the bag at which point he would open a beer and say that he was too busy to worry about the licenses at the moment, and wish us all a Happy New Year.
Those really were the days.
Tomorrow I will be surrounded by Canada Geese and Wild Turkey, all standing out against the snow.
Lord.... lead me out of the way of temptation.
December 28th 2013