By Jerrick Irby
I could hardly contain myself; the anticipation was overwhelming. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. The sun peeked through the canopy of surrounding oak trees as my Dad and I walked together in the woods. My shoes and pant legs were wet from the early morning dew. Irritated grasshoppers jumped as I passed by, flying a few feet ahead only to be disturbed again moments later. I followed nervously, half running, trying to keep pace with my Dad. How much further did we have to go? Would we have the place to ourselves? Would I make him proud? Countless other questions raced through my six year old mind .
A promise. A promise—made weeks earlier by my Dad—that I could shoot his .22lr revolver. Affirmation. Affirmation from my Dad that I was old enough, responsible enough, man enough to be entrusted with such an awesome responsibility.
After what seemed like an eternity, we exited the woods and walked into a small, rectangular clearing. A shallow creek with only a trickle of water remaining from the summer heat snaked its way at the far end of the clearing. Beyond that, an earthen berm rose sharply from the banks, a single railroad track at its crest. This was, my Dad told me, the perfect place to shoot.
My heart was pounding. My only prior experience with firearms was shooting my Red Ryder BB gun at plastic army men in the backyard. This, however, was different. This time it was real. My Dad placed a half dozen aluminum cans near the bank of the creek. Returning, he unzipped a small, triangular shaped case as I anxiously watched.
There it was in all of its glory! My Dad’s .22lr Ruger Single Six revolver, complete with leather holster, waiting patiently for me. My Dad checked the cylinder, reminded me of the Four Rules of Gun Safety, and handed me the revolver. It was heavy! The sun reflected brightly off the chrome cylinder and barrel. I squeezed the smooth wood grips tightly, fearful that I might accidently let the revolver slip. My Dad showed me how to advance the cylinder, how to align the sights, and how to cock the single-action hammer. I was fascinated by the revolver’s mechanics and how everything worked in sync.
Satisfied that I had familiarized myself with the revolver and the Four Rules, my Dad broke open a small box of .22lr ammunition and handed me six rounds. I slowly loaded the revolver, taking care not to drop one of the .22lr rounds. I stood there for a moment, my six year old mind taking it all in. I looked to my Dad for direction. Could I shoot? He smiled down at me—likely reflecting on years past when my Granddaddy brought him here—and nodded for me to take a shot.
My arms trembled as I pressed the revolver forward, struggling to keep the barrel steady and find an aluminum can within the revolver’s sights. I carefully pulled back the hammer, the cylinder advancing forward one spot. My mind raced: hold it steady, don’t touch the trigger until you’re ready, easy does it—BOOM!
I can still hear the sound of the first shot. The crack of the diminutive .22lr round caught me by surprise. It was the first time I had ever heard a gunshot, much less actually been the one doing the shooting. I don’t recall if I hit a can with that first shot (or any subsequent shots for that matter) or how long we stayed. But I do remember the faint, lingering smoke, the acrid smell of lead and gunpowder blending together, and the satisfaction of shooting my first real gun. That and my Dad grinning with pride.
Many years have passed since my Dad took me shooting for the first time. Since then I’ve shot countless rounds from many firearms. Most instances, while always enjoyable, were ordinary and unremarkable. That’s to be expected, I suppose. Not much can compete with the first time your dad took you shooting.
Now, a father myself, I look forward to that bright, sunny morning in the woods when I look behind and see a little boy, shoes and pants wet from dew, half-running behind me as we head to the berm.