Davy Crockett in Alaska?
by Michael R Dougherty
You've heard the theme song from the classic TV show "Davy Crockett" where they sing about how Davy "killed him a bear when he was only three."
Well, as far as I know, Davy Crockett was never in Alaska, but this is a story about how, when I was just 10 years old, I was a pretty fair marksman and my ability to hit the target at my young age ended up winning me a nice prize.
Growing up in Alaska, my dad took the time to teach me, my sister Anna and young brother Tom, the proper respect for guns, how to use them, and gun safety.
Dad was a good shot and also taught us how to use a rifle site, and how to hit our target.
And even though I was a good shot and used guns safely, when I was about 10 years old and decided that I wanted a BB gun for Christmas, my mom wasn't very keen on the idea.
Some years ago when the now classic movie "A Christmas Story" first started playing on TV, I knew exactly how the young boy named Ralphie felt in the movie. He wanted a Red Rider BB gun for Christmas, but his mom kept saying "you'll shoot your eye out."
In my case my mom just wasn't sure that at 10 years of age, I was ready for a BB gun.
As it turned out, just like in "A Christmas Story", Ralphie did get a BB gun, and in real life, so did I.
We were living on a farm off Hyer Road in Wasilla. That winter and summer I did a lot of target practicing with my trusty BB gun. And yes, there were times when my "target" was not something I should have been shooting.
One day while walking around with my BB gun, I shot my younger brother Tom in the backside. For the record, I felt very bad and pinky swore never to do it again if my brother would promise not to tell mom. We both kept our promise.
Unkind target practicing aside, I did become a very good shot.
Some years later, were were living in a small cabin off Goose Bay Road near Wasilla. One day I was walking in the woods near our cabin and happened to be carrying my trusty BB gun.
Suddenly I came upon a small flock of Spruce Hen.
It quickly occurred to me that if I was able to get one of the Spruce Hen, I could take it home and we could have roasted Spruce Hen for dinner.
I carefully got as close to the Spruce Hen as I could and selected a likely target.
Now if you've ever seen Spruce Hen, they never seem to stop bobbing their heads up and down.
Without getting into the details of my hunt, I took aim and literally timed the bobbing of the Spruce Hen's head with my trigger finger. At the right moment I held my breath and gently squeezed the trigger.
My shot was right on target and we had Spruce Hen for dinner.
That summer I was able to get several more Spruce Hen that same way.
One day at work, my dad was telling a co-worker that I had brought home several Spruce Hen with nothing more than a BB gun. His co-worker was impressed and told my dad that if I could get three more Spruce Hen by the end of summer, using only my BB gun, that he would give me a very nice pellet rifle.
I gladly accepted the challenge and by the end of summer I won the rifle.
One day my mom drove me out with her to pick up dad from the road job he was working on. There, dad introduced me to his friend who went over to his pick-up and came back with the pellet rifle.
Dad's friend congratulated me on being such a good Alaska marksman, told me to always be safe with the gun, and then handed me my prize.
I thanked him and for a few moments I felt a little like Davy Crockett or Sergeant York, the decorated World War 1 marksman.
I had that pellet rifle for a lot of years until I lost it when I fell in Ship Creek in Anchorage. But that's another story.
In retelling this adventure, I recall my younger days of living out in the woods of Alaska. I learned a lot about nature, respecting the environment, and our wildlife. Mom and dad taught us well. And where ever I go in this world, I always have the precious memories of my time in the woods of Alaska right there with me.
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