I make no secret that I am a country boy. I'm not a cowboy but I can I ride a horse. I'm not a farmer but I know how to work a tractor. I'm not a rancher but I know my way around farm animals. I'm not a sniper but I know how to shoot a gun. My family lived in the country for the majority of my childhood where I was obviously exposed to a lot of aspects of country living.
From an early age, I was taught how to responsibly use guns, even though I didn't always adhere to those rules (my brother bears the scar of my irresponsibility). My dad owned a few guns and he taught me and my brother how to use them. Pistols, shotguns, and rifles, we both learned how to shoot them all and eventually how to clean and maintain them.
My dad was not a big hunter, he was more of a fisherman when he had the spare time to indulge in such activities but my brother and I passed a lot of our time hunting. Of course, as children we prowled around our property with BB guns harassing the wildlife in the trees. Of course, we knew certain animals were "off limits" and illegal to shoot and never did harm to any protected species. We honed our skills shooting random targets likes cans, bottles, and such with the occasional wild animal thanks to the countryside being filled with things like mice, rats, squirrels, possums, and whatnot.
As we grew older, my brother took on raising a calf for a school project which led to us owning a few head of cattle over the years that followed. Fortunately, thanks to my young age and extracurricular activities, my dad and brother did most of the fencing and barn building work. I know how to work a T-post driver and a come-along but I dodged having to use them, which I was very happy about. However, once that was done, I got the pleasure of helping with the calves. We would wake up early before school to make milk bottles to fed them, plunging pills down their throats, and desperately trying not to step in the countless piles of poop that littered the barn floor.
Between school, sports, and cows, I spent a lot of my time riding up and down the dirt roads that surrounded our house with my friends. I had three very close friends that lived near our house. Two of them had property that butted up against our property. This was pretty convenient because this meant we could just hop a fence and cross the pastures to be at each others houses in only a few minutes rather than taking the much longer route down the road. Although, as we got older and go-carts became involved, traveling between houses along the road not only became much faster but also a lot more fun.
For the most part, I have nothing but wonderful memories of growing up in the country. So much fun that I still live in the country. I married a city girl and we moved into the country where she is happy too. Now she doesn't like the idea of moving back to the city. She has been converted!
The country is not all fun though. Growing up there were a few instances that made a lasting impact that I'm sure others might consider negative.
Being that we were in the country, it was perfectly legal for us to shoot our guns, that later would evolve from our BB guns to larger guns of our own. As long as we followed the rules (shooting on our property, not shooting from or over a public roadway, not shooting from or onto private property that we didn't have permission for, not damaging other's private property, not injuring anyone, etc.), then there was nothing wrong with our use of guns. We always tried to make sure that we followed the rules to protect ourselves and our neighbors, even making sure that we never shot our guns after dark or during times most people might be sleeping. However, it seemed that frequently, despite our efforts, one neighbor did not appreciate our use of guns.
On more than one occasion my brother and I were visited by members of the county sheriff's office to discuss with us our shooting activities. And despite the legality of our actions, it often seemed that those who visited with us tried to use their position and our age as motivation in their attempts to bully us into not doing things that we were legally allowed to do. After a while, it left us both with a feeling of contempt for members of law enforcement that would later dictate how we interacted with them.
There was one time one showed up at our house and began questioning us about our actions. We explained to the officer who we were, why we were at that property (at the time I was 15 so I lived there), and even what efforts we took to ensure we caused no damage to our neighbor's property. The officer then proceeded to suggest to my brother, who, as the older of us, was the main one interacting with the officer, that we take our activities to other locations despite his suggestions being highly illegal. He suggested that we shoot from my brother's house even though it was within city limits and therefore illegal to discharge a firearm from that property. He suggested we shoot on someone else's property away from our neighbor who complained despite us not having permission to shoot on any anyone else's property which would have been considered unlawful discharge of a firearm but also trespassing. He suggested shooting into the ditch of the road which would have been wildly irresponsible and extremely illegal. My brother pointed out the flaws in each of the officer's suggestions which seemed to only irritate the officer. I don't know if he was intentionally suggesting these things to get us in trouble or what but my brother was quick show that we knew the law and wouldn't be hoodwinked so easily.
Each encounter with the cops resulted in nothing being done. They would come and tell us the neighbor complained, one time suggesting that he could hear the bullets whizzing by the outside of his house while he sat inside watching TV (wow!). We broke no laws so there was nothing the cops could do but rather than just assess the situation and be on their way, the cops seemed to always make poor suggestions to us or make threats about what they would do if we continued to legally discharge our firearms on our property. We were never rude or hateful to the cops that showed up at our house but we were sure to let them know that we were operating within the legal guidelines. Regardless, the attitude and bullish nature of the officers created a lasting impression.
I've since mellowed and no longer hold such disdain for law enforcement in general. I have several friends in that field and know them to be good people. But still those memories from my childhood influence my personality. I'm sure a lot of it will happen subconsciously but there is and will be no doubt that certain areas of my writing will reflect the experiences from my country upbringing and possibly my less than favorable memories of interacting with "Johnny Law".