Where to begin. A friend sent me a copy of Goat Mountain by David Vann, and it dredged up all kinds of memories. My grandfathers were both hunters, as was my father, but I never went hunting with them, and I thank God for that. I was too weak, too small, too much like a little girl to be taken into the woods with a weapon.

My first contact with a rifle came when my father was shooting at clay pigeons with a shotgun. He stepped aside and handed the gun to me. He wanted me to be more manly. If he had known what I was thinking — that by shooting him my life could be so much better — he probably wouldn’t have given me the gun. But he didn’t have much of an imagination, and my better-self decided not to blow his head off. I closed my eyes as the clay disc was released, aimed somewhere into the sky, pulled the trigger, and it was over.

My next gun was an M-16 in Basic Training. Being a Winship, I knew, genetically, how to line up the shot, and I shot Expert, winning a ribbon. More importantly, I felt a terrific rush, knowing that I was just seconds, inches, away from killing someone. I loved it, such a feeling of power. Life and death. I had to qualify twice more while in the service. The first time, I just pulled the trigger. The second time, I had a friend check my name off without going to the range. I haven’t touched a gun since.


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