The Deep Magic of Fatherhood

A Boy’s First Kill
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Helping raise three of these has been my greatest triumph. Against the backdrop
of a vigorous life characterized by adventure aplenty nothing has enriched my life more.

How could something so ethereal and diaphanous be so unimaginably powerful? I had never seen him before, but when our eyes met for the first time something inexplicable happened. If that kid suddenly needed a heart he could have mine. Such is the simply breathtaking gravitas of fatherhood.

As he grew, he challenged me in many different ways. Never before have I worked so hard on something so satisfying. Prior to his second birthday my son wasn’t terribly interesting. Once he developed a personality however, I just couldn’t get enough.

I don’t know that I ever really understood my relationship with God until I had kids of my own. I possessed the capacity to bend them to my will, but I chose not to do so. Even when they were making mistakes I allowed it because I appreciated that they would be better for the experience. I think there is something deep and timeless hidden there.

We were some of those homeschool freaks. Guns weren’t a problem, but an integral component of our school. Close combat skills were part of our academic curriculum. I included ammunition as a household school expense. When the time was right I taught my boys everything I knew about weapons, tactics, and combat both armed and otherwise.

We live way out in the sticks. The local cops, all of whom are friends, are twenty minutes distant on a good day. Concerned buddies would occasionally ask me if I was comfortable raising my family so far away from civilization. That always brought a smile. If some ne’er-do-well got past my boys he deserved anything he could find.

Go Time

The call came on a busy day at the clinic while I was neck deep in alligators. When the House Commander beckons that takes priority. I found a quiet spot and took the call. Surprisingly, it was my 13-year-old son.

The monster was back. The enormous water moccasin that had been cruising about the lake that serves as our backyard was now draped across a fallen treetop on the far side soaking up the sun. I had taken a shot at him with a 12-gauge a couple weeks before, but he was just a bit out of range. The next time I spotted him I thought he might be rocking an eye patch.

I had my son organize and plan the operation. He would put my wife and two younger children in a safe place indoors and then relocate up to a comfortable spot overlooking the lake. He briefed me up on the weapon, the backstop, and the range limits. He fielded my many questions like a professional. Once I was satisfied I exercised my prerogative as the National Command Authority and granted approval to execute the mission.

My son arranged a GI-issue sleeping mat and stretched out behind our Remington 700 bolt-action precision rifle in .223. He glassed the target and grew mindful of his breathing. It was a big snake, but the head was still a relatively small target. Per our discussion he aimed center of mass.

His first round went just a bit high. He made a slight adjustment just as he had been trained and fired again. His second shot blew the big snake in half. He then cleared the rifle, stowed the rounds safely in his pocket, and recovered the gear.
My son called me back a few minutes later breathless with excitement. I couldn’t have been prouder. I brought home Papa John’s pizza that evening to celebrate.

Two shots, one kill. I later established the range as 98 meters using my handheld rangefinder. The target was about the size of a tangerine. Not bad for a 13-year-old on his first solo combat op downrange.

You may find that tale unsettling. Perhaps you think it poor parenting to put an unsupervised 13-year-old behind such a deadly weapon. We may simply have to disagree about that.

I would put my kids, all of whom are responsible tax-paying adults today, up against any others on the planet. I also don’t worry overly about their safety and security nowadays. My wife taught them math, history, and literature. I taught them self-reliance as well as respect for the weak, frail, and helpless. I also taught them to be ruthlessly aggressive in the face of danger. With the benefit of hindsight things have turned out fairly well.

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