Thirteen Years Old Today

It has been exactly one year since I wrote a blog essay titled, Twelve Years Old Today. Now my youngest son, James, has became a teenager, which means that, as of today, Marlene and I are the parents of three teenage boys. Please pray for us.

James woke up this morning and came downstairs to find his birthday present on the kitchen table. Marlene and I gave him one present. It was what he was hoping for… A Henry Lever Action .22 rifle.

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We’ve been plinking cans and little apples on top of cans in the back yard today. The gun has a smooth action and shoots straight. The walnut stock is beautiful. If taken care of, the rifle should last a couple lifetimes. James will be able to hand it down to a son or grandson, or even a daughter or granddaughter.

In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, I have a chapter titled Annie’s Got A Raccoon!. I tell the story of James, at 11-years-old, shooting a rabid coon in the creek behind our house, using his brother’s 20-gauge shotgun. This child has outdoor adventures and exploits like I never imagined at his age. That’s because I lived in a suburban housing project. My father didn’t hunt. He has never owned a gun.

The childhood my son experiences within the rural setting where we live allows him to grow up doing many of the same things that boys of our agrarian past did. Fishing, trapping, rabbit hunting, squirrel hunting, woodchuck hunting, exploring in the surrounding countryside, camping out, cooking meals over a campfire, building forts, and so forth. This is a big reason why Marlene and I choose to raise our boys in this setting.

When you restrict a boy to an urban or suburban neighborhood, without wide spaces and wild adventures for him to explore and experience on a daily basis, it is akin to cruelty. That is my opinion. Furthermore, I think the cruelty is compounded when you send the boy to a government school where he has to sit still for long periods while being slowly and surely institutionalized, socialized, and feminized by the educational machine.

It makes me think of factory-raised chickens, confined to cages, never even seeing the light of day. Or industrially-raised cows in enormous dairy “farms” that never get to graze in a pasture. I don't believe God made animals to be confined in such horrible places. And boys (which can, at times, act a lot like animals) need a natural setting to grow up and mature in too.

There are people who fear the idea of giving a 13-year-old boy his own rifle. For them I offer the following quotation, which is from the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge (it is also found on page 85 of my book):

How many parents have tried in vain to prevent little Timmy from playing with guns? Give it up. If you do not supply a boy with weapons, he will make them from whatever materials are at hand. My boys chew their graham crackers into the shape of hand guns at the breakfast table. Every stick or fallen branch is a spear, or better, a bazooka.

Despite what many modern educators would say, this is not a psychological disturbance brought on by violent television or chemical imbalance. Aggression is part of the masculine design; [men] are hardwired for it. If we believe that man is made in the image of God, them we would do well to remember that The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name(Exodus 15:3)

Happy Birthday, James!
Don't forget.....yer Pa loves ya!


Anonymous said...

A Very Happy Birthday to James!

How true that boys and weapons belong together. Mine have put together an explosive variation of 'rock, paper, scissors'...they call it 'rpg, daisy cutter, nuclear missle'. It seems there is rarely a winner.

Congratulations on such a fine young man.

(this is my first comment, but I've been a long-time reader and may I say thank you for giving me a glimpse into this wonderful agrarian life of yours)

Anonymous said...

Hi Herrick,

Tell James I had a 410 over and under with the 22 on the bottom - I think I was his age. I never did know what happened to it. I hunted out in back of the camp but couldn't kill the animals. I could beat most people at target shooting, but cried when I killed a bird or small animal so stopped hunting.

Hope my BD card arrived in time. It was raining so hard we couldn't make it to the PO until Fri.

Give James my Love and a big HUG from his G-Aunt Carolyn.....Catch you later.

Anonymous said...

Herrick, I splurged a little and bought my son Nicholas a Henry .22 cal Golden Boy for Christmas a couple years ago. Henry makes a very fine rifle. Happy birthday James

Anonymous said...

your post brought back some great memories for me. 35 years and 12 days ago, my dad hauled me into the local hardware store and let me pick out my first 22. I chose a Browning BL22 lever, much like your son's Henry (Henry was not in business)

Now, Dad is gone, the downtown hardware store is gone,but the little Browning is still there. She has accounted for raccoons, groundhogs, rabbits, possums, squirrels, muskrats, and numerous empty cans. After thousands of rounds, she still shoots center. The outside has some dings and scratches, mostly from the trapline, but each one is a memory when I hold it. My wife (Granny Miller) is partial to the little Browning for groundhogs.

Guns are one the the few consumer goods you can buy in modern America that will last the owner's life and then some.

I hope and pray your son will enjoy his Henry for many years. Tell him to NEVER sell a gun. (He may be tempted when he starts a family and has needs for all kind of stuff to start housekeeping) At this point in my life I would not take any amount of money for my 35 year old 22.

Keep on raising those boys right.

Your friends in Western Pa

Herrick Kimball said...

HI Julia--
It's nice to hear from you. Sounds like your boys and mine would have a good time together.

Hi Aunt Carolyn--
What a neat rifle to have. I sure did love my days at the camp as a little boy. And I had guns there too, but they were toy ones. I remember Grampie's gun collection in the basement of the house. There was no ammo around and Grammie let me play with them down there. He had Colt revolvers and I'm pretty certain there was an old Winchester lever action or two down there too. Those guns are now worth a LOT of money. I suspect your gun was in the collection. James will be very happy to get your card.

That Henry Golden Boy is a real fine gun. I looked it over and considered it, but just couldn't bring myself to spend the extra for it. I'm sure Nicholas will cherish that gun his whole life.

Hi Granny Miller's Husband--
Thanks for sharing about your Browning. I suspect your gun story is a familiar one with many men and I like the thought of my grown boys one day telling how, long ago, their father bought them a gun--one that they still own. I'll pass your advice on to James.


I have read your blog with such great interest! You are so generous with information and I want to say thank you. I have the courage to do some stuff now that I don't think I would have attempted before.

I hope it was a wonderful day for James! May it be the best year yet!

I must comment further that it is not only a cruel thing to little boys to chain them for years to a desk. I remember one week after school had started - as a 5 year old - being returned on the Monday and experiencing the shocking realisation that I had to do it all over again! My patience the week before had no more reward than more of the awful boredom of restrained limbs and the mindless watching of a woman at a chalk-board. I screamed and resisted as any wild animal - fighting to return to those sunny days outside on my tricycle as my Mom gardened. The callous, cruel quenching that comes by modern society as it batters the joy, enthusiasm and creativity out of a child. I still remember it so well..... and it has been some time!

Chelle - Your new reader in South Africa

Yeoman said...

A belated Happy Birthday!

Interesting entry as well. I actually bought my son his first rifle when he was six years old. He's now almost ten, and won the country rifle match for his age class last year. He's already gone from his .410 to a 20 gauge, made all the more special for me by the fact he's shooting a 20 gauge that was my father.

I've never considered the point that raising a child away from nature is cruel, but I believe you are correct on that point.

tc said...

Hi, Herrick!

I started the tradition when my oldest turned 10 of giving him his first pocket knife, at 11 his first Daisy B-B gun, and at 12 his first rifle (a Savage .243) so he could join the men deer hunting. I felt that it was a good thing for a boy's first real gun to come from his father. I had planned to get him a .22 as his first rifle, until I realized that I hadn't started early enough and had to get him the deer rifle before deer season and not after! My son, knowing that deer season was coming was doing his best to earn enough money for half of it, and I would pay the other half. Imagine his surprise when he opened his birthday gift and found we had given him the gun he had been saving up his money for. He put that saved money to good use - a 20-gauge single-shot shotgun.

Of course, once the tradition is started, my second son expected the same order and will be getting his deer rifle this December, right after deer season, so he'll have to wait a year before he will get a chance to go out with the rest of the men.


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