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CASH Courier > Summer 1994 Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier
From the Spring / Summer 2002 Issue

REFORMATION IS POSSIBLE
A License to Kill

Little did I know that my first hunting trip would change me forever. At the beginning of hunting season, my friends brought their trophies to school: chipmunk and squirrel tails, and rabbit feet. A sense of pride was strong as we huddled in small groups in the school’s parking lot during our recess. A dismembered squirrel tail isn’t a pretty sight, but I was awed by the bushy gray fur that was soft to the touch. I had to have one for my own, I thought. I too could show off to my friends in a huddle behind the school.

I begged my parents everyday to use my father’s small 22 rifle but, as mothers are always protective of their young, the answer was “no.” After repeated requests, my father finally decided to let me use his rifle. My mother still objected because of the danger of hunting. My father’s decision enlivened me, and I prepared myself, on my own, for the hunting weekend.

I slept very lightly the night before, and the sun seemed to rise early that morning. I dressed and placed my newly acquired hunting cap proudly on my head.

I ate breakfast quickly, and waited impatiently for my father to retrieve his rifle from his closet. He brought it to me still in its case, and he laid it down on the kitchen table. He unsnapped the hinges, which seemed to take a lifetime. Lifting the case, I saw the rifle. It was made of hardwood which had a glossy finish to it. A scope was aligned on the top of the barrel. The ammo clip which was separate from the gun was beside it. I snatched it, and proceeded to load the chamber greedily with bullets. As I placed the clip in my pocket, I lifted the gun which was heavier than it looked. I slung its harness over me. The gun pressed against my back as I bolted for the door. My father, behind me, yelled out loudly! “Whatever you kill must be eaten.” I had already reached the boundaries of our backyard, which led to the forest, when my father’s command sank in. I always wondered if this law applied for my friends, obviously not the ones with chipmunk tails.

The forest which surrounded our house loomed above me. I entered the forest in a flash and loaded the ammo clip into the rifle. The air was cold but I didn’t feel it. I walked the beaten trail which led to my destination, a small trek through the woods, roughly a mile from my house, where many deer trails have intersected my trail. It’s a trail I made which led to a place I named squirrel canyon. A miniature valley about a hundred feet across and roughly thirty feet wide. On one side, there was a steep embankment, on the other rose ten foot high rocky ledges. Large pine trees with many branches in every direction grew in this valley.

In a small clearing on the highest point of the rocky ledges the trail ended. As I stood in the clearing many sounds of birds small and large echoed through the valley. The squirrels (my goal) chattered among themselves in the tops of the large trees. I clambered among the large cracked boulders to get myself in a comfortable position. I slid the lever of the gun towards me to load the gun. I peered into the opened chamber and examined the bullet. I pushed the lever forward and I watched the bullet disappear into the barrel locking it into place with a metallic clank. I then focused on the trees, and I waited for a glimpse of the gray squirrel to pop out any moment.

After a long period of time, the largest of the gray squirrels appeared out in the open on a limb of a pine tree.

Without thinking I raised the rifle hastily, and I peered into the scope which brought me closer to the animal. I placed the crosshairs of the scope directly below the head where I suspected his heart was. As I inspected the squirrel through the scope, its gray fur glistened in the sunlight, and its bushy tail rose above him. I noticed that his eyes were upon me in the brief few seconds that passed. My body shook with nervousness and my breathing became rapid, as my finger slowly pulled the cold steel trigger. I began to sweat profusely until the boiling inside me exploded with a loud high pitched crack of the rifle.

The branches were momentarily shifted and a small cloud of pine needles scattered and fell to the ground. The gray body of the animal tumbled also. It landed in a crackling crash among the dry leaves and pine needles of the earth. I lowered the gun while my heart still raced from the ordeal. I jumped over the rocks down into the bottom of the valley where the squirrel lay. As I neared the squirrel, it was the size of a small cat. Its belly turned upward facing me. The bullet had struck him in the chest which gave me a view of his insides. For three seconds I watched his heart stop beating and blood ooze up from the hole. I had witnessed his death. His lifeless eyes were still upon me as I stood above him. The feeling of pride had disappeared and I was overwhelmed with sorrow. His eyes burned into my soul. I crouched down and grabbed the nearest twig from the forest’s floor. I prodded the squirrel with the twig until the eyes of the squirrel were no longer facing me.

In some way I hoped the animal was still alive, but I knew this couldn’t be. I stared at my own hands noticing the curves and shapes of each finger. Had they been the actual final instigator of the slaughter. I wished this had never happened, but I could not turn back the clock and change time. Anger welled up inside me at this thought. My innocence was corrupted. Had I become one of my friends? There was no glory in killing this animal, only guilt. I had no right to take the creature’s life for my self -esteem. This wouldn’t make me a better person at all.

I looked upward where the trees crowded the blue sky above. I cried out in desperation: “Change this.” If there really is someone watching over me, “Please, change this!” But there was no reply, only a small gush of chilling wind which dislodged the pine needles that landed on my tear stricken face. Again and again I pleaded, but to no avail. I looked down at the animal, and acknowledged what I had done, and vowed never again to hunt.

JUSTIN SILLIMAN WAS IN MIDDLE SCHOOL WHEN HE WROTE THIS. IT WAS RECENTLY SUBMITTED BY A MEMBER AND ACTIVIST MARY MILLER OF PA. MARY WROTE,: “I APPLAUD MY FRIEND, JUSTIN, FOR SPEAKING FROM HIS HEART, AS SO MANY ARE RELUCTANT TO DO. I SHARE IT WITH YOU WITH THE HOPE THAT YOU MAY WANT TO PUBLISH IT AS ANOTHER AID IN OUR CONTINUED WAR AGAINST THE MENTALITY THAT PERPETUATES THE SUFFERING AND KILLING OF ANIMALS.” C.A.S.H. HOPES JUSTIN’S EXPERIENCE WILL SPARE OTHER YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR POTENTIAL VICTIMS, A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE.

WE LAMENT THE FACT THAT JUSTIN IS STILL THE ODD CASE. C.A.S.H. FEELS THAT BLAME MUST BE PLACED ON THE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AGENCIES AND THE LEGISLATURES THAT ENCOURAGE AND PERMIT 12 YEAR OLDS TO HUNT (IN SOME STATES) SO LONG AS THEY ARE ACCOMPANIED (NOT SUPERVISED) BY SOMEONE 21 OR OLDER. THAT’S RATHER HAIR RAISING. IT’S MITIGATED ONLY BY THE FACT ONE OF THEM CAN LEGALLY BE DRINKING.

ANNOUNCEMENT:

THE FUND FOR ANIMALS WILL BE HAVING A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL ON AUGUST 31ST TO BRING ATTENTION TO THE BEGINNING OF SQUIRREL HUNTING SEASON.. NURSING MOTHER SQUIRRELS ARE SHOT, LEAVING THE BABIES TO DIE. PLEASE WRITE TO : JOANNA RIX AT XXXX FOR INFORMATION OR MARION STARK IN NYS AT THE FUND FOR ANIMALS. XXX.

A letter sent to C.A.S.H. along the same lines:

Dear C.A.S.H. I am a reformed hunter. I grew up in rural LA and was indoctrinated early --fishing and hunting with my father from age 7. I have a B.A. in Wildlife Management, where I was further indoctrinated in the harvest ethic, and even worked as a hunting guide.

My transformation began when I stopped eating red meat and began running in order to get back in shape -- I’m an ex-jock. The renewed vigor and fitness was astounding, especially in regards to the time it took. So I adopted a vegetarian lifestyle. Then a friend introduced me to Animal Liberation and I was a convert. I have been vegan for 7 years now and one definite advocate of animal rights.

Namaste, Don

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