2013 Index of Articles

Cover vs. Concealment (part 1) What Do Children Think About Gun Control?
Guns: Not Just for Girls Just For Fun
Schools Teaching Gun Safety? A Hunting Adventure
School Resource Officers Civil Disobedience
Good Sense, Bad Sense, and No Sense at All A Hunting We Will Go
How To Stay Safe When Out With Kids  

2015, 2014, 2012



Let me hear from you if you have a topic you'd like to see addressed in Mom's corner.

Cover vs. Concealment (part 1)
December 2013

As Christmas approaches and unwrapped gifts begin to accumulate in the recesses of the house, hidden from the children but not undiscoverable, the concepts of “cover” and “concealment” ultimately mean the same thing:  keep the kids from finding the loot and spoiling their holiday surprises. But in everyday tactical usage, those two words have very different meanings. While the joyful holiday season probably doesn’t prompt you naturally to think of ways to educate your children in safety short of keeping trees watered and not using too many plugs in a single outlet, the upcoming school break is the perfect opportunity to teach your littles something practical while you enjoy the change in routine and extra time together. Let’s look, then, at “cover” and “concealment” as they relate to personal defense:

  •  Concealment:  an object that hides you
  •  Cover:  concealment that will stop a bullet

Ah, see? There’s the difference. Concealment could be a bush, a group of people, a stack of blankets, or a large trash can. They may not make you effectively invisible, but they offer you a place to hide. Cover, on the other hand, is concealment (hiding or obscuring the sight of you) that will stop a bullet, such as a rock or brick wall, a large tree, a steel door, or a hill of earth.

Look around your world. Right now, wherever you’re reading this, just look around and think about what in your immediately setting could be used for concealment and cover. Under a desk? Concealment. Behind drywall? Concealment. Behind a stacked bookcase? Cover. Behind a bricked wall? Cover. Now walk into your backyard. That shed? Probably concealment. Your kids’ treehouse? Concealment. That huge oak in the middle of the yard? Cover. The wooden fence? Concealment. The man-hole cover? Cover, if you can lift it. Next, look around the different rooms of your home. Where can you find cover? Where can you find concealment? A mattress will offer concealment but not necessarily cover, so don’t count on it. Those flimsy wood doors in your home’s interior, closets packed with clothes, your mattress, and your dresser are good concealment, but I wouldn’t trust them as cover. Your little locker-style gun safe is concealment, but the giant steel one you’ve bolted into the floor is cover. So is the refrigerator, or the wall behind your bricked fireplace.

Now that you’ve got the hang of it, it’s time to discuss cover and concealment with your children. It doesn’t have to be scary, either. Last week, my seven-year-old and I went to the park, just the two of us, on a Mommy-Daughter date. She climbed the rocket ship that has been in that park since I was her age and which I believe is held upright by layers and layers of paint, explored ditches and bridges, climbed towers and rode dinosaurs and swung from a tire swing, giggling and chatting the entire time. While we were perched astride a dinosaur, I asked her to look around and tell me where she could hide if she needed to. The first thing she suggested was the top of the rocket ship. “Great idea. It’s hard to see anything up there. But would the rocket ship stop a bullet?”  Even my little Bitsy Boo could see that it’s metal bars spaced several inches apart could not. Her next choice was the metal slide. Pretty good concealment, but iffy on cover. What else? That big tree. That little rock wall. Soon enough, our search for good cover had us running all over the park. That wooden fence. Behind the ride-on cars. Under the cement picnic table, or behind one of the wide cement table legs. In the drainage ditch. Under the bridge. As she pointed out each place, we discussed whether it would be good “cover” or merely “concealment”. You’d be surprised, perhaps, at how quickly even a little kid can grasp what will offer protection versus what will merely offer a hiding place. Next, we discussed strategy. “If the bad guy were over there, how could you get over here where you’ll be safest?”  Running from one cover/concealment location to the next, she could plot out a path that would get her away from danger while securing protection along the way. It was a game, it was fun, and she was proud of herself when we gave it up and went back to swinging. End of discussion. On to pedicures. Life is good.

No one expects bad things to happen when one is out in public, least of all little kids. Statistically, it is most likely that no single one of us will ever have to employ cover and concealment tactics to save our lives while we enjoy the world we live in. But if a bad situation does present itself to you, reacting quickly and having thought about cover and concealment can be the difference between personal tragedy and surviving. Don’t obsess, but don’t deny.

My success as a Santa’s helper depends largely on how well I’m able to conceal gifts from my children before they awaken Christmas morning to find goodies in their stockings and wrapped packages under the tree. My success as a mother may someday depend on whether I have taught my children the difference between “cover” and “concealment” so they are able to use both to their advantage. Imparting that to your children is a gift that costs nothing but an investment of time and brain power. I hope you’ll put it on your list.

Happy Holidays to all!

Cherise

See Cover vs. Concealment (part 2)

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How To Stay Safe When Out With Kids
November 2013

Several weeks ago, I wanted to take Missy Moo to see World War Z. I'd previewed it and knew it would be a suitable movie for my fears-nothing little fan of the macabre, but it had already been running a while and was about to leave the theaters. The only time and place it was showing was Bricktown at 10:15pm, which meant leaving the theater after midnight. I like Bricktown, and in spite of the trouble it has from time to time, never feel unsafe there. Leaving at midnight, however, while probably fine on a weekend when there would be plenty of people around didn’t sound like such a great idea on what was almost certain to be a comparatively desolate Monday night. My concern wasn’t for lurking zombies:  I’ve learned from The Walking Dead that the slow ones are pretty easily dispatched and figure I don’t have any chance whatsoever against the lightning fast World War Z variety hordes anyway. Nah. My thought was that leaving a theater at that time of the evening with my baby in tow might make us look like easy targets to a human predator. Even knowing I’d get close parking in a well-lit area and planning to go armed, I didn't want to leave myself and my daughter open to potential trouble.

So, I called for back-up. Aunt Denise Hughes – who is conveniently one of the OPD helpers in addition to being my sister and lifelong friend – came to the rescue with a second sidearm and her added adult presence. Too look at us, we were a happy trio of girlfriends holding hands – big girls on the outside and the tiny one in the middle – chatting happily as we walked to the movies. As OPD alums, though, our casual demeanor belied our awareness. As predicted, we parked in a well-lit area as close to the theater as we could. I had my kubotan key-chain in my hand, and Denise had her shooting hand free. We walked with purpose, but not hurriedly. All three of us continually scanned the area around us so we knew who was close and what they were up to, but we weren’t fretful. No one was edgy, or even spooked until we got into the theater and the first on-screen zombie startled Missy Moo nearly out of her seat. She got over it, though, and even laughed out loud at the chomping zombie toward the end of the picture, amused rather than nervous. That’s my girl! Afterwards, we followed the same procedure walking out as we had walking in and relished the beautiful night as we returned safely to the car. Missy Moo had a terrific time and enjoyed knowing that her Mommy and Auntie were there to have a good time AND make sure she was safe.

This approach seems to me to be common sense. Was it risky going out so late? To be honest and in hindsight, it would probably have gone every bit as smoothly had I taken Missy Moo alone. The streets were indeed largely deserted, but we never saw anyone who gave us cause for alarm or even warranted a second or long look. It was a quiet, perfect evening. But “probably” isn’t “definitely,” and pretending that everything will undoubtedly go well just because it always has and I expect it to isn’t sensible. If you’ve been following the local news lately, you know that failing to take even a few basic precautions has landed a couple of area moms, accompanied by their children, in life-threatening situations. We hear these stories and know that the predators are the ones to blame, yet also understand that reasonable precautions would have mitigated or even prevented the incidents in the first place. As mothers in particular, we have to be aware of potential threats, anticipate them, and prepare ourselves to handle them in case they arise. This isn’t tin-foil hat paranoia, ladies, and it isn’t fear. None of us should live in fear, and I simply won’t. We don't have to, either, as long as we employ our brains, think through a situation, anticipate complications, arm ourselves, and prepare for the unlikely (yet not inevitable) possibility of an encounter with a bad guy or two or three. There are no do-overs if we fail to take precautions; there’s only the aftermath. You can’t control the world, but you can prepare to take control. Do that. Practice defensive awareness. Take OPD’s Defensive Awareness class and learn things you didn’t know. Anticipate what you’ll do if things don’t go smoothly. Don’t change your life:  manage it. Yes, Missy Moo and I could have managed by ourselves that night, but bringing Auntie Denise along not only gave us an edge, it turned a Mommy and Me Date into an extra-special treat and officially a Girls’ Night Out!

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A Hunting We Will Go
October 2013

As far as I’m concerned, 4:30 only comes once a day, and up until September 1st I couldn’t think of a good reason to have firsthand knowledge of anything to the contrary. Sometimes, it’s good to be wrong.

When Buddy’s friends asked if we’d be interested in a dove hunt, I pounced. This is the same group, more or less, which I accompanied on the quail/pheasant/chukar hunt last spring and they’re a bunch of really nice guys. The chukar experience taught me that shooting tiny flying things isn’t my strong suit (yet!) – it’s a good thing shotgun ammo is cheap and that I don’t rely on hunting to feed my family – but I figured that a dove hunt would be a great experience come what may.

The trip officially began a few weeks before the hunt when Buddy and I went shopping for camouflaged clothes. I decided on some very lightweight stuff in anticipation of muggy weather, took the trousers and top and hat into the dressing room at Bass Pro, and tried it all on. Look, I’m happiest in a pair of black yoga pants and a fitted black shirt. Prints aren’t my thing. Grassland, woodland, or other – land camouflage is definitely not my shtick and left me feeling entirely ridiculous. Buddy nodded his approval, however, and my purchases were rung up over threats about contracted drone strikes if I turned up for the dove hunt as the only person wearing camouflage.

We drove up to Owasso the night before the September 1st hunt and had dinner with some of the guys before parting company and turning in early. It was one of those nights when you lie in bed an hour or more before your alarm goes off because you’re afraid your alarm isn’t going to go off and you’ll miss whatever good thing lies in wait. At 3:20, I decided to get up, start moving, get dressed, and snag a bite to eat. No coffee. No coffee because a day or so before I’d realized that there was no one else of the female persuasion in our group and that we would be in the middle of a harvested field the entire morning, and there are plumbing issues in situations like that, which is to say:  there is no plumbing. Ah, joy. So, ponytail? Check. Mascara? Check. Silly cammo clothes and hat? Check. Hiking boots, range bag, shotgun, ammo, hunting license and tag? Check, check, check, check, CHECK. A quick peek out my hotel room window brought amusement when about six men in cammo came into view, loading their guns and gear into their vehicles and preparing to leave. Not something I see every day, and under other circumstances I might have been somewhat discomfited by it. BUT NOT THIS DAY.

Upon arriving outside the lobby at 4:29 am, I was met by most of the other people who would be attending the hunt and scored points with Buddy for not being the last one downstairs in spite of the obvious handicap of being a woman who simply won’t go without at least minimal make-up. Mike asked how I was doing and, though everyone else was in camouflaged clothes of one sort of another, I confessed to feeling a bit like Duck Dynasty Barbie. We caravanned out to a recently harvested field lined down the middle and around the edges with round hay bales several (or many) yards apart. Not that we could see them at that point:  the sun wouldn’t be up for a while, so our adventure began by running around with flashlights and head lamps while we staked out our spots and set out decoys. The rest of the day was documented thusly in my cell phone notes.

5:15 am – Rooster from the farm across the road crows, and I’m thankful to be a suburban girl in a neighborhood where roosters aren’t allowed. How rude.

5:30 – Mike sets up a dove merry-go-round sort of decoy that looks like a little mechanical feeding frenzy.

5:37 – A car alarm shatters the pre-dawn peace. Waiting breathlessly for the owner to shut it off and for neighboring farmers to appear with shotguns of their own.

5:48 – Set up is complete and Buddy entertains me by pointing out constellations. SOMEBODY spent a lot of time looking at star maps as a kid. Loving it.

5:55 – It’s bright enough to see the middle row of hay bales. I ask if people will be shooting at birds in our direction and am told they will. Warned to expect bird shot carpet bombing to hit my hat, but reassured I won’t be hurt as long as I keep my glasses on. Oooooo-kay.

6:30 – Legal shoot begins. Now we wait for dove.

6:32 – Dove arrive right on time and the hunters are ready. Except for me. I’m taking notes.

6:43 – I GOT ONE!!! I SHOT A DOVE ALL BY MYSELF!!!

7:34 – This is so new that I can’t tell a blackbird from a killdeer from a dove. Brian calls “no bird” so often that I walk over, plunk down next to him, and take Bird I.D. lessons for a while.

7:53 – Dragonflies and other things innocent of dovedom that keep flying about must have death wishes.

8:00 – Brian shoots a bird that is flying toward him and it crashes spectacularly, rolling to land nearly in his lap.

8:16 – Brian hits another bird that flies past him toward me, but my shot makes extra sure it’s dead. Brian generously calls it my kill, but I know better.

8:54 – Hunting means a lot of sitting and waiting. This is peaceful. I understand why a lot of hunters consider themselves naturalists. Cloudy sunrise. Funny striped beetles making a playground of my range bag and scattered shells. The smell of hay. Birds of all sorts larking about. The positively delightful sound of other people’s birdshot raining down around me. [Oh, wait… that’s not particularly natural, but it amuses the heck out of me every single time it happens.]  Hunters aren’t tame and get irritated and lippy if you miss an opportunity to take a shot. This isn’t a game, you know, and it isn’t social hour. Unless you’re me.

The notes stop there, but the fun didn’t. When Brian shot a bird that didn’t quite plummet, but rather moved a bit on the ground after crash landing, I asked if he could let me make sure it was dead. To tell the truth, I think it already was dead, but he handed it to me and told me to be sure anyway, instructing me to twist its head around until it snapped. Expecting to be disgusted, I was pleased that it was no big deal.

By 10:00 the sun was too warm, the birds were getting scarce, and most of the guys had shot their limit (15 dove) and were ready to pack it up. I was, too, but didn’t think I’d enjoy dressing the birds much, so Buddy agreed to help with that while I stayed on the field and talked with Brian some more, hoping to get another bird. My suspicion is that Brian would have preferred to hunt in peace, but he’s a gentleman and indulged me in conversation while we hung out for another half hour. Naturally, the moment he put his gun away to walk back to the car, more dove came in. Que sera sera.

Buddy picked me up and we began the trip home. Once again, Mike took our birds with him and promised to feed them to us at a cookout in the near future. And I… started looking forward to trying duck hunting sometime. Brian, I’ll talk less. No, REALLY.

Cherise

Duck Dynasty Barbie

My first (and only) dove!


(Above) Our doves, set up on the hay bales
to keep the ants away. (Right) My little set up.



Dove decoys.


The Weatherby SA-08 20 gauge that
Mike's daughter graciously allowed me to
borrow yet again.


The cute striped beetle who adopted me.

About 90 dressed dove.

  Click photos for closeup

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Guns: Not Just for Girls
September 2013

Summer has flown by and the kiddos are back in school. What better time to talk about an educational experience that has nothing to do with reading, writing or arithmetic? Last spring on a day when school was out of session, I scheduled a private lesson with Tammy for Legolas – his first – so he could learn how to properly handle and shoot the little CZ Scout .22 rifle which I’d given him for Christmas last year. It turned out to be a day I’ll never forget.

We arrived at the range in Pink in the morning and Legolas was so eager to get started that he could hardly keep his hands off of his rifle for the classroom portion of his lesson. He wiggled and seemed distracted, but it turned out that he picked up with lightning speed the things Tammy was telling him and he ended up moving through the lesson twice as quickly as I’d expected. Missy Moo had tagged along so she could get in some target practice with her own rifle, so after class the four of us had lunch before heading through the range doors to the shooting bays. Missy had to sit quietly and wait for Legolas to get the hang of shooting before she could jump in, so she sat back and watched while Tammy and I coached my son. Can I just say… that boy KICKED ITS BUTT! I was stunned. Absolutely flabbergasted. It took him a little while to put it all together: the correct stance, unloading and reloading, and sighting in, but by the time Missy Moo joined in the shooting, he had the basic idea, and before we left the range that day he was reloading that single-shot rifle as fast as I could have, picking a target and hitting it right where he wanted to almost every shot like some pint-sized sniper. Tammy and I watched, shaking our heads and chuckling. He was amazing! King of the range. A true natural. He stood there shooting and chatting as if he’d been doing all of this since birth, all the while improving his form and maintaining excellent safety protocol. I was overwhelmingly proud of my son and still “high” from watching him nearly two hours after we’d wrapped for the day and headed home.

Missy Moo had a good day shooting, too, and her groupings were nice and tight, though her shots didn’t come quite as quickly as her brother’s because of the way her gun functions. It was great fun, though, to see my children shooting together and thoroughly enjoying themselves and each other. They swapped guns so each child could try the other’s and decided that they both liked best the ones they’d been given originally (yay, Mommy!). They made up games, racing to see who could load and shoot the fastest, choosing targets for one another, and they encouraged each other in a way that they rarely do when they’re just hanging out at home. There was a lot of, “Good shot!” and “Nice one,” and “You totally hit that!” between the two of them, and let me tell you: for two children born fourteen months apart who routinely get on one another’s nerves, watching them interact positively was thrilling. While of course no conflict would be tolerated between them at the gun range, who knew that putting firearms in their hands would bring them closer together?

If you have young ones, I encourage you to schedule a private lesson with Tammy for them as soon as you feel they are mature and responsible enough to handle a firearm. As you know if you’ve attended many OPD classes and observed our students and OPD helpers, the shooting sports can provide a lifetime of enjoyment. So, get ‘em started!

Cherise

In classroom lesson: This is Legolas's first attempt at his shooting stance. Although his trigger finger is right where it should be, notice how his body is almost completely sideways, he's balanced on the toes of his right foot which are pointing behind him, his legs are straight (are those knees locked? We can't tell, but it's a good guess), he's standing almost erect but leaning back slightly, and his right elbow is held away from his body and the rifle.
 
In the shooting bay: Legolas's stance has improved tremendously during his lesson! His body is positioned on a diagonal, his weight has shifted over the forward left foot, his right foot is planted solidly behind him with the toes pointing somewhat forward (improving his balance, especially for recoil), knees slightly bent, torso bent forward into the shot, and right elbow pressed against the stock of the gun. What a difference professional instruction can make!
He's very proud of his "bullseye"!

Legolas and Missy Moo shoot together for the first time. "The family that SHOOTS together, STAYS together," right?



Legolas signs his "Firearm Responsibility Contract" and receives his Certificate of Completion from "Miss Tammy." Congratulations!
Click photos for closeup
   

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Schools Teaching Gun Safety?
August 2013

Missouri schools teaching gun safety  

Tammy here, Cherise is just coming back from vacation and getting kids ready to go back to school so I'm doing Mom's Corner this month. Cherise will be back in September with something really fun!

I recently read an article that the Missouri governor signed a bill allowing NRA's Eddie Eagle program to be taught in Missouri schools to first graders. The Eddie Eagle program is designed specifically to teach little kids safety around guns. It does not teach them how to HANDLE guns, but rather through a simple song and hand movements teaches them what to do should they SEE a gun which is Stop, Don’t Touch, Leave the Area, Tell an Adult. This is something we stress at OPD to moms – and this is Cherise’s area of focus so she teaches this to adults in her Mom’s Class (Firearms and Your Young Child) as well as when she’s the special speaker for OPD classes and other events.

This is a program that will save the lives of children. This is something we at OPD and SafeKidsU would love to see in Oklahoma schools...because it will save lives. A child shooting herself or another child is 100% preventable and education is the prevention!

The point is, even if a parent does not have a gun in the house, they cannot control a gun in the house of a friend of their child. Likewise, a parent cannot be with a child at all times and may not be there if she comes across one at the playground, a park, or at school. Children need their own education, which is what we are all about at OPD. Without education, a curious child will pick up a gun, not know if it’s loaded or not, and too often tragedy occurs. If you don't educate your child, you leave it up to chance that she will know what to do if she finds a gun. While you may correctly assume she won't touch a found gun, what does she do when her friend finds a gun and picks it up? Again, this is one of the areas Cherise teaches in the Mom's Class. If you're a parent and haven't yet taken the class, this is one you don't want to miss.

We have the Eddie Eagle rules for little kids posted on the Rules page of our youth website, SafeKidsU. Eddie Eagle materials are available to anyone, so parents can get the materials and teach their own children (see the SafeKidsU links page).

Some of you got to hear Representative Jason Murphey speak at Girls Day Out last spring and know he is very supportive of the gun rights of Oklahomans (see the April newsletter for details). I Emailed the article to Rep. Murphey and told him about Eddie Eagle and that I felt it should be taught in all Oklahoma Schools. He wrote back and asked if there was any prohibition on Oklahoma schools using Eddie Eagle or like programs. Cherise has done a great deal of research on the topic so I referred the question to her. Below is her response.

Dear Rep. Murphey:

I am unaware of any prohibitions to Oklahoma schools teaching a program such as the NRA's Eddie Eagle program. Far more likely is resistance from teachers and administrators who feel guns and gun talk have no place in school.  

A woman, who was at the time a school counselor and is now the middle school principal where my children attend, told me more than a year ago that gun safety used to be part of the formal curriculum in many Oklahoma schools, but that it is almost unheard of now. Since the most basic "stop, don't touch, leave the area, tell a gown-up" information is as essential a part of a child's safety education as "stop, drop, and roll," I'm concerned that it isn't routinely incorporated into all schools and repeated regularly. The school counselor and I discussed introducing Eddie Eagle at the school, but we have not yet made that happen.  

I've reviewed the Eddie Eagle materials and find nothing objectionable either from a pro-firearm or an anti-firearm perspective. The material is intentionally meant to promote neither political position, but rather to give children simple steps to follow that will keep them safe if they encounter an unsecured firearm. In my opinion, there is no sound reason that this program or one with a similar non-partisan, strictly safety-based emphasis shouldn't be taught in all Oklahoma public schools as part of the safety education which children receive continually.

Cherise Barsaloux
Assistant Instructor
Oklahoma Personal Defense

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Good Sense, Bad Sense, and No Sense at All
July 2013

Good Sense:  Can you imagine a world in which the words “shotgun” and “schools” go together like peanut butter and jelly? Think again. Junior high and high school students from twenty pilot schools in Oklahoma will participate in trap shooting this autumn through the Oklahoma Scholastic Shooting Sports Program, administered by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. That’s right. School-sponsored shooting events. Can you believe it? Kids will be taught by trained teachers from their own schools and each school will have a team that competes in trap shooting. What’s more, these pilot schools already participate in other Wildlife Department programs including archery, bow hunting, and fishing. Did you even know that such programs exist outside of the FFA? Read more here.

What a novel idea. Teaching children to use firearms safely and responsibly while having fun. Congratulations to the pilot schools. Let’s hope this catches on and becomes available in all school districts soon. Our children deserve schools that trust them, respect the Second Amendment, and help prepare students to be responsible gun owners.

Bad Sense:  Perhaps I should just attach the following link and refer everyone back to the Mom’s Corner article from May for my opinion.

Lest we believe that zero-tolerance nonsense is confined to liberal parts of our nation, there it is in our own backyard. As captured via cell phone video, a teenage girl was assaulted by a pair of sisters after allegedly starting a rumor about one of them, but did not defend herself during the 30-second attack. The article suggests that, had she done so, the victim could have been suspended due to a school policy that suspends all students who are involved in a fight, even if a student is acting in self-defense.

The principal says, “Yukon High School does not advocate violence from fighting. We want to ensure a safe and secure environment for our students.” The journalist says they tried to get clarification that fighting in self-defense is not punished by the school, but the principal merely restated that the school does not advocate violence. The Yukon Public Schools Superintendent concedes that the victim was acting out of self-defense and would not have been suspended and says that such situations are assessed on a case-by-case basis. That sounds more like sanity, but I have to wonder if students are advised of the nuances of school policy or simply told that there is zero tolerance for fighting and that they should expect to be suspended if they fight for any reason. The school’s student handbook does not make an exception to its policy concerning disciplinary action for instances of fighting in self-defense.

The right to self-defense is so fundamental that is isn’t merely a legal right, or even an a priori human right:  it is the right and instinct of every living thing on the planet. Organisms defend themselves by one means or another when attacked, and animals at the top of the food chain like we are typically fight in self-defense. It’s a principle of survival. You can’t be beaten to a pulp very often and expect to live. Do our rights somehow end when we walk through a school’s doors? No, they do not. Lieutenant Ron Matthews of the Yukon Police department said that from a legal standpoint, the police would not have charged the victim in this situation. Presumably, then, had this assault occurred off the school grounds it would have been okay for the victim to defend herself with force, but somehow what is perfectly legal outside of school is prohibited on school property?

The image currently swimming through my head is that scene from “A Christmas Story” in which Ralphie, the main character, has finally had enough of the school bully and gives him a well-deserved dose of his own medicine. Who doesn’t appreciate the message in that scene? It makes perfect sense:  if you mess with the bull, you get the horns. And, just like in that movie, a bully is often cowed by fierce resistance. Why aren’t we teaching our children to fight back? Why on ever-loving earth would we want our children to act like sheep and cower while they wait for the worst to be over as the lions move in for the kill? I’ll tell you:  adult cowardice. What utter cowardice on the part of school administration to enact a policy that allows them to potentially make sweeping decisions without having to engage their brains or attempt to understand a situation. What are we paying administrators for if not to sort out the details of an altercation and punish the responsible parties while exonerating the victim? Anything else is sloppy at best, or lazy, and negligent.

Yukon High School’s website and student directory proclaim, “Yukon High School will empower the students of today, so they will inspire the world of tomorrow.” Yikes. Who wants bullies inspiring the world of tomorrow? Or, for that matter, who wants victims setting protection policies? Say it with me now:  a policy that keeps students from fighting back when attacked doesn’t empower the victims; it empowers the bullies and creates victims. How utterly senseless. We have a fundamental right to defend ourselves when attacked. Our children deserve nothing less. This school policy needs to be challenged, and often, until the school gets the message that rules do not determine morality and that bad ones should never be followed.

No Sense At All:  Mid-June, an acquaintance mentioned being pained at watching one particular contestant in a recent national pageant struggle and ultimately fail to coherently answer the interview question she was asked at the end of the competition. Drawn to the link like a lookee-loo at an accident scene, I watched the video and felt embarrassment and pity for the young woman. Stage fright is a horrible thing. I get it. It’s debilitating and can make an otherwise articulate human being blubber like a total fool. And this girl must have had it bad, because she completed flopped. She knew she flopped. Her answer, however, was in its incoherence at least inoffensive, and certainly less objectionable than the answers provided by two other contestants. See the contestants’ questions and answers here.

One contestant believes that allowing the government to track private phone records is less an invasion of personal privacy than it is necessary in order to keep our country secure. Another, who ultimately won the competition, thinks it’s just fine if a criminal suspect is subjected to a police DNA test after arrest. She thinks that if such a measure gets the police “one step closer” to solving a crime, then they “should absolutely do it.” In this girl’s world, suspicion and guilt are identical:  if you’re being prosecuted, you’ve committed a crime serious enough to warrant a mandatory DNA test. There’s no presumption of innocence in that, but who cares about pesky legal rights when there’s a crime to be solved? I believe both of these young women could benefit from remedial courses in the U.S. Constitution and the Fourth Amendment in particular, and then look a bit harder at U.S. and World History in order to understand why allowing government to infringe upon personal liberties and basic rights is a phenomenally foolish thing to do.

This is the generation that is coming into power today. The sort of naïve, entitled liberal thinking that encourages us to hand over personal rights to a government we are told we can trust (there’s your first clue that government can’t be trusted, by the way) and which supposedly knows better what’s good for us than we do ourselves is pervasive and spreading. The kids have opened the candy jar and are refusing to eat their carrots. We won’t be surprised when their teeth rot out of their faces, but they want to make the rest of us trade the garden for the candy store, too. As a society, we are becoming intolerant of people who think for themselves and do not conform to the “enlightened” mindset which dictates that we must be “more civilized” than to insist on individual rights – even at the cost of our personal safety or perhaps our lives – in order to support the “greater good” of the public at large. They cannot understand that we need more good people taking care of themselves and far fewer people relying on the government, or schools, to keep them safe. We need to require critical thinking from people rather than allowing our children to grow up spoiled and soft, believing that the world is supposed to be sunshine and happiness rather than seeing it for the place of both incredible beauty and danger that it is and training their minds to independently meet its challenges.

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Civil Disobedience
May 2013

It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State than it would to obey. I should feel as if I were worth less in that case.

~ Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Did you hear the one about the boy from Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers, Florida, who was suspended last month for disarming a student who had a revolver and was threatening to shoot another student?  No, no… it’s real. A quick Google search will pull up several articles from conservative and liberal news sources alike so you can verify the story. Here's one.

The boy says he tackled a football player who was wielding a loaded gun and wrestled it from him after hearing the gunman (gun-boy?) threaten to kill another student. For that action, the hero was given a three-day “emergency suspension” since he was “part of an incident where a weapon was present.”  Florida law backs up the school’s decision to suspend him.

If you listen closely, you can almost hear common sense flying out the window. 

Moving on, another mom told me not long ago that in her children’s school, the children aren’t allowed t go out for recess without a coat if the temperature outdoors is under 60 degrees. No coat = no recess. Perhaps a rule like that would make sense in a place like south Florida:  native Floridians have blood so thin that posh women sport full-length mink coats in 55-degree weather just because it’s December and because they can. But, no, this is a policy in a Wisconsin school. Now, it’s been a while since I checked, but if memory serves Wisconsin winters are considerably colder than the ones we have here in Oklahoma.   Even with our somewhat thinner Oklahoma blood, I wouldn’t dream of demanding that a child wear a coat out to recess unless the weather were much closer to freezing. 50-something degrees around here is short-sleeves and jeans weather in my son’s estimation even on cloudy, windy days, and we regularly disagree about whether he should bother taking a coat when the morning temperature hovers around freezing if it is expected to warm up by lunch time. [I generally leave the decision to him.  He’s eight.  He’s not stupid.  And it’s his frozen backside that has to endure the cold, after all.]  I’d be surprised if any temp in the 50’s weren’t quite comfortable with just long sleeves for all but the most temperature-sensitive Wisconsin kids.  Anyway, when I pointed out to this woman how ridiculous and paternalistic that rule sounded, she replied frostily that she’d “much rather [her] kids have a quality education and learn to respect rules than worry about arguing whether or not they should take a coat.”

Did you hear it this time?  The escaping common sense?  No?  Maybe reading it out loud will help, because what this other mom was really saying is that the school knows better than either she or her child what type of clothing is appropriate in 50-degree weather. She was also saying that she doesn’t want her children to learn to think for themselves and make decisions for which they will either enjoy or suffer logical consequences because it is more important that they learn that the school’s arbitrary rules are to be followed without question even if they come into conflict with the child’s own good sense and reasonable personal decisions. “Oh, for crying out loud,” you say, “it’s a COAT.”  No, it’s actually much more than a coat. It’s a principle. It’s a teaching moment. It is a chance to challenge the status quo, to not be complacent, and to say, “physical exercise at recess is more important than whether my child is wearing a coat on what is a perfectly lovely day by the standards of any sensible person.”

My children heard the story of the boy in Florida and, when I asked them whether the school did the right thing by suspending the kid who took the gun away from the other kid, they were incredulous and exclaimed that, no, he should have been given a pat on the back and thanked for what he did. “What was he supposed to do,” asked my son loudly and with obvious frustration, “just stand there and watch some other kid get killed?  I’d rather get suspended than have to live with standing around doing nothing and watching some other kid get shot.”  Missy Moo’s reaction was a bit more succinct, declaring, “That’s just stupid.”  There you have it from the mouths of eight- and nine-year-olds. It strikes me as sad that my very young children can assess a situation more intelligently than can many grown-ups. Sad, and a little horrifying. And also satisfying, because it must mean that I’m doing something right by them.

What are we teaching our children when we let little things like overbearing coat rules or big things like misapplied zero-tolerance policies get in the way of common sense?  Nothing good, that’s for certain. Don’t get me wrong:  I don’t want to rear little anarchists who refuse to follow any rules whatsoever and have no respect for authority. Quite the contrary. I want to rear children who respect rules that serve a profound purpose, question the ones that serve obscure purposes or none at all, and respect authority that is wielded responsibly. Charles de Montesquieu said, “Useless laws weaken the necessary laws.”  So where my children find an unnecessary or unnecessarily paternalistic law or rule, or where a law or rule serves those who create it rather than those who are expected to obey it, those laws and rules I want my children to question and challenge and, if necessary in order to do what is right, disobey. Whether determining when to wear a coat outside or defending another child using physical force, it is my fervent hope that my children use the brains with which they’ve been blessed to evaluate situations and make decisions based on what is just, even if it means being out of compliance with the rules. I want them to question rules and authorities when the dictates of either conflict with their good sense or moral compasses, and to practice a little civil disobedience in order to do what is reasonable, honest, just, and good. Right is right and wrong is wrong and it doesn’t matter what the rules are. 

This is where the practice of liberty starts, with children who learn early on that grown-ups don’t always have the right of it and people who are in charge aren’t always looking out for the best interests of others in their care. Children need to know that it is okay to make those determinations and learn to stand up to injustice so they can become adults who recognize when someone is trying to sacrifice a little of their liberty for the sake of some supposed larger good. Liberty is theirs by right (when they leave our home, anyway, as I reminded Legolas tonight after he tried the “it’s a free country” line in defiance of a maternal order), not something the school or the government gives them. So do what is right, rules be damned. That is what decent human beings do. Going along to get along is mindless and, frankly, it’s what sheep do:  show up, eat the grass, and wait for someone to tell them what to do next because they don’t have minds of their own worth a nickel. I’m not interested in raising sheep. Besides, farm animals aren’t allowed by my HOA.

Cherise

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School Resource Officers
April 2013

It took no time at all after the Newtown, Connecticut shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December for America to start talking about how best to prevent another such event in the future and demand that our government not only “do something,” but do it soon. Not surprising. Twenty precious little kindergarteners and first graders and six adults lost their lives in the school that day at the hands of a psychologically disturbed man with no regard for the sanctity of human life or anything else beyond his warped agenda. It is truly horrifying, and the fact that the likelihood of a similar event occurring at my own children’s school being statistically remote was of very little comfort when I dropped them at the front doors the following week. I don’t know a mother who didn’t feel similarly. We control the environment in our homes directly in order to minimize the risk of our children being harmed there, but then send our little ones off to school where they spend seven hours or more a day, and have to merely trust that everything will be fine. Surely, Sandy Hook’s parents believed as their children left for school the morning of the shootings that they would be safe there. After all, the school is in a town that had reportedly had such rare occurrences of violent crime that only a single homicide had occurred in the ten years immediately prior1, and Sandy Hook Elementary School itself had updated its security system earlier that year so visitors had to be visibly identified and buzzed in after the doors were locked at 9:30 each morning2. How much risk would anyone assume there could be in a quiet town of only 28,000?

According to Wikipedia per updates as recent as March 28th, the shooter began firing at 9:35am. Though 9-1-1 was called within the first minute of the shootings, the shooter expended 154 rifle rounds and murdered all twenty-six of his victims before law enforcement arrived eleven or twelve minutes later at 9:46 or 9:47am. Then he took his own life when, it is believed, he saw law enforcement approaching. That the shooting ended in such a manner isn’t surprising:  we often hear of spree killers who commit suicide at the end of their murderous rampages when confronted by law enforcement or armed citizens rather than face the consequences of their actions.

Eleven minutes, maybe twelve. Eleven or twelve minutes of children and school personnel being butchered while many more hid, ran, shielded others or were themselves shielded. If there’s a word sufficient to describe the terror of what that must have been like for those people, I cannot imagine what it is. It’s such a short amount of time, and yet it must have seemed interminable to those present. One also wonders how things might have been different if anyone in that building had been able to meet lethal force with lethal force in less time than it took law enforcement to arrive on the scene. What might have been different if an armed school resource officer had been present to respond within moments of the locked door being shot open?  What might have been different if school administrators and teachers had been able to confront the shooter with more than merely the strength in their bodies and hearts? 

The presence of armed law enforcement on school campuses has been increasing in recent years, and is in fact increasing in the metropolitan OKC area as well. Edmond’s School Resource Officer (SRO) program expansions have been widely publicized in the last couple of months. Another local district added three new SROs to their existing program immediately following the Sandy Hook shootings. Yet there are schools and even entire school districts in Oklahoma that do not have SRO programs in place. According to the Shawnee police department, statistically, one person dies every fifteen seconds in a mass shooting. Four people a minute. Minutes count. Moments count. Of course, not every school is going to experience the horror that made Newtown, Connecticut and Columbine, Colorado infamous. Most won’t. Most won’t even experience incidents as comparatively small as the nine school – or higher education – related shootings that have taken place in the U.S. since the beginning of this year3. But when any of these things happen, they destroy the lives of the people directly involved and their families, devastate communities, and erode our nation’s confidence in our education system and our ability to protect our children. We grieve from a distance with our own children safely asleep in their beds, knowing that there are mothers and fathers not so far away who will never tuck their children in again. We know there is nothing we wouldn’t do to protect our children, but our schools are failing to protect them and far too often cite statistical insignificance as the reason for that failure. It can’t happen here, they say. This is such a good community. We’ve never needed an SRO before.

School Resource Officers are not, of course, a guarantee that nothing bad will ever happen in our schools. “You can’t protect against crazy,” after all, and determined people will always find ways to wreak the havoc they are intent on inflicting. Yet we prepare for and take precautions against statistically remote adverse events as a matter of routine in our day to day lives in order to avoid or at least mitigate them should they occur. We take out insurance on our vehicles in case we’re in an accident, on our homes in case of a tornado, and on our lives in case we die prematurely. We lock our doors in case a prowler tries to gain entry into our homes, and many of us carry firearms with which to defend our families and our own lives if we are assaulted. Why on earth do we gamble with our children’s lives by sending them to schools that do not take the reasonable and increasingly commonplace precaution of having an armed SRO on campus?  An SRO whose mere presence makes an assault upon our schools less likely, who is moments away should the presence of law enforcement be required rather than minutes, who can instantly request back-up via radio rather than waste precious time (one victim every fifteen seconds) dialing 9-1-1 and being routed through dispatch which then forwards the call to law enforcement for response, and who is trained and prepared to confront and stop any aggressor, from a violently disruptive student to a disgruntled parent creating a scene to an active shooter to – and I hate to say it because it sounds entirely paranoid, but here goes nothing – a terrorist threat? The Department of Homeland Security warns law enforcement that terrorism is coming to the United States, and that “soft targets” such as schools are not just vulnerable but highly valued targets because attacks in such places yield maximum impact in terms of both human casualties and the crippling of an entire community. For people like the Newtown shooter, a school is the perfect target in which to take out his angst against society because far too many of them are “gun-free zones”: he knows there will be no one to stop him before he has destroyed lives and crushed a community. Oh, I wish I could remember where I read that typically 25% of a community’s population is in school each weekday. One in four people in a community, in school, five days a week for most of the year. That’s a sobering thought, especially for more rural communities where school-aged children aren’t spread out across several campuses but contained within a single target.

I am firmly of the opinion that it is reprehensible not to have an SRO on every school campus. No matter where you live or how safe you believe your community is, no matter how much you enjoy the cozy family feel of your friendly little school, if the unthinkable should occur and an SRO might be able to prevent or mitigate it, the benefit of having an SRO available instantly will far outweigh the costs and minor inconveniences involved. A friend recently asked as we discussed this issue, “How much is a child’s life worth?”  How much, indeed?  How much are the lives of a classroom full of children worth?  Or of a school full of children?  How much would you take for your child?  There isn’t a sum on earth that would buy one of mine. How much personal inconvenience is too much when it comes to the security of your child? If something were to happen to my child, there isn’t an apology, an excuse, or a settlement that would even begin to lessen that loss, and I’m betting you’d say the same about your child. We hear a lot of soothing chatter about how “children are our most valuable national resource” and “children are our future.” Fabulous. We agree. Now it’s time for schools to put their money where their mouths are. I suspect most parents would agree that all of the SMART Boards, facility improvements, and extra-curricular programs in the world are of no value whatsoever if school security isn’t proactive enough to ensure that the children who use those resources will be safe while they do so. School districts must make this a priority and allocate funds sufficient for the procurement of SROs.

However, the reality of the matter is that not all schools in all communities have sufficient revenue with which to hire all of the teachers that are needed, much less scrounge up additional funds with which to pay an SRO. Good news! There is hope for Oklahomans on the near horizon thanks to our state legislators. It may soon be possible for every school in Oklahoma to have armed security on campus. How, you ask? 

It was my great pleasure to hear State Representative Jason Murphey (R-Dist. 31) address OPD’s Girls Day Out class a couple of weeks ago. Representative Murphey discussed three Second Amendment-related bills which have passed the state House floor and are now in the Senate awaiting action. Among those three is HB1062, authored by Representative Mark McCullough (R-Dist. 30), which creates the Special Reserve School Resource Officer Act more widely referred to as the “teacher carry bill”4. Should this bill pass the Senate, certain school personnel who have obtained their Oklahoma carry permits and attended a CLEET course for Special Reserve School Resource Officers will be allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus provided their school district’s board of education has adopted a policy that authorizes the carrying of a handgun onto school property. According to the bill, participation by school personnel must not be compulsory or a condition of employment:  it is strictly voluntary. The CLEET training must be paid for by the school district in question, however, CLEET training for the Special Reserve SRO will be far less costly than hiring a full-time law enforcement officer to fill that role. Folks, every one of us needs to contact our state Senator and tell her or him to support this piece of legislation. I know, I know… some of you don’t like the idea of teachers or other school personnel carrying a loaded firearm at school. I understand the concerns. Really, I do. But back up a second and read the condition I mentioned above:  individual school districts’ boards of education must adopt a policy authorizing a Special Reserve SRO to carry on campus. Maybe you don’t like the idea of “teacher carry” on your child’s school campus. For whatever reason, it gives you the willies, or simply sounds like an absolutely terrible idea. Perhaps the demographics of your student population makes the suggestion a harrowing one. You’re entitled to that opinion, and if the bill passes, you can cry foul at your local school board meeting every time the question of whether to allow campus carry comes up. It’s a safe bet that the school board would be thrilled to see you show up with an opinion either way:  those meetings are usually poorly attended and fresh faces are appreciated. So, by all means, if you can’t get on board with the idea of “teacher carry,” debate it vigorously within your own school district, but please, please, please take the simple step of contacting your state Senator and asking her or him to support this bill so other school districts have the opportunity to authorize “teacher carry” if they determine it to be their best option. Doing that is how you promote liberty in a country where we are increasingly seeing our liberties eroded by a government which has forgotten it exists for the people it serves and not the other way around:  you speak up and allow people to choose what they believe is best for themselves rather than forcing your own beliefs upon them. If you don’t know who your Senator is, click here and enter your address information. A complete list of your U.S. and state legislators will be generated for your convenience. From there, you’ll find links that will allow you to visit your legislators’ websites and/or obtain their contact information.

Can you imagine how such a measure could impact an attempted school shooting of any scale in the future?  When the would-be shooter doesn’t know whether the uniformed SRO is the only person on campus who can stop an attack, or whether every other teacher and administrator in the building could potentially also do so?  Representative Murphey said he believes this legislation, if the bill passes, will take effect as soon as August of this year. What utterly perfect timing. I can’t think of a better way to kick off “back to school” this autumn. Our schools might soon have two methods – LEO SROs and volunteer citizen Special Reserve SROs – by which to more effectively protect and defend the irreplaceable charges that march, with our hearts attached to them, through the school doors.   

Please get involved. Help make Oklahoma schools safer. Petition your school board for uniformed law enforcement officers as a full-time SROs for your school district, and support HB1062 by letting your legislators know that this bill is important for the safety and security of our schools, for our children, and for the people who dedicate their lives to educating those children, and you want them to vote it into law.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting

2 http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2012/12/us/sandy-hook-timeline/index.html

3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_shooting

4 See http://oklegislature.gov/BillInfo.aspx?Bill=hb1062 for the bill’s current status, click the Versions tab for a PDF of the most recent version of the bill

UPDATE:

This bill will likely die in the Senate if the Education committee doesn't get it on their schedule. The people to contact are Senator Ford (chair), the other Education committee members, and our own district Senators.  This is a link to Senate Education committee members (click Education).  It has to be put on their schedule by Thursday or it's dead.

Cherise

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A Hunting Adventure
March 2013

Decades back, my Girl Scout troop had a father-daughter campout and I went hunting for the first time.  Snipe hunting.  If you’ve done that, you know it involves neither snipes nor hunting, but it is something of a rite of passage in terms of being hazed by a parent who is happy to playfully mess with your head in order to get a break from the incessant giggling inherent in a weekend camp full of little girls.  That hunt was by definition a total bust, but it was as close to hunting a living thing as I ever came, younger siblings gone astray notwithstanding.  Mine was not a hunting family.  There wasn’t even a gun in our house when I was a kid. 

This past weekend, however, brought my first actual hunting experience.  At a recent dinner out with my shooting buddy (Buddy) and his friends, the subject of bird hunting had come up and I’d expressed an interest in going along on a hunt with them sometime.  Imagine my delight when the next week one of them emailed asking if I were free to join them for just such an outing this month!  I pounced.  Me.  HuntingHA.  But heck yeah!  We decided on an afternoon hunt at Quail Ridge Hunting & Sporting Clays in Tecumseh, a commercial hunting preserve where we could choose quail, chukar, or pheasant, with a guide and dogs to aid in our success.      

No question about it:  I was nervous when we got out there for a number of reasons.  First, there were the usual never-tried-this-before butterflies that come along with just about any new experience differing significantly from the humdrum of daily life.  Then there was the gun.  I wouldn’t be using one of my own familiar pump-action shotguns, but rather a Weatherby youth model 20 gauge semi-auto borrowed from a friend’s daughter.  Bit frustrating, that, not knowing already how to load and chamber a round (the semi-auto is somewhat different from a pump action), and I tend to get flustered learning that sort of thing on the spot.  I was also nervous about hunting in general because the format is so different from the defense training I’ve done at OPD.  There would be other people with me walking around with chamber-loaded guns in their hands, shooting at things that moved quickly and with little warning in largely unpredictable directions, and dogs.  Oh, how I worried about the dogs.  How do you not hit the dogs when they’re right there chasing the prey you’re trying to shoot?  Obviously, you don’t.  You mustn’t.  But… GULP.  It was a daunting thought.  I double-checked my bank account to be sure there was enough to cover the damage from a screw-up, but knew the worst bit would be having hit an animal that wasn’t meant to have been a target.  It simply couldn’t happen.  When it occurred to me that hunting isn’t altogether different from home defense, at least in the sense that you don’t know exactly where the target is or where it will go but must be certain of that target so you don’t hit the innocent, I decided that this hunting thing would constitute some low-pressure, lower-adrenaline practice for a defense situation.  I just hoped I wouldn’t end up having a girly girl moment and spoil the whole thing by turning on the waterworks, thereby making it impossible for Buddy to return to work with these guys the following week.  But you’ve got to start somewhere, right?  So, we organized into two groups, chose our quarry, met Rocky our guide, Hannah and Ringo our dogs, put on blaze orange vests and hats, and set off for my rookie hunting excursion on a perfectly beautiful Oklahoma afternoon.

OH.  WHAT. FUN!!! 

We walked around an open area with tiny cedar-lings, an occasional Blackjack oak, little rises, scrubby stuff, and giant grasshoppers, watching as the dogs ran here and there, sniffing, looking, and sniffing some more.  The rules were that the gun’s safety was to be on until we were ready to shoot, which is of course also a departure from defensive shooting where the mechanical safety might as well not be there.  But some things about guns are the same in any application.  The Four Cardinal Rules are with you any time you pick up a gun, and I reviewed them all day long, running a mental checklist in my head between shooting opportunities.  All guns are loaded.  The shotgun definitely was, and got topped off after every bird.  Finger off trigger.  Oh, yes, it was, and the safety was on, too, when I wasn’t standing stock still and waiting for a bird to flush.  Muzzle awareness.  I carried the shotgun barrel-up (another departure from defensive shotgun) as per instructions to avoid raising the gun from a barrel-down resting position and sweeping the dogs, but made sure it was pointing at the sky and not the giant Buddy or our friends’ heads.  Target acquisition.  Trickier than on the range.  It is, after all, one thing to be sure of your target when you’re in a straight line side-to-side with all of the other shooters and absolutely nothing that breathes moving in front of you, and quite another when there are people and dogs in your line of sight.  The principle is the same, but the practice of it is more intense.  We spread out in a line – more or less – or sometimes in a semi-circle, and often the dogs ran or the guide stepped in front of us, and even though we weren’t pointing guns AT them, they were still THERE.  Furthermore, if the bird pops up, wheels around and flies over your head, you're supposed to turn and shoot it, and THAT is nerve-wracking, too, when you’re accustomed to a target always being and staying in front of you.  The turn-and-shoot thing… I just couldn’t make myself do it.  It’ll keep for another hunt, another day.  

But I thoroughly enjoyed myself!  The little Weatherby was perfect.  I felt almost no recoil and was happy not to have to pump the action between shots.  Semi-auto is definitely the way to go for me while hunting.  Still, adrenaline did its job, and I was shaking like a leaf after the first round of shots.  I missed what should have been an easy kill by aiming too high, but Buddy took down that first pheasant hen, which was totally cool.  I may have shortened some tail feathers in the second go-around, but that wasn’t my bird, either.

A bit later in the afternoon, we were under trees instead of in a clearing when I had a shot at a chukar that took off flying away from me several yards off.   I took off the safety, shouldered the gun, fired, and instantly there were feathers everywhere like an exploded firecracker on Independence Day.  One of the other guys came out of the woods about 90 degrees to my left and said he'd fired, too, but all any of us had heard was a single shot:  we'd fired at precisely the same moment.  Buddy, not having a clear shot himself, had witnessed the whole thing and said the wad from my shot had smacked the bird square in the rump, meaning I’d hit it for sure even if the other guy’s shot did, too (and I’m sure it did: he was Dead Aim Dave all day).  That one little chukar is the only bird I can claim to have killed, but I’ll take it!
 
The most memorable moment came when a chukar was right in front of me.  I moved up to be ready to shoot when it left the ground.  The wind blew, lifting my brimmed hat off of my head and taking my sunglasses with it, so I pulled the whole mess off and threw it to the ground.  Buddy was on my left, and the guide and the other two shooters were to my right in case the bird headed off that way.  When it finally took to wing, the little chukar got about five feet off the ground, then turned and wheeled around to my left, heading straight for Buddy.  I couldn't shoot with him there so I put the safety on and watched what would happen:  that bird was all Buddy’s.  But he, having thought the bird was all mine, had stopped to pick up my discarded hat and had it in his hands as the bird wheeled and flew at him.  He dropped the hat and shouldered his gun, but before he could pull off the shot that bird had caught a tail wind and was GONE clear across the field, over the fence line, and landing safely in a farmer's field where we couldn't get to him.  Buddy is pretty sure he saw the bird's toes flipping him off as it flew overhead, grinning to itself and no doubt already embellishing a story about how it evaded four hunters and two dogs.

After the shoot, in which our group took ten chukar and six pheasants, we met back at the office and had our photos taken with the carnage.  One of the guys from the other group smirked and suggested I hold one of the dead birds.  Kidding, I asked to be given the one I’d killed.  “I’m pretty sure it was this one,” said the friend who handed over a random chukar.  "That's the one I thought," I said through a grin, and grasped it around the neck to mug for the camera before being accused of looking like I was strangling it and so cradled it for a cozier shot.  Though none of the birds came home with me as dinner but were sent instead with one of the guys who will cook them up for us later, I pulled a couple of pretty feathers off two birds to take home as trophies for my children, and that was that except for the part where I had to convince my doubting son that I’d actually shot and killed a bird.  

I loved it.  I absolutely LOVED IT and can’t wait to go again!  I can't wait to take Missy Moo, either, and Legolas and Bitsy Boo, too, someday. 

Our guide said little ones can come along even if they aren’t ready to shoot, giving them a taste for the hunt while remaining safely out of harm’s way. Missy Moo is already asking when we can go!  Many thanks to Buddy’s friends, who were generous and encouraging, and to Rocky, Hannah, and Ringo who made the experience memorable.  I hope to see them all again very soon.

Cherise

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What Do Children Think About Gun Control?
February 2013

Gun control.  Or gun rights.  Who isn’t talking about it these days?

Evidently, even children are getting in on the act.  Can there be any doubt as to our President’s agenda concerning guns when the man stands up in front of the world and reads letters written by school children imploring him to do something to stop gun violence, then promises to throw the full weight of his office behind that very effort?

Yes, I’m a cynic. And, cynic that I am, I’d like to know where the letters were from children who have been taught the importance of the Second Amendment for one thing and of the Constitution for another, who enjoy shooting sports, and who are eager to make certain that “doing something” isn’t accomplished by doing something useless or unconstitutional.  It never occurred to me, in the wake of the horrifying, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking Sandy Hook massacre, to have my children write letters to the President asking him to keep this sort of thing from happening again, because I know what the President himself admitted in his speech about gun control on January 16th:  “[…] there is no law or set of laws that can prevent every senseless act of violence completely, no piece of legislation that will prevent every tragedy, every act of evil […]”, and no plea from a child is going to change that.

It would have been nice, however, for the President to have included letters from someone else’s child asking that he use wisdom in addressing this issue with the country, or reminding him that the framers of the Constitution were specific in listing among the Constitutional amendments the right of the people to bear arms because it is that important to life and liberty.  He could have used those letters to emphasize that while we may be emotionally devastated by tragedy, we must use logic and wisdom when determining what, if anything, a government can to do mitigate the likelihood a duplicate tragedy.  Yet there was, sadly, no fair and balanced approach to the President’s address that day, predictably because the current administration’s agenda is equally one-sided. 

All of which got me wondering what my children would have said.  They live in a solidly pro-gun home and are learning safe gun handling and firearms responsibility.  They have already shown me just how responsible and thoughtful they can be concerning firearms.  They are also learning what freedom is and how it relates to the Bill of Rights, and why our country is not a democracy with “majority rule” because majority rule can be destructive, but rather that it is a republic designed to ensure equal rights for all people, majority and minority alike.  What would my children have to say to the President of the United States about guns? 

Determined to find out, I explained to them that children had written letters to the President after the Newtown shootings, saying they felt that he should disallow guns and stop gun violence.  I wondered what children who have positive associations with guns would have to say on the matter, and asked if they would like to write letters to the President of their own.  My son said that he might get to it “tomorrow,” but he has a healthy suspicion of government, along with child-like imagination enough, not to want to fully commit to opposing the President’s own opinion in writing.  My daughters readily agreed, though, having no such qualms, and they consented to sharing their letters with you.

Here is what my six-year-old had to say, as dictated to me because she didn’t feel like writing it out herself:

For whatever it’s worth, I don’t fill my children’s heads with ideas about people coming into our home in the middle of the night to steal them away from me.  That notion was a Bitsy Boo original (complete with colorful scribbling on the back which, I apologize, show through) and relates to a wild dream she had the other night rather than any genuine fear she harbors.  Anyway, if you knew my six-year-old, you’d know she has one of the most fantastic imaginations and free spirits on the planet.  If this is what she’s concerned with, perhaps the President should be informed.  He seems to take the naïve musings of little ones on the other side of the gun control debate seriously enough.

That was my nine-year-old, Missy Moo, speaking from her heart and using her own words.  She has a tremendous sense of justice and perception like a razor, this child, slicing with surgical precision through the fascia of appearances and posturing, and getting right to the meat of any matter.  It’s fun watching her observe the rest of us, taking it all in and processing what she sees and hears in order to form a more complete understanding of people and the world.  She didn’t need me to tell her any of those things she wrote.  In the same way a child of her age knows that stealing is wrong, she knew that guns don’t commit crimes and that they can be used in positive ways as easily (and, statistically, far more often, though my daughter surely doesn’t know that) as in negative ones depending solely on the hands in which they’re found.  Missy Moo was stricken by what happened in Newtown last December, and outraged that anyone would seek to harm innocent people as those people in that school had been.  I believe it shows wisdom well beyond her years, however, that she can divorce the instruments used from the horror that was perpetrated.  It’s a shame that many adults, our President and far too many legislators among them, can’t manage the same.

Cherise

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Just For Fun
January 2013

Happy New Year!

While the the dawn of 2013 brings excitement about big things to come, it’s also a bit bittersweet for – as kids are wont to do – my little ones will be growing another year older and bigger in the year ahead.  They’ll get lyrics right as they hear them with more experienced ears (we’ve already lost, “Hi-ho, the mystery toe” in Have a Holly Jolly Christmas), words will be pronounced clearly as little tongues learn their way around correct sounds, once-dragging jeans hems will become high-waters, and everyone will get a little closer to being “as tall as Mommy.” Sigh. To keep my holiday spirit alive well into the new year, I’d like to take a few moments to recall some of the happier, sillier ones that 2012 brought my family. For my amusement, and hopefully yours:

Silly Things My Children Have Said

Upon inspecting the dresser which holds photos of the children’s grandparents, my daughter looked long and hard at the black-and-white photo taken of my mother back in the 60’s, then approached me asking, “Why couldn’t you take a picture of your Mommy when she was colored in?”

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Me (exasperated): Legolas, you’re on thin ice.

Legolas:  Wait… thin ice that’s cracking, or that you can still walk on?

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The girls were dressing for school, and Bitsy Boo had put on a brightly-colored Hawaiian-type print dress with giant bold flowers on it. I’d instructed her to put leggings or something on under the dress, and when I checked to see that she had, found her wearing a pair of yellow and orange plaid shorts.  “This is your choice?” I asked. Missy Moo looked over, saw what he sister was wearing, and said drolly, “She’s so rainbow.”

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After helping my youngest put together her Halloween costume, she was ready to go with black and red spider-web-lace fluffy dress, black veil with sparkling tiara, and… purple vampire teeth. “You’ll be such a pretty princess tomorrow,” I exclaimed. She retorted flatly with narrowed eyes, “No, I won’t.  I’ll be a sucking-blood one.” Oh, right.  I forgot.

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Fussing at Legolas for dragging his feet one morning before school, I heard Missy Moo pick up the nagging and start in on him herself. “You get ready and leave your brother alone,” I told her. “Okay,” Missy Moo replied, “but I’m just saying the same thing that you said, only in a less complicated way.”

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Bitsy Boo:  Mommy, it’s pretty soggy out here. I’m getting soggy. Are you?

Me (thinking it’s a bright, cloudless, gorgeous, breezy day): Soggy?

Bitsy Boo:  You know, when water drips down your face?

Me:  You mean, “sweaty?”

Bitsy Boo:  Oh.  Yeah.

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It’s fun when they learn to read, isn’t it? The hairspray label on my bathroom counter promises, “BIG SEXY HAIR.” As I was using it on the skinny, difficult hair with which I’ve been blessed, my son walked into the room, saw the can in my hand, looked at my reflection in the mirror and, thoroughly non-plussed, announced, “I’m SO not seeing ‘big and sexy’ out of this product.” 

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Bitsy Boo was working at the kitchen table when I walked in and asked for a hug and kiss. She wore a mischievous little smile and kept looking at her paper as she said, sweetly, "Nope." Giggling, I said, "You give your Mommy a kiss right this minute!" Bitsy Boo broke into a full smile and said, overemphasizing each letter in a silly voice, "EN-OHwuh... NO," upon which I busted out laughing, and so did she, and exchanged more hugs and kisses than I'd hoped for at the beginning of our exchange.

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Every mother I know held her children a little closer this past Christmas, tried harder to keep her patience and remember that childhood and children are precious and must be treasured, and was mindful of how thankful she is for the little ones that bless her life. My hope is that we continue to bear those things in mind more often throughout the coming year and always. 

Cherise

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