Monday, June 26, 2006

Andy – part 2

by Tom Gaylord

I had a Columbian BB gun back home in Euclid, so I wasn't as fascinated as he was. I could shoot practically any time I wanted to, so I guess I got my fill of it. I did bring it with me to the island, but I didn't shoot it all the time. There was swimming and fishing and exploring and picnics and all sorts of other good stuff to do out there.

But Andy was different. He just shot and shot all day long. His folks were loaded, so there was never a problem with having enough shot. I suppose he had several 5-lb. sacks of BBs when he got to the island, and I'm sure he never went home with any. He would even loan me some when I ran out, which happened weekly. Dad would always bring a few tubes with him on Friday, but I was out by the following Wednesday, and I didn't want to push my luck. So, I borrowed from Andy.

Andy had a nickname for me. It was Tovarik. He said that was the name of one of his best friends back home. I sort of went along with it, although it seemed a little strange. He never called me that in front of my folks; but when we were alone, I was Tovarik all the time.

Sometimes, we went camping. Just the two of us and Andy's dad. He was a real swell guy, too. Not like other fathers, I guess he didn't have to work because he used to do the same stuff us kids did, and he seemed to have just as much fun.

He had a thick accent, which my dad said sounded European to him. I never paid much attention because, in those days, every other adult had some kind of accent. But, Andy's dad could tell the greatest stories whenever we would get him alone. He told about kings and emperors and armies and wars and all kinds of neat stuff like that. He said when he was a little boy, his dad used to take him camping and fishing at some island very much like Kelly's island, but in his home country.

And, he liked to shoot as much as Andy. I watched the two of them snipe at pine nuts from 40 feet, a range I would have said was beyond even the best BB guns. They connected with a lot of those shots, so you couldn't say it was just luck. I tried to keep up, but I seldom connected. Not like those two, for sure.

I remember one time very well. We were all out camping near the end of the season, and Andy wanted to take a shot at a crow high up in a tree. His dad wouldn't let him because he said the BB would only hurt the bird and not kill it. That's when he told both of us, "If you ever shoot at a living creature, make sure you kill it on the first shot. There is no reason to make an innocent animal suffer for your lack of good sportsmanship."

That's when I asked him, "But what if you are shooting at a criminal? Or an enemy soldier? Shouldn't you shoot them, no matter what?" In those days, the books we read were full of tales about how some kid our age got mixed up with criminals and his own good marksmanship bailed him out at the end. Often, it was as good to simply wound the bad guy as to actually kill him, or at least that's what the stories said.

I'll never forget what Andy's father told me. He said, "Never leave an enemy alive. They will only recover to come after you again. If you shoot an enemy, always make sure he's dead." The look in his eyes when he said that was enough to chill my blood. I knew the man wasn't just saying it; he meant it. I think he even lived it.



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