Prior to moving to Monkey Valley I had little exposure to guns. My dad taught me and my sister Kim to shoot a rifle one summer at the family cabin on Knouff Lake. It was fun, shooting at cans on a log. Learning to watch for the kick. But since then I’d never used a gun, and probably never even seen one.
I believed people when they said I needed a gun at Monkey Valley. Being there all alone, and especially when out running by myself, it seemed I needed a gun for protection. So my mom lent me a rifle, and I enrolled in a course to learn how to handle guns safely. This course also was a prerequisite for obtaining a PAL license, which is required by anyone who owns, buys, or possesses a gun. I got the license, and I practiced shooting the rifle at a target that I nailed to a tree by the woodpile at Monkey Valley. This was kind of fun. I practiced cleaning and oiling it. I kept it hidden in my bedroom closet, easily accessible if anyone broke into the house during the night. I went over in my mind the steps involved in getting and loading the gun in the dark. It seemed that having the gun there made me more afraid of intruders, not less!
I went to a gun store on Renfrew Street in Vancouver to look at guns and get prices. I went to the outdoor sporting goods store in Merritt (the Powderkeg, now out of business due to Walmart and Canadian Tire big box stores being invited to take over from the local businesses), to see if prices were cheaper. I found out about the local shooting club in Merritt. My final piece of research was to go shooting at a range out in Chilliwack with my course instructor. This was a chance to try different types of guns and see how they felt. I had been leaning towards a pistol of some kind, which I would be able to wear in a holster while running. I found that running with the rifle was a little cumbersome!
I was excited about going to a real range to practice. In the class we never shot a loaded gun. I’d driven past the Pacific Shooter’s range many times on my way to go trail running by the Seymour River. My instructor lived in Langley though, so I drove out there and we drove to the range in Chilliwack. The day we went to the shooting range was overcast and chilly—a dreary winter day. No one else was at the range. My instructor showed me the protocols, like where to put our stuff, how to put up the targets, and what flag to raise to indicate the range was active. Then he showed me how to turn and shoot. He reinforced some of the principles I’d learned in class, about holding the gun and positioning my body. I tried shooting with his pistol. It was very black (energetically black, though actually a steely colour of metal), very heavy, very loud. And very powerful. I could see how using a gun makes someone feel powerful.
And I knew after trying it a few times that I could never shoot this gun at a cougar or any other wild animal. I felt that I would prefer to be killed than to inflict this shocking violence on a living creature. So that was the end of the gun episode. I returned the rifle to my mom. I resumed running with a hatchet. And I still kept imagining the cougar attacking me while I was running… (to be continued)