Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Loaded Question

I was feeding dinner to the mares yesterday when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I realized there was something making its way towards us across the pasture. I started walking out to get a closer look when I realized it was a skunk. Obviously I beat a hasty retreat at that point! I tried making some loud noises and banging on the fence a bit so that it would hear the noise and change its path to head in a direction aside from me (and the mares). Unfortunately it kept slowly coming our way.

I was at a loss at to how to avoid a disastrous situation. I knew at some point the horses were going to notice it, thankfully they were too busy eating at that point, but they were soon going to be finished eating and someone was going to get curious. I called Jason and apprised him of the situation. He told me to keep an eye on the skunk and he would be there shortly.

A minute later I notice Jason striding down the hill with a purpose, rifle in hand. He watched the skunk and it was still on its path right towards us and the horses, getting closer with every second. Jason felt it was not exhibiting normal behavior coming right at us, especially since we kept making noise and clearly making it known that we were there. The skunk was shot as Jason was really concerned that it was not acting right.

Of course I started on the whole "what if" tangent. What if it was a mommy skunk that was just desperate to find food for her babies? I must confess that I hadn't actually a clue what skunks eat and had to google it to find out. What if it was a baby skunk that lost its mommy and was hungry? What if . . . ? In the end though I do think it was the right decision to shoot the skunk. Jason buried it. :(

As always happens in these scenarios Jason starts in on me that I should have a rifle or a gun of some short. Ummmmmmm, no. As always I respond with "I'm not carrying a rifle around with me, you don't either." Right on script Jason responds with "you should take a handgun course, go through the checks, and keep one with you.' Ummmmmmmmmmm, HECK NO! I'm sorry, but I am not walking around with a shoulder holster on me. That is just ridiculous, stupid, an extreme over-reaction.

Jason then says "what would you do if I wasn't home." I told him I would call my dad. So then he asks who I would call when we move to our new farm since my parents won't be right there. I told him I would call a neighbor. I can tell Jason is pretty much ready to throttle me at this point because he thinks I am being unreasonable. I think he is being unreasonable. And 'round and 'round we go in this discussion where neither of us ever changes our stance.

His big thing is that if there was an immediate emergency, like coyotes or stray dogs attacking the goats (this happened once a few years ago), or the times when an opossum or raccoon gets too comfortable in the barn, or in the case of this clearly not right skunk, that I should be able to handle it myself, immediately, especially if no one else is home. Quite frankly I just don't see myself ever being able to pull the trigger on anything, but then again maybe if I watched a pack of stray dogs or coyotes trying to kill Mina and Jo I wouldn't think twice. I don't know, but Jason feels strongly that I should have my own gun, fire it regularly, and have it at the ready. His other point is what if a horse was truly, traumatically hurt and should be euthanized immediately and not wait for a vet? I personally know two people who have found themselves in this situation, freak accidents do happen with horses. They both have said their greatest kindness was being able to immediately end the suffering and not having to wait for the vet while the horse was in agony.

I will admit that I do find amusement at the irony in this. According to stereotypes I should be the gun happy American while he should be the gun avoiding Canadian. We seem to have reversed those roles. Jason had about 20 rifles when he lived in Canada. Many of them he inherited from his grandfather and father but certainly not all. He said he always kept a rifle in the tractor with him when he was working on his farm in Canada (he farmed a couple thousand acres), mainly in case of a bear getting after his calves. Not that a bear encounter was likely but I can see that you would want to be prepared just in case! He said he would also fire off a shot from time to time if a big flock of seagulls was overhead to scare them off so he wouldn't get pooped on!

My "loaded" question is, if you were me, would you get the gun, or do you already have one? What kind, a handgun or a rifle? Would you actually use it, could you really shoot the skunk, or a coyote, or whatever else was causing trouble? Jason thinks because our farm is big enough that we have no neighbors who can see or hear if anything really bad is happening that I should be prepared in case he or my dad are not around. I have resisted owning a gun for years. It feels wrong to me to even think about it. Maybe I am not looking at it from the right perspective though.

Definitely something to ponder on a rainy day.


Asterik, Winston, Ogie, B-Rad, Faune, Sebastian

Lightening and Lucky


Asterik and Faune having a friendly moment

B-Rad and Ogie

Silky and Clay

Apollo(!) and Ivan

Cuff Links, Lily, Missy, MyLight, Harmony, Buffy

Homer, Elfin, Levendi


Funder said...

I have a .40 handgun. I'd like a rifle when we get a farm, but for now a handgun is better. I got it for the exact reason you describe - what if I'm out riding miles from anywhere and my horse shatters a leg?

I haven't gone shooting in a quite a while, and I really ought to. In Tennessee I had my concealed carry permit - the test isn't too hard. Nevada is an open-carry state, so I haven't looked into getting a concealed permit yet - I only carry open and in the boonies.

I would not hesitate to shoot a critter to protect my horse or dog (or self!) I recently started carrying again after a pack of coyotes thought about eating my dog. I'm pretty sure if coyotes were after your goats, you'd not hesitate to shoot!

Jason said...

Lest I appear like some crazy gun-toting redneck maniac to everyone, I think I need to set the record straight a little bit. So here's my rebuttal.

My point here is that a gun on a livestock farm is a purposeful tool and nothing more than that. At times every it's every bit as necessary and useful as a hammer or a shovel. Living on a horse farm in a rural place with a wife who couldn't or wouldn't operate a shovel or a hammer in an emergency situation when I'm not available to do so would be ridiculous. I feel much the same way about guns.

I don't own an arsenal now and I have no plans to acquire one. I'm not a hunter nor do we have bears or large predators in number anywhere in middle Tennessee. The threat of physical violence during the commission of any crime in this area is very low.

What we do have are errant and very occasional skunk, possum and coon encounters. I've yet to encounter a dog/coyote encounter that I felt was dangerous in middle Tennessee, but the possibility certainly exists.

We had an errant skunk yesterday evening that exhibited a whole bunch of weird behaviours. Skunks are rabies vectors in this area. It's very plausible that this could have happened when neither I nor Melissa's father were immediately available to take care of this situation. It's my belief that Melissa needs to be able to do so herself, on the rare occasions this situation arises.

Similarly, there are very rare times when the right thing to do is put a badly hurt animal out of it's misery immediately. I've not had to do this in middle Tennessee either, but again, the possibility exists. Should this situation present itself while I am away from home, I feel Melissa needs to be able to handle it.

None of these situations requires proficiency with an elephant gun or even a hand gun, although it would certainly be easier to carry than a long rifle. Loading the magazine and feeling comfortable firing a .22 for varmints and perhaps a .243 or a small shotgun would be more than enough to take care of any other situation I could think of.

Rebuttal done ! :)

Sydney said...

We have one here. We have had to shoot several skunks. If that one you shot was behaving unnaturally you should have given the body to your local animal control. We had one that had distemper and they needed that information and to protect our animals here.

Shotgun for sure. We have had a cow that we had to put down that way. She was going downhill really quick and it was late at night.

IsobelleGoLightly said...

You are right...that skunk wasn't behaving normally. My lady "pishes" at them when they are around and they trundle off into the bushes. My lady has a rifle but she tends to use her pitchfork as a defense. Uhhh... not as efficient, especially with a rabid racoon (happened before I was born). She has a hunting man that lives around the corner that could help in a pinch...but it surely is something to think about.

Java's Mom said...

i vote gun. you never know, and if you need it and know how to use it you will be glad and if you don't, you'll wish you did. Not that I carry, or have one... yet. I would probably think twice, but not three times before shooting a potentially rabid or unhealthy creature threatening the horses, dogs or humans.

Poor little skunk, it crossed the skunk rainbow bridge and is in little skunkie paradise now. It's OK Melissa, Jason had to do it. :)

Anonymous said...

As a range master and firearm instructor there are a couple of considerations.

1) Are you afraid of the gun itself or are you afraid of having to make a life or death decision?
2) You have a husband obviously..but do you have kids other than the animals? You owe THEM (kids/husband/animals)enough to protect not only yourself but them from harm. If you think killing a rabid/stray animal (or human) is horrible imagine living with the fact that YOU weren't able to stop them from killing someone you love. Imagine how your husband and family would feel if it were you lying there dead.
3) Take a good class from a good instructor and remove the mystique from the gun. Guns are tools just like shovels and axes. Both are very capable deadly weapons IN THE WRONG HANDS.

I think you owe it to yourself, your husband and your family (four legged and two legged) to be ready and able to protect yourself and them. If after getting some training you still feel that a gun isn't for you then I support your choice. Guns simply aren't for everyone. BUT at the moment you are letting emotions get in the way. Back off...get some training and THEN make an informed decision.If you NEVER carry or use a gun after that at least you know HOW if that horrible what if ever does occur. Things might change inside QUICKLY if your family is being attacked and the you will al least have the knowledge to deal with it using your husbands guns.

ZionFarm said...

I vote gun too. Better to have it and know how to use it and not need it than not have it and not know how to use it, and need it!

I agree though about carrying it, I would be nervous about carrying it around the farm....

Mrs Mom said...

(My Dear Husband already posted his thoughts, but I wanted to add mine too.)

1- I carry a gun because a cop is too heavy. And they are literally MINUTES away when seconds count the most.

2- Here a re two sites for you to look at:

Take the classes. (First Shots is a good one.) Knowledge is power. The gun- should you choose to carry- will not jump out of it's holster of it's own desire and go on a crime/ shooting spree. I promise- mine hasn't, and neither has my husband's. Nor has anyone else's that we know...

All kidding aside though, it is not an easy decision. But it is made easier by a good education in firearms.

I'll quit now (since it is obvious that I am one of those redneck Second Amendment/ Constitutional supporting crazies.... ;) )

LuLo Designs/Blue Eyed Tango said...

Jason, the first thought about the skunk upon reading was rabies. Melissa....Annie Oakley UP! lol!

P.S. I don't own a gun either however, I have shot a 9 MM Pistol Glock and an 8K- 47 that a friend of my husband's had. Target shooting was fun....especially the 8K!

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

Anonymous/Mr. Mom - thank you for your well worded thoughts. My dad's first career was in the army, and then after his corporate career he has been the firearmas instructor and range master in his retirement. He feels much the same way as you do, obviously my husband does as well. Your first question is the biggie, about making a life or death decision. I wouldn't want to make the wrong one, as obviously death is very final.

I do think all life is sacred as long as we can coexist peacefully, and would feel bad pulling the trigger if I made a wrong choice. Of course Jason and my dad point out that this will keep me from being "trigger happy" and that I'm not going to take a life needlessly.

I appreciate everyone's comments so far, they have all been well thought out and I really appreciate the direct discussion. I don't think anyone commenting here sounds like a 2nd amendment crazy at all - heck *I* support the 2nd amendment!!

Mrs Mom said...

I didn't realize Dear Husband posted as the ANON poster... lol.. sorry bout that! ;)

A word about carry- Shoulder holsters + farm work = a mess. I'd carry a small, polymer framed, probably no bigger than 9MM caliber, open carry. Concealed carry- with something like an in-wasitband holster- tends to get in the way. If I am just out picking paddocks, I carry on my hip.

I Do Not Advise small of the back carry, as a lot of the holsters are not only uncomfortable, but holstering/ unholstering can be a bit dangerous to you. (Practice practice practice!) Harder to get to too, if you need it quick.

Those of us who do carry Responsibly(!!) tend not to take that decision lightly. The LAST thing any of us WANTS to do is have to fire for defense. None of us- the folks I know anyways- *want* to have to aim and fire to take a life. We carry to be prepared for the worst, and we carry to *prevent* problems from escalating.

Melissa, if you do decide to carry, or even mount a shotgun to your mule (which might be a great idea really,) I hope and pray that you don't encounter a situation where you MUST use it. But I'll feel better for you, knowing you've had the training, done your homework (because with your Dad and Jason by your side, you'll get an education! LOL)

Have a great day out there girl- and love on some of those seasoned citizens for me please. I love stopping in and checking out your old timers, even if I hardly ever comment...

CheekyMare said...

I have a 12 ga. pump and two 9 mm.

I've never had to shoot anything around here...yet and I hope I never do, so far Juan is the appointed dog assassin, but I'm glad I have them.(and know how to use them)

CheekyMare said...

Did you send the skunk off for testing?

SmartAlex said...

I have a .22 rifle propped in the corner of my closet. Yes, I would use it. Normally, I just use the pellet gun to scare of deer and such from my garden, but if my husband weren't home, yes, I would shoot a varmint;-) or unrully neighbor LOL! Especially if it were a potential threat to me horses or pets.

Vivian, Apollo's Mom said...

Melissa- I say take the course and get a gun. As soon as we moved to our farm in Va, we bought a 38 Smith and Wesson revolver for me and Pete taught me how to shoot. Pete's Dad bought him his first BB gun at age 6 and he used to be an avid hunter and still likes to shoot. I had trouble with the rifle so Pete got me going with the BB gun and now I can handle the 22 cal lever action Marlin rifle. When we moved to Fl (they don't care in rural Va. what you do) I took the course and got the concealed carry permit. I don't usually carry but it's nice to know that I can. I love shocking people because no one ever expects me to know how to shoot! It's very necessary to know how to protect yourself, especially on a farm. Pete had to shoot a horse once to put her out of her misery and it was one of the most horrible things he had to do. But at least he was able to do it. Have your Dad or Jason teach you and then go take the course. You will be glad you did,even if you never have to use it. I am glad I did!

Trini said...

I Third or Fourth the suggestion to go for training on a range before making any decision. Taking the mystique out of actually using a gun is always a good thing.
If you've got a competitive streak you might even find that you like it :)
While I personally prefer shooting handguns, try a few training sessions with a GOOD instructor and see what works for you.
Good luck and Happy Shooting :)

Anonymous said...

Well I vote gun.
many years ago we had a skunk follow my daughter and sister up the drive way to the house. I thought it was a cat at first. The girls were oblivious. I hurried them into the house. We watched the skunk from the window. I felt bad for it because it looked sick. (Dumb) I thought of shooting it but I felt sorry for it.(more Dumb) Big mistake!!!! It went under our house and died! Now this was a farm house built on no foundation save some field stones. We could not retrieve it. About a week later in the middle of the night it "exploded" We not only had the nasty smell of a skunk but the rotten decaying smell too. We had to relocate until we could have the floor pulled up in the kitchen and the skunk removed.
To this day I shoot all skunks first and ask questions later.
Good shooting Jason!
Melissa, it wouldn't hurt to take a gun class even if you never need to use it you will have the knowledge.