Shotgun Thomas

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Carolyn, my daughter, with Shotgun Thomas

My husband Mike grew up in Northern Michigan in a rural area.  In his yard they had three enormous walnut trees.  Lots of nuts means lots of squirrels.  My father-in-law, in order to keep the squirrel population down, would take his shotgun out and shoot the squirrels.  People may think this is cruel, but the squirrels would cause quite a bit of damage to the house.  They would constantly try to break into the attic.  So every so often he would have to take out his gun and glean the squirrel population.  It’s called wildlife management.

When my husband was a kid he rescued a cat that eventually had kittens in their garage.  They kept one of these kittens.  At first my father-in-law called this kept kitten Damn Cat, then Tom Cat, then the more aristocratic sounding Thomas.  When Thomas moved up the name mobility ladder he was probably coming into the house and my father-in-law was getting attached to him.

That brings me back to the squirrels. Thomas soon learned that the sound of a shotgun meant a good meal.  When a gun was fired a squirrel fell out of a tree and Thomas would eat it. So whenever my father-in-law fired the gun at a squirrel, Thomas was right there by his side, kind of like a good hunting dog.

I told this story when I was in England to my students thinking they would get a good laugh out of it.  They looked at me in horror.  My training teacher (bless her heart) broke in quickly and said that they didn’t have this kind of culture in England, that only the nobles really hunted.  Which makes sense because the nobility  have large estates and there is very little public land in England.  I think the students thought I was a gun nut or a complete hick, maybe both.  But I did get a kick out their reaction.

After some time my father-in-law had to sell his house and move into an apartment in town.  At this point in time our family was living in Marquette, Michigan, which is about five hours north of Traverse City, Michigan, where he was living.  My father-in-law couldn’t take Shotgun Thomas with him, so we decided to adopt him into the family.  Unfortunately, the day of moving Thomas was nowhere to be found.  My husband was getting frantic, because he had to leave and come back up north to Marquette with the cat.  Someone got the bright idea of getting the shotgun.  A few shots were fired off and lo and behold Shotgun Thomas ran from the horse field across the road meowing enthusiastically up the driveway- with an eye out for dropping squirrels.  My husband scooped him up and the rest is history.

So whenever I hear about gun control and how guns are bad, I think of old Thomas and those walnut trees.

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