Sunday, July 15, 2007


My father, Harold McCloskey Harshaw, was the youngest son of William R. Harshaw and his wife Ada Rippey. No one ever called him Harold that I know of. He was always "Mac." He was born in New York City and spent his earliest years in what is now Harlem. Despite his city birth, he was a country boy at heart. The Harshaw farming heritage burned deep in him, and he wished to spend his life farming as well.

Like his father before him, he had a great interest in guns. When I was a child, we lived in a house surrounded by woods, not on a farm. Still, he seemed content to substitute flower gardens for fields of hay. Small creatures who lived in our woods seemed to find our garden quite tasty. This was all the justification that father needed for acquiring something most farmers owned. He bought a shot gun which he put out of reach on the wall above his work bench in our basement.

I was very curious about the gun, but my father would never let me touch it. And I certainly knew better than to defy my father.

One hot summer afternoon, I was trying to keep cool on the screened porch at the back of our house when father came rushing onto the porch and disappeared into the house. He was back quickly, this time with his gun at the ready.

He left the porch very quietly making sure the screened door didn't slam behind him as it usually did. Silently he walked down the stairs, using the tulip tree at the bottom for cover. He was clearly stalking something I couldn't see. He moved a bit closer to the garden and then raised the gun into shooting position. Though I could clearly see what he was doing, the sound of the gun actually firing startled me.

I looked to see what he was shooting at. To my great horror, there was a small rabbit flopping about on the grass, blood visible on his white belly. Father hurried up to him and fired again. The flapping stopped. For a few moments, I stared at the dead rabbit, unable to get my feet moving. Finally, I was able to turn around and flee to the sanctuary of my room.

Never again did I have the slightest interest in that gun or any other.


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