The Mule spoke once.
Standing nearby, I suggested Shag take another shot. He pumped the carbine and pulled the trigger. Click.
Another pump. The Mule spoke again.
An American Bison crashed to the ground, a pair of 30 caliber hollowpoints having slammed through its chest cavity bringing and end to the big animal. Later on processing the meat I came across the remains of bullet lodged in bone. As much a trophy as the head which will eventually hang on Shag’s wall.
The Mule is a carbine .308 pump which belonged to our dad. Dad, when he died, didn’t leave us much - a mound of debts mostly, some tools, reloading equipment and his gun collection.
Shag got the Mule. The rifle is older than he is. It got the nickname The Mule because it has a ferocious kick when loaded with hot ammo.
As best I can remember, Dad did kill a deer with it. He also shot an antler off a deer with it. I remember him telling me he looked and looked for the missing antler, but never found it. May be more kills with it, at Dad’s hand. Don’t remember.
Regardless. Dad died in 1986.
Since his demise, Shag and I have moved several times. Mom (they were divorced before his death) has moved twice. In the course of these moves, we have found ammunition Dad loaded.
Shag has a few rounds of .308 hollowpoints Dad loaded. His bison was taken with this ammo. I have the .30-06 ammo. The 8 point whitetail on my wall was taken with ammo Dad loaded. I know he loaded it because the handholds I put together under his supervision were hollowpoints. My first deer, first three in fact, were killed with that ammo.
We also have his reloading presses. Every time I sit to reload, I remember being on the carport with Dad learning to reload. It’s almost like he’s sitting there with me again.
That cold morning in north Tennessee, with snow on the ground and a bison carcass in front of us, I knew Dad was with us again. I knew he was pleased.
With the bison dead on the ground, Shag said, “Thanks Dad” as he came over to hug me. Moments later there were tears in his eyes.
Thanks Dad. Thanks for being there with us. Thanks for guiding the bullet home. Thanks for giving us the chance to feed our families, and put a trophy on the wall, with something that came from your hand. Your grandchildren never got the chance to meet you, but thanks to you, they will be nourished.
This happened the week between Christmas and New Years just south of Kentucky. Mom, having sold her house in Florida, has moved to be closer to her grandkids. She took part of the profits from the sale to send Shag and myself hunting.
“I want you guys to use it and enjoy it while I’m still alive and can see you do it,” she said.
Thanks to both our parents who instilled in us a tremendous love of the outdoors and the ability to hunt and fish to provide for our families.