Passing down traditions
Over the weekend, friends and family gathered their lawnchairs ‘round the grill for a spirited cookout in the backyard to celebrate our nation’s birthday.
Hotdogs, hamburgers and of course my Aunt Joan’s deviled eggs were among the all-Amer- ican fare served that afternoon. At dusk, my husband even surprised us with a fireworks display that young and old alike enjoyed.
At most family get-togethers, my brother-in-law delivers a thoughtful and meaningful prayer before the meal. It’s one of those traditions passed down through the family over the generations. Even for the non-religious, that solemn moment of gratitude leaves each listener in a contemplative mood. It’s a tradition I’m sure many Americans can relate to.
This Fourth of July we decided start a family tradition to make the event a little more meaningful for our kids. My daughters each read a section of the U.S. Constitution to help them better understand the
freedoms we enjoy. We spent a lot of time on the Preamble and the Bill of Rights.
American patriots fought and died to provide us those rights, and I don’t want to chance my children taking them for granted or not understanding what was gifted to them.
Each reading spurred discussion and a fair amount of reverence for the people who provided the foundation for our prosperity. And, in the process, I had a revelation when I found out who the man is behind the name Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer.
That event got me thinking of important traditions we pass down through our families. Some of my fondest memories and most prized possessions are rooted in the American tradition of gun ownership.
When my parents would take us on road trips to Pennsylvania to visit family and see where the Lithuanian and Irish immigrants who founded the American branch of our family started off, I always looked forward to visiting my Uncle Tom. He had an air rifle range in the basement of his rowhouse where we’d spend hours shooting both targets and the breeze. As a teenager, I spent almost as much time shooting .22s with my dad as I did casting lures off the back of his bass boat.
If you knew my dad, you would know that he was very interested in making sure his girls could handle a weapon and defend themselves. His college graduation gift to me was a very nice Beretta handgun. My sister got a 12-gauge shotgun, which was probably more practical for someone living in the wilds of Maine. Thanks to our father’s careful instruction, my sister and I can protect ourselves, dispatch predators and even procure our own food.
Recently, the results of the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s National Three-Position Championships came across my inbox and scrolling through the rankings, I had good reason to smile.
This organization strives to
give every child the chance to experience marksmanship training and be schooled in gun safety, and it sanctions competitive shooting matches for juniors and adults across the country. In this particular event, competitors fired 20 shots in each of three positions: prone, kneeling and standing.
First place in the aggregate category went to 14-year-old Katie Zaun of the Buffalo Sharpshooters from North Dakota. Rebecca Lamb of Virginia came in second and Sarah Osborn, also hailing from Virginia, came in third. I was smiling because 7 of the 10 top shooters were ladies.
While 2016 was a record year for firearm sales, the slump forecasted for by many for 2017 has not yet materialized.
This past May, the FBI
performed 1,942,677 background checks for gun sales, a figure higher than May’s total the previous year. While NICS checks don’t correlate one-for-one with firearms sold each month, it’s still a reliable indicator of how many were probably sold.
Many of those firearms were bought for target shooting. No doubt many people buy their first gun for self-defense, but end up enjoying the initial training so much they want to continue shooting for the pure fun of it and to practice the discipline it takes to get better.
My dad and I spent many a summer afternoon taking aim with our Crossman and Daisy air rifles on the small range we built in our backyard. It’s a pastime I’m thankful he shared with me, and it’s a good thing for the future of our country that the next generation, including a significant number of girls, are learning how to handle firearms safely and
shoot properly and accurately.
Many countries around the world, not just the United States, have laws that allow gun ownership. What is rare about our country is that our right to bear arms is just that — an actual right. Our forefathers who risked everything to earn that right enshrined it quite clearly within the Constitution. In other countries, political winds may change and laws can be passed. But in America we are guaranteed this right.
And who was Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer, the man with the unusual name? He was born near Port Tobacco in 1723, was a Justice of the Peace in Charles County, served as the first president of the Maryland Senate and was uncle of none-other-than Thomas Stone, one of Maryland’s signers of the Declaration of Independence.
More importantly, Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer was one of
the three Marylanders who had the honor of signing the U.S. Constitution.
If you’re a woman (or man) interested in getting some hands-on experience in the outdoors in a casual, non-threatening environment, then you’ll want to sign up for BOW’s mailing list to receive updates. BOW stands for Becoming an Outdoors Woman and is run by the good folks at the Wildlife and Heritage Service division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Each fall, BOW offers an overnight workshop with classes such as firearm safety, preserving the harvest, fly fishing, outdoor survival skills and just about something for everyone who wants to spend time outside enjoying nature’s bounty. These classes are designed to give participants enough knowledge to further
pursue their interests once the workshop is over. This year’s fall workshop will be held Oct. 27 to 29 in Garrett County. Registration opens later this month.
Throughout the course of the year, other Beyond BOW workshops are held in various locations across Maryland and can span a day to a weekend of instruction. This year’s Beyond BOW topics ranged from birding to rockfish how-to’s and there was even a family fun day last month to engage the children and spouses of participants in outdoor pursuits.
Wing Shooting 101, a Beyond BOW workshop, is scheduled for Sept. 8 to 10 in Garrett County. These workshops fill up fast, within a day or two of the announcement. Get first dibs by putting yourself on the mailing list, found on the left-hand side of the webpage at http://dnr.maryland.gov/ wildlife/Pages/Education/ bow.aspx.