SHOOT­ING MAGIC

Outdoor Life - - SHOOTING - BY JOE ARTER­BURN

Abig four-door car pulled into the sandy drive­way that cir­cled past our farm­house and stopped in front of our cor­ru­gat­edtin shop. Ex­cept for a bumpy two-track that ran just west of our barn­yard and dwin­dled to graded sand be­fore in­ter­sect­ing the next northsouth gravel road near the Colorado line, you could say we lived at the end of the road. Com­pany, es­pe­cially in un­fa­mil­iar cars, was rare at our Ne­braska farm.

Big, boat-like cars like this Ford weren’t so un­usual back then. Pick­ups were not widely used off the farm, and the pro­lif­er­a­tion of four-door ex­tended-cab pick­ups ca­pa­ble of haul­ing four hun­ters was still a gen­er­a­tion away.

I could see four peo­ple in the car, which had Colorado li­cense plates, not un­usual be­cause of our prox­im­ity to the bor­der. The two guys in front got out. They were dressed in city-slicker hunt­ing clothes: brown pants, new boots, padded-shoul­der shirts. The driver wore a tan vest with shot­shell loops loaded with fat red shot­gun shells. The other guy sported a red Fudd hat (as we kids termed it later), flaps tied up.

Dad, watch­ing from the door of the shop where he had been weld­ing equip­ment worn from the re­cent corn har­vest, wiped his hands on a rag and tossed it on the work­bench.

As he walked to meet the strangers, he pulled his bill­fold from the back pocket of his jeans and picked through it un­til he found a news­pa­per clip­ping. He had paid for a clas­si­fied ad in the Im­pe­rial

Repub­li­can that stated sim­ply, “At­ten­tion: No hunt­ing will be per­mit­ted on Arter­burn Farms property. Ro­ley E. Arter­burn.”

“Some­one shot my horse,” Dad told these hun­ters, as he handed the clip­ping to the driver. The hun­ters read the clip­ping, handed it back to Dad, got back in the car, and drove away.

Be­fore some­one shot Magic, Dad would usu­ally let peo­ple hunt. In his younger days, he hunted as well. But he worked at farm­ing pretty much dawn to af­ter dark, seven days a week. His shot­gun, a 12-gauge Ithaca Model 37, and a .270 pump-ac­tion with open sights, he had set aside.

Now and then re­peat hun­ters would drop off gifts for my dad—a box of ap­ples or a bot­tle of Old Crow—as a way of say­ing thanks for al­low­ing them to hunt our place.

But some­one—pre­sum­ably a hunter— had shot Magic in the right hindquar­ter, cre­at­ing a wound the size of a ce­real bowl. A call brought Doc Schroeder from town to treat him with pur­ple an­ti­sep­tic. If we ever fig­ured out de­tails of the shoot­ing, or even if the wound was caused by a rifle or a shot­gun round, I don’t re­call.

Magic was Dad’s horse, a big sor­rel quar­ter horse at 16 hands tall, with a white blaze on his face. We had other horses. I re­mem­ber Blaze (who also had a blaze on his face) and Sparky, a gen­tle Shet­land pony that the kids rode. To us kids, Magic seemed big and, when you con­sider 16 hands, he was.

How could some­one shoot a horse? Dad fumed when he dis­cov­ered the in­jury. It wasn’t like some­one mis­took Magic for a deer or a rooster. He was in the cor­ral just north of the barn.

And that was it for any­one hunt­ing our farm that year. The lone ex­cep­tion was Elmer Hess­man, our hired man, who some­times walked the cedar row west of the barn for pheas­ants.

Even­tu­ally, Dad cooled off and hunt­ing on our farm re­turned to nor­mal. Magic re­cov­ered, but the scar was a stark re­minder of the re­spon­si­bil­ity that comes with pulling the trig­ger, and of the fact that some­times all hun­ters are tainted by the ac­tion of just one rogue. It’s stayed with me all these years later, the in­com­pre­hen­sion that some­one could shoot Magic.

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