What influence on your future career and life choices did neighbors , teachers or other mentors have when you were in high school?   I can only recall that my Junior and Senior year of high school were most influential in my future;  the first two I spent at a different school 1500 miles away from Tucson, Arizona.  Those first two were more of a battleground with a few toughs at school whom I eventually stood up to,  beat and embarrassed.

During the last two years I worked hard at school;  rode seven miles on my bicycle every school day so I could remain in the same district for my Senior year;  Being in Arizona, it was only proper for a city slicker to learn to ride horseback.   Before and after high school, i traded labor for riding lessons at a dude ranch near my home. I was more of a ranch hand in those days than many of the kids in their cowboy hats, big belt buckles and pickup trucks.   I learned to operate farm equipment and drive a jeep.   While I was eventually to find my career path in the engineering world, at that time I loved history, Spanish and French languages.  Some afternoons I visited a nursing home where my mom worked, spending time listening to the adventures of mule skinners,  WWI and WWII veterans.

Two of my favorite teachers were World War II  Army veterans.  One history teacher,  had been a driver for General Patton in Sicily.   Another, Mr. Davis,  spoke of military units and battles of the Revolutionary War as though he had been part of them.  But more interesting to me and to a few of my buddies,  is that he had a black powder shooting club; It was there that we learned to load, clean and shoot muskets.  As it was the Bicentennial year (1976), a couple of us were introduced to a group of enthusiasts who participated in both an Indian Wars U.S. Cavalry re-enactment group and those forming a Revolutionary War Connecticut militia unit.   Everything was period dress, arms, slings, powder bags and the like.  I never actually mastered the fife, but I kept that tri-corner hat for probably fifteen years.

It was so odd for me, two years later, when I enlisted in the Navy and was sent to San Diego for bootcamp,  that we NEVER touched a pistol nor a rifle for marksmanship training.    Only in the final weeks of bootcamp,  did we actually see rifles — ceremonial rifles – as my company was a Drill unit.  The ones who marched in parades, at football  game halftime ceremonies and the like.

Through a series of events, it would be more than ten years later in a second stint in the Navy, where I obtained military marksmanship training, qualified to shoot rifle, pistol ( 45 S&W) and shotgun as member of a shipboard Quick Reaction Force.  Since retiring from the military, the only shooting I do these days is with a camera.  But then, California would probably NOT license me for a 50 cal deck gun, and I have difficulty justifying 500 dollars for a plinking pistol.   Dear me,  I’ve become a liberal!


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