Teach them Right
It happened so fast that all I could do was act instinctively. As I came around the corner into the dimly lit alley, I saw my partner kneeling over a teenage-looking boy, who appeared to be injured. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a hooded figure moving out of the shadows toward my partner and the fallen boy. I immediately grabbed the figure to keep him from getting any closer. As I spun the person around, I could see he was a teenage-looking boy with longer dark blond hair. He didn’t put up a struggle and looked scared when he realized I was a police officer. After making sure the kid wasn’t armed, I instructed him to, “Stand over there, and don’t move an inch.” And, he did as instructed.
Moments later, backup arrived, and an EMS team took over treating the kid, who appeared to have only minor abrasions but was transported to the hospital to be checked out. The other boy was released and instructed to, “Go home.”
“Thanks, Jim,” Frank exclaimed, as we got back into our squad car. He added, “That could have been way worse, as I never saw that other kid. Welcome to the city!” “Hell of a first day on the job” was all I could think of to say in response.
It’s not that I had never been in a big city before, it’s just that the city has never been my cup of tea. I was born and raised in the small town of Wheat Creek and preferred the feel of a small town to the hustle and bustle of the big city. Other than my stint in the Army, which included three tours in Afghanistan, I’d been in Wheat Creek my whole life. In Wheat Creek, I knew nearly everyone in town. In the city, well, it just wasn’t the same. That said, I agreed to move to the city with my wife and two-year-old son, Jimmy Jr., so Becky could take care of her great aunt. Aunt Alice had left Wheat Creek nearly seventy-years ago to marry a boy she had met at an FFA convention in Kansas City in 1952. Alice and Joe had farmed a large spread in southwest Illinois, and after Joe had passed-on the year before, Alice had moved to the city to be near their only granddaughter, Amy. But when Amy got sick and really couldn’t take care of Alice, my wife wanted to move in with Alice, temporarily, to help out.
I had been a police officer in Wheat Creak since getting out of the Army, and the chief of police had agreed to give me temporary leave of absence and even helped me get the job in the city. Of course, the chief was my dad, so he understood why I needed the time away. As for me, I was fond of Aunt Alice, as every year I would spend a lot of time on their farm hunting deer, turkey, quail and waterfowl, depending on the season. She never sold the farm, so I figured on weekends, I’d be able to get away and do some hunting.
When our shift was over, Frank asked me to join him for a beer at a little neighborhood bar near the station house. Frank, who was African American, spent the entire time telling me about how rough the streets were in the city and told me that the kids there were different from those I was used to dealing with back home. Frank said that he was lucky to have avoided the street life because of his football skills, and after graduating from the University of Missouri, he moved home to become a police officer. Frank said he was always looking for ways to get these young men off the streets, but the options were limited. As we left the bar, Frank said, “Just remember Jim, you ain’t in Wheat Creek anymore!”
Those words from Frank echoed so loudly in my head that when I got home, there was no way I could get to sleep. “Are you asleep Becky?” I asked my wife, although I knew she was. “What? Did you say something?” Becky asked, as she rolled over with a startled but irritated look on her face. “I had one hell of a first day,” I stated. I then proceeded to tell Becky about the entire event and how I really wanted to try and do something to help these kids, especially the boy who had been injured. Becky suggested that I start by going to visit the injured kid in the morning, and take it from there.
The next day, Frank and I went to see the kid, who we learned lived with his grandmother. D’Anthony was his name, and he was suspicious of us at first. So was his grandmother, who was wondering why two police officers were there to see her grandson. We told her that D’Anthony wasn’t in any trouble, and we were just checking on him from last night. When Frank told them that I was new to the area and got me talking about Wheat Creek, which included a hunting story or two, they opened up to me. Eventually, D’Anthony told us that the boy who had punched him was a classmate, and the fight had been over a basketball game earlier that day at school. In no uncertain terms, D’Anthony and his grandma made it clear that they would not be pressing charges.
I had noticed that both Frank and D’Anthony seemed quite interested when I was telling hunting stories, so I asked them if they had ever been hunting. Neither had, so I told them I would like to introduce them to my hunting lifestyle. In my mind, I was thinking that this may be a way to help D’Anthony, and other city kids, learn something new that may help to keep them out of trouble. Later that month, we took a road trip to Aunt Alice’s farm where we shot blue rock with shot guns, targets with .22’s and tin cans with our handguns. My family was there and so was Frank’s wife, and we all ate a traditional Sunday dinner together before we headed back to the city.
A month later, Frank and D’Anthony completed a hunter’s education class. We made several more trips to the farm to practice, and we eventually made plans to quail hunt at Aunt Alice’s farm when the season opened. When the season finally opened up, we spent an entire day together quail hunting. We found three coveys and managed to all shoot a few. I’ll never forget the smiles on both Frank and D’Anthony’s faces when they shot their first bird. In just a few short months, I had turned these city boys into full blown hunters. I imagine my smile was as big as theirs as I was very proud to have mentored two new hunters, one an adult and one a kid, into our hunting lifestyle.
Amy eventually got back on her feet and was able to look after Aunt Alice full time. Becky and I packed up and were ready to head back to Wheat Creek. The Saturday morning we were scheduled to leave, Frank and his wife stopped by to say goodbye. D’Anthony was with them, and to my surprise, so was the boy who had fought with D’Anthony on my first day in the City. Frank told me that Aunt Alice had given them permission to go down to the farm and have some target practice fun. Before they left, D’Anthony gave me a long hug. When I shook Frank’s hand to tell him goodbye, I told him that one piece of advice he had given me on my first day was wrong. “What was that?” Frank asked. “You said that the kids in the city were different from the kids in Wheat Creek,” I replied. And, as I pointed to the Hunter Nation hat on D’Anthony’s head, I added, “Kids are the same everywhere. It’s just up to us adults to teach them the right things!”
Founder of Hunter Nation