Some good comes from putting a few decades behind ya, but sometimes it seems as if the negatives outnumber the pluses. This is a closely held secret, but after passing the magic 45-50 year old barrier, and the letters from the AARP folks start showing up un-invited in your mailbox, your eyes go off warranty. And your arms get shorter. Those who didn’t wear glasses… begin to wear glasses, and if you can’t find your reading glasses when you need them, look first to your forehead before you trash the entire house. And if you do wear glasses, get used to the lower part of the lenses going weird on you.
I won’t go into the adjustments this requires in surgery, or in tying a fly to your tippet while standing thigh deep in a Montana trout stream. But I will tell you that this new development plays havoc with your target shooting. You can still see the target, standing still waiting for you way out there, but the sights on your pistol or rifle take on a whole new dimension, or dimensions if the truth be told. Shooting by braille has some entertainment value, but what might once have represented precision soon takes on more of a comedic turn.
Which is why I’ve been adding telescopic sights to some of the old rifles, for I still enjoy playing with them, and I’d still like to do it well. Scoped rifles don’t care if your eyes are old.
The ancestors of this particular rifle go back to the military over fifty years ago, and thus it had no provisions for attaching telescopic sights. Took a little ingenuity and time spent on the net to assemble the parts, but said parts were attached to the rifle last weekend, and I got to shoot it today. But first I needed to “sight it in”.
I won’t bore you with the details, but certain adjustments to a newly mounted scope sight need to be made so it points you in the right direction. Long story short, you fire the rifle at the rather large target placed not all that far away, and then adjust the scoped sight so that you put the bullets you send down range into that little part of the center of the target. You look at the holes you just made in the paper, and then you adjust the sights until the holes show up in the correct place.
If I had not forgotten my spotting scope, the device capable of significant magnification so I could actually see those small holes in the paper target, this would have been a simple task. Fortunately, the guy shooting from the bench next to mine offered to spot for me, using the higher magnification of his rifle’s telescopic sight. With his help, within minutes I’d made the appropriate adjustments, and my holes were where they belonged. Such friendly cooperation is the norm at rifle ranges, and I thanked him for his assist.
During the next ceasefire, I moved my target farther out, to the 100 yard line, and then I had a moment to talk with my neighbor. He remembered me from some years ago.
His dog was named Sargent. She broke with parvo back in the first days of the disease, in the early eighties. We saw way too much parvo back then, and watched so many die. Sargent was a corgi/beagle mix, and I had conned him into treating the puppy with the notion that beagles could survive anything. She did eventually recover, but she had a long and difficult time. I asked if this was the pup I’d assigned a nickname. And he said yes.
I called her SARG, during those times when I went back to the isolation ward to talk with her and pet her and hopefully cheer her on with something besides drugs and fluids. And for all the years later, she was SARG to me. And he remembered that.
This man talked of how in the beginning, he had tried to talk his wife into just dumping the little pup at the pound rather than treat her. He talked of how he had grown up on a ranch where the dogs were tools and if one ran under the truck tire, you simply got a new dog. He had seen no need to invest effort or money into medical care for a pup they had just acquired. And he remembered how I had talked him into treating her.
And then he talked of how surprised he was that SARG was always thrilled to come see us, and she got excited as the car drove near, and then ran into my clinic. And he talked of how he grew to like her, and she slept in his lap and next to him in the bed, and he had wondered how he had once lived without such love and devotion.
And then he said that after 20 years the time came when SARG was so old and so sick that the only choice remaining was a quiet release into the other side. And he stood there at a rifle range, and he said to me that he must have been the worst, the most pathetic sobbing mess I’d ever seen as his dog left this earth with my help. And yet he seemed so grateful, as we stood there, and I could read it in his eyes, and then he offered me his hand to shake. For the unspoken….that I’d given his pup the chance to love him for twenty years, and him the chance to love her back.
The range master released us, and I went to my bench and loaded my rifle and sent one round downrange, and then I stopped and unloaded the rifle. Only one round sent downrange. I sat there for the ten minutes, and then during the next ceasefire, I walked out to my target.
The hole in the target was within millimeters of a perfect center hit. It was as close to perfection as I am likely to ever see.
And as I contemplated the time spent with this man, and remembered his wonderful little dog and saw how he had loved her, and I looked back on four decades of this practice of veterinary medicine, all I could conclude was….it was as close to perfection as I am ever likely to see.