I committed my first murder at the age of twelve. I had killed before, but before
there were always motives such as self defense and protection of property. On December
25, 1991, however, I killed for the carnal sake of killing. Taking this life did not feel
wrong until the fraction of a second after it was too late. I remember vividly the pride I
felt in my steady aim, the rifle-sights barely moving from the tiny target I had chosen, and
then the crushing suffocation which replaced pride as soon as I squeezed my right index
finger. I was told that it was alright. My father said, "good job." The government said that
I was acting within the limits of the law. Strangely, I felt no comfort in knowing I had my
father and the government on my side. I still suffered prosecution, not from any judge or
jury, but from myself.
I am sure that by now you are appalled (a little anyway) with me. It may not
change your feelings any, but at least let me explain that I did not kill any human being.
The life which I took belonged to a squirrel, and squirrel was in season. some would call it
a rodent, too stupid to get out of the path of their Goodyears. On the other hand, I as well
as many others would call the squirrel and most other animals a dignified and noble
creature. Anyway, the life was a squirrel's and the weapon was a Crossman pellet rifle.
The weapon was a Christmas present, the squirrel was not included.
Upon reaching my grandparents' farm for Christmas dinner (lunch for those of you
not raised in the country), I set out after my adversary. Any adversary would have
sufficed, but it was the squirrel's bad luck that I found it first. Actually, I really was not the
one to find the squirrel. Accompanying me on my brief safari was my father and Lady, a
lassie-looking collie and God-knows-what-else mix who fancied herself a terrier. Lady
found the squirrel, which proved a much-debated theory: one can be anything one wants if
one sets one's mind to it. Lady would have beaten any terrier to that squirrel.
The squirrel chattered angrily and threw acorns at Lady. This seemed to enrage
Lady and she commenced trying to climb the tree. Realizing that she would never get that
squirrel, Lady took off after another one to repeat the scenario. After a couple of minutes,
the squirrel forgot the insane, slobbering beast and left the security of its hiding place. It
paused on a branch to dine on an acorn. Little did it know that a very eager and blood-
thirsty twelve-year-old was keeping the sights of his brand new and fully-loaded-with-the-
safety-off pellet rifle trained on its head. Calmly, I drew in a breath and held it. My aim
was steady, the only movement of the sights coming from my suddenly deafening
heartbeat. I gently squeezed the trigger and made a change. I changed my life and ended
the squirrel's. Before it fell, I wished that I had not fired. My father said, "good job." I
said, "what?" He said, "I said it was a good shot." Somehow, I did not think it was a very
good shot. as I went down and plucked this creature from the creek, its once-fluffy fur
matted and the heat of its tiny body waning, I knew that I had made a very bad shot.
The walk back to the house was long, and I carried the squirrel as one might carry
a piece of antique china, as though I might damage it if I dropped it. My father carried the
rifle. Somehow I had lost interest in my Christmas present; I suppose I was preoccupied
with my shame. When we finally reached the house, my father said, "come on and I'll show
you how to clean it." It was then that I began to cry. How could any minute aspect of that
whole incident be cleaned?
Perhaps if I had set out with the notion of killing the squirrel for food, I would not
have felt so terrible, but I had not. I had merely set out to kill something, or rather
anything, just to see if I could. Even now, I look back and believe that I deserved to feel
as badly as I did. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. I saw the barbarian in me and
knew that I did not want to see him again.
I do not wish to debate hunting, nor do I feel I should write an epitaph to a
wronged squirrel. Hunting animals is not something I feel very strongly about. I realize
now that we as humans kill to eat, and there is nothing wrong with that. However, I do
feel very strongly about killing for no reason other than the "sport" of killing. I have never
understood why people travel to far and exotic places to kill magnificent beasts or why
people adorn their walls with the heads of animals. I did not kill a lion or a deer that day,
but no one can convince me that the squirrel I killed was any less majestic. That squirrel
was my one and only trophy, and I have yet to find a reason to seek another
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