Think First, Then Shoot

Rule 1: Think first, then shoot.

 Rule 2: If in doubt, don’t shoot.  

“Some must walk to rest.” —                  Unknown.
The Great Hiker in Georgia on The Appalachian Trail. My trail name used to be “Pilgrim” but I’ve changed it to “Pokey Pilgrim.” I am slow going up or down.

American Lynx


  1. a wild cat with yellowish-brown fur (sometimes spotted), a short tail, and tufted ears, found chiefly in the northern latitudes of North America and Eurasia.
There are some things that cannot be taken back.
That’s a good reason to choose carefully what you do and say.
The best example is when you pull the trigger of a gun.
Once that bullet or shell leaves the barrel, there’s no taking it back.
I have a Pineywoods friend who learned this lesson the hard way on a Colorado elk hunt.
On the day of this story, he had no luck with bagging an elk, but while on his stand, a lynx ambled out of the rocks.
We don’t have lynxes in Louisiana, only its cousin the bobcat.
From my understanding, a lynx is a super-sized stronger version of the bobcat.
In Pineywoods Louisiana, animals like that have been collectively known as varmints.
I’d define a varmint as any animal can do damage to your crops or animals.
This list would include raccoons, possums, feral hogs, crows, coyotes . . . and bobcats.
My friend carefully put his scope on the Colorado lynx. I would say that’s the default reaction of most men I’ve grown
up with.  He took a deep breath and pulled the trigger.
His hunting rifle misfired.   He later told me, “It was God telling me not to shoot.”
He ejected the shell, reloaded and fired.
There was one less Colorado lynx in the Rocky Mountains.
Proud of his unique kill, my friend brought the dead lynx back to the hunting camp.
Everyone gathered around in admiration at the large lynx and they were soon joined by other interested parties.
Several four-wheelers, manned by Federal game agents roared into camp. They were soon joined by a helicopter that landed in the camp.
A stern agent walked to the hunters. “Where’s the lynx, and the man who shot it?”
My friend is an honest man and he stepped forward. “I’m the one.”
He had no idea the trouble he was in. Lynxes are a federally protected species in Colorado.
They quickly arrested the offender, confiscated his rifle and four-wheeler, and hauled him to jail.
He had to post a high bail to get out and return to Beauregard Parish. He left behind his hunting items and faced an upcoming court date.
The case made the national news due to the role of the lynx population in an ongoing battle between Colorado developers and environmentalists. As long as the lynx is federally protected, new subdivisions and mountain resorts cannot be built in its domain.
My friend told me, “They’re going to make an example of me. I could get up to a year in jail and a stiff fine.”  His voice shook as he related the story. 
“When my gun misfired the first time, I should’ve taken it as a sign from God not to shoot that lynx.  I was just too stubborn and fired up not to shoot the second time.” He shook his head. “Once you pull that trigger, you can’t take it back.”
It got me to thinking about how many things in life are irrevocable.
Pulling a trigger.
Harsh words to a loved one or stranger.
A shove or fist thrust in anger.
I have another friend, Paul, is an avid deer hunter. When I see him at the mill, he re-lives his latest hunts. Recently, he said something that really stuck with me: “don’t pull that trigger until you are absolutely sure.”
How many tragedies could’ve been avoided by following Paul’s simple adage.
It’s especially true with our words.
That childhood saying, Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me, is a crock of crap.
Words can wound or affirm.
And every one of us can painfully recall something said to us that still cuts like a knife when recalled.
Sadly, we all know how many times we’ve said something, usually in a moment of heat, to a family member.
Just like the lynxe’s fatal bullet, what we say cannot be taken back.
That’s why we should choose our words carefully and when needed, simply walk wordlessly away, until our temper cools and we can speak with some perspective and sense of respect.
It’s especially the key to a good marriage.
I’m amazed at how spouses often speak to each other in a harsh way they’ve never use on a rank stranger.
The act of kind and timely speech over the lifetime of a marriage will make it or break it.
I close this chapter with a semi-happy ending on my lynx-slayer friend.
They did throw the book at him. He received a hefty fine, they kept his hunting rifle and four-wheeler (ouch) and gave him a boatload of community service hours, most of which he did at Dry Creek Camp where I served as manager.
The caveat of his sentence was “you are forever banned from hunting in Colorado.”
My friend laughed as he told me. “There ain’t no way I ever want to go back there. Hunting or not.”

He learned a lesson that he passed on to me, and I’m now passing on to you.  Think before you act. The impulsive life will be a troubled one.  We laugh at what’s called “A Redneck’s Last Words”:  “Hey, y’all, watch this.”

Sadly, I’ve many friends who lived by that adage. Often, their lives were short, fast, and straight, ending in a vehicle, deep river, or the business end of a firearm.

Think before you act. 

Earlier Chapters for A Pineywoods Manifesto:

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