Shot: A Rifle's True Tales of a Prairie Farm

Shot: A Rifle's True Tales of a Prairie Farm

by Willard Jackson

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Overview

Shot, a long-barrel, single-shot rifle, shares stories of intrigue, repose, and character—all as they occurred on Rudy’s farm on the North Dakota prairie. Rudy, himself an endearing soul, returns home from World War II with an artificial limb to operate a vibrant, diversified farm where even routine life is replete with adventures. Picture sheep escaping a burning building, ravaging hogs being loaded for butcher, bulls charging man and vehicles, and horses racing wide-eyed down a country lane. Picture also adventures from wild animals, prairie fires, brutal winters, and marauding dogs. Add in colorful hired men, unforgiving firearms, an even an Indian fight. Shot’s adventures arise from challenges on the farm. Rudy faces them with persistence, compassion, and creativity. His eldest son, Tommy, while dumfounded by Rudy’s resilience, has a variety of his own exploits. Both are consumed by the farm work while at the same time absorbed in perpetual drama, some of which is severe and debilitating. Only with a deep faith in God are they able to thrive. Altogether, Rudy’s farm pops like a television series, with episode after episode. Shot tells his tales—truth is stranger than fiction—with aplomb. He brings you in to feel present and engaged. You’ll enjoy Shot. You’ll never forget his farm.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781595558923
Publisher: Elm Hill
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 132
Sales rank: 593,729
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Willard Jackson was raised on Rudy’s farm on the North Dakota plains, on prairie land. His life growing up was farm life.  As a little boy, he raised a pet lamb, learned to ride horses, ran from over-protective roosters, and accompanied his father and hired men in routine work.  He was soon involved and the routine became natural.  Like other farm boys, he cannot tell you when he learned to drive: In his memory he was always driving, like he was always walking. 

In his later youth, Willard’s responsibilities grew and his understanding of farm life deepened in spite of a profound goal to graduate high school, go to college, and make a life in something other than farming.

Willard has proven to be a consummate educator. After a stint teaching at the university level, he served corporate America as a professional trainer, focusing primarily on developing leaders.  Today, Willard serves as a coach for managers, leaders, and executives who seek to improve their effectiveness.

 

He is happily married and has three grown children who, along with Willard’s grand kids, occasionally enjoy hearing him recount long-ago farm stories.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Rudy's Farm

Hi. I'm Shot.

More than my name, shot is my condition: worn, rusted, and broken in two. I have been around a long time, and I've gone through a lot of "situations." Through them all, I've seen things that dig at others' character and my own identity.

What I was, and still am, though disabled, is a Model 67 Winchester .22 caliber long-barrel rimfire rifle, a bolt-action single-shot equipped with a wing-style safety. With a rear, adjustable sight, I was crafted in the day of marksmanship — one shot was all that was needed.

Of course, a single shot requires a marksman. Mine was Rudy, a farmer on the North Dakota prairie. His farm was a mosaic operation — corn, grain, sheep, dogs, cats, hogs, chickens, horses, and a small dairy, complete with cows, calves, steers, and bulls. One could write a book about the latter and call it Bull Stories. You wouldn't put it down. I know, because I lived through a few. I'll tell you a couple.

That kind of farm is labor-intensive, and you will probably not be surprised when I tell you that Rudy had a stream of hired hands to help. Among them was a steady man who lived on the farmstead in a one-bedroom, coal-fired house. (It also had running water, if someone ran to get it, and for a toilet, picture an outhouse — a three-seater!) As the on-site employee, the hired man worked the full range of farm issues and was usually trustworthy, loyal, and dedicated to being a faithful farmer himself — a right-hand man. Although he would move on in time, typically he stayed for several years, living on the farm with his wife and sometimes one or two kids. The work would not make them well-to-do, but the farm was home because Rudy provided housing, electricity, coal, fair pay, and a feeling of partnership. The hired man was valued, and he felt it.

Rudy had that effect on a lot of folks. He liked people even when they weren't so likable. Maybe that's what serving in the U.S. Army during World War II does to a person. Although Rudy never saw action on a foreign field, he served his country during the war doing whatever he was assigned. Mostly that was logistics labor. In other words, he loaded and unloaded supplies for the fighting forces; for this he was paid little, but also, for this he paid the price of his left leg.

After unloading a flatbed railcar, Rudy and his buddies — everyone was so qualified for Rudy — sat on the end of the car hanging their legs in the gap before the dock, to eat their rations. What began as a luncheon repose became pandemonium and tragedy when an oncoming train was not switched properly onto its own sidetrack. Rudy's leg was crushed below the knee.

Amputation was required. With months of recuperation, physical therapy, and training with an artificial limb, Rudy was on "his feet" again, albeit one leg was what he thereafter referred to as "wooden." It was actually plastic, molded for fit and some flexibility as well as appearance, allowing Rudy to wear pairs of matching shoes or work boots. Only when a discussion forced the subject did Rudy comment on his leg. And with only a slight catch in his gait, many people did not realize his disability. Still, his mobility was limited.

I think that's why he was such a sure shot: in his life, on the farm, and with people, he stayed calm, aimed straight, and calculated efficient and effective actions.

When the war ended in the late 40s, Rudy returned to North Dakota to live the life so many fellow soldiers were denied because they, unfortunately, had paid the price of not just limb, but life itself. He chose to live near his family, and with consolation money from the train company, he bought the farm adjacent to his father's. It lacked fertile soil, but it was near home and those he knew. Because much of the land was not prime for raising crops, he diversified to make a go of it. Consequently, life on Rudy's farm was dynamic, replete with adventures and, of course, ripe for stories.

Before I launch into them, you should get acquainted with Rudy's family. I knew the oldest as Tommy. That's what Rudy called him. He even called him that after Tommy became Tom and later Thomas. Tommy had a younger sister and two considerably younger brothers. I just saw them as the Little Brothers. They grew, of course, but compared to Tommy, I always thought of them as little. You know, younger means little.

Everyone contributed, especially Mother who managed the chicken and egg production and who faithfully prepared amazing around-the-table farm meals to keep everybody running strong. And usually, they were prepared from scratch, as in growing and harvesting a garden, raising and butchering chickens, and preparing and processing butter. Although after a few years, the latter gave way to being store-bought.

All the members of the family were relatively tall and lean, except for Rudy. He inherited genes that somehow were not passed on. To his chagrin, he was usually overweight and, though of medium height, he had a round appearance. Once he played Santa Claus, but only oncebeing typecast did not suit his fancy.

Rudy's family valued God and prayer. Good thing, too, because at times divine intervention was all that seemed to keep things afloat. There were years of drought, years of diseased animals, and years of grasshopper infestations, hail, or crop blight. And some years brought two or more of these devastations. In addition, tragedy struck more than once. Knowing God and His grace was a source of strength and seeking to glorify Him provided purpose.

North Dakota is not redneck country. The people are composed and proudly American, yet when I knew them — in the 50s and 60s — they seemed acutely aware of each other's country of origin. To hear them reference one another, you'd think that they all came from the land of stubborn. We had stubborn Swedes, stubborn Norwegians, stubborn Dutch, stubborn Germans, stubborn Czechs, stubborn Poles, and stubborn Irish. (Come to think of it, I knew someone with a French name. I'll bet he was stubborn, too.)

If they were indeed stubborn, it was probably an outgrowth of determination, the kind that propels folks to leave their kin and country, cross an entire ocean, and traverse half a continent to happily accept a government-provided quarter section of land, plow its virgin soil, and make a life for a family, even when winters last forever, often at temperatures below -20°F. These were homestead roots, and they sprouted dogged fruit that could at once be fiercely independent and genuinely communal. Together they built the American dream, latticing the land with roads, electrical lines, and telephone wires. They valued enterprise and education, and they, for the most part, evidenced their American pride by speaking proper English.

Of course being unique, each person had distinctive expressions. Rudy's was "Had better," as in "Had better plow the South Forty," "Had better fix the swather," "Had better cut those calves before it gets hot." (Yes, in spite of the long winters, summers in North Dakota could be hot, very hot, and sometimes humid.)

Before I share some goings-on, I have one final perspective: on Rudy's farm, I was a tool. I had jobs to do. Everybody and everything on the farm was a tool in this sense: you had to earn your keep. We never fought this reality. Instead, we embraced it and took honor from it. Being a slacker, cutting corners, or causing trouble was out of the question, and if one did stray-man, beast, or machine-one was gone, or rebuilt ... as you will see.

CHAPTER 2

Chub

A good farm dog is worth its weight in gold. Besides being a playmate and a companion like a city dog, a farm dog works to make the farm work. He or she — gender does not matter — barks to alarm others of visitors or intruders, chases cattle to hustle them along, herds sheep, rids the farmstead of varmints, and, yes, occasionally rescues family members from danger. Chub was all of that and more.

Yes, Chub. Rudy gave him that name when he brought him home as a pup. It seems he found Chub at some farm sale many miles away. He was a collie, well, mostly. Raised under Rudy's supervision he came to love farm life. Without a whimper, he slept in the outdoor doghouse during brutal winters with only foam insulation on the ground. In the hot summers, he would leap into a slough filled with stale water, bugs, frogs, and who knows what to paddle about, refreshing himself. Although given milk to lap up each morning and prepared dog food to eat, Chub preferred to hunt for his food. He was good at it largely due to his forte in running, and run he did, with blazing speed.

For example, when the steers in the far pasture were to be rounded up, Chub eschewed riding in a vehicle. Instead, at the declaration, "Get the cows," he'd spin in circles anticipating the adventure and waiting for Rudy, Tommy, or any others to hop into the pickup. As they pulled out of the driveway, Chub commenced racing the truck for the mile and a half to the pasture's second gate. When accompanying Tommy on horseback, Chub would occasionally scare up a jackrabbit. They would all give chase until the rabbit slipped through a fence or headed into a field of grain. Then Tommy would pull up, but not Chub. He'd leap over the fence or dash into the field, and, in hot pursuit, he'd soon vanish from sight. An hour later you would find Chub at the farmstead, showing off his catch ... and his supper.

Chub hunted during the night, too. When Rudy emerged from the farmhouse each morning before 5:00 to commence the morning milking, Chub might be waiting at the stoop proudly exhibiting his quarry. Other times Chub might be begging for a "first responder" to render aid required to recover from hunting expeditions gone awry. If he "got into" a porcupine, his face and mouth were speckled with quills. Chub would approach Rudy with whimpering eyes, so Rudy would draw his pliers — except for church, he never went anywhere without them — and pull out a quill. Chub would yelp in pain, run off, and then saunter back for another extraction. The process continued until all quills were removed.

If Chub "got into" a skunk, Rudy's response was quite the opposite. "You beggar," Rudy would say. "Get away. You stink." It then would be days before the scent subsided or Chub masked it with other odors, say of the barn or a nearby slough.

Chub also had other night time expeditions that did not involve hunting, well, not hunting for food. You see Chub was given to heeding the yelps of neighboring bitches in heat. Let me explain: a female dog is a bitch — city folk call them girls, and they call male dogs, boys. Well, on the farm we called things the way they were. But if it helps you understand, consider the phrase "boys will be boys." It seems that is true even among canine companions.

Actually, a female dog in heat can attract a passel of males, and you can probably picture Chub racing to the challenge. When he prevailed, only the other farmer was the wiser ... when the litter arrived. If Chub were discovered in his quest, he might be shot — perhaps with a .22 much like myself — without anyone knowing to whom the collie belonged. Or he might be caught and canned. So it was for Chub once or twice. Then, Rudy would find Chub at the stoop, with twine wrapped tightly around his tail and tin cans trailing behind so as to frighten him into running back to his home. In fact, the cans may be missing, having snagged on trees, brush, fences, or buffalo wallows.

Chub's athleticism and high testosterone were neither wasted on the cows nor the bull. Both feared him but for different reasons. The milk cows dreaded the call of, "Here, Chub!" Even more alarming was the command, "Sic 'em!" At either pronouncement the herd, even when carrying full bags of milk, would break into a run. Why? Because Chub, recognizing the call to action, would sprint to the cows, leap through the air, and catch one of their tails in his teeth. After swinging from one side to the other, he would hang on, growling and dragging behind the terrified critter. To Tommy or anyone else watching it was hilarious; to Chub it was a sport; to the cows, death would be more welcome. One could tell from their short tails which cows were generally at the rear of the herd.

The bull — called Herman by the Little Brothers — resented Chub "messing" with his cows. Each evening during the milking, he would-square off against Chub on a short mound in the farmstead's pasture. It was never clear why that arena was chosen evening after evening, but it was there that battle was routinely waged.

Herman pawed the ground, throwing dirt over his front shoulders and his back. While doing so he bellered loudly, very loudly, and Chub barked, loudly, very loudly. People two miles away complained of the tumult. Herman would charge at Chub who would sidestep the lunge and often dart to the bull's rear to bite his heals. The bull would spin and attack again. This could go on for over an hour. At times Chub would fake going one way and then slip the other way to nip an ear. He was taunting a 2,000-pound bovine bent on burying him. Chub, however, was invariably the victor.

Knowing the outcome did not deter Tommy and the Little Brothers from routinely watching. The spectacle was unfailingly comical-cheap entertainment.

Perhaps being the heroic victor in each evening's bullfight endeared Chub to the Little Brothers. To them, Chub was the best. He was certainly good for them. In many ways, he had been their protector during their early years. When crossing the barnyard, Chub was there to escort them. No cow, hog, or rooster dared to intercept their path without Chub giving them sufficient chase to thwart any similar future inclination.

In addition, as a little guy, seeing a dog racing alongside the car was exhilarating. And seeing Chub proudly display his wildlife catches made the Little Brothers imagine him with vast powers. Cementing their pride in their dog were weekly episodes of Lassie on television (black and white in those days). This amazing collie consistently overcame insurmountable odds to "win the day." Chub was their collie, and to them whatever Lassie could do, so could Chub.

Chub was utilitarian, enterprising, sporty, entertaining, and endearing, a real contribution to the farm. Yet he met his demise ... not from a hunt gone foul, or a romantic tryst turned deadly, nor from a misstep in a bullfight. Nope. Rather, you might say chickens got him killed.

Chickens. The farm had two kinds: layers and broilers. The former was purchased and delivered as White Leghorn chicks and raised to one day produce eggs. The latter kind was usually delivered in the spring in three waves, fifty chicks each time, with three weeks separating their arrival. Each fifty came in a large box with small holes along the sides and across the top. Little fuzzy heads could be seen popping out and emitting winsome peeps. But they weren't purchased for cuddling. No, their sole purpose was providing meat for the family and farmworkers during the summer and early fall.

They were raised in their own coop with its own chicken yard. After some grew to weigh a few pounds, they were ready to fulfill their role. On Monday mornings Tommy would head to the broiler yard to snare five or six chickens with a long wire chicken catcher — the wire had a hook on one end to snag a chicken's leg. He would then pull off their heads, and carry them by their legs to the shop. There, Mother would pour near-boiling water in six-gallon buckets, scald the chickens, pull out their feathers, and take them to the house for butchering. By noon a couple of broilers were cut into pieces, rolled in flour, salt, and pepper, and placed into a sizzling frying pan. Fried, fresh chicken. After toiling all morning in the fields, nothing is better, especially when complemented by mashed potatoes, gravy, garden vegetables, fresh bread, and some form of pie for dessert — Tommy preferred apple, made with extra cinnamon and nutmeg.

Sorry if that description got a little long, but I had a point to make: meals are a very important part of farm life — they are necessary for sustained life, hearty labor, and around-the-table camaraderie. And meat is essential to a good farm meal. In that, chickens were a primary source.

Unfortunately, Chub took a liking to chicken meat, too, but his appetite compromised others' lifeline and pleasure. If Rudy and his family ate chicken, it was good. If Chub ate chickens, it was bad. His nightly expeditions to the chicken house could not be tolerated.

The broiler coop was reinforced with boards, double latches, and fencing. Chub's chicken pursuits were thwarted ... for a while. Before long he'd steal over to the broiler yard during the day and then, leaping over or crawling under the fence, he would "hunt" chickens. Rudy applied other measures to stop the intrusions, but he knew that once a dog gets the taste of chicken, it rarely mends its ways. Mother stated the obvious but harsh verdict, "That dog has to go!"

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Shot"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Willard Jackson.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii

1 Rudy's Farm 1

2 Chub 7

3 Christmas Ham 17

4 The Lane 25

5 Shotguns 33

6 The Fox 45

7 Masked Bandit 55

8 Rearmed 65

9 Marauders 81

10 Indian Battle 95

11 Enter Trixie 103

12 Retired 111

Author's Note 121

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