I am John Hines. I want to take a moment to thank everyone who was involved in setting up and executing the Coupeville event. I had a great time, and I learned enough to make my head spin. It is still spinning.
I want to tell this story about my mother, just this one time. I wasn't raised to be too sentimental, but it meant a lot to me that ShadowMan obliged my request for the Purple Patch. (My new forum nickname is PP.) So, I'll tell this story about her, and then I won't bring it up again. I just want it recorded somewhere.
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If you don't read anything below this line, you won't miss anything important. It's cool to skip this story. It's more for me than for you.
I grew up in rural East Texas, and hunting was a big part of our lives. And shooting. I learned to shoot before I can clearly remember, starting with .22s, sitting in my father's lap, with the buttplate against his shoulder, scrunching my face up to try and get a sight picture. Good times.
My mother was quiet. Shy. Reserved. Short. Overweight. Unsure of herself. Filled with self-doubt. She was also the best shot in our family. She was the best shot of anyone I knew. Better than my father, which caused no small amount of friction in our patriarchal family. Because she was so insecure, she never bragged, never boasted, never even admitted she was good. I know for a fact that she used to miss targets intentionally when other people were around, so my father wouldn't be embarrassed. (She'd make a ragged-hole group, an inch low and and an inch left--she missed the bullseye, but hit where she was aiming, and although it saved face for him, my father knew what she'd done.)
After they divorced when I was 12, my mother stopped shooting. She didn't retain any of the guns from their marriage, and being poor-ish, there were other things which needed the money. She never talked about it, and I was so wrapped up in my own experiences with their divorce that it never occurred to me that she might miss it. It dropped out of her life.
When she married my step-dad, her life took other directions, and she developed new interests, and things went on. I still shot with my father, and never even thought about my mother as a shooter any longer. It would have seemed weird to see her on the firing line.
When I was 16, maybe 17, I was reminded that my mother's inner life was deeper than I imagined or remembered. We were at a cookout with some friends, and the men in the group where shooting a .22 rifle, and a Ruger Mark II. Someone got the idea to put a bottle cap along the bottom rail of the target stand they were using. They were taking turns, trying to shoot it from maybe ten yards. Rifle and pistol, they all failed. I took my turn, and also missed. There was laughter as the gun was passed from hand to hand, and no one could hit the target. I missed again. And again.
"I want to try." It was a small voice, but one I knew. The men turned to look at my mother, who was standing slightly behind them. They parted, and she stepped up to the table. No one made fun of her, but I think it was a close thing. One guy did ask, "Do you know how it works?" She assured him she did. She picked up the Mark II, flipped the safety off, and drilled the bottle cap first shot. She calmly laid the gun back on the table, nodded in the direction of the target, turned and walked away. She caught my eye as she left, and I could see the little amused twinkle in it. She left them semi-speechless, and was laughing on the inside. It was the first shot she'd fired in four or five years.
My mother was still the best shot I knew.
In 2011, she was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, which is a big, scary word for "cancer of the bile duct." She fought it until the end, but there is no cure or effective treatment for this rare tumor. A little chemo to slow the growth, but that is all that can be done. She had two favorites in terms of fashion. Butterflies and purple. (When we cleaned out her closest, about half of her shirts had purple butterflies on them--we laughed so hard we were crying by the time we got done.)
If given a choice of color, my mother would always choose purple. Flip-flops? Purple. Cheap sunglasses? Purple. Gimme cap? Purple. "Mom, why do you always choose purple?"
"Purple goes with everything."
One of the last choices she made was the color of her casket. She picked it herself, because she didn't want any of us to have to make those choices, to have to face those tasks. She didn't want to be an inconvenience. Even in death. She was annoyed to find there was no purple option. She settled for dark green, and then made all the other choices, too.
But she missed one choice. After she was gone, the funeral director called. He apologized, but there was a question which he hadn't asked my mother before it was too late. "What color should the flowers on the casket be?"
"Purple," I said.
"Are you sure? The casket is green."
"Of course," I said. "Purple goes with everything."
That's the end of my story. I will now wear a purple patch, in memory of my mother. If anyone asks me, that's what I'll answer. I don't want to make a big deal out of it. I just wanted it recorded here.