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The Greek News and Greek Radio in FL

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22 Apr, 2024

We spent that winter loading cartridges for father's hunting rifle. We sit around the kitchen table – a long, weathered wooden bench – and father lays out on it with reverent care the materials and paraphernalia for the filling: the cases, the capsules, the gunpowder, the caps, the shrapnel. ...the precision scale with its scales, the cone, the tapwood for pushing the cap into the case and the bolt for closing the cartridge, when it was full and ready to kill.

 I was six years old and my brother a little older, but we already had enough experience in this work, which was usually done in the evenings, under the dim light of a bare globe. Only our mother did not participate in this unholy ritual. All she did on those evenings was warm her hands over a portable oil stove in an unbearably dull silence. Father didn't talk much either, unless he needed to give us some instruction. He only weighed the gunpowder and shrapnel with care and attention, don't make a mistake and the cartridge goes awry.

   On Sundays he went hunting. In the near ones he went alone, in the far ones all the hunters in the neighborhood put on a refene and rented a car. Or they hired a friend of theirs who had a truck and they all got into the cart together, they also took the dogs - those they had - and pulled over where there were emigrant passages, to lavishly spend the cartridges that we filled with so much effort the previous evenings.

Most of the time he came back with the canvas backpack full, or even half full, and then the mother's hands left over the stove and went to pick the birds. And as they fledged quickly-quickly and mixed with the feathers flying around, they too looked like the wings of a beaten bird, flapping desperately on the ground trying to get up, but only succeeding in injuring itself more, raising a cloud of dust and bloody feathers.

After he plucked them, he burned them in the fire that he put in a cotton swab dipped in alcohol to remove the last fluff of the feathers. Then, with the precision of a surgeon and a sharp knife, she made an incision from the neck to the tail, to remove the entrails, and finally, she rinsed them well and let them drain a little, until she washed her hands of the blood with soap and water, as if he wanted to disclaim responsibility for the blood of the innocent victims who would shortly enter the pot to cure our hunger. Our regrets, (my brother's and mine), were evaporating with the steam rising from the pot, making our mouths salivate and our bellies rumble with anticipation, for a bite of meat full of bones, that would he was fooling our hunger, thus justifying the killing of the birds. Sometimes, of course, we found shrapnel in the meat and spat our precious morsel on the plate in disgust. I thought at the time, without ever admitting it, that it was probably some kind of revenge for the unjustly killed. Father never touched that food, he didn't like it, he said. He watched us eat for a while and then said he was tired and went to lie down.

   The new year brought cold and snow. The hunters could not go out into the mountains in such weather, they only waited for good weather and sat on their eggs. The few times that the father came close, he returned with an empty backpack. There were no grasses either, the snow had burned them all.

"Be patient, wherever the weather will clear and the white grouse will come down...", the hunters in the cafe who now gathered on Sundays and talked about their hunting exploits, or about where they would set up the best stakes, said to each other .

March had arrived for good and we got to work around the kitchen counter again, waiting for the April birds to feed the winter poverty. It was the saving year of 1967. That April, I would have turned seven years old. In the meantime, around the counter, we filled and filled cartridges, first a new capsule in the case, then the weighed powder through the funnel – not a single grain was lost – the woolen plug pressed firmly into the powder pushed by the cylindrical tapwood, the shrapnel over and over and finally the cardboard cap and turning the mouth of the cartridge with the ratchet, to seal well to release all its killing power at the right moment. We lined up the full cartridges on one end of the bench, like little soldiers ready for battle, and from there father would take them and place them in the holster he wore around his waist when hunting or in the cardboard boxes he kept under their bed.

   April found us impatient and hungry for the tender winged mezes. Our regrets for the impending murders were buried under the winter snow, and the demands of the stomach, which had been deprived for some time of the delicacies it had become accustomed to, being filled mainly with legumes and immuneless water soups, suppressed any sorrow for the sacrifice of the birds. Everyone said that this Spring, the hunting would be rich...

Then we had the "revolution" of the 21st centuryth April... where those who had weapons, any weapons, were called to go and hand them in to the police stations. The hunters also went and handed over their rifles and rifles.

That Spring, hunting was plentiful. The "revolution" had caught all the cards and the prisons and asylums were full. Only the starlings flew freely that Spring. Just these.




photo mila-del-monte / https://pixabay.com 

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