Shotgun on the Schoolbus

A Normal Thing Back Then

By Gary Oberbillig

When I was a high school kid in  rural Idaho in the 1950s, several times each week during the pheasant hunting season I would take up my twelve-gauge shotgun from the corner of my bedroom, put on my hunting vest, heavy with the big shotgun shells, collect my books and homework, and walk down to the school bus stop. Removing the barrel of the shotgun was easily done while I waited, and when the school bus arrived, I would climb aboard for the ride into school. On arrival, I would take the shotgun and shell vest to the superintendent’s office and put the barrel back on the gun so it would lean securely against the wall. I would then hurry off to my first class of the day.

My prized shotgun was seldom the only one leaning against the superintendent’s wall, for I wasn’t the only kid who liked to hunt pheasants in the farmers’ fields on the long walk home from school. In telling this story over the years, I have to admit that I’ve sometimes enjoyed the startled looks of urban friends when they gasp, “You did what, with a what?”

The very idea of allowing a student to transport a firearm on a school bus is so preposterous these days that it seems like a tall tale. But in telling about it now, I hope to explain something of how our world differed back then. The degree to which the nation has changed in sixty-some years is almost impossible to understand, even for someone who has been around to witness the changes. The farm fields that I hunted have morphed into suburbs, sprouting residential housing developments in the spring instead of food crops, and the old way of life has receded into once-upon-a-time. But the greatest changes have not been to the landscape.

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Gary Oberbillig

About Gary Oberbillig

Gary Oberbillig was born and raised in southern Idaho. He has been a college art teacher, photographer and writer. He says, “I’ve lived on Puget Sound for many years, but to re-establish my birthright, I go east of the mountains and take a good long whiff of sagebrush after a rain.”