Early in the morning, and you've slept enough, but it is too early to rise, memories come flooding, taking you back to pleasant times, or some very unpleasant times.
During WWII at one time we were on the front lines in the Black Forest in Germany. We had outposts, in slit trenches, facing a river. We were in the woods, the river before us, and more woods across the river. There was no action in our section of the line. It was sit, watch, and wait.
I was on duty alone, at sun up. It was just getting light, like it is now as I sit writing about this memory. I had been staring at the woods across the river, watching for movement among the trees, when suddenly I saw a deer come out ot the woods on our side and start drinking from the river. It was lovely. It was a peaceful moment in a tense situation. I stood up to get a better look.
When I stood my movement startled the deer and he began to run. And his running triggered some emotion in me that I do not understand. I raised my rifle, and - shot - the - deer.
I was a poor soldier. I hated taking orders, as I always wanted to know why. Why do this or that. I was poor at marching or keeping myself in a military manner. But what I was good at, is marksmanship. This unlikely soldier was a good shot. In fact, I had traded my M-1 Garand automatic rifle for a 1903 Enfield bolt action rifle because they were more accurate. For much of the WWII I carried, by choice, a WWI weapon. With my old rifle I shot the deer, on the run, and down it went.
The sound of the shot brought the sergeant and several soliders on the run. "What's going on," shouted the sergeant.
"I shot a deer," I explained excitedly. Someone manned the outpost and the sergeant, a solder named Jake, and I went forward. The deer lay mortally wounded, helpless before us.
"You'll have to finish him off," said the sergeant. I shuddered.
"Let me do it," Jake begged. I was very relieved, and gratefully turned my back while Jake killed the deer.
I don't know why I shot the deer. It was the challenge of a moving target, the tensions on the front line, staring, hours of inaction, waiting for action, . Something. But I have regretted that moment from then on.
We ate the deer. Some soldiers said "Thanks, Ferris". I did not enjoy their praise. I eat meat, but if I were the one who had to kill the animals I eat, I would go hungry. I could no longer kill a steer, a hog, a lamb, or chicken. I love fish, but I could not even catch and kill a fish now. I'll take my steak at Sizzler or my tuna from a can. The morning's memories of shooting a deer are too vivid.