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Tales of a Hay Hauler: One good shot

Brad Nelson for Progressive Forage Published on 27 April 2017

I fear that some of the freedoms we enjoy in America are all too often taken for granted. Unless we spend more than the required time in school reviewing our country’s history, we may not have a good handle on the cost that was paid to ensure that we and our children and grandchildren continue to have these freedoms.

Those among us who have spent more than short vacation time outside our country seem to have more appreciation for what we have.

Since 1992, I have been rather closely involved with the hay export industry. Part of the workings of exporting hay to Japan has been hosting Japanese hay buyers, dealers and cattlemen. The exporter I’ve been involved with is one of the smaller players in the game, and it soon became apparent to me that we were feeding the same cows every month.

That being the case, the visitors were regulars and some friendships soon developed. Hard bargaining for the best hay at the least cost still went on – friendships notwithstanding.

I received a request from one of our Japanese friends, also our major dealer at the time. He had just scored a “first sale” to a new dairy in Japan. The dairyman was very particular about the color, softness, leaf retention and aroma of the hay he fed his cows. I was told what he had been feeding and what he liked.

I was then asked to send a special first shipment from our existing stock of alfalfa that would make this new client happy.

He went on about how important it was to send hay that would ensure continued orders from this dairy, then he stated he had acquired a “hara-kiri” knife or short sword. He told me that if the new client liked the hay I sent, he intended to send me the hara-kiri knife as a gift.

Should the new dairy not like the hay, however, then he intended to use the hara-kiri blade on himself, committing “hara-kiri.”

I received the trophy, and our friend in Japan still lives.

The blade on this knife is about 10 inches long, and I was later informed that he had purchased it sight unseen and licensed for export only, as his countrymen were not permitted to possess such a weapon in Japan.

I had been aware that civilian ownership of firearms was prohibited in Japan, also. A number of times over the years after the tour of possible haystacks for export had concluded, and time was available, we would take these gentlemen (and the occasional Japanese lady) shooting.

When we did, the cameras were out in force, making sure the participation in this “forbidden at home” activity was documented.

Years back, I served as a reserve deputy with a county sheriff in Idaho for a short time. I had to qualify with a handgun for this. I also spent a number of seasons shooting in organized handgun competitions, so I probably knew my way around handguns better than anyone in the group.

Just a couple of years ago at the end of the hay tour, we, the Japanese group we had hosted many times over the years and our people, found ourselves in a very remote area with time on our hands late in the afternoon.

One of my cohorts asked if I had a firearm with me. I answered in the affirmative. Now we had the attention of the whole Japanese group.

I had recently acquired a Ruger SR9-C (compact) semi-automatic 9 mm. It was designed for concealed carry, and I had only shot it enough to be familiar with how it worked. Of course, everyone wanted to see it, so I unloaded it and showed it off.

Then the ringleader of the group, the fellow who lived in Issaquah, Washington, and did the day-to-day dealings with the Japanese, made it more interesting. He handed an empty Red Bull can to one of the group and asked him to take it out a ways and stand it up. I guess he parked it about 35 feet away.

Then he turned to me, and said, “OK, Dead-Eye. Let’s see how good you are.”

Making sure there was nothing of value in the background, I reloaded my little Ruger and took aim. I wasn’t sure how accurate the short-barreled little rascal was, and the 9 mm pistol does not have a reputation for long-distance accuracy.

Being right-handed, I held the pistol in my right hand, with the right arm extended. I spread my feet apart, and stood at a slight diagonal to the target, then placed my left hand under the right hand and pulled back, effectively locking my right elbow.

This is the same stance I had used years earlier shooting National Rifle Association Hunter Pistol silhouette, which was shot standing at targets up to l00 meters away.

I used the “surprise break” method of trigger control, and every time the sights drifted to where I wanted them, I gave the trigger finger just a bit more “oomph.”

The fourth or fifth time the sights were in perfect alignment, the pistol surprised me and went off, then surprised me again, as the Red Bull can fell over. They retrieved the can and found a bullet hole centered in it, about 3 inches from the base.

There was much murmuring in Japanese. One of the group asked me to do it again, and I declined.  end mark