A Return to Essence: Childhood Memories on the Family Estate (part 1)

A Return to Essence: Childhood Memories on the Family Estate (part 1)

In the vast Pampas, where the horizon seems to stretch to the ends of the earth, stands a family estate that had borne witness to countless generations. Founded by my ancestors in the 19th century in the wild, remote grasslands of Argentina, it was a place where tradition and history were woven into its every corner.

Now, in Argentina, an estate or estancia is more than just a big house. It's a sprawling expanse of land built and maintained by men of the soil. Both a plantation and a ranch, it’s where boys learn to become men.

During the 1980s, I spent long seasons of my childhood there, surrounded by a band of brothers and cousins in this boundless land I hold so dear to me. The estate, a hidden gem amidst the endless plains, was enveloped by a vast, lush forest that seemed like an enigma waiting to be explored. The forest had a mysterious character, a place where imagination ran wild, and adventures seemed endless.

 

We were fearless boys, always on horseback in the great outdoors or venturing into the forest in search of thrilling exploits. Hours flew by as we played cowboys or recreated scenes from "Combat!" a World War II series from the 60s. Our imaginations turned us into heroes battling Nazis, Indians, and aliens with simple, shapeless sticks that, in our hands, transformed into the most advanced weapons of our imaginations.

The author stands guard against imagined enemies in his backyard.

But life was not all play. Our parents made us work tirelessly on the estate. We would busy ourselves by chopping wood in the forest, tending to the horses and tack, and by painting and repairing things in the old sheds. We hated having to work because it separated us from our world of play, but years later, we would remember those times fondly as a golden era in our personal paradise. Those long days spent swinging our axes and working with our animals instilled in us a love of hard work which we kept with us our entire lives.

The estancia.

When I got older, there was a family ritual that I always awaited with eager anticipation. It was the moment when my grandparents prepared to go partridge hunting in the vast fields, armed with their ancient Belgian shotguns, relics that had been passed down through generations. For me, those expeditions into the countryside were like a chapter from an adventure book coming to life. When they returned from the fields, the stories they shared filled my young heart with joy and wonder, and my desire to join them to experience the wonders of hunting only grew.

One day, in the grand living room next to our massive fireplace, my life was changed forever by a simple piece of wood and metal. My father came home with a gift for me: my very own BB rifle. The mere presence of that object in the room changed the atmosphere, as if the promise of something exciting hung in the air. The moment that was to change my world was about to arrive. I could not believe I was holding a "real" rifle for the first time in my life, and it was an experience that left a lasting impression on me. Although a BB rifle wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of precision and power, for a 7-year-old like me, it was simply the best. For passionate hunters, there are very few things that can replicate the wonder and excitement of receiving their first rifle. In my hands, it was no mere “toy.” The very word would be an insult to its craftsmanship. Indeed, it was nothing less than a magical instrument. From then on, I learned to find beauty in things not for what they are but for what they mean to us and how they can shape our dreams and aspirations.

I would play alone for hours on the edge of the forest near the houses on "missions" as a "sniper," imagining that I was eliminating enemy troops with well-placed shots, even though I would mostly just shoot air at dogs or people passing by. Sometimes, in the adrenaline rush, I would even take real shots from just a few meters away. If I had been discovered, the punishment would have been severe, but the excitement of my secret adventures was well worth the risk.

When I was 19 years old, the estate was unexpectedly sold due to poor business decisions and economic crises that affected the country. My entry into adolescence was marked by years of sorrow, as the era of childhood bliss on our family estate closed forever.

Around my mid-thirties, another unexpected twist in my life came through the marriage of my sister-in-law, who fell in love with a rancher with a fervent passion for hunting. Her generous invitation for me to join him on one of his hunting trips ignited a spark within me that had lain dormant for years. That opportunity rekindled my love for nature and adventure in a way I could never have imagined.

On the day of the hunt, and as we ventured into the vast wilderness, I felt as if I were crossing a threshold into a forgotten world. The immensity of the landscape, the majesty of the mountains, and the sensation of the breeze on my face revived long-forgotten memories of my childhood when I explored the forests and mountains with my family. It was as if I were experiencing a deep déjà vu. I felt just like the restaurant critic Anton Ego from "Ratatouille" when his mind flashed back to his childhood with that first mouthful of the eponymous dish. That call of the wild had been latent within me, patiently waiting to be awakened

The author's first hunt.

From that moment on, I found myself immersed in a completely new world. I became enamored with shooting and the outdoors in all its forms, a passion that consumed me entirely. Firearms, precision, concentration — everything became an essential part of my life. My childhood self would be proud of me, with my finger on the trigger of the real weapons I used to dream of in the past. Today I have the freedom to travel to various places, pursuing two of my deepest passions: hunting and shooting. However, among all the disciplines that make up this thrilling world, one has come to occupy a special place in my heart: long-range shooting.

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A Return to Essence: Rediscovering a Passion for Hunting and Shooting (part 2)
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