Commentary: Inspirational Octogenarian Sharpshooter

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(Elk Creek, CA)
Monday, April 17, 2006

An 80th birthday party for my mother-in-law Alice recently left my children in awe of Cousin Helen. 85-year-old Helen doesn’t move as fast as she used to, but there’s nothing wrong with her aim. Helen loves her three walnut trees, and doesn’t suffer the raids of squirrels lightly. As the daughter of a walnut farmer, I can relate. My children are amazed at the way Helen handles her frustration. She had disposed of her guns a few years back, but was so angry at the squirrels, her kids bought her a 22. We saw a photo of Helen taken last fall near her home in Elk Creek. She’s sitting on a folding chair not far from her walnut trees, holding the rifle and wearing a cap from “The Legend” bar. That day she shot 43 squirrels. My husband commented that she had made quite a dent in the local squirrel population, but Helen just rolled her eyes. “There were two squirrels at every funeral,” she said in her husky voice.  My kids could see that Helen knows how to take care of herself. But they also know, she’s never wounded a hunting partner.

Lyra Halprin is a writer who lives in Davis.