Letters – by Our Readers



Your column in the February Bay & Delta Yachtsman offered a good pointer or two for boaters who may be a little casual about preparation for local boating, but you offset that a bit with your tale of a gun accident.

I certainly don’t know details beyond what you wrote, and the incident may well live on as a humorous story in your family, but the story as presented is a cautionary tale at best.

My own background includes teenage years in a rural state with strong hunting culture and widespread gun ownership – and gun accidents, including ones involving classmates. I later served in combat and saw more of what firearms can do, including yet more accidents despite professional-level training and experience.

I came out of this with a profound conviction that firearms are not to be taken lightly. Again, there may be a mitigating detail or two, but the situation as you described is, at best, egregiously careless – emphasis on “at best” – firearm handling. The setting of a crowded family holiday gathering also suggests alcohol consumption along with the kind of casual atmosphere that can be a factor in many kinds of accidents.

Certainly your story is an example of what can happen when several basic rules of firearm safety are ignored – and a huge testament to one family’s good luck, one time.

What prompted my note is not the story itself – that’s your and your family’s business – but that you published it. In my view, it’s a terrible example of entertaining behavior.

That said, I suspect you didn’t have that intent, and I mean no disrespect in my comments. But as a person whose life has included a lot of work in fields in which accident prevention is a major emphasis, I couldn’t help being struck by the casual attitude your piece portrayed.

And to be fair, it’s a lot easier to complain about a column than to write one, and my life contains a few stories better left unpublished as well! Hoping for better examples, and wishing you continued success in your ongoing coverage of doings on the Delta.

George A. Bell

Hi George,

Thank you for the note. Yes, the shooting incident was certainly a cautionary tale. I also grew up around firearms, from my earliest memory I remember having rifles and shotguns in a cabinet in our home. My great grandfather moved to Sioux City, Iowa in 1869. My family members were bird hunters for three generations there, one of my uncles vanished with his boat, dog, and shotgun on the Missouri River while duck hunting in the 1930s. My father brought us to Sacramento in 1947 and I started hunting with him and my cousins when I was about ten years old.

The male members of my family have served in the U.S. military since the Revolutionary War. You probably have heard of the Clark and Lewis expedition to explore the Louisiana Purchase territory from 1803 to 1806. William Clark was related to me. I recently learned that Martin McNair is descended from Merryweather Lewis. My uncle landed at Normandy in 1944 and helped bring Adolf Hitler and his huns to their knees. My brother was a machine gunner in the 82nd Airborne, my cousin that shot the hole in the ceiling was in combat with the Army in Viet Nam. Another cousin was a combat soldier in Viet Nam and was awarded the purple heart. Another cousin is a retired Army Sergeant Major. One of my relatives was in the Navy at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked.

I served in the Navy, they decided I would not be good in combat so they sent me to electronics school. I still qualified with the M-1 rifle in boot camp and have experience with Thompson submachine guns and many other firearms. Before the cost of ammo went through the ceiling Sue and I would go to a range and practice with our pistols and revolvers every few months. I generally purchase a hunting license every year but don’t do much hunting anymore.

I would say that I have been witness to a myriad of firearms incidents in my life. Most of them involved someone doing something to a safety catch. The only injury I ever knew of was when Ray Bergland shot himself in the thigh while practicing his fast draw, he immediately threw his Ruger Bearcat in the American River and drove himself to the hospital to get patched up.

Regarding this incident, I did not say alcohol was involved and it wasn’t. No one was hurt so I figured that most folks would see the humor. Thank you for reading the column and I hope you will continue to do so.

Best regards, Bill

Hi Bill,

I hope you and Sue are doing well. When I retired I won this environmental integrity award and it offered me an opportunity to give $1,000 to my charity of choice.

Combat veterans have helped us in the past with river cleanups and I always like to help veterans anyway.

I am meeting Ryan Casperson, Commander of Combaat Vets Motorcycle Association with Tracie to donate the money to them so they can help out some veterans for Christmas.

They said that when the COVID thing is under control they want to help again with the river cleanup, everyone is a winner. I hope you have a safe and happy Christmas and New Year and here is to a great 2021.

Happy Holidays!
Roger Kelly


Thanks for the great note. What a noble thing to do, you always think of other people. I am sure veterans appreciated your donation. You don’t get a lot of publicity but you are one of the strongest advocates for keeping our waterways clean. Keep up the great work. By the way I had your letter in my que to go to the magazine a month ago but somehow it slipped through the cracks. It looks like we are going to have a great summer and I look forward to seeing you and Shelia soon out on the river.


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