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Oct 21, 2023

Learning Narrative Essay Due: Friday, September 22nd on Canvas @ 11:59 PM Length: 1000-1200 words Format: 12-point font, double-spaced Instructions: A narrative is a specific type of essay that uses stories of particular moments to help audiences perceive, understand, and appreciate the value of an idea. For this essay, you will write a personal narrative or learning narrative. This type of narrative focuses on showing how a particular moment from your memory changed how you thought about yourself or others. The learning narrative requires you to organize your memories and decide which details best show an audience how the events from your past affected you. The possibilities for your personal narrative are virtually endless. They could be about your experience with music, sports, business, religion, family, fashion – indeed, anything and everything. It could be a positive or negative experience. The only requirement is that the experience must involve some kind of change within you. It doesn’t have to be a dramatically life-altering event (“the clouds parted, and I saw the light”). But it must involve some kind of change in your thinking or outlook or possibly even behavior. Some Helpful Guidelines: Find the Significance: how does your narrative connect to the shared experience of others? What universal themes does your narrative convey? Tell a particular story: choose a single moment or event that can reflect your process of learning. Describe this moment in detail using imagery and sensory descriptions Choose relevant details: Include only those details that contribute to the significance of the story. Don’t get sidetracked with irrelevant or unimportant details. Narrate and Describe: Add emotional weight and interest to your story by narrating events with dialogue, action, description, and sensory experiences Sample Learning Narrative Essay by Yours Truly, detailing my first and last experience hunting: The Last Hunt In the summer of 1997, I was eleven, the youngest you could be in South Dakota and take the hunter safety training course. My best friend Robert and I were Boy Scouts, members of Troup #87. Tall and a bit chubby, Robert was super excited about learning to handle a pellet gun. Shorter and beanpole thin, I was slightly terrified, for I remembered the incident from the previous summer involving a pellet gun, the neighbor kid Joe, and my brother Brett’s right knee cap. It happened in our yard. Our dad was at work. Our mom was on a bike ride. Joe and Brett, who were both a year older than me, were firing the pellet gun my dad gave Brett after he’d passed the hunter safety training course a few weeks before. They targeted orange-breasted robins and beady-eyed fox squirrels, the most abundant in-town wildlife. I stood there, a safe distance away, watching with the kind of morbid anticipation one has when, say, watching a car drive off a cliff. Joe spotted a squirrel on the ground. He didn’t hesitate. He took aim and pulled the trigger. Brett happened to be standing in the line of fire. A small cloud of dirt kicked up between Joe and Brett. Then my brother collapsed to the grass and held his knee. He cried out. The squirrel scurried up the trunk of the nearby mulberry tree. Joe let the gun hang limply against his hip, the barrel pointed at the ground. “Are you okay?” he asked. I tried to wrap my head around the sudden, absurd new fact: my brother has been shot. Although Brett stopped crying after two minutes, and although the injury only amounted to a dime-sized red mark on his knee cap, the horrible reality of the pellet gun became clear to me: hard, little projectiles came screaming out the barrel and collided head-on with body parts, which in turn caused blinding pain. Also death. What if the bullet would have hit Brett in the mouth, or the ear, or even worse: the eye? * The hunter safety training course was held one Saturday morning in early summer at the Elk Point Fire Department, which was an old tin shed off Main Street with an office space and a garage for two fire trucks. It was put on by the Elk Point firemen, a group of four volunteers who all had peppered beards, pot bellies, and hats with John Deere logos on them. Two of them chewed tobacco, the other two smoked. The course consisted almost entirely of the men reading from a pamphlet and listing do’s and don’ts of gun safety. For example: Don’t ever point a gun at anyone or anything you are not willing to kill or destroy. Always assume the gun is loaded. Keep your finger away from the trigger and the safety on until you are ready to fire. Never handle your firearm under the influence of alcohol or drugs. After the information was disseminated, the men led us around back of the shed, where there were several unloaded pellet guns and .22 rifles. We stood in single file lines, waiting for the men to show us, one by one, how to turn the safety on and off and how to aim. We wouldn’t actually fire the guns. That, they said, was something we would do with our own dads. Like the rest of the boys in line, Robert could hardly stand still. He said, “I want to hold the .22. It’s more powerful.” The boys who’d already held the guns high-fived each other after and said, “That was bad ass!” A boy named Justin said, “You can kill a deer with a .22.” A boy named James said , “My dad’s going to teach me how to use his 12-gauge shotgun.” I avoided having to hold the guns by standing at the back of one line and as it thinned out, moving to another line, and another. Robert was so excited, he didn’t notice my absence. Soon, there were more boys who’d handled the guns than there were those who hadn’t, and I slipped into the group whose hands had already held the death machines. Afterwards, there were doughnuts, orange juice, and certificates of completion for all. * After the hunter safety training course, Robert’s dad got him a pellet gun. He called me up one day and invited me over to shoot it in his backyard. You could do that in our little South Dakota town, especially since Robert lived right at the edge of town by a gravel road and the beginning of endless cornfields. Thinking of my brother’s right knee cap, I told Robert that I would come over and watch him shoot, but at no point would I stand anywhere in front of the gun’s barrel. “Well no duh,” Robert said. It was one of the more popular phrases of our time. I rode my Huffy the eight blocks to Robert’s house. When I pulled into his driveway, the garage door was open. Robert stood there holding the pellet gun, the barrel pointed over his shoulder, like he was standing guard. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go shoot stuff.” We wandered around his backyard, past his swing set, his tree fort, his sandbox, on the lookout for robins and squirrels. It was a beautiful summer day. No clouds. Just an endless cerulean plane and a blindingly bright sun. I stayed a few steps behind Robert, leery of the gun in his hands. “Is the safety on?” I asked him. “They said you’re supposed to keep the safety on.” “You don’t have to have the safety on,” Robert replied. “You just have to keep your finger away from the trigger.” “That’s not what they said in the hunter safety training course.” “Who said that?” Robert snapped, turning toward me. “The stupid volunteer firemen?” The gun pointed at me, and I jumped to the side. “Whoa! Be careful!” I cried. “What, are you scared?” Robert chuckled. Ten minutes later, Robert spotted a robin on the branch of a maple tree. He took aim, and fired. I gasped and covered my face with my hands. My brain filled with cinematic images of a warzone and shrapnel and wounded soldiers. “Damn it, I missed,” Robert said. I uncovered my face. I caught a blurry glimpse of the robin fluttering away, disappearing behind a distant cottonwood. I was relieved that it was okay. Nothing had died. Everyone’s kneecaps were okay. Over the next half-hour, Robert fired at another robin, a blackbird, and a squirrel. Each time, I covered my face and turned away. Each time, Robert thankfully missed. “I’m gonna get one of these bastards,” Robert said. When there was nothing to shoot at, Robert pointed the gun at the sky and fired. I looked up, trying to make out the little pellet dot, but all I saw was the perfect cerulean expanse of the South Dakota sky. “What if the bullet came back down and hit us?” I asked. Robert shrugged. “I don’t know.” “My brother said that if you drop a penny off the Empire State Building, it can kill someone. Do you think those bullets go as high as the Empire State Building?” Robert smiled mischievously. “Let’s find out.” He aimed straight up and shot. Again, I searched for the bullet but saw nothing. Robert offered to let me take aim at the sky, but I shook my head. Eventually, we spotted a cottontail rabbit in the opposite corner of the yard, near an evergreen. It sat on its hind legs, its long ears perked upward, its beady eyes wide and alert. Even from a distance of twenty yards, I could see its little whiskers twitching. “I’m gonna get him,” Robert said. “Be careful,” I said. “Don’t take the safety off until – “Quiet,” Robert said. “You’re gonna mess me up.” I watched as Robert held the gun the way we were taught, resting the butt against his armpit. He peered through the little crosshairs at the barrel’s tip, his right eye squinted almost shut. Then he pulled the trigger. The gun made a punching sound, like somebody slapped a stapler. This time, I didn’t cover my face. I watched. Everything happened lightning fast, but in my memory, the incident will always and forever unfold in slow motion. An instant after the shot, the rabbit sprang straight into the air, as if shot from a geyser. It rose ten feet and seemed to hang there, suspended, a little ball of brown fur, a life-size ornament for the evergreen. The rabbit’s fall was much faster than its ascent. It plunged back to the earth, but its landing was soft, noiseless. It lay on its side in a bed of grass, its back facing towards us so that we could see the fluffy white ball of its tail. “Whoa! Did you see that?” Robert exclaimed. The rabbit lay on its side, flinching violently, as if trying to stand. I felt a mix of nerves and shock. I worried that Robert’s dad would burst out the backdoor and yell at us. And I worried that we’d done something horrible, the gravity of which I didn’t fully grasp and was all the more scared in my not understanding. Robert dashed across the yard. I followed. We stood over the rabbit. The bullet had punctured its eye. It was lodged in the corner of the socket. Blood trickled from the wound, spilling onto its cheek, the whiskers twitching from the contact. There was still life in that damaged eye, still something beyond that black window that was aware of itself and wanted to keep going and, like me, was terrified by the oblivion of death. Its back leg kicked violently. It was still trying, against all odds, to escape. If it just kicked hard enough, perhaps it might squirm its way to safety. Back to its family, who were surely waiting on its return. “I think it’s going to die,” Robert said. The gun rested against his leg, the barrel poking into the soft ground. An awful sorrow opened at the pit of my stomach. The rabbit’s leg twitched with less and less vigor, like a cyclist slowing their pace. The presence in its eye remained, however, though I knew it, too, would soon fade. I couldn’t bear to face that moment when the light behind its eyes went out, when life stopped and death forever and always took over. “Maybe I can get it stuffed,” Robert said, a touch of wonder in his voice. “I mean, it’s my first kill. I want to remember it forever.” The rabbit’s leg still twitched, but barely. “I’m going home,” I said. “Wait!” Robert called out as I raced across the yard and around the garage. I jumped on my Huffy and took off. The whole ride home, my mind relentlessly replayed the rabbit in its great ten-foot leap, soaring in the air as if a landmine had gone off. I concentrated on keeping the rabbit suspended at the apex of its jump. I held it there for as long as I could, knowing what would happen when it inevitably returned to earth. I kept pedaling down the leafy streets of Elk Point, past houses where kids shot hoops on their driveway, past yards where dads mowed lawns, past trees where squirrels and robins made their homes. But I couldn’t pedal fast enough. In my mind, the rabbit hit the ground. It kicked its leg helplessly. I stood over it, looking into its eye. It stared back at me. It was still there, acknowledging me. Its fur looked so soft. I tried to tell it with my eyes that it wasn’t me. I didn’t shoot you. I never wanted anyone to be shot. I never wanted Robert to take the safety off. I was so scared that the light in the rabbit’s eye would go out. So I pedaled faster.

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