Wednesday, July 25, 2018

On Guns

I grew up in a house with a lot of guns.  And I was thinking,  how is it that I can remember exactly the order they were placed in that gun cabinet (which I had figured how to open at a very early age). On the top shelf was a flintlock "pirate pistol" and a small .22 six-shooter.  Going down the side was a tiny Walther (more of a decorative gun for SS officers), a full-size Walther, a US Army issue .45, a Canadian Army issue .44, a German Luger, a .38, a Colt .45 and maybe a couple of others. Then there was a row of long guns including my favourite, a Winchester repeating rifle, "The Gun that Won the West."  Then there were a couple of drawers of assorted ammo and German pins and badges and other war souvenirs.
How do I remember that?  I can't remember the row of toys or model airplanes that decorated my bedroom. Or what the kitchen looked like.  It's because there is a special feeling you get when you hold a gun. Even if it's not loaded. They are a marvel of engineering and craftsmanship and sometimes even artwork when you look at those intricately carved handles.  It occurs to me that in the same way that the space race lit a fire under the semi-conductor industry, the demand for better firearms fueled the industrial age and manufacturing methods (just a theory).
That feeling you get holding a gun is especially appealing to a child (maybe also any adult who is not fully developed mentally or emotionally).  I used to take them out of the gun cabinet just to hold them.  Then I eventually got into the ammo drawer and started loading them and rearranging the drawer so the old man wouldn't see that some was missing. I would choose a pistol out into the woods behind the house and shoot at trees.
Then came the last day I ever touched those guns.  I was maybe 12 and charged with babysitting my sister and her friend.  The little girls came to me yelling they saw a prowler outside their window. I immediately went into "alpha-male" protector mode, snapped open the gun cabinet, grabbed the .45, loaded it up and cocked it, and just as I walked around the corner to the bedroom, I placed my finger against the trigger and the gun fired with a big recoil.  I had never fired this one and it had much more of a "hair-trigger" than the others. I looked up to see these two little girls staring at the floor where I had just put a bullet directly between two little slippered feet. I managed to camouflage the bullet hole in the tile floor, the girls never said a word and I never touched a gun again except one summer when I was a cadet in the militia (and that's a whole other blog post).