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We Got Guns

My father-in-law has guns all over his house. He’s never more than two steps from a firearm. They’re on top of shelves, in drawers, in air ducts, tucked inside bags of chips, inside secret wall compartments, taped to the bottoms of chairs, suspended by wire in the light fixtures. Were you ever so foolish as to break into his house, God help you. (More accurately, “May God have mercy on your soul.”) Not only will the police not be able to identify you from your dental records, but they’ll never even know you were there. And even if they suspected, there wouldn’t be enough of you left to identify.

He used to have a shotgun sawed off so short it was smaller than that baby gun James Bond carries. (Yes, I do know that was a Walther PPK.) About that shotgun, he once told me, “When you shoot it, you have to hold it way out to your side like this, and let go as you’re squeezing the trigger. Otherwise, the kick will rip your arm off.”

I asked (rather foolishly), “How can you aim it accurately like that?”

He said, “Aim?! What are you talking about, aim? It’s a shotgun, genius. The only downside to using this is the mess it makes. You ever see that movie where that alien pops out of that guy’s chest?”

“You mean Alien?”

“That looked like squeezing a pimple compared to what this does. You use this, and your next door neighbors will have to have Service Master come out to scrub their carpets and ceilings.”

(Generally speaking, I try to remain on better terms with my neighbors than that.)

When my wife and I got married, he gave me a little .22 pistol.

“You know how to use this?” he asked.

“Pretty much, I guess,” I lied. (I’ve already told you about my history with weapons.)

He ignored my answer about the toddler sidearm he was presenting me with and continued… “Here, let me show you.” He then patiently demonstrated how to load the magazine with bullets, how to insert the magazine, and even how to get an extra shot out of it by placing another bullet directly into the chamber through the top.

Then he clarified: “Now, this isn’t a stopping weapon. It’s only to buy you some time to get out. It’s probably just gonna make them mad. Really mad. It’ll sting, but it would never kill anybody—probably not even if you threw it off the top of a skyscraper onto them. If anybody ever breaks into your house and you have to use it, just point it at them, empty it, and throw it at them as hard as you can. Then jump out a window and run away.”

I have lived by that same advice ever since. Turns out it applies in pretty much every awkward, uncomfortable situation, whether a home invasion, little league T-ball game, or invitation to volunteer at church.

What about you? Do you like guns? Do you have any? What would you have James Bond carry?

Hunting Dumb

I know just enough about guns to be dangerous, perhaps even lethal, provided you’re a small, defenseless animal. But the hunter’s mystique has always escaped me. Remember in Red Dawn when C. Thomas Howell killed his first deer, and Patrick Swayze had him drink the blood? “Once you drink that, you’ll never be the same.” (Turns out Swayze was right. C. Thomas Howell’s character ended badly.)

When I was about 11, I killed a toad, more or less with my so-called BB gun. My BB “gun” wasn’t even a Daisy. It was an off-brand from Sears, something like Daizee.

“Sears makes Craftsman. They know what they’re doing,” my dad insisted.

Evidently, skills with tool manufacturing don’t carry over to firearms. It was such a weak little thing, I could actually see the BB as it left the barrel, my naked eye tracking its pathetic downward arc. I could have done more damage shovel-throwing a handful of BBs like an orangutan. (As a father of two boys now myself, certainly I can see the wisdom in providing these wild, smelly heathens with a neutered “weapon alternative.”)

Anyway, after emptying my entire firearm into this toad’s back (to pretty much zero effect), I ended up mercy-killing him with a hoe and burying him in the backyard, sobbing the entire time. I could have written an opera about the experience. (I may yet.)

Another time, when I was a teenager, my dad sent me out to kill a skunk just behind our backyard. We had this mulberry tree in our yard whose branches hung over the chain link fence, and this skunk was just hanging out under it outside the fence, eating berries all afternoon, aloofly ignoring our dog—who was inside the fence losing his mind.

I had to wrestle the dog, dragging him into the garage to lock him up. (Not that that was hard. He was a 16-lb poodle.) Then I sneaked stealthily along the outside of the fence, a sniper on a special ops mission. I raised our 12-gauge, channeled my inner seasoned marksman, and BLAM! The skunk found itself startled, standing suddenly before God’s Throne of Judgment.

(Random aside: Don’t you just HATE that gauge is spelled like that? Every time I read it, I can’t help pronouncing it “gouge.” I  have to write it out to remember how to spell it. I always type it as guage first, then fix it when that doesn’t look right.)

Meanwhile, back here on earth, I went for a shovel to carry off the carcass for proper burial. When I flipped the skunk’s body over, I couldn’t find any blood—not a single drop. Turns out I had hit it with precisely one piece of shot, directly in the temple. (Evidently wasting the other 13,999 pieces of shot.)

Unfortunately, I was also unnerved to discover that she was (or rather, had been) a mama skunk. Covered with swollen nipples, she clearly had babies somewhere who had tasted the last of her milk. No doubt she was so ravenously hungry she’d risk a crazed dog because she had little mouths to feed back at the hole. So not only had I committed skunk matricide, but I had also unwittingly offed an entire litter of helpless infant skunks. Behold the mighty hunter!

I pictured her patiently taking a seat in one of the lovely mahogany chairs in the waiting area outside God’s courtroom, insisting she be allowed to wait for me to show up before she would tell her side. (Just one more thing I’m gonna have to answer for.)

What about you? Do you LOVE killing things? Tasting their blood? Dancing around the empty shell that once housed a living soul? What’s your great hunting (or vermin) story?