Friday, July 13, 2007


Mars and I were cruising The Berlin Turnpike on our way to a foot-long Chili Dog at "Doogie's" a couple of Saturdays ago. As we drove by our local gun-shop ("Guns For The Good Guys") I was surprised and actually disappointed to see it wasn't open. I always thought that when it came to pistols Saturday night was special.

I am actually not much of a fan of firearms. I have in fact only handled them twice in my life - not including marching with unloaded and probably inoperable M16 rifles during what was at that time compulsory ROTC training in my first two years of college.

A while back when our son Bram was much younger we were friends with a couple the husband of which was an amateur target shooter, albeit with real bullets, and one weekend he offered to take Bram and me to the rifle range and let us take a shot at it (so to speak). He being a relatively sane and trustworthy person, and me feeling that exposing Bram to lots of different experiences would be good for him, we accepted his offer. I don't remember much of the event at all except that no one was injured. I think that both Bram and I had enough success to maybe want to try it again but apparently not enough enjoyment to actually do it. I still have the unused bullets - Remington High Velocity 22 Long Rifle. And I have no idea why.

My only other firearm experience occurred when I was probably about the same age as Bram was for his. And it involved my bachelor uncle Bill.

My father's brother was the dictionary definition of morose.

He lived with his sister Ann and her husband George on the first floor of a three-story house. My parents and I lived on the third. In between were two unmarried sisters in their mid fifties and their seventy-something year old mother. We had moved to this house from another third floor rental about four blocks away when I was in third or fourth grade. Prior to the relocation I don't recall either my Uncle Bill or my Aunt Ann being on earth. A family dispute over ownership had estranged my father from these two siblings (he also had two other brothers). Then one day it was announced that they existed and we were to live in their residence.

My Uncle Bill was a beer salesman and a hunter. That was it. When he came home each evening he would change from his business suit, shirt and tie (yes even beer salesman dressed that way in the fifties) into his hunting gear (red plaid wool shirts, etc.) and either care for his collection of hunting beagles that were kenneled in the backyard or clean and oil his hunting rifles that sat in the gun rack in his bedroom. We never ate dinner with them but I suspect he took his meals in that room also. It was a large area with a good sized wooden desk in addition to his armory.

Occasionally he would invite us back into one of the stalls in the four-car backyard garage to share some rabbit stew that he had cooked or venison that he had killed and butchered. I also helped him feed the beagles sometimes and once or twice we went with him to the woods to "let the dogs run".

One day I was told that he and my father were taking me shooting. I am picturing an abandoned quarry area with no one else around and a bunch of empty glass Coca Cola bottles that were set up at a challenging but doable distance as well as a pile of glass shards that clearly indicated we were not the first shooters to use this place. I am also seeing a large bird flying directly overhead and my Uncle suddenly firing his rifle upwards towards that moving target. I don't remember either the bird or the bullets falling to earth. I am certain that somewhere in there I also fired off a few rounds - at the Coke containers - but I don't really remember. I think I was still waiting for the airborne ammo to come down. We never went back for another session.

So most of my growing-up experience with guns comes from watching the television cowboy heroes of that time - The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers, and Hopalong Cassidy - who never shot to kill but only to disarm the bad guys by shooting the weapon out of their hands. They actually made it look so easy that you wonder why it isn't a part of standard law enforcement procedures - both televised and real - today.

There sure are times when it would be handy to be that handy with a gun. In my fantasy world I frequently find myself shooting cell phones out of the hands of jerks that cut me off on the highway. There are no unavenged slights or Saturday nights in the land of make-believe.

Berlin Turnpike Neon photos from

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