Chapter 1 – Shooting It Up
How many different meanings are there for the word bang? You might find it an interesting exercise to count how many meanings and/or synonyms exist. From the Standard English word describing the formation of the universe to the slang meaning of thrill, it certainly runs the gamut. However, if one ignores Chitty, Chitty, only one obvious meaning comes to mind when the reader looks at the title of this particular piece.
Since the time my family and I lived on the chicken farm in southern New Jersey, and continuing on through my adult years, I’ve always been involved with firearms and used them for target shooting and actual hunting. Unlike a neighbor of mine during the farm years, I never learned to shoot fish out of the water, though.
At age ten, I was introduced to firearms by Cousin Leo and various friends and neighbors. We used long arms, not short arms. Since, even as child, I had natural ability to hit targets, I quickly graduated from BB long guns to twenty twos, to a variety of shotguns, to various fairly heavy duty rifles over the decades. Luckily, I was what a family friend called, “A born winner.” He continued, “She’s a winner, she is! It’s in her blood.”
My husband and I enjoyed firearms, as did my father-in-law, Ingvar, with whom I was very close.
Firing guns is an enjoyable experience for me. Early on, I was taught not to kill and then discard. “Unless the animal is a pest.” We were required to eat whatever we shot … except for pests … and yes, the meat was always cooked.
Though deer and elk are certainly delicious, as are ducks and geese, I have no taste for squirrel, skunk, or opossum. In my lifetime, I’ve sampled all varieties of mammals, game birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Frogs, by the way, are not shot, but netted or caught by hand. They taste like ~ well, like frogs. Their meat is subtle. And yes indeed, rattlesnake does taste very much like chicken!
Several years ago, when I lived in Arizona, a group of us, participating in a backyard barbecue and enjoying some elk meat, began talking about the varying tastes of animals we have eaten. A non-hunter asked us, “Is it true about rattlesnake tasting like chicken?”
“No, that’s not accurate,” said Henry, who was then in his eighties. With a straight face he insisted, “Chicken tastes like rattlesnake.” We all grinned.
Attitudes toward firearms are very relaxed in Arizona. Seldom, except during hunting season, does one spot rifles/shotguns being carried casually. Carrying an uncovered rifle through the streets and neighborhoods of the state’s cities is not legal, and does draw unwelcome and swift legal attention to the bearer. After 9/11, of course, the legal restrictions on carrying firearms in public have been tightened.
Nor are firearms permitted in places like government buildings school areas, hospitals, airports, law enforcement locations, and similar places. Other businesses, locations, and offices, have the right to ban handguns if they specifically have a no-entry sign prominently displayed at the entrance. To overcome this, the state of Arizona has long permitted handgun owners to get a hidden weapons permit, although, after 2001, the restrictions in the above locations are strictly enforced, and the weapons must be checked in at the security station at the entrance of a public building. In 2010, we were told by state government to temporarily confiscate visitors’ weapons at the Arizona Mining and Mineral Museum front desk until the bearer was ready to leave.
Throughout Arizona, one of the most intriguing sights I often witnessed was seeing cowboys and other rural folk – mostly male – wearing their handgun in its holster over one hip, and their cell phone prominently fastened on the other hip, secure in a phone holster. Even more amusing was watching one of these citizens, handgun in holster, casually chatting on their cell phone as they walked along the street.
Until the very late 1990’s, at which time I was living in Phoenix, AZ, I had seldom used handguns. During that period, a long gone friend owned a Colt six-shooter for which I pined, but it was never to be mine. I do believe it was buried with him as he wished.
After I became a resident of Arizona, I quickly discovered many remote sites in the deserts and mountains, which were fascinating from a natural point of view. My friends were not interested in poking into these isolated areas. So, I went by myself. As I started to explore more and more of the remoter regions of the state, I observed the hermits and miscreants and militants and just plain strange people camped out in the deserts. The areas I visited had no cell phone service. So, I decided to carry a handgun. Several times, I actually witnessed manhunts for criminals. Now, that’s scary!
Dressed for birding or botanizing or mineral collecting in loose, mismatched clothing, wearing a cowboy hat and backpack , as well as a seven-foot-high walking stick fashioned from a saguaro cactus rib, and weighing over two hundred and fifty pounds, kept people out there away from me. In my favorite haunts, we strangers – all armed – followed desert protocol and occasionally touched our hats to each other, but made no other contact.
A considerable load of necessary gear was carried in a good sized, red backpack, and it included food, water, raincoat, camera equipment, rock-hunting hammers and chisels, zip lock bags, binoculars, tools, a knife, and various nature field guides. Obviously, an umbrella was not needed in the desert. To protect my face from the sun, my cowboy hat was my crowning glory. Attached to my belt was quite an assortment of artifacts: an outdoor knife, handgun in its holster, camera, and various small tools. Often I lugged up to forty pounds of rocks in a half dozen or so gallon-sized Ziploc bags as far as half a mile back to the car. These treasures were found in debris fields and dried-up watercourses, or they were often hammered and/or chiseled out of bedrock, My weight started to go down.
Looking back at those years, I truly wonder if I may actually have been as eccentric as I looked. All things, as the song goes, are possible.
Chapter 2 – Weapons Are Capable of Causing Serious Injuries
The only gun I kept after my divorce was my favorite three-decade-old twenty two caliber rifle, which I used mostly for target shooting. I had long ago given my beloved Swedish Army Husqvarna rifle, presented to us by my father-in-law in the 1960’s, to my husband and myself.
With all the other junk I carried on expeditions, the twenty-two simply was too unwieldy to carry on my shoulder. So, upon a friend’s advice, I investigated short arms. A Colt six-shooter was simply too expensive to acquire, as were the bullets. Eventually I ended up buying an HR nine-shooter and holster which used .22 long bullets – much more powerful and far-reaching than the .22 shorts.
It was a good choice, but I certainly felt strange about walking about Indian Reservations, rural villages, and national parks with a firearm strapped to my waist. Therefore, I decided to get a CCW – Permit to Carry Concealed Weapons. Unlike a good friend of mine, who still keeps his Colt on the front seat of his truck, I had qualms. If there was an traffic situation, it would not present an accurate picture of who I was.
The six week course required to obtain the permit was quite thorough, and we had a full house of somewhat over twenty students every week. We had to demonstrate we thoroughly knew the laws, the restrictions, the emotional responsibilities, and our firearm inside out. We also had to demonstrate we could fire a weapon accurately on the shooting range. Our instructor suffered from an insufferable ego, was sarcastic, and allowed not a millimeter’s deviation from the rules. He was not nice.
At our last session, each of us brought our weapon up to the stage to the instructor and showed him we could break it down into its component parts and reassemble it. Then, we would go to the shooting range and demonstrate our at least five of our ten shots would be close to the bulls eye. “Otherwise,” said the instructor, “you take the course again.”
When it was my turn, I came on stage, passed the disassembling and assembling, then, I pulled the safety walked over to the steps to go down to the seating area.
I tripped over my own feet on the top step, became airborne for about ten feet into the air, and was propelled to the floor space. Clutching my unloaded weapon, I landed with a distinct THUD and CRASH between the second and third rows, smashing my left breast with several g-forces. I was momentarily unconscious, but came to within a minute or so, as the entire class and the teacher converged on my limp body and laboriously pulled me up and out. It was no easy task with my weight. I was covered in blood, and my left boob and shoulder had no feeling.
The teacher said, “Good! She engaged the safety on the gun!” Looking at the worried faces around us he smiled. “This means it’s automatic. Good show.”
Paramedics stationed in the building showed up quickly. They cleaned up the blood, stuck bandages over scratch wounds, and made me walk in circles to ascertain I had no brain damage.
“It’s my boob I hit.” I said. “There’s no brains in that.” The other students roared with laughter.
Then we headed to the shooting gallery, located across the hallway from the auditorium.
The pain made me want to die. However, I loaded my gun, took aim at the bull’s eye on the paper target and shot nine times. Then I reloaded it for another round. I couldn’t see a mark on the paper target many yards away.
I missed ten shots! I would have to take this blinkety blank class again. I burst into sobs.
The gun master came over to me, put his arm around me, and asked me what happened.
“I missed all ten shots. It’s my boob that hurts, not my head. I missed all ten! I’m going to have to take this course again!”
“Now, Granny, you just calm down. Let me reel the target in and see what’s wrong.”
My fellow classmates came up to me and tried to comfort me. The instructor said, “How can a boob make a boob outta you? I thought you could do better than that.”
Once again, I began to sob and sat down on the floor, wracked with pain and dizziness.
The gun master reeled in the target and then looked at it. He started to laugh loudly shouted to called the class and instructor to him where he was holding the target paper. With a great many guffaws he waved the target in the air for all to see.
“Well, I’ll be a @#$ %^ & *(+#@!” said the instructor.
As the other participants looked at the target, they began to laugh uproariously until they had tears in their eyes. Then some of the students guided me over to it and pointed at the holes in the bulls’ eye. There were eight holes in the middle of the target, not more than a quarter of an inch apart. Two bullets had actually gone through previous holes.
A half hour later, we were back in the auditorium to receive our diplomas and CCW card. I was the first called, since I was the only student whose name began with “A”. As I struggled to get out of my seat, the instructor ran down the stairs from the stage and came to my seat. With a deep bow he presented my paperwork, as the auditorium broke into thunderous applause. Then he kissed me, being careful not to go anywhere near my left side.
After I got home that afternoon, I piled ice packs on my sore body.
The next day I went to see my physician, who determined there was a great deal of swelling, but no signs of permanent damage. She said, “All that fat really protected you.”
Immediately upon arriving home, I restored the ice packs to my body, took some pain killers, and didn’t move all night.
The next day, I began the Jenny Craig diet.
It was three weeks before the swelling went down enough so I could once again wear a bra.