It was an interesting weekend that made me think about many things. Although I would like to break this one up into more than one post, that’s just not going to happen. From Friday evening to last night constituted one of the more bizarre and yet delightful weekends that I can easily recall.
Nearly a year ago, on June 19, 2008, I received my letter from OSBI telling me to come in and get my weapons license. I wrote about it on my blog the next day. At the time, carrying was awkward. The gun was heavy, the holster was crappy, and I felt like a young teenager who could not hide what felt like a brand-new, huge protrusion. In the same vein, it felt like everyone was staring right at it, and like I could not possibly wear enough clothing to cover it. Also in the same comparison, I didn’t quite know how to use the equipment optimally. Since then, I’ve become more comfortable with carrying and shooting, through practice and training. I ditched the cheap holster for one of my own design and craftsmanship which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in the world of CCW. I became proficient shooting with both hands or either hand alone and added a twin to my carry. I’ve drilled in defensive shooting, and developed skills that I didn’t know I was lacking. Over the last year, I’ve become far more aware of my surroundings as I go about my daily life, always looking for the advantage, keeping my eyes on entrances and exits, sizing up other individuals as possible friends or foes. At this point, I’m safer without my gun than I was fully-armed when I first started carrying. That is to say that there may be times that I leave my gun behind, but I am never unarmed. What I have gained in my pursuit of defense has started to turn me into the weapon that I’m supposed to be. It’s not at all that I was defenseless before, but now I know far better how to avoid the fight, or quickly end it if I need to.
On Friday evening, Jenni and I decided to go to our monthly wine share event that we had not attended in several months. This is a charming event that roams around our home town. Lots of locals come, each with a bottle of wine, and mingle while sipping. It’s a great way to meet new friends and potential network contacts. In the state of Oklahoma, the law reads that it is illegal to have access to a firearm while ‘under the influence of alcohol.’ In practice, what this amounts to is that you should not be in the same room with an open container and a firearm. So, when we went to our wine share, we unloaded and locked away our guns prior to the event.
Over the course of the evening, we met several people that were a lot of fun – great conversationalists. I wound up talking about art and fashion with another young man there. His girlfriend had dragged him, kicking and screaming, and then he got to see what a fun get together it actually was. He commented on the jacket I was wearing and asked where I had bought it. This was an Armani that I purchased on eBay. I was wearing it primarily to cover my empty holsters, as I didn’t really want the conversations to go that direction on this particular evening. Fred had a hard time believing that I had paid so little for the designer label jacket, and asked if I had to have it tailored or anything. By the time our wine share was winding down, Fred asked Jenni and I to go to a party with the two of them, to another friend’s house. I thought it sounded like great fun, so away we went.
The hostess was a charming immigrant who knew what a meal is supposed to be. There were grilled chicken and beef kabobs, potato slices baked with onions, and countless, delicious vegetables and cheeses. Let me stop to preface here: I don’t usually eat much for breakfast, but Jenni and I had made a stop on the way to work. Lunch was provided by the office, and I took the opportunity to really load up on pizza, in anticipation of having wine before dinner. Then, they broke out cake and ice cream at work to celebrate a few office birthdays. Needless to say, I was not terribly hungry after wine share. Even so, I picked around at a skewer and a few potato slices and a couple of green beans. The people seemed nice, and flirtation among the group was rising. I didn’t think a whole lot about that as I thought they were simply feeling their alcohol. Things started to seem strange to me right about the time that Jenni leaned over to whisper in my ear under the noise of the party. She said that the hostess had just told her in French that after the food, we were going to get in the pool, and swimsuits were not allowed. I looked around the crowd with a whole new… …er… …appreciation. Actions that I had written off as harmless enough started looking sinister. Don’t get me wrong – whatever consenting adults wanted to do in their own time is none of my business, but I felt like we were being roped into a swinger’s party. I don’t know if that was true or not, but we didn’t stick around to find out! We pulled the whole ‘Woah, would you look at the time!’ bit and made our way towards the front door, vaguely back-to-back. We thanked the hostess for her hospitality and complimented the meal. Fred met us on our way out, and we told him that it was about time we turned in. Much to my relief, he made no protest and we got out cleanly.
Now – as I said before, I don’t know what was going to happen after that, and I don’t really care. It’s got nothing to do with me, and we controlled the situation to make sure of that. Had we not been as aware of our surroundings as we now are, the story could have been very different. If our suspicions were correct, what does that say about Fred, who gave no indication of the nature of this party? I personally want to believe that everyone is good at their core, and worthy of the benefit of doubt. It will not be the first time for me to say that I hope the worst-case-scenario is not the true one, but we also didn’t stick around to find out. Just like a game of chess, one must play several moves ahead to stay out of danger and make the win without a serious fight.
Friday night, comfortably at home, we laughed off the evening, had a drink just the two of us, watched some TV and went to bed.
Saturday morning, we went to the range. It was way too hot and windy to try the farm, and the mosquitoes, ticks, and poison ivy are out of control this year. It pains me to say that I don’t see myself spending much time out there prior to Fall. I still wasn’t hungry, but felt like I should eat something before shooting, so I had a turkey sandwich at the range cafe. We each went through about one hundred handgun rounds and fifty shotgun shells. The two of us split one hundred rounds in our new Ruger 10/22. My handgun shooting was a little off, but not as much as I was afraid it would be following our bizarre evening. My rifle marksmanship was predictably deadly, if not a little high on the target. Jenni complained of the same. I would have attempted to adjust the elevation, but we are about to replace the sights, so I didn’t really see the point of adjusting for the time being. We saw one of the new, Colt, .22-caliber AR’s. We also saw several very nice old pieces of history including a Winchester 92 in 44/40 and a Springfield trap door! Apparently, someone was settling an estate.
There was an NRA instructor course taking place, and we had the opportunity to meet a man who has a great story behind him. The legend goes that this gentleman was a pilot in the military at one point in time. After retirement, he was on a plane that had an accident. The plane was literally ripped in half by some harsh weather coupled with a pilot error. This gentleman was ejected from the plane, seat and all, and found himself making a rapid descent into the mountains from thousands of feet in the air! His training took over, and he unstrapped from the seat only to realize that he had no parachute. Plan-B was to attempt to steer his body to the softest looking spot in the mountains. This resulted in his survival with broken arms and legs, broken ribs, and missing teeth. Even with his injuries, he made his way back to the wreckage of the plane and gathered up survivors. He put them in the remains of the fuselage as the only shelter available, and assessed the situation. He determined that he was in better shape than any one else present despite his condition, so he walked several miles to the nearest town for help. “You hear that clanging sound when he walks,” my friend Will said, “Those are his brass balls.” Yeah. I’ll say.
After the range, we went to the house of a couple that sings in the church choir with Jenni. They were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and wanted everyone to come over for cake and margaritas. Upon arrival, Jenni was drafted to take pictures. A .38 shell fell out of the cuff of her jacket, and the host snatched it off the floor before it could bounce a second time. (I had wondered where that shell had gone when I was collecting our spent brass at the range.) This obviously led to shooty conversations. I had a great time talking to them and their family. A girl in the family, a niece or something, kept talking about the medical powers of various metals and crystals. I don’t believe in the mystical properties of crystals, but I do know of the medical properties of magnets. I try to avoid those suckers like the plague as I’m over-sensitive to them. The magnetic bracelets, shoe inserts, etc. make me hurt in quick order! I realize that there are probably a lot of people who would think I was full of crap for saying so. So, when I hear someone talking earnestly about something that I think is hooey, I usually laugh quietly to myself and keep my mouth shut. I don’t know everything, after all. We now have a pending date to go skeet shooting with the host couple. I’m really excited as I’ve never shot skeet before! I’ll probably bring my house gun along although I suspect I’ll wind up shooting something else. I still wasn’t hungry, but I did have a piece of cake. I paced myself, having two margaritas over the course of the two or three hours that we were there.
After the anniversary party, we went to Jenni’s parent’s house to pick up our kiddo and have dinner. We had sandwiches. I still wasn’t very hungry, but had a small sandwich and some chips. We watched one of those stupid tabloid shows where they show the dark, dark secrets of the celebrities. Most of them were quite laugh-worthy, as I would have expected, but there was one little feature on the show that I found to be very telling. They did a short concerning the marriage of the Obama’s. It strikes me as interesting that for the first time in history, the first couple of the U. S. is of the caliber that the tabloid shows are attracted to them. It’s pathetic actually, and quite telling that they get balled in with all the hollow-headed entertainers. Saturday night, we went home, laughed at the events of the day, and had a drink, just the two of us, and watched some T. V.
Sunday morning, we went to church. Especially in what has seemed to be the wake of a rash of church shootings, I find myself paying special attention to entrances, exits, and people in church. I don’t let this awareness distract me from the worship or the message, but I will not be caught unaware. I feel like God does not want me to be a victim, and He wants me to protect others if and when I am called to. Therefore, I owe it to Him to remain alert at all times – not in a state of paranoia, but always ready to do what needs to be done. This is why I felt it necessary for me to get my CPR certification as well.
Sunday afternoon, we spent with my Dad, as mom went to Cape Cod with a friend for the weekend. My brother and sister-in-law met us there. We had pizza and Dad’s delicious home-brew! We gave them updates on our strange weekend and had some smokes and some good laughs. As evening drew, the three of us continued home. We cut the kiddo’s hair, and mine as well. I’m becoming a fan of the #2 clipper guard. I told our son that he is welcome to wear his hair in any longer style of his choice once he is consistently making responsible independent hygiene choices. I’m not stressed out about that. He’s a ten-year-old boy, afterall! The three of us watched some cartoons and he ate dinner. Once he went to bed, Jen and I watched some Terminator and had a drink, just the two of us. When we shut off the T. V., we talked and laughed about all the crap and great times that we had had over the weekend. The two of us skipped dinner last night, and my appetite seems to have returned to normal.
Michael’s morals of the story:
1. Remain attentive. Very little is ever as it seems at a first glance. Some thing turn out to be better and some worse. If you are going to see the true nature of anything, you will have to be observant. This will often allow you to avoid potentially bad situations instead of trying to figure out how to get out of one you are stuck in. Often for me that comes down to shutting up and listening.
2. Gunnies are generally the best people you are likely to ever meet. There are great and wonderful people in many divisions, subcultures and walks in life, but the organized shooting community seems to have an unusually high concentration of the most upstanding, admirable people you are likely to cross paths with.
3. The secret to a long and happy marriage – laugh a lot and set aside time for just the two of you as often as possible. Enjoy friends in common and watch each other’s backs. Definitively set up your common boundaries against outside forces and do not let them get compromised. Enjoy great food and drinks together, but not to excess. Never drink enough to affect your actions or your speech. Love your kids, but love each other slightly more. Don’t let the kids come between you. The best love you can show your children is to love their mom or dad more than any one else on the planet. Spend time with God, individually, as a couple, and as a family.
And, this rant is officially over.