Baby Girl IV

BIL called and asked what we were doing over Independence Day weekend. When I told him that we were wide open but that we’d like to do some shooting, he asked if we’d come out to his place for a cook out on Saturday. He suggested that the kids could light their fireworks and we could even shoot in their back yard if we wanted to. They live way out of town. Once Saturday rolled around, things got later and later before we got started. Finally we found ourselves at the lake, camped out at a public charcoal grill and picnic bench. Fiance grilled steak and hot dogs for the lot of us. The kids fished but didn’t catch anything. We saw a water moccasin devour a small fish in the water right at the shoreline. I’ve never seen anything quite like that before. When we made it back to their place, it was getting pretty dark, so we did the whole fireworks thing.

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Apparently, we weren’t the only ones with the idea. The entire area was full of pops and crackles. We could see the bursts of light from down the road where remote neighbors had their own private displays going. They were still going strong after all of our goods were spent in a blackened pile in the back yard. I’d been needing to expend my top two rounds of defensive ammo – both the chambered round and the top round in my inserted magazine were looking pretty beat up. Nobody was in the back yard. Clear range. The ground was littered with spent fireworks and drink cans. Targets. The air was still alive with the pops and cracks of fireworks in all directions. Background noise. I drew my pistol and discharged it twice into a couple pieces of junk in the back yard.

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Baby Girl was there in an instant, asking if she could go next. At first, I hesitated and said that it was late, and before she shot my .45 we needed to put her through a few other guns… But then I said, no screw it. Let’s do this thing. It’s not like we were going to bother neighbors. We had plenty of ‘targets’ right there on the ground. They have a porch light in the back and I wasn’t going to set targets very far out for her. So, I asked her to go put on long pants and a shirt as she was still in her bikini. I sequestered the help of my nephew, J, BIL’s 22-year-old son from his first marriage. He helped me drag a selection of rifles and handguns from the trunk to the back yard. The whole time, he was griping about how he wished that he hadn’t been drinking because he really wanted to get in on the shooting. He’s a good kid.

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I set up a disposable cooler at about ten feet out. I placed a Dr. Pepper can on it and showed her some basic operation on my old Winchester 69A. It was dark enough that I had to unscrew the peep from the Lyman micrometer rear sight. I showed her how easy it was to put five .22 CB caps on the can with the bolt action. Then, I let her do it. Of course, that combination of gun and caliber produces a report quieter than the falling hammer or the bolt manipulation, so there was no hearing protection involved. Next came the Ruger 10/22. Wee Bot let us use his for this. That’s when I produced eyes and ears for Baby Girl and me and offered ear plugs to everyone else present.

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She was eating it up. She was showing the safe handling that I’d previously shown her, she was operating different sight systems intuitively, and she was hitting her targets reliably. When she wanted to move up to something else, I had her shoot Jennifer’s 627PC, my 586L-Comp, and our old M&P .38 revolver. She handled all three of them well with .38 Special. Then, we had her shoot Jennifer’s M&P9c and then my M&P45c. I thought that she’d be happy to have worked up to my .45 that she clearly had her eye on previously. However, she turned and asked what she got to shoot next. So, I gave her Jennifer’s 627 again and set her up with two .357 Magnum cartridges.

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Not only did she handle it, she excelled. She put both rounds on target and asked for more ammo. This was 158-grain, full-house magnum too. She shot another cylinder out of that and then she was ready to move on. I repeated this same process with my 586L-Comp and again, she shot it with precision. It’s pretty clear that Baby Girl loves .357 Magnum. Most of her progression that evening didn’t surprise me, but I really didn’t see that one coming. The last of her .357 shooting was at a cardboard mortar tube left over from our fireworks.

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Through the process, we even convinced Wee Bot to shoot the M&P revolver. It’s usually like pulling teeth to get him behind a handgun, he’s so devoted to his rifle. Of course, I had Baby Girl shooting the revolvers single action. Next time we may do some work with double action triggers. After my 586 she asked what was next. I told her next we were going home to go to bed. She was pretty disappointed that it was over, but it was like two in the morning by that point. I may also have to get an assortment of .44 ammunition that she can put through my M29. Heck, maybe she’ll want to shoot the 20-gauge!

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I’m proud of her. BIL and Fiance were beside themselves. They really couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw Baby Girl planting shots on target with the assortment of formats and calibers. Frankly, I was impressed too. She did better than I expected her to. I may have to finally start reloading so she won’t shoot me out of house and home! J asked me why I had to go and make “baby sis” so dangerous. “Because,” I answered him, “she needs to be dangerous. I don’t want her to ever get hurt.” He couldn’t argue with that sentiment.

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So, I may as well start saving money now because I’m afraid I’m going to have to buy this girl a 686 when she’s old enough to own a handgun. *sigh.* Anybody have one that they don’t need?

Baby Girl III

So a couple of weeks ago, we had Wee Bot, Baby Girl, and Little D (collectively known as Chaos) at my parents’ place for our family Sunday lunch. I might pause here to mention how far in life my parents have come. A decade ago, and this Chaos would have made my Dad’s head explode. The shockwave would have been enough to level the house. Indeed, the last ten years have been good for that man’s patience, and my mom has longed for a little girl in the family. The children, Chaos, have been going through at least one large package of popsicles each weekend.

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Mom’s been really excited about the girls. Baby Girl has let us know that she’s looking forward to learning more about guns but hadn’t really shown much interest beyond that until that Sunday. While I was sitting on the couch with her watching Sponge Bob, I felt her little hand tug at the back of my holstered pistol. I grabbed her hand and told her to never touch someone’s gun without permission.

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“Well,” she asked, “can I see it?” I told her that she absolutely could see it. I unholstered my pistol, explaining how I was keeping it pointed in a safe direction and keeping my finger off the trigger as I performed these actions. I dropped the magazine and locked the slide back, and placed the ejected round on the coffee table next to the mag.

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I showed her that the mag well was empty as was the chamber. As she handled my M&P, I physically kept the muzzle pointed in a safe direction and noted that she needed to be careful about that. I also physically moved her finger out of the trigger guard and placed it on the side of the frame. It didn’t take but a couple of these gentle corrections before she was doing it on her own.

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She wanted to know how it worked, so I showed her how to rack the slide. She dry fired it a few times, and easily racked the slide on the M&P45c in between. I have known adults that had a hard time racking a pistol slide when they are new to them, but it wasn’t giving Baby Girl any trouble at all. She was asking more questions about the mechanics of the pistol, so I flipped the takedown lever and popped the slide off. This produced a giggle from her.

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Within a few minutes, she was field stripping and reassembling my pistol, keeping her finger off the trigger and keeping it pointed in a safe direction. She asked if she could put the magazine in. I told her that she could, but not right now. That would have to wait for another day, when we could be at the range. At this point I was pretty excited, with her showing a new eagerness to actually shoot. Knowing Baby Girl like I do, I fully expected her to shoot my polymer .45, reload and do it again once we could get to the range. Needless to say, I was excited to help her get there!

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Baby Girl 2.5

One weekend, our extra came with an extra. Jennifer and I lovingly refer to her as Little Destruction. She’s a sweet girl, but she’s decidedly a mess. She has a bit of a coordination problem that I’m going to chock up to age and say that she’ll grow out of it and learn grace. God love her, but let’s put it this way – if it’s fragile, don’t let her touch it. She showed up in dirty clothes with no change of clothes and ate everything in sight. I mean, that girl can put away some food! She’s no taller than Baby Girl, and really no bigger around, but she’s got to weigh at least ten pounds more! By her third visit, she started to realize that the next meal was indeed coming, and she didn’t have to empty our pantry to get fed. We explained to her that she could eat as much as she wanted when it was time to eat, but then she’d need to wait for the next meal.

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She takes to strangers just a little too quickly. When BIL, Fiance, and Baby Girl introduced her to us, we were greeted with big hugs and Little D immediately started calling us “Aunt” and “Uncle”. When we took her to my parents’ place for Sunday lunch, she called them “Papa” and “Meema”. That name annoyed the crud out of my mom, which tickled the snot out of me. As sweet as the instant affection was, it worried me a little. What did that say about this child’s home life? Did she get lost in the mix and not get the attention that she needed? She didn’t show any symptoms of malnourishment, but her actions suggested that she lacked confidence in her food sources.

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On a hot Sunday afternoon, we took Wee Bot and the girls (collectively known as Chaos) to the music minister’s house to take over their pool which was graciously offered with an open invitation. When it’s been consistently over 100-degrees for this long, you’ve got to do something to escape once in a while. We played and swam, dived and splashed. We said we went for the kids, but I think Jennifer and I needed the pickling time even more than they did! Little D simply couldn’t believe that the pool was owned by a single family. She asked where all the other people in the neighborhood swim. You should have seen her when we explained that they all have their own pools. She very simply couldn’t believe that such wealth existed in the world.

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For a couple of months, Little D spent most of her time with BIL, Fiance, and Baby Girl when she and Baby Girl were not here. Somehow, something odd happened there, as an adult beverage turned up in the bedroom that they shared. It was one of the grown-up cool-aids that has a splash of alcohol in it so slight that it can be sold in Oklahoma grocery stores. There was very little missing from the bottle. BIL confronted Fiance about it and Fiance confronted Baby Girl. We don’t know if they got curious, or perhaps they got confused and didn’t realize that it was not a pop. Those things can look pretty innocent, afterall. Fiance dumped the rest of the mostly full bottle and called Little D’s mother. She wasn’t trying to get anyone in trouble so much as keeping her in the loop. Not a big deal, but mom probably ought to know what was going on just in case it got mentioned. Well, Mama Destruction no longer answers Fiance’s calls. I don’t know if it is because of the wine cooler incident, but it happened right afterwards. I don’t think we’re going to see Little D again. We don’t even know her last name. I hope things work out for her and I hope that she learned something from us that will help her in life. As my mom reminded me, you can’t save all the starfish. I promise to have something happier posted on Monday. Have a good weekend!

Baby Girl II

Since Jennifer’s brother cleaned up his lifestyle, he has become far more social. He and Fiance and Baby Girl have come and spent time with us quite often lately. What I’ve seen in him that was missing before is a fierce will to live – not to simply exist until the next experience but to really live. Fiance is well matched to him, as she also exhibits a seemingly fresh desire to live life. It’s pretty clear that Baby Girl has never before had much of a support network.

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She’s had Mom and to a smaller degree, Grandma. The poor girl was full of distrust for everyone else on the planet. I was filled with sorrow and compassion for her. I was compelled to action. So, I did the only thing that I could think to. I scooped her into my lap, kissed her on the cheek and told her that I was going to love on her and that I would never do anything to hurt her. She didn’t know how to respond to that. So she replied with blushes and giggles.

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As I got to know my brother-in-law for the first time in thirteen years and his new family, we learned of his fiance’s prior situation. I will sanitize my descriptions here for the sake of privacy and sensitivity to both family and my readers alike. Her ex is quite abusive. There were times that she came to in rooms that were locked from the outside. He was cruel to her and their children. He still has their son. There is reason to suspect that her boy is in an unhealthy situation, but there is nothing evidential enough for Jennifer or I to do anything about it – including calling the state. BIL and Fiance left one afternoon to see if they could extract the boy from his father’s home. Fearing that Baby Girl didn’t need to be exposed to the environment, we offered to keep her while they were out of town.

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Wii kept her busy. I mean we kept her busy. She’s grown a lot more comfortable with us as we’ve spent more time with her. She’s slept on our couch quite a few times now. Now, she’ll plop down in my lap or lean up against me when she’s hanging around. Jennifer did confess at one point in time that she felt a little jealous – that she didn’t get the same level of affection from Baby Girl that I do. But, since then she’s warmed up to Jennifer as well.

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She’s incredibly sweet and loving, but she has her definite mean streak. She’s sassy and sarcastic and funny. I originally reached out to her because I believed that she needed me to. Now I’m starting to realize how much I needed her. She’s been so good for all three of us. Wee Bot needed a sibling type figure in his life to have the friendly competition with that all kids need. She’s got a lot tougher spirit than he does though. She may be a girl a couple years younger than him, but I’ve got to play referee when they rough house to make sure nobody gets hurt – if you know what I mean.

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And yes, in the preceding composite, Wee Bot is wearing my combat boots and Baby Girl is wearing a pair of Jennifer’s heels. That evening is when she told me that she could hurt me if she wanted to. I told her that I didn’t doubt it but I appreciated her holding back. That was around the time that we started seriously talking about teaching Baby Girl to shoot. An added benefit that we foresaw was the quasi-pseudo-sibling-rivalry spurring Wee Bot to get a little more serious in his firearms education and experience. Without giving too much away too soon, that seems to be working out quite well.

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Baby Girl

When Jennifer became pregnant with our child, we were no more than teenagers ourselves. We were young and reckless and stupid. Mistakes were made and we dealt with the consequences as responsibly as we knew how to. If we had it to do all over again, I’m sure we would do everything different. Thank God we don’t have that choice – if we did, we might not have Wee Bot.

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We beat the odds and thirteen years later are still married and madly in love with each other. Our son is well loved and is growing into a wonderful young man. In the early years of our marriage, we planned on having more kids, but we couldn’t seem to make ends meet with the comfort that we wanted before we brought yet another life into the world. In the days of ramen noodles and mac and cheese dinners, living paycheck to paycheck, the very idea of having another child (or more children) was terrifying.

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As the years wore on, we were faced with more obstacles that made it even more frightening. Knowing what I know now, I wish we had damned the consequences and had another kid or two about ten years ago. At this point, although having more children is still very possible biologically, we would essentially have two families, as the baby would still be a young child when Wee Bot reaches adulthood. I simply refuse to wish my life away. I feel very blessed to have my beautiful, loving wife and my talented, headstrong son. In the end, everything plays to God’s Will.

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Although I can’t seem to find it in my archives, I swear I’ve mentioned Jennifer’s brother at one time or another. Bro has put himself through a lot of rough times. Around the beginning of the year, he pulled himself up by his bootstraps and out of a very bad lifestyle. He started coming around to chat with me and he’d ask me legal and religious questions. He said that he’d been studying his bible for once in his life and that he was looking for work.

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At first, I was quite suspicious – of his motives, of his genuineness in his recent decisions, of everything. Over the months, he has proved himself. I’m quite proud of my BIL now. He met someone and they have grown close. They are now engaged to be married. She also came out of a rough lifestyle. In fact, her nine-year-old daughter was the one who finally convinced her that she needed to leave her ex and get out of town because her life was in peril. As they got closer to each other, BIL insisted that we have a get-together and meet his new fiance and her daughter.

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So, we met in a city park for an Easter celebration. The weather was perfect for it. At first, it was kind of awkward. BIL’s girlfriend seemed a little intimidated and stand-offish at first. Much of her extended family was there. Jennifer’s parents showed up and they had a hard time mingling with the group of strangers. Jennifer broke the ice with GF by offering to help hide Easter Eggs.

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I grabbed Jennifer’s camera and took pictures. I got some really good ones. The light that day was making the job easy, and I was using the full 18x optical zoom to get some candid shots. GF’s daughter made an excellent subject. I got some beautiful shots of her, but I had no idea that little girl would steal my heart.

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Mockingbird

Recently, there’s been a very belligerent mockingbird hanging out in the tree in our front yard. When I go outside, it will chitter and buzz its angst at my presence. I’ve been concerned that she might dive bomb my family or our guests. Here she is speaking her peace:

Last week, my neighbor made a confession to me. Apparently, the baby mockingbird was playing in the driveway under her car when she pulled out earlier in the week. The young bird was flattened in quick order. Apparently the disgruntled mockingbird is simply enraged at humanity for so casually taking her offspring. Without sounding like a tree-hugging hippy, it’s hard to blame her I guess. I would be similarly outraged if I were in her shoes.

A lot of times in life we see when people are outraged because of wrongs enacted upon them. We live in a twisted fallen world and it’s only natural that there are victims in life. It can be all too easy to misdirect our longing for justice. This misdirection of wanting justice leads some to rabid feminism, riots and looting, gang violence, and even to affirmative action and demands for reparations. One must be careful to make sure that they aren’t targeting the wrong people when they demand justice. An eye for an eye makes the world go blind, and all of that…

On this Independence Day weekend, while rough housing with my niece in the grocery store (which I should be too mature to do), I went crashing into a cashier who responded with, “OW – SON OF A B***H!!!” Needless to say, I was embarrassed beyond words. I apologized profusely to the cashier who did not even acknowledge my words at that point. My niece’s mother started going off on the clerk, telling her that she should apologize for her outburst. At the time, I really wished that she would just let it go so we could make our exit. For the remainder of the weekend, she continued to insist that the cashier was in the wrong. I understand – she has a natural drive to protect her own.

Who in the world won’t default to the side of their family? It’s only natural to prioritize people and let that weight your sense of justice. The fact of the matter is that I should have been the grown-up and not put myself in a position to carelessly collide with the stander-by. I would have felt better if she had accepted my apology and said something about her choice of words, but she was under no obligation to do so. I also appreciate loved ones coming to my defense, even when I don’t feel like it is justified.

Moral of the story? Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger perhaps. Also, I can attempt to act a little more like an adult. *Shame*