Thursday, January 20, 2005

The Bullet Wears Red

Velociman got me thinking about guns and the fact that most all of us down south have stories of close calls and near misses regarding firearms. Some have better endings than others. My friend Mark told me a story of a sergeant when he was in the army that shot a hole through his desk demonstrating firearm safety to some enlisted men. A good friend of ours, a police officer, shot himself through the leg with a .45 while on patrol. To make it more humiliating, when he radioed in for help, of course every officer on duty hightails it to an “officer shot” radio call.

My humble tale begins one uneventful Spring morning. A Saturday to be exact, and I was at work. I worked in those days at a large family owned printing company and the production managers from each division were nephews of the owners. The younger one, Steve, was my boss.

I mentioned to Steve that I was going to slip out around noon and go to a gun show at the local fairgrounds and he told me he would like to go see one of those himself as he had never been. We made arrangements to meet back up around twelve and head on over.

Next thing I know, the other nephew, Mike, has decided he wants to come with us. Hell, those guys were more fired up about this than I was. We all piled into Mike’s little red sports car and head for the coliseum.

I suppose for me it’s always been the thrill of the chase. Looking for that neglected 45/70 that I could whiz up for a tidy $100 profit. Or, the underappreciated photograph of great grandpaw in his Civil War uniform. Really, I’ve done well at gun shows in the past buying things that weren’t guns and sometimes even finding a weapon I can’t live without. But mostly they are carnivals of camouflage, cheap knives and books about converting your AR15 to full auto. And each year it gets worse.

Even if it’s a wash, you get to talk to some of your old pards, because you always run into them at the gun show. And that's worth the price of admission in most cases. This show was no exception, but I wound up at the front door empty handed. My two companions, however, were brimming over with excitement. Practically giddy as a couple of school girls.

They had each bought a 45 automatic pistol and about six million rounds of cheap reloaded ammo and they were ready to do some shootin’, hell yeah.

Thirty minutes later we were at the end of a dirt trail, tossing empty two liter soda bottles into the creek and the boys began to pop some caps. There hadn’t been so much shooting around here since 1863 when some fellers from Minnesota and Illinois came here, shot the place up and raised the American Flag over our capital.

When some of the novelty began to wear off, Mike held a warm pistol out to me by the barrel and invited me to give it a go. I ain’t never been one to turn down an opportunity to raise hell and jeopardize my well being if they can be done simultaneously. This was one such opportunity and I took the freshly loaded .45 down to the creek. The bottles were fairly well damaged, but they weren’t sunk, so I decided to give it my best shot, ahem, pardon the pun.

Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow!Pow! There’s something deliciously satisfying about a finely tuned mechanical masterpiece that operates perfectly, reliably, and blows the shit out of stuff to boot. The slide stays open, no more ammo, time to quit.

“Well, that’s it,” I said as I turned and walked back to the car. Standing in front of the shiny red sports car, I released the slide with the switch on the side and POW!

One last, underpowered, reloaded .45 auto round chambered itself and went off as my finger was still on the trigger, went through the red hood, through the breather, and lodged in the carburetor. Mike's hands went up to either side of his head as he realized the damage that had been done to his little baby.

Steve, who had just finished off a clip at the creek, turned when he heard the shot, saw Mike holding his head and ran back up the embankment in a panic. He just knew that this crazy bastard had shot his cousin. It was practically a fight until I could get him calmed down enough to see that it was Mike’s car that was hurt and not Mike.

You’d think I learned a real lesson about firearm safety that day. But that’s not the case. Really, it was a freak accident. Firearm safety is something that you pretty much learn at an early age in the south. Hey, that’s why the gun was pointed down and not at a person.

No, what I learned that day was that your homeowners insurance covers this kind of thing.

I had a $300 deductible in those days which I was glad to pay since the total bill for repairs on the sexy little red car was over $1500.

And, I have a copper jacketed, forty five caliber bullet with red paint on it in the back of my dresser drawer. Hell, it cost me $300.00, damn right I’m going to keep it.

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