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"Long and Nasty Tales" (standard:Creative non-fiction, 13458 words)
Author: Saxon ViolenceAdded: Dec 19 2012Views/Reads: 1741/1200Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
Working on the "Long and Nasty" Railroad in the early '80s... "Long Ago, Far Away and So Much Better Than it is Today".
 



Click here to read the first 75 lines of the story

I went inside. It was relatively shallow—maybe thirty feet or so and the
roof fell rapidly towards the back. It was one big room and not 
particularly interesting. But it was nice and cool on a blazing hot 
summer day. There was a big rock in about the center—nice and dry- and 
just the right height to sit on. I sat down on the rock and decided to 
rest awhile. 

I was sitting on the rock, wishing that I'd thought to bring a cooler. A
cold Coke and a cool ham sandwich would have been good about then. 

Speaking of coolers—there wasn't a single beer can or cigarette butt on
the floor of the cave—no trash at all. Odd. The cave wasn't that far 
from town. I'd have thought the local teens would have used it for a 
party spot... 

Just as I was thinking this and starting to get drowsy, a cold chill
went up and down my spine and all my hair—including body hair—tried to 
stand on end. I leaped to my feet and drew my Government Model. 

I distinctly remember thinking that whatever it was my Silvertip Hollow
Points could handle it. Whatever was scaring me seemed to be in the 
cave—so I backed slowly toward the entrance. 

Now here's where the story starts to get weird. I've told you how tall
the entrance was. Well, I had to bend way over to get out—and the lip 
of the entrance seemed to be all slime coated—and believe you me, I 
wouldn't have been up for limbo dancing under a slimy rock to get in. 
It simply wasn't that important to me. 

Walking back down that path was one of the hardest things I've ever had
to do. I was all drowsy. Kept thinking that surely it wouldn't hurt to 
sit down on a Rock to rest a moment. And damned if it didn't seem like 
that trail was being drawn into the cave like a chameleon's 
tongue—albeit with almost glacial slowness. 'Course, with my newfound 
sluggishness and disorientation, I was only marginally faster—but I was 
fast enough. 

When I got back to the Railroad Tracks, my strength seemed to come
back—a little at first, then more rapidly. When I got back to the Camp 
Cars I did some serious thinking. 

Everyone knows that haints—as a general rule—don't like Silver. It
seemed like when I drew my .45 that it hesitated—lost focus 
somehow—loosened its grip enough—long enough—for me to get away—just 
barely. 

'Course Silvertips aren't really Silver but if it was reading my mind at
that point, I wasn't real focused on metallurgy. Maybe it just picked 
up on the word "Silver". 

'Course maybe I just imagined the whole thing. All the locals swore that
there weren't any caves for miles around- but if you travel much, you 
know how locals are—pretty much the same the World over. 

I was spooked enough that I was more than happy to stay away and let
whatever either was—or was not—in that Cave well enough alone. 

Years later I read about something similar, in a story by Manly Wade
Wellman—fiction, of course—but maybe based on some Old-Timey Tales he 
might have heard—Tales based on facts. 

Couldn't tell you. I'd like to go back now, after all these years—just
to see if there's even a Cave there or not. Over the years I've never 
had enough gas money to travel that far on a whim. Even if I had the 
money now, my legs aren't in shape to take me that far into the woods. 
I do well to walk from my car to the grocery and when I shop, I lean 
heavily on the shopping basket. 

I have hopes of getting into shape again some day but you know how it
is. Even if I do get back into shape, odds are that I won't get back to 
Beattyville. I'll probably never be sure—and now, neither will you. 

Be cautious in the woods and always try to have at least one magazine
full of Silvertips—real Silver Silvertips. 

************************* ************************* 

MOTHER OF PEARL 

I was working on the railroad in 1980. We were laying Ribbon-Rail
somewhere between Beattyville and Talega Kentucky. There is some very 
pretty country around there and I'd like to visit it again someday. 

A black guy named Franklin came to see me before work. He asked to
borrow $20. I handed him a Twenty without much thought. 

Now oddly enough, after I'd already given him the money he wanted to
offer me security. 

He pulled out an old Gun with mildly peeling Nickel and Mother of Pearl
grips. I was always hankerin' for a new Gun back then and I offered to 
buy it outright. 

O no! He couldn't sell it. It had been his grandpa's. 

But he wanted me to hold it until he paid me back the $20 he'd borrowed.


Now to tell the truth, $20 was such a piddling sum back then, that I
almost insisted he keep the Revolver. I really didn't care if he paid 
me back or not. I'd have given him $20 if he'd asked. 

Now seriously folks, don't lend out money—or anything else for that
matter—unless you can stand to see it gone forever. 

Folks can find you to borrow but sometimes it is exceedingly hard to
locate you to pay you back. I was tempted to add that you shouldn't 
donate unless you can do so without hurting yourself—but there are 
exceptions. Some friends are worth some sacrifice. Just don't count on 
ever being repaid in this lifetime. 

Well anyway, the Gun was Old. I couldn't wait to get it back to the
Evansville Gunshops to get it appraised. No, I had no intention of 
keeping it—not even if it had been worth more than a Mint 
Colt-Walker—but I was curious. 

It was an old H&R Autoejector (Topbreak) made in the late 1880s. No it
wasn't valuable. There were plenty around. They used to list in the 
Olde Tyme Sears-Roebuck cataloge for $2 or $3. 

The finish was in the mid 70%... 

But those grips! 

They were factory and everyone told me that it was exceedingly rare to
find such an old set in Mint condition. In fact, the grips would be 
worth more than the rest of the Gun. 

It held five rounds and was chambered in .38 S&W. 

I ran about three boxes of .38 S&W through it at the Indoor Pistol Range
and it never misfired or jammed a single time. It had surprising recoil 
for such a weak cartridge. 

Well back then my travelling companions was a 70 series Colt Government
Model, a Charter Snub-Nosed .38 Special and the old H&R. 

I didn't want him to get dinged up, so he had his own Gun rug—A small
paper sack. It had been folded and wrapped around him so many times 
that it was form fitting and had the texture of cloth. It was also 
mildly impregnated with Gun oil. 

Franklin didn't seem in any hurry to get his Gun back. I offered to just
give it back several times. No way that I wanted to come between 
Franklin and his grandpa's Gun. 

O no! He wanted me to keep it until he paid me back. 

I guess that I had the little Pearl Handled Gun for six months or more.
I had begun to believe that for some reason Franklin wanted me to have 
it, but was too shy to say so. 

I really had begun to believe that I'd always have him. 

Then one day Franklin walked up with a $20 bill and wanted the Gun back.


Sure, no hard feelings—it was his after all... 

But that was the start of a life-long interest in Topbreak Revolvers and
Mother of Pearl Grips. 

I've seen a few H&Rs at reasonable prices over the years, and like a
Richard Head I let them go by. Mother of Pearl is more problematic. 

I'm sure that Eagle Grips would be happy to fit a pair of Mother of
Pearl to an old H&R Frame—for about the price of a used S&W .357 
Magnum... 

But I really want a stand in for my old friend—though I'd settle for a
Six Shot .32 or even the Small Frame Five Shot .32—but those grips 
would have to be Pearl. 

You know, I have a Colt Police Positive Special in .32-20. The Gun is
very dear to me because it is Unique... 

It was stolen and the Police returned it to me some years later. One of
its interim “Owners” had him given a very black, dense blue job while 
he was gone (Wish they'd have Nickeled him...) 

{He was like 0% before—what collectors call a “Lightly Pitted
Patina”—i.e. It's Rusted!} 

I think sometimes about getting him fitted for Pearl Grips and Bright
Nickeled. Then I'd have the Proverbial Pearl Handled, Nickel Plated 
“Saturday Night Special”... 

Though both the caliber and the brand are pushing the envelope on that
definition. 

I think about Patton's chuckleheaded statement: 

“No one but a Pimp in a New Orleans whore house carry a Pearl handed
Revolver!” 

(If that word gets ****ed; Rhymes with “Storehouse”) 

Well yeah, a Pimp might carry a Pearl gripped Gun if he was both
prosperous and had good taste in grips. 

Sadly, nowadays few people who aren't making big money from somewhere
can even afford Pearl Grips. In thirty some-odd years, I haven't been 
able to afford a set—I mean, I had money a few times—but there were 
always some other purchase that won out. 

Go ahead and price some Mother of Pearl... 

I dare you! 

************************* **************************** *************** 

FRONT PORCHES 

I was laying ribbon rail on the Long and Nasty Railroad. We were working
out of Pennington Gap, Virginia. Life on the Rail Gang was odd. We made 
real good money for that day and time; more than the regular Track 
Repairmen and we got more generous travel allowances and there was 
always plenty of overtime. On the other hand, we worked like convicts 
on a chain gang and our Camp-Cars looked like mobile sections of third 
world housing. 

If you worked for the Railroad and you got laid off, you didn't have to
work off your own division. Most folks would rather be laid off, than 
travel with us. However, when we came to their home division, they had 
to come off unemployment and work with us 'till we left. So we'd always 
have a few locals on our gang. 

The Rail Gang had a dozen or so big yellow Ford vans and they'd drive us
to the jobsite every morning. There were quite a few interesting homes 
along the route. Looked like a photo layout for “Foxfire”, or 
something. 

There was one little log cabin. It had the half-stone (the lower half)
half stick chimney. There were Bloodhounds layin' in the front yard. 

The house was on uneven ground. On one side of the porch, it was only
two steps up but on the other side, it was a 12 to 15 foot drop. 

Every day there was an old man sitting on a rocking chair on the front
porch. He had a straw hat and a long white beard and he smoked a 
corncob pipe. And every day when we went by, he'd drag the pipe out of 
his mouth, give us a big toothless smile and wave- just like seeing us 
had made his whole life complete. 

One day I remarked to the dude sitting next to me: 

" I really like that old man. He's very picturesque. I wish I had some
reasonable excuse to go talk to him after work but I'm afraid that I'd 
end up looking like a tourist." 

"No, no, he'd be more than glad to talk to you. He's always ready to
talk to anyone, anytime. He's got lots of funny stories. But let me 
tell you a story about him. 

" Two or three of his great grandkids were hippies. They borrowed his
pipe to smoke some hash. Didn't tell him, of course. They put it back 
before he missed it but they didn't clean it too well. 

“Old boy sits down on the front porch to smoke his pipe. After a little
while, he got to rockin'. The more he rocked, the harder he'd puff. The 
more he puffed, the more he felt like rockin'. Pretty soon he was 
standin' that old rockin' chair up on its rockers. 

"About then, he rocked off the high side of the porch; and broke his
hip." 

**************************** ******************************** 

A CURIOUS TRIBAL CUSTOM 

This was back when I was still alive and working For the Long and Nasty
Railroad. We were laying Ribbon Rail down By Ben-Hur, Virginia. 

One weekend, I was staying with a few of the other guys and I decided to
go to the little country bar in Jonesville. Now—back then at 
least—Virginia had dry, wet and half-dry Counties. We were in a 
half-dry county—meaning that beer and wine were sold but no hard 
liquor. 

Never been much of a drinker but I was absolutely not a beer drinker.
The little bar didn't have wine. They didn't have Coke or Pepsi 
either—let alone my all-time favorite Double Cola. 

So going to the bar meant sitting and nursing Shasta Colas—at a buck a
can—back in 1980! But they did have a pool table and folks to talk to. 

I didn't know that they had a band and a five-dollar cover charge on
Friday and Saturday Nights. 

So unless you've been to a hillbilly bar, when they're having a weekend
dance, I'll tell you about it. There was a wide range of styles. Some 
of the girls wore jeans, some were halfway dressed up and some of them 
looked like they were going to The Prom. Makeup ranged from none at 
all, to applied with a mini trowel. 

Some of the guys looked like they'd just climbed out from under a truck
and slopped the hogs before coming. Some were wearing the Western-look 
clothes and a few dressed like Elvis. 

I was sitting at a table. I'd taken several hits of speed earlier and
they were just starting to come into focus. I was sitting at a table, 
enjoying the music immensely. 

I had that feeling that drugs sometimes give—like you're just on the
edge of some cosmic revelation. That's when I'd go nearly catatonic and 
people would insist on interrupting my profound meditation with 
dumb-ass questions like: 

"Are you all right?" 

This big ole girl came up to the table. She was about my height—six
feet—but her high heels made her taller than me. She weighed maybe 230, 
maybe 240. She was big without being sloppy. 

She was dressed in a long black evening dress. She had a low bodice—you
could see beaucoup cleavage. The dress was also slit to the hip on each 
side. She was smoking with a long black cigarette holder. 

"You look all alone," She said to me. 

"I was," I said regretfully. 

"Would you like to dance?" 

"Don't know how." 

“I'll teach you.” 

My patience was wearing thin about then. I thought maybe some old
fashioned rudeness might help. 

"I have no desire to learn. Dancing is worldly. It's a tool of the Devil
and it stirs up sexual desire. Fallen women like y'all done been 
Satan's favorite henchmen and I have no doubt that he'll appoint you 
one of Hell's head firemen... " 

"I want to dance with you and I'm not going to go away 'till you dance
with me," She said. 

So as she put her arms around me and her belly touched mine, she felt my
.45 Automatic—tucked right up front—where my belt buckle helped break 
up the outline of the handle. 

That was one reason that I hadn't wanted to dance with her. I felt her
pull her belly in marginally, so she wasn't touching my Gun. I remember 
thinking: 

"Well, now she knows I'm packed. I hope she'll keep it to herself and
not make an issue of it. " 

Then she let her belly touch mine again. Then she started rubbing her
belly all over my Pistol. She was heavier than me and she had the 
initiative. I couldn't help being shoved all over the dance floor, 
without being violent. 

"My God! She's turned on by a concealed weapon," I thought. 

She wanted to dance every dance there for a while. During a band break,
Old Bill (Who was a Hell of a lot younger then, than I am now...) came 
over while Pammy was taking a potty break. 

"What kinda dance was y'all doin' out there?" He said, while holding an
imaginary partner and doing some very obscene hunching. 

He was gifted at being vulgar. I doubt that Pammy and I looked anywhere
near that Bad. (This was before the movie "Dirty Dancing") 

“I Don't Know What to Tell You Bill. She gets turned on by my .45." 

"Are you carrying it in its usual place?" 

I nodded affirmative. 

"Dude, I got some news for you...she don't know that's a .45! She thinks
you're packin' something else entirely! Ha-Ha! Hee- Hee!! Ho-Ho!!!" 

****************** ********************* ****************************** 

PONY MULES AND ELTON JOHN 

Friends everyone has opinions. I give mine, about how much I enjoy
traveling to Indianapolis and illinois. Please don't be offended. 
Unbelievable as it might sound, someone might not like Harlan, 
Kentucky- or Pennington Gap, Virginia... 

Back when I was working on the Long and Nasty Railroad; we were laying
ribbon-rail up close to Chicago. It was a miserable time for most of 
us. We'd worked in Virginia right before we came to illinois. Down in 
Virginia, it was a cool 80 degrees; lots of pretty things to see and 
the people were friendly. 

By contrast, Northern illinois was a wasteland—nothing but endless
cornfields as far as the eye could see with temps above 100 degrees 
every day. It was hot and dusty and we were working from dawn 'till 
dusk. Oh yeah, and the people... 

Well now, I ain't been everywhere but its been my experience that east
of the Mississippi, folks are noticeably friendlier South of the 
Mason-Dixon line than they are North of it. Southerners, when they 
notice a stranger, seem to want to take the time to get to know him and 
chat with him to make him feel welcome. 

Northerners just try to avoid him—though they do make a point of trying
to stare him down—just so he knows he ain't foolin' them into thinkin' 
he belongs there. 

Me, I come from a small pocket in Southern Indiana with some
hybridization. Mark Twain once described my hometown (Evansville) as a 
Northern town with the heart and soul of a Southern town. 

Compared to a typical Illinoisan, a regular Northerner seems a perfect
Southern Gentleman by comparison. They look at everyone as if they were 
something stuck to the sole of their shoe. 

Best that I could tell—after much careful observation—Is that they don't
even like each other. The only other place that I've ever been that 
even remotely compares is Marion County, Indiana. Its like they cut off 
some of the most malignant parts of illinois and plopped them down dead 
center of the Sovereign Nation of Indiana. 

We were doing our time in hell, hoping our next gig would be someplace
nicer. But we noticed some Mules in the field next to us—small Mules, 
about the size of a largish Shetland Pony. They had maybe forty or 
fifty of the small Mules; divided up amongst several pastures. In one 
pasture were a couple dozen Shetland Mares. Right up next to the barn 
was about a dozen smallish Jackasses. Each one had his own generous bit 
of paddock—cause they'll fight if they get together; don't you know. 

No one could figure any rhyme or reason to having that many diminutive
Mules- and not much else. Old Bill—who we rode all the time, as being 
too old for Railroad work and who was a lot younger then, than I am 
now—took an extended break to go scope the whole thing out. 

Donkey Basketball, did you ever hear of Donkey Basketball? 

I've never seen a game in person but I've seen brief clips from old
films. Anyway, they don't actually ride Donkeys—they use small Mules. 
Long time ago—maybe before WWII—maybe before The Depression--Donkey 
Basketball was a real crowd pleaser. 

Used to be that they'd come with enough small Mules for two teams and
they challenge some local group to saddle up and play a game with them. 
It was a fund raising exhibition, with the Mules trained to balk and 
otherwise frustrate the ersatz team. 

Well, times have changed. They couldn't afford the liablilty if they
still challenged locals to compete, so they travel with their own 
exhibition team to play against—similar in concept to the Harlem 
Globetrotters. 

They ain't real popular (As of the late 70s) but they still had two
groups (for a total of four teams) that toured the country. They had an 
exclusive contract with that farmer; to breed all their Mules and board 
the ones who'd been rotated out of the lineup—apparently the Mules 
burned out quicker than the people. 

They kept two sets- one touring and one resting and recuperating. At
least that's the story the farmer, who claimed to be a fellow Berean, 
told Old Bill. 

So what does all this have to do with Elton John? Well everyone on the
Railroad had some sort of handle. There was a black guy that we all 
called "Elton John", 'cause he had a fantastic selection of shades that 
he wore to work. 

Nowadays you have to wear safety glasses on the track—so I hear. At any
rate, Elton John could go at least two weeks and not wear any of his 
shades twice. They all had big frilly decorative frames and most of the 
lenses were mirror or cobalt blue or an iridescent red. 

Now somebody had been stealin' Old Bill's Mountain Dews outa his cooler.
We figured that's what Elton John was up to—and what made him rather 
nervous. 

Anyway, he was coming back from being behind the Burro Crane—where there
was no real reason for him to have been. One of the Jackasses got as 
close up behind Elton as the fence would allow—only a little over two 
yards in this case and he brayed at the top of his lungs. 

It sounded just as if he'd screamed: 

"ELLLTONNN JOOOOHNNNN!!!" 

Elton John leaped about a yard straight up in the air. But it wasn't
'till he took a quick look around and mistook the Jackass' big ears for 
horns and figured that Old Scratch himself was inviting him to a 
private interview, that he turned deathly pale and started to run. 

Took a half hour to convince him to come back and look at the Jackass.
We went by that site on our way to the next ones for the next few days 
and it was notable how Elton picked up the pace. I think he was afraid 
the Jack might greet him again. 

****************************** ******************** ******************* 

ANGELFISH 

I started second grade in 1965, in Orlando Florida. I didn't much care
for school in Florida. It was like being in military school. They 
played the National Anthem every morning. When one little boy asked our 
grim-faced teacher when recess was, he was told scornfully that recess 
was for first-graders. 

Now back in the Nation, I knew that recess was a prominent part of the
day for the first, second, and even third graders. Nonetheless, I was 
glad that it wasn't me that had asked. I never did handle scorn very 
well. 

(Today, I'd say something like: 

“Oh! Pardon me! I had the distinct delusion for a moment there that I
was actually living in a civilized Country...”) 

When they played the National Anthem over the intercom every morning,
the record they used had a scratch on it. Every morning the song would 
start off: 

“Jose', can you see, by the dawn//BY THE DAWN'S early light...” 

They'd give it a small joggle after the first bobble but the “BY THE
DAWN...” always sounded just a touch louder and more emphatic the 
second time around. 

To this day, when I hear someone sing “The Star-Spangled Banner”; it
sounds rather weak and insipid without the spirited doubling-up of 
those six words. If I'm ever called upon to sing the National Anthem 
for a large crowd—like at a pro Baseball game—I fully intend to use the 
Florida Public School Version. 

I don't remember how long that we stayed in Florida after school
started—not long, a month, maybe six weeks. It was long enough to get 
caught in two hurricanes: Betty and Cleo, if I remember correctly. Then 
my father got a better job offer and we moved to Gulfport Mississippi. 

We couldn't have been in Gulfport very long because we left to come back
to the Nation on Halloween Day—a coincidence that fixes the date of our 
departure firmly in my mind forever—or at least while I live. 

Well we settled into a fairly nice Motel that had reasonable rates on
cottages with kitchens; yet was also just across a four lane highway 
from the beach. Back then you could have maid service for a small 
pittance added onto the monthly rent—maybe five, ten dollars a month—it 
was cheap, even back then. 

We'd never had a maid, and it was a fairly easy decision for my folks to
make, since money was tight. Nonetheless, the Southerners all thought 
our refusal of maid service was a Yankee eccentricity. Even the poorest 
of them seemed to manage somehow to afford a maid—at least part-time. 

One day my father took us for a walk on the beach. Back then, at least,
they had many wooden piers that went way out into the Gulf—maybe a 
quarter mile, maybe not quite that far. Don't know if the piers are 
still there (though I hope so...), but I haven't been to Gulfport in 
decades. 

We went out on the piers—out in the blazing hot sun—several times.
Someone was missing a real opportunity, not putting any cold drink 
machines out on those piers. It was hot. It was a long walk back to the 
beach and the sight and sound of water all around made the thirst 
maddening. 

The piers reminded me of walking on a railroad bridge. 			They stood
perhaps fifteen or twenty feet off the water. They were made with huge 
creosoted posts and absolutely massive creosoted planks—say ten to 
fifteen inches wide, four inches thick and fifteen to twenty five feet 
long. BIG. There were places where the planks had rotted away but there 
was always plenty of meat left. You never felt the tiniest give while 
walking on them. 

The Shrimp Boats fascinated my mother. They weren't terribly interesting
to me. They generally seemed to be docked just far enough away to seem 
a good bit smaller than I now know them to be—and if you were lucky 
enough to actually see one moving, it always seemed to be crawling 
towards the horizon at “Dead Speed Ahead”—or whatever Shrimpers call 
their very low gear. 

Don't know what drew my father out there. He wasn't any kind of
romantic—and he wasn't taciturn, but he wasn't exactly verbal 
either—and I'm only beginning to learn, in my fifth decade of life how 
some people's primary cognitive tools are like so NOT verbal. I think 
that my sister was too little to care—and Grandma generally stayed back 
at the Motel. 

Me—well at the time, I was bored, thirsty, and physically uncomfortable.
I found the minimalist ambiance of the piers depressing. However, I was 
at an age where it hadn't fully occurred to me that I was there at the 
expense of being somewhere that the ambience might have rocked me far 
more. 

There really wasn't a place like that in Gulfport though. Life around
the Motel was boring. Much of life on the road is boring to a young 
boy. I guess that much of life is boring—period. As you get older 
though, you develop all sorts of coping mechanisms to deal with 
monotony, ennui and depression. It's hard to get used to, at first 
though. 

Nowadays, being pretty much stuck in the Nation (Except on Sunday, when
I go across the river to Henderson Kentucky, to go to Church.) I would 
seriously groove on spending two or three weeks at a cheap beachfront 
Motel—if there still is such a thing—and walking on the beach and 
walking the piers at Gulfport. Be that as it may... 

We came upon a black woman fishing off the pier with a cane pole. She
had a bandanna on her head like Aunt Jemima. She was as fat as Aunt 
Jemima too. I thought that she looked about three days older than 
God—which in retrospect, means anywhere from thirty to her mid fifties. 
It is even conceivable that if I saw her today, as she was then, I 
might even find her attractive... 

But my attraction to king-sized black women (Think Queen Latifa—or even
Monique...) is a topic for another story. 

She was missing both her front teeth. As a boy, I used to think that
women with their two front teeth missing were rather girlish and 
unthreatening—friendly looking. 

I can't imagine why. It's not as if any grown woman had ever threatened
to bite me. Be that as it may, it seemed that back then, a 
disproportionate number of women were missing those two front 
teeth—presumably some of the easiest teeth to care for... 

Whatever. This friendly seeming, comely hag was sitting on a five-gallon
bucket. She had another five gallon bucket with her. It had five or six 
inches of sand in the bottom of it and was full of dime-sized crabs. 

There was a huge old Angelfish hanging around one of the piers posts
down below us. I mean big. He was maybe fourteen inches long and almost 
that wide from dorsal fin to ventral fin. He was over two inches thick 
and his eyes were the size of big black olives. He was black and white 
striped too—just an all-round bigger version of the Angelfish you see 
in tropical aquariums—at least by my reckoning. 

I didn't understand Exactly what she meant, but apparently she had two
rather different methods of threading a crab onto the hook—and it 
seemed like whichever one she chose, once the fish actually grabbed the 
bait, she knew that she'd have had him, if she'd only have used the 
other method. 

She'd been feeding the big Angelfish for two or three hours. She was
convinced that she and the fish were having a chess-like battle of wit. 
She said that if she caught the fish, that her and her husband would 
have fish and hush puppies for supper, but that if she failed to catch 
the fish, they'd be forced to dine on hush puppies alone. 

Now a fish has a brain the size of my little fingernail. I doubt that it
has any wit to speak of. I don't think that it fully realized its 
situation. It knew that it continued to find food at that spot. Finding 
its food impaled, it naturally tried to disentangle it, without 
piercing its mouth. It probably even sensed that something was 
suspicious—but for creatures that are both predator and prey, there is 
something not to be trusted in every moment of life. 

We left before she'd either caught the fish or given up. She still had
several hours of daylight left. I like to think that she had a fish 
dinner forty-three someodd years ago—but I don't guess that I'll ever 
know. I still think about it betimes. 

Daddy and Mommy and Grandma are all gone now. The fish is certainly long
gone. More than likely the fisherwoman is gone too. Although my sister 
was there, and she's heard me tell the story, she has no personal 
recollection of the event. 

There's only me—but maybe now the story will be around, even if just for
a little while—after I'm gone. 

************************* *****************************
************************ 

IT AIN'T LOADED IS IT? 

I met D when I was working on the Northern Region Rail-Laying Gang, for
the Long and Nasty Railroad. It was a traveling Gang, so we had folks 
from seven or eight states. We worked on over more than a dozen 
divisions. 

Now my friend D plays a big part in this story, so you'll have to know a
bit about him. D was from a small town in Georgia. He'd become a 
Christian some years earlier and it made a big difference in the way he 
lived. 

D was also a bit slow. I am a Christian myself- I'm not implying that
his Christianity had any connection to his slowness; nonetheless it was 
there. 

Once I mentioned to D's cousin, how D would ask me the same question
seven times, in a two-hour period. He told me that D had consumed lots 
of LSD-25 and other mind-altering chemicals before he found Jesus. 

Now being on the Rail Gang and being a Christian left D with a paucity
of things to do on the road. He didn't drink. He didn't frequent bars. 
He didn't gamble and he didn't like off-color stories. I'm not sure how 
well he could read but I saw him read his Bible sometimes. 

Anyway, his one “Vice” if, you want to call it that, he liked to dress
fairly well—Stetson hat, big silver and turquoise belt buckle, fancy 
Cowboy Boots—always highly shined, lots of Indian turquoise jewelry and 
denim clothes that would have looked right on a Country-Western singer. 
And he liked to eat in relatively upscale restaurants. 

I've gone to a restaurant with D before, though usually the places he
favored were a bit expensive for my taste. He sure did enjoy flirting 
with the waitresses, calling them “Mam” and displaying his impeccable 
Southern manners. I mention this because his one other enthusiasm 
caused some folks to wonder about him. 

He loved to hang around Truck Stops by the hour. He'd play the pinball
and arcade games—“Space Invaders” was the latest fad back then. He'd 
drink beaucoup cups of coffee, eat a few pieces of pie and more or less 
just hang. 

Personally, I'm convinced that he just liked the ambience for some
reason but when telling the story aloud, someone loudly speculating 
about D's Sexual orientation has often interrupted me at just this 
point. I'll offer one more piece of evidence in D's favor, and let it 
go. 

One day when we were talking, we got onto the subject of sex. D had this
to say: 

“I don't know why Jesus told us not to have sex outside of marriage”, He
said, looking off into space, concentrating hard on the abstract idea. 

“ If he hadn't told us it was a sin, I guarantee you I'd have me a
different woman every night and I'd be a lot less lonesome. But Jesus 
told me not to; so even though I don't understand why—I obey him.” 

He was about 6'1”; weighed about 205- not an ounce of flab, with the
jet-black hair and the high cheekbones that come from quite a bit of 
Cherokee ancestry. I don't think that he was bluffing. He probably 
could have landed a new woman almost every night. He liked girls. 
Besides that, he made real good money. Can't see him prostituting 
himself out to truckers. 

Anyway, I d just bought the .45 Colt '70 Series Government Model Semi
Automatic Pistol that figures into so many of my Railroad stories. The 
dude at the Gun store had shown me how to field strip it twice—Once 
when I brought it back in pieces—wasn't lining up the hole in the 
barrel link pin with the hole in the frame... 

Well I'd shot the Gun and cleaned it on a weekend and once again it
wasn't going together for me. I was turning the bushing in the wrong 
direction—not knowing that it mattered. I sat there trying various 
things and fuming. Finally I asked D. 

D had told me that he'd been in the National Guard. Back then I believed
that everyone in the military had to be able to field strip and 
reassemble all sorts of military weapons blindfolded. I asked D for 
help. He stared vaguely at the Pistol for a few moments and shook his 
head in bewilderment. Well I did get it together—with no help from D. 
And I never made that particular mistake again. 

Anyway, D and me ended up being the only two dudes in the Camp-Cars one
weekend in Butler, Kentucky. I'd heard they were having a Bruce Lee 
film festival in Florence. I asked D if he wanted to go. 

No sooner than we got into my car—This was before I got my Van—I fished
my .45 out from it's cleverly constructed secret hiding place under my 
seat and set it on the seat between us. Kentucky had a “Plain Sight” 
law back then. 

“Do you have to put that there? It makes me nervous.” D said. 

“Well it's borderline legal under the seat,” I said. 

A friendly (?) Law had explained to me: in plain sight or where it
requires more than one motion to draw it. I could draw it from under 
the seat in one motion—But not without beaucoup blind fishing around. 
There was no way I could draw it unobtrusively... 

No need to try to explain all this to D though... 

“But if it will make you happy...” 

I had taken the Gun and reached up under the seat. I was fishing for my
clever split in the carpeting, when D grabbed my right shoulder and 
pulled so hard that my shoulder ached for some time afterward. 

“Oh God No! Don't break the law!” D said. 

He acted as if the idea of the Pistol being in a “Verboten” spot, even
for an instant—terrified him beyond words. 

We got almost to Florence without incident. Then “Mr.
It-makes-me-nervous” decided he wanted to play with the pistol. I 
didn't much care for him handling it; but being much newer with Guns; I 
hadn't yet acquired the thick skin to shout at someone to: 

” Leave it the Ph*** alone!!!” 

As we drove along, I was mainly watching the traffic, when I heard the
cheerful little jingling noise a .45 Auto makes when you pull the 
trigger with the safety on—three distinct little jingles, in fact. My 
thoughts were: 

“Bad craziness... surely he knows where the safety is; and how it
functions...he was in the military after all...even so, he couldn't 
tell me how to put it together again, two or three weeks ago...Anyway I 
don't like him pulling the trigger...” 

“You do know where the safety is on that Weapon, don't you D?” I said
with exaggerated patience. 

“Does it have a safety?” He asked in complete bewilderment. 

My hand shot out with a will of it's own, relying entirely on peripheral
vision, and deftly snatched the .45 away from D. The .45 once again in 
my possession, I resumed my air of exaggerated patience. 

“This is the safety D. As long as the safety is up, it shouldn't fire.
Nonetheless, folks who really ought to know, say that it's a very poor 
practice to be pulling the trigger on a pistol that you don't want to 
go off—Safety or no.” 

“ It ain't loaded is it?” 

“What on Earth good would it be, if it wasn't loaded?” 

Well we got to the Theater a bit late. D complained of carsickness. He
went to the restroom, bought a Coke, played a couple games of pinball 
and just generally milled aimlessly around—all the while the movie 
“Enter the Dragon”, had already begun. I grimly held onto my patience 
and we got into the show just as they were all getting onto the boat. 

D didn't want to tell me, for some reason but he told everyone else on
the Gang. Word eventually worked its way back to me. 

Those three clicks: the first two had been him carefully aiming at his
cowboy booted foot. The third time he pulled the trigger was while 
looking straight down the barrel. When he found out the Gun was loaded, 
he'd become totally unhinged. He heaved his guts up in the bathroom and 
was kinda wandering around in a state of fugue for some time—at least 
to hear him tell it. 

Several points come from this. One thing, people do incredibly stupid
things with Firearms. I'm convinced that at least some apparent 
suicides are simply misadventures like D almost had. 

“No Officer, I can't say that he acted depressed. He never said
anything. He just reached over and picked up my .45, and blew his 
brains out...” 

Never hesitate to be rude, loud, shrill, or downright insulting—if
that's what it takes, to get someone to act right. And if they are 
doing something too stupid, leave. Come back to shoot sometime when 
they're not around. 

They say that your friends can kill you easier by accident, than your
enemies can on purpose. This goes triple for “Richard-Headed” 
acquaintances. 

************************* ****************************
***************************** 

UNCLE JACK 

This isn't a Railroad tale; but it could be. Actually it predates my
railroad career by several years. Anyway, it's a short story. 

This contains one rather strong word; but it's very hard to convey the
sense of it with a euphemism. 

My father used to love the old country expression: 

"If your Aunt had of had Balls; she'd have been your Uncle." 

This really used to tick me off because he'd use it to short-circuit the
"If-Then" formulations so necessary to logical thought. One day I 
remonstrated by saying that in fact, she would not have been an Uncle 
with the singular addition of testicles and a scrotum but on the 
contrary, would have been a hermaphroditic freak. Whatever. 

Although I hated the expression, I used it on my friend Bill one day,
just to score a quick "gotcha". 

I didn't take into account Bill's unique and sometimes slow thought
processes. Bill went through these mental evolutions out loud. 

"If my Aunt had balls; she'd be a man. My Uncle Jack lives with my Aunt.
My Uncle Jack has sex with my Aunt. If my Uncle Jack was having sex 
with a man; my Uncle Jack would be a queer!" 

Now he shouted in real anger: 

"Are you calling my Uncle Jack a queer!?!" 

Well to tell you the truth, I had been blissfully unaware that he even
had an Uncle Jack until that instant. 

I told the story to my companeros at the Gunstore. They got a huge kick
out of it. From then on; if someone came up with a really off-the-wall 
comment, particularly if it involved taking offense where none was 
meant, we'd shout angrily: 

"Are you calling my Uncle Jack a queer!?!" 

So I just want to state for the record: "No! I'm not calling Anyone's
Uncle Jack a queer!" 

*********************** *******************************
********************** 

ARE WE THERE YET? 

This happened back in the mid 90s, when I was dating Debra. Debra was
the second of four disastrous love affairs that made me solemnly swear 
that I would never again date a Black Lesbian. 

Yeah, go ahead and laugh at my expense. I didn't know that Mary was Gay
but I don't know how it slipped her mind. I mean she asked me out the 
first time, and offered to pay. 

Up until I found out about Mary, I'd never known a Lesbian—at least, not
knowingly. Mary left me for a Woman—and I made the mistake of crying on 
Debra's shoulder... 

Maybe dating Debra wasn't one hundred percent bad though. She was the
only one of the four that was a good person deep down inside. I ran 
into her a few years ago. She's married—to a Man, of course—and they 
both attend a Baptist Church quite regularly. 

Anyway, I only worked a half-day on Fridays. I went by Debra's house to
take her out. There was a small neighborhood Tavern across the street 
from her house and there was a skinny white guy sitting on the steps. 

As we drove past, Debra asked me to stop. 

"That Dude has been sitting there all morning. He's going to get in
trouble hanging around in this neighborhood," She said. 

I pulled up along side the curb. He was waiting for his brother and he
needed a ride to Washington. I thought he meant Washington 
Avenue—woulda been a half mile detour. 

Debra wanted to drive, so we swapped seats. Fairly early on, it became
clear that our new friend wanted a ride to Washington Indiana. 

"Debra, pull over and let this SOB out of my car. He wants to go to the
Town of Washington—not the street." 

"I don't know where Washington is," Debra said. 

"Well I do. Take my word for it, we don't want to go there" I said. 

Debra negotiated a hardcore deal—we got $50 for the ride, plus he was
going to reimburse us for gas, based on how much gas it took to fill my 
tank, once we got to Washington—and Debra was going to hang onto his 
wallet and ID, till he'd made good. 

Well, there was a little air in my Brake Lines. I told Debra that she
needed to pump it two or three times before she put the Brake on in 
earnest. 

Before we'd even gotten out of Evansville, she wanted me to drive. 

We started heading North East up Highway 57. We hadn't gone very far,
when our rider started talking about how he liked to have sex with 
hookers. He said that his favorite hooker was Kandi Kane. 

I never met Kandi—but word was, she was a dude who dressed like a woman
and turned tricks. She killed herself—drowned herself in the mighty 
Ohio, if I remember correctly—a couple years before. 

"You do know that she was a man don't you?" Debra asked him. 

He shrugged. It was immaterial to him. He started talking downright
crazy shortly after that. Once again, we changed the seating 
arrangement. 

I drove. Debra was in the back seat and Father Kobbadah-Knobbadah was
riding Shotgun. 

Debra brandished my hatchet. 

"Do you see this? If you make one false move, I'm going to bury this
hatchet in the back of your skull," Debra told him. 

"I've died before. Ain't no big thing" Herr Nutzenheimer replied. 

"Well you just act up, and you will get a chance to die again," She
said. 

I don't really know how far it was to Washington. When I removed
asbestos in Petersburg, I think I used to allow about 90 minutes to get 
there... 

But the many miles of two lane highways, with an eight to twelve foot
drop on each side, used to thoroughly intimidate me—and I never was a 
real fast driver anyway. Washington was about another hour further on. 

There's a song about: 

"The Corn is as high, as an Elephant's Eye..." 

Well that's how the cornfields were. 

"Are we there yet?" Debra would ask about every three-and-a-half
Minutes. 

After about the twenty-seventh time, it got kinda old. 

"Debra, I told you that you did not wish to go to Washington. We have to
go through Petersburg before we can get to Washington. We won't even be 
in Petersburg for a good long while yet. You won't miss Petersburg. 
Once we get through Petersburg, then you can resume your helpful 
inquiries..." I said. 

"We are in Ku Klux Klan Country," Debra says. 

"Not really" I counter. 

"I'll bet if these Klan Dudes caught me, they'd run a stick through my
rectum, and out through my throat. They'd stick a big sour-ass apple in 
my mouth, and Bar-Be-Que me like a suckling pig, then eat me." 

"Not really. Debra, a black person out here is a boilerplate rarity.
People have to be in regular contact with black folk, to make them 
wanna organize a Klavern. Anyway, for the sake of argument—they might 
tar and feather you. They might even hang you... 

"But they wouldn't eat you..." I tried to say. 

Meanwhile, Debra has a death-grip on my hatchet, and is slumping lower
and lower in the seat. 

"Are we there yet?" 

Well, when we get to the brother's house, he ain't home. I'm ready to
cut bait, and accept my losses... 

But at Debra's insistence: 

We went by a sister's house, his mother's house, his father—who no
longer shares a domicile with the mother—he was not at his house 
either. 

We took him by to see his granny. Granny lives in a seven or eight story
Old Folk's home—but as luck would have it, she's sitting on the lawn 
out front. 

She gives Father Kobbadah-The-Knobadah everything she has on her—just
enough to buy big fountain drinks for Debra and me, at the next 
convenience store we spot. 

Now our Star Boarder wants to go to "Wheatville" or "Wheaton", or
something. 

I thought that he meant "Wheatonville", a small community just outside
Evansville. I was in near despair, thinking of putting up with this 
freeloading kook for another two or three hours. 

Then I realized that it was close to where we already were, so I
relented. 

This brother was home indeed. 

"Hell no! I won't pay you for bringing him here--he's an escaped mental
patient from the State Hospital in Evansville," Brother tells me. 

"Debra, give the man back his wallet" I hissed. 

"I think I'll hang onto it." 

"Debra, if you give the man his wallet and we leave promptly, there will
be nothing to tie us to this kook. Y'know, we done been unwitting 
accomplices." 

Well, first Debra tries to talk them into feeding us, at least. When
they refuse, she gets downright indignant, and wants to know if they're 
too good to break bread with a black woman. 

Somehow I missed the turn-off to get back on 57. After going way out
into the boonies—out where the screech owls rape the chickens—I stopped 
for directions—and to get Debra and me some food and drink. 

(It was payday, after all. I couldn't readily afford all the gasoline
that I'd wasted—but I was nowhere near as broke as I'd let on around 
the grazny Lopslicker.) 

Debra wouldn't go into the store—she was getting her Paranoid on about
the Kannibalistic Klan again. 

But she did have to have a bowel movement—and I had to go into the
restroom with her, and literally hold her hand, while she defecated. 

By the time I figured out where I was, I was almost in Vincennes. I
continued on till I hit 41, turned South and headed home. 

So what did you do with your weekend? 

*********************** ****************************
**************************** 

MY FIRST GUN 

Well, kinda my first. I pretty much "owned" my father's 12 Gauges and
.22 Rifles by that point—they were mine to use any time that I wanted 
to and it was well understood that I was to inherit them when the time 
came. 

Sadly, that time has come. I can remember a day or two after the
Funeral, taking my father's Browning Shotgun (an old Auto-Five), and 
holding it and crying. 

But this was the first Gun that I bought with my money, and my First
Handgun/Revolver. 

I'd seen the Movie "Dirty Harry" while I'd been at Purdue. I'd had no
idea what the Movie was about when I first went—for all I knew, it was 
about a Weenie-Flasher But it was Free..... 

And I'd never heard of the .44 Magnum. 

After I saw the Movie, I just had to have a .44 Magnum—and no Single
Action either—I wanted a Double Action just like the one in the Movie. 

I talked to everyone who would listen, about my serious Jonesing for a
.44 Magnum. 

The consensus of The Peckerwoods was that the .44 Magnum could be
mastered, just as one could master riding a unicycle, or juggling—And 
just about as laboriously and Pointlessly. 

{I mentioned to my closest friend, and confidant, about a Jack London
story where the dude was desperately trying to get back to "The Land of 
Little Sticks". 

He guffawed and Said that Southern Indiana should be Christened, "The
land of the Little Ricks"--That's not right..."Land of the Little 
Bics"...Still no. "The Land of the Little Richards"—yes, that's 
tolerably close. 

He and his Brother owned a Gunstore...} 

Anyway, every story that I heard about arms, fingers, noses and even
heads broken by the whip-crack recoil, The more determined to have and 
to master the mighty .44 Magnum that I became. 

This was back in 1978. Gunstores were paying more than Manufacturer's
Suggested Retail—and of course they had to buy lots of S&W ammo; and a 
raft of Model 10's to get one Model 29. Barrel length? Order any length 
you wanted, and gladly accept what they shipped you. 

I wanted a Blued one, like the one in the Movie. I'd read some
Peckerwood opine that Nickel was for "amateurs". Once I saw how quickly 
practice draws wore both bluing and satin Nickeling off the Muzzles of 
my .45 Autos, I became a big believer in bright Nickel. 

Anyway, my wish list was: Blued; 6 1/2" Barrel—1st Choice, 4" Barrel a
2nd Choice and 8 3/8ths being a Distant 3rd. 

I put about $300 down on a $550 8 3/8ths inch Nickel Plated S&W Model 29
(lay-away). 

Folks, you should have seen the fit my father threw when he found out.
He'd never laid a hand on me, since I'd went away to College in '75 but 
I believe that with a little provocation, he'd have hit me right in the 
face with his closed fist (Which he'd never done, of course—slaps—a 
very few times—but no fists). 

He kept harping on what he could have bought with "That Money" if I was
just going to "Throw it away". 

I wasn't about to antagonize him, but the thought kept occurring to me,
that it was my money. 

(This was when I used to net $132 a week and when I got a 26 cent per
hour raise, it made a difference—not a big one—but still a discernible 
difference. And I always gave my parents $90-$100 and ran on the rest. 
My down payment had been carefully saved for a long time.) 

Anyway, by the time I paid off my lay-away, I had added a "like-new"
Safariland shoulder holster and about 500 rounds of .44 Magnum, and 
another 200 Rounds of .44 Special--and a half-dozen HKS speed-loaders. 

Now several thoughts occur to me. Folks generally recommend that
newcomers start out with a .22 Rimfire for their first Gun. 

That's fine advice, if you can take it. I didn't want a damned .22 or
even a .357 or .45—I wanted a .44 Magnum! I wouldn't have gotten home 
with a .22 until I was dissatisfied with it. 

Jeff Cooper always recommended starting folks with a .45 Auto—a 1911A1,
carried in "Condition One" Or "Cocked-and-Locked"... 

{Honestly, if "Cocked-and-Locked” makes you nervous—at least too nervous
to carry your .45 that way—then you don't deserve a 1911A1.} 

If you choose to go with the .45 Auto, either get some first class
coaching—Cooper's original lectures are available from Paladin—or at 
least get a firm understanding of the process and practice dry-firing 
beaucoup many-many times. 

If you just have to have a magnum, after you've scratched your magnum
itch with 200-300 Rounds, put in some good Double Action basic training 
with reduced target loads. 

Second: They used an 8 3/8ths inch barrel in several of the scenes in
"Dirty Harry" for “greater dramatic effect”. 

Actually, if you know the different silhouettes of the two barrel
lengths, it seems the longer barrel got most of the “Face Time”. 

As a practical matter, if you can hide the 6" or 6 1/2" (The standard
changed over the years...) you can hide the longer barrel just as well. 
Neither is easy to hide inside the pants—though I've done it. Either is 
easy to hide with a shoulder holster and a light jacket. 

I wish that I had a reasonable chance of coming across one of the rather
limited number of ten inch S&W Model 29s the factory made briefly. I'm 
curious how well the ten-inch would carry and conceal—and what kind of 
performance it would give. 

Anyway, I didn't get around to applying for a "Hunting and Target"
Permit either while I was either gainfully employed or happily laid off 
later and drawing unemployment. 

Later, when I got the job on the Railroad, I was out of town all through
the workweek. 

Finally, I took off half a day's work to get home, and apply for one. 

It was February or March of 1979 when I first took my new friend into
the stripper pits. 

I had a gallon milk container full of water. I had to tempt fate, and
fire the first six rounds one-handed, Double Action. 

I was wearing plugs and muffs—the Revolver kicked a bit—but I wasn't
entirely sure if it had actually fired, the first few rounds. It sure 
wasn't the digit mangler that I'd expected. 

I think I shot my milk jug with a full-power Remington 245 grain LSWC.
Maybe I should have used one of the Super-Vel 180 grain Hollow Points. 
All the SWC did was punch a hole clean through both sides. 

I had about 600 Rounds of .44 Magnum, and about 250 Rounds of .44
Special with me. 

At some point, I fired several rounds at a scrub pine tree. When I went
to check what effect my shots had upon the tree trunk, all I could see 
was a bunch of marks that looked like someone had been belaboring the 
tree with a ball-peen hammer. 

I presumed that my mighty .44 had bored deeply into the tree—and then
the hole had closed a bit. 

I decided to dig a bullet out. 

Our comes my 9 inch bladed Western Bowie--the best Bowie ever made, by
far—wish that I could get another. 

CHOP! To clear a low hanging branch... 

OOWWW-UChee! As the Bowie cuts right through a near wrist-sized pine
branch, turns and stabs me in my right thigh. 

My first thought—how strange that the Bowie cut my jeans but not me. 

Second sensation—warm fluid running down my right leg... 

Did I piss myself, per chance? 

No. Pulling my pants down reveals a hole in my mid thigh. 

Hey this is cool! I can see my femur. 

No real pain. Cram a clean hankie into it, strap my belt tightly around
it (Not a tourniquet!) 

Hmm, still got about 250 assorted rounds. I fired remaining rounds. I
drove home and showed my Father. He said that it will need stitches. 

I said, "Let me eat supper first." 

The spaghetti was pretty good. I drove myself to Emergency Room. The
intern had me repeat my tale five or six times—I left out all reference 
to my .44 friend. 

Finally he says, "I'll treat you, but I'm highly suspicious of your
story. Stab wounds are very rarely self-inflicted." 

Is that so, Sherlock? Tell me, who is always within reach of me, when he
has a blade in his hand?" 

Don't tax yourself. The answer is: 

"Me!" 

I have stabbed myself many a time—though never so dramatically. 

No, I didn't tell the snooty intern that—I was still modestly impressed
by some authority figures back then. 

Lesson learned? 

"Always treat all Knives as if they were loaded." 

Correction: 

"All Knives are always loaded." (Rule #1a.) 

*********************** *************************** ********************


MOTHER ALMOST SHOT ME 

My Uncle Allen, just by coincidence, had the same last name as my
Father. He married my Father's half-sister, who up until then did not 
share my Father's last name. 

Back in the ‘50's Uncle Allen owned a parking lot downtown. He still had
it as late as '61 or '62—because I can plainly remember hanging out 
there with my father, a few times, as a wee lad. 

At any rate, Uncle Allen qualified for a Concealed Weapon Permit, to
protect himself as he made his nightly bank drops. It was a different 
era. He bought a S&W from a “Friendly Cop”—if you can imagine the same. 


It was a Chief's Special—a “J” Framed five shot .38 Special with a
two-inch barrel. This later became the “Model 36”, though I don't know 
if they'd started so designating them when Uncle's Gun was produced. 

He came with his own leather shoulder holster, and the tame Law made no
secret that he'd confiscated the Gun and holster from some 
unfortunate—no pretext of turning them in back then. The Law also told 
my Uncle that they preferred to see “Civilian” Concealed Weapons 
carried partially but discretely unconcealed—go figure. 

I can't tell you if that was a personal shibboleth of my Uncle's friend,
or a general sentiment among area Laws. At any rate, I believe that the 
idea of packing 24/7 by a “Civilian” was almost certainly not part of 
the local paradigm back then. 

Anyway, Uncle Allen died. My Aunt found that she was having trouble
pulling the trigger on her little friend. I went over to her house, 
with my Gunsmithing tools—including my vacuum based Panavise. 

I didn't feel good about clipping a coil or two off the mainspring
(Remember: This is a “J” Frame.) particularly without a spare 
mainspring on hand, and the opportunity to test fire a several 
rounds—or more than several—through him. 

I did smooth the action judiciously, and made sure that the rebound
spring housing was very smooth indeed and then got a little Teflon 
based lube in all the strategic spots. Then after putting him through a 
couple hundred rapid DA trigger cycles, I cocked him three or four 
times, and kept hard pressure on the hammer spur while pulling the 
trigger. 

{That will often smooth the Single Action out considerably, but you
shouldn't be shooting a DA Revolver SA anyway. My Aunt had arthritis in 
both index fingers—and she never claimed to be a Warrior or Pistolero. 
What's your excuse?} 

I showed her how to Thumb-Cock it; How to shoot it with the second,
stronger finger, while pointing the index finger along the frame—which 
is the shooting technique Ruby used on Oswald; or how to assume a faux 
Weaver Stance, and use both trigger fingers to pull the trigger. 

{Yes, you can get a good powder burn on your index finger with method
number 2. If you are a seventy year old woman with arthritic fingers, 
shooting to save your life—its an acceptable trade-off. Method 3 is 
Bezonian, and should be adopted only when necessary.} 

I think that I'd lightened her DA trigger pull about three pounds—and
made it smoother. She said that she could DA it if necessary, but that 
she preferred Thumb-Cocking. Undoubtedly, some of the DA smoothing went 
to ease Thumb Cocking effort as well. 

Some short while afterward, I took her to the indoor shooting range. I
took my Mother too. I'd bought her a Ruger Mark I Semi-Auto .22 Pistol. 
This is the one with the medium length tapered barrel—He somewhat 
resembles a Lugar in silhouette. 

I bought some of the old “Paul Bunion” silhouettes—since I was trying to
build confidence. A boxful of 148-grain target wadcutters later, she 
was shooting small saucer-sized groups. A dozen +P 110-grain Treasury 
loads—so she'd know what to expect—and then fifteen more target loads, 
so her last memory of shooting wouldn't be too grim. My Mother also 
shot a few rounds through the .38. 

My Mother turned out to be a prodigy with the light recoiling .22.
25-foot groups the size of quarters, 50-foot groups slightly larger 
than a half-dollar. (Using a two-handed Weaver Stance like I'd taught 
her.) I couldn't shoot the unfamiliar Pistol any better myself. 

When I handed my Aunt her targets, she folded them up carefully, and put
them into her purse—then she got tears in her eyes.  My Uncle hadn't 
been in the ground all that long. She had started to say, 

“I want to show these to Allen.” 

Well my Mother fired her .22 a good deal. At some point, a red-hot
cartridge case went down the front of her blouse, and into her 
brassiere. She turned around clenching and shaking both fists in 
pain—including the one with a loaded Gun in it. 

Truthfully, I believe that if it had been anyone else—with the possible
exception of my Father or My Aunt—I'd have cold-cocked them right 
upside the jaw with my clenched fist—something calculated to put them 
down, and end the threat quickly. Truthfully, my right fist was 
clenched, and my arm cocked... 

But this was my Mother. Even then, she was little and frail, and she'd
had a very bad back all of my life. A knockout punch to the jaw could 
have done her untold damage—maybe broken her neck, or landed her in a 
wheel chair. 

A good second choice would have been dropping to the floor
immediately—but a man with two plans doesn't execute either of them 
very well... 

If you are ever in my situation—never hesitate for even an instant, to
hit the deck, if someone is pointing a Gun at you. You may look silly 
if they don't actually let a round loose. You have my permission to 
beat them black and blue for embarrassing you, once you're safe. 

Reading about any number of accidental shootings has convinced me that
many folks had time for a quick evasive action, if they'd only have 
been prepared for such an eventuality (You prepare by considering 
hypothetical crises regularly.) 

CRACK! 

“Are you all right?” She asked in Horror. 

“Let me check,” I said. 

Sometimes people don't realize they've been shot. The bullet would have
gotten me somewhere below my navel and no lower than mid thigh—most 
probably in the groin area. Apparently the bullet passed between my 
legs, because that is just about the only way that it could have missed 
me. 

I looked briefly for a bullet mark on the brick wall behind us. The wall
was whitewashed, but not particularly smooth. I gave it up as a futile 
task. I warned the Women not to say anything to the range master—afraid 
we'd all get banned. 

I did find out eventually where the bullet went—right through my Aunt's
heavy-duty leather purse, sitting on a stool behind us. From her 
description, it displayed impressive penetration. 

Mother is gone now. Uncle Allen is gone, my Father and his sister too. I
inherited my Mother's .22—which is no more than right, being I bought 
him. 

My Aunt moved to Florida to live with a daughter. In one of those odd
turns of fate, my Cousin died before my Aunt. One of my Aunt's 
grandchildren inherited the Chief's Special. They are welcome to him, 
if they treasure him properly. 

I wish that I had him though—I almost certainly know more of his
Providence than any of them. 

You know, I bought a Model 36 a few years ago. I never made a note of
the Serial Number on my Aunt's Gun. So if by some highly improbable 
twist of fate, Uncle Allen's old .38 had made its way back into my 
possession, I'd have no way to prove it. It's a pleasing thought. 

******************** *******************************
******************************* 

MY LITTLE .44 MAGNUM 

I got a job working for the Indiana State Board of Health. My first
apposition was in Northern Indiana—a little Slaughterhouse called 
“Hobart Locker”—though in fact; it was about halfway between 
Merrillville and Valparaiso, well South of Hobart. 

(The original business had been in Hobart—and one doesn't give up name
recognition lightly.) 

I ended up getting a Room for $130/Month in Valparaiso. I took one Gun
with me, a Colt 70 Series Government model that JB Wood had heavily 
customized for me. I came home somewhere along the line, and bought a 
Bollixed Detonics. 

The Gun was an early model—serial number below 2000. Some Bezonian had
put a Glow-Worm front sight from a Shotgun on it and had it Nickeled 
with one of the worst examples of Nickeling that I'd ever seen—it was 
uneven, way too thick in spots, and lacked luster. 

So I got it at a hefty discount, and took it back to Valparaiso with me.
Boy was I in for a rude awakening the first time I shot it. Right off 
the bat, the slide cut the web of my hand—I still have the scar—or 
maybe it was hammer-bite. 

The only time the Gun didn't jam is when it doubled—though it often
jammed on its second shot. 

Once it fed correctly, and I'd gotten into such a rut, firing and then
racking the slide, that one time it didn't jam or double, and I still 
reached up and racked the slide out of habit. 

There was a rather large hardware store—kinda like “Rural King”—called
“Fetla's”. Fetla's had more Handguns than all the Gunstores in 
Evansville put together and maybe three or four times as many long 
Guns. 

And do you know what they had? They had one of the limited edition Lee
Jovino's 3” round-butted Smith and Wesson Model 29's. I don't really 
believe in swapping or selling Guns. 

Buying a Gun is a solemn thing, like an adoption—and anyway, the whole
idea is to accumulate Guns—not go through them... 

But the Detonics was a real lemon, I hadn't had it very long, and I
really wanted the 3” 29. Of course, I didn't let on that the Detonics 
was a spritz-beater. I forget prices, but the Detonics paid for about 
70% of the fee for my new .44 Magnum. 

You know, I told you that Fetla's was a huge Gunstore. After they sold
me my 3” 29, the clerk went I the back and brought out a second one. I 
wish to this day, that I'd gone ahead and put the second one on 
layaway. It would have stretched my finances, but I could have done it. 


I hated the finger gripped Wood Grips that it came with. I lucked into
finding an old-style pair of round-butt K-Frame Pachmayers. I have 
since come to dislike synthetic grips, but even back then, I wasn't 
willing to carry a pair of the new Pachmayers that had what looked like 
a coin-slot in the bottom of the grip, to reveal the serial number. 

I was at the range one day, when a Deputy Sherriff showed his new 4”
Security Six to his partner. His partner laughed and asked if he had to 
feed it quarters to get it to shoot... 

And I solemnly resolved never to expose myself to that sort of ridicule.
I'd rather use a pair of unmodified pine two-by-twos. 

I shot full-power loads out of it I never found it particularly
punishing to shoot—oh it recoiled—but... 

Later I was fool enough to let the State transfer me to Jasonville
Indiana—a very unpleasant little town East of Terre Haute. But one day 
I took my 4” S&W .44 Magnum and my little 3” Smith and Wesson .44 
Magnum. Put a pop can on a twig about chest high. Backed up five paces, 
and started shooting at the can from the hip, firing both .44 Magnums 
simultaneously. On my second shot, the can went flying off. 

Now I'm no hip-shooter. I didn't expect to hit the can—it was just a
general point of aim, but I did. Hit the can several times after that. 

Well jobs don't last. That job with the State was no exception. A few
years later I was on the road removing asbestos. That was a comedown in 
the World. 

Railroaders work very hard, but they're well paid, and there's the
Union. State employees aren't particularly well paid, but they don't do 
manual labor—at least both conditions were true of a Meat Inspector in 
charge of a small Slaughterhouse. 

Asbestos removal is tough, backbreaking work, in unhealthy conditions
(Often the asbestos is the least of the removers health and safety 
concerns). It is generally on the road, and it is not particularly well 
paid 

Well we were removing asbestos in Paducah Kentucky. There were four of
us staying in a cheap motel room. I wasn't, at that point in my life, a 
terrible good worker—but I was a valued employee. 

{My physical condition wasn't great, and I was usually moving slow, and
hoping that I wouldn't vomit—all while loud-mouthed sadistic foremen 
scourged me without let-up.} 

I had a big red van—meaning that I could take several carless indigents
out of town for the company and at that point I was still a very 
reliable worker, attendance wise. But that made it very awkward for me 
to bar troublemakers from riding with me, since it was an unstated Quid 
Pro Quo, that I was largely valued for my transportation skills. 

I am a private person. Having to be continually shut up with a bunch of
men was making me nuts. I didn't get any solitude driving to or from 
work. I couldn't afford a private room. I couldn't necessarily go where 
I wanted to eat, at the end of the day—no we all had to debate the 
issue. 

When I wanted to be alone on the Railroad, I'd drive somewhere in my
van—but if I started to go somewhere, these dudes all wanted to go 
along for the ride—like a bunch of Wire-Haired Terriers... 

{Meaning that they were “Shin-Humpers”.} 

So Moe and Larry wanted to go to the Strip-Bar. Curly was willing. They
started out begging. 

I was always so tired at the end of the day that I just wanted to sleep.
I've never been much of a drinker. And while I dislike Bars, I hate 
Strip Bars with a white-hot passion... 

And I was always a big proponent of, “No”, means “No!“ I really had a
tough time dealing with folks who wouldn't take “No!” for an answer. 
Once I couldn't take any more aggravation, I faced what I conceived of 
as an excluded-middle type dilemma: 

A.} Lose my temper and shoot all of them—which while it had some appeal,
was sure to get me talked about in all the wrong places; 

Or, 

B.} Humor them. 

I travelled with my 3” and 4” .44s. I always put one under my pillow at
night—generally the 4”, and left the 3” in my pack. When I wasn't 
there, I didn't consider a motel room to be a secure place for them. 
After all, all the maids have keys, as well as the owner. I'd secure 
both of them in my pack, and lock the pack in my van. 

Well, when I went to put my 4” back in my pack, both Larry and Moe
objected Strenuously. 

“You don't want to go armed into that Biker Bar, we got your back, no
matter what happens,” They swore. 

Tilt!!! 

I didn't have any intention of wearing them into the bar. (Couldn't
carry concealed in Kentucky back then.) Still, I'm used to people 
having all sorts of weird hang-ups about Guns, so reluctantly I left 
them. I wasn't thinking very clearly back then, being always exhausted, 
and being exposed to all sorts of toxic fumes all day. 

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Moe suddenly decided to stay
in the room. 

After a long tedious night—I hate strippers—I finally got to bed. My 4”
was still under my pillow, and still loaded. I'd have noticed if it was 
not. I never thought to check for my littlest .44 the next morning. It 
was the last day of work, and when I got back to Evansville, my Blued 
little .44 Magnum in his little custom Milt Sparks Summer Special was 
gone. 

That was over twenty years ago, and I still miss him today. It took me
many years to realize that I was the victim of a pre-meditated scam. 
For a long time, I didn't want to believe that someone would steal a 
sacred artifact from a friend—but now, I have no doubt. 

I have earnestly tried to be a good Christian and forgive my enemies—and
in this case, I thought that I had... 

Only now, relating the story, and thinking about my little friend, I am
somewhat tempted to put a curse—the strongest curse I know—on Moe and 
Larry—still don't think Curly was involved... 

But I won't—and sorrowfully, it has less to do with following Jesus'
teachings than it does with the fact that cursing someone properly is 
very draining, not to mention that some small portion of the curse 
inevitably comes upon the Curser... 

And I don't feel up to feeling that bad anymore. 

My Friends, do be careful how you secure your most precious possessions.



   


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