I am sure I will be moved to the top of the government “watch list” after writing about my first gun! Humor aside –
I was eight years old and my father had bought a Daisy BB gun for me when I was seven. My mother had forbidden him to give it to me until I was at least ten! My dad wore the pants in the family and compromised and gave it to me with 500 BB’s on my eighth birthday! I shot it for years till I wore it out! I still have one BB in my hand to this day – lesson learned. That was my first BB gun! I received a Marlin 22 when I was ten years old and an Ithaca 12 gauge when I was twelve! (My father had me buy the Ithaca Featherlight from my Uncle Tom for $50 dollars to teach me guns cost money.)
But my grandfather Kalman paved the way for my BB gun by making me a wooden gun when I was six! I had been reading about cowboys and Indians and I just had to have a derringer. My grandfather, pipe in hand, gave me a piece of plywood to draw my derringer on so he could cut it out. I remember the smell of fresh cut wood mixed with apple pipe smoke. Finished, he chased me off to play with the other Hungarian kids in the neighborhood. I still have my derringer 43 years later along with another gun he cut from scrap for a neighbor kid.
I remember taking it to school for show and tell and all the kids thought it was cool. I remember taking it everywhere with me – church, school, the grocery store, Ponderosa Steak House (and ya wonder why I like the nickname Hoss). I loved that little gun but I had been raised to respect guns. Our home was full of hunting rifles, pistols from WW2 complete with swastikas and a history. I was raised to respect guns, beer, my parents, and above all God.
I am teaching Creative Writing at Pinon High School, Navajo Reservation, Arizona – it is 1999 and I have the coolest group of young Navajo students! I get a transfer student from Phoenix. A hard tough Nabaho gangbanger who was tossed from school in Phoenix and landed back on da rez. He was tough and he was a good kid who had been scrapping on the streets since he was young. I challenged all my students to keep a journal and I would keep the stories secret and his stories if only half true were hardcore! Stealing, drugs, fights and Juvy sum up all his stories because my word is still in effect.
The class is buzzing and of course I always seem to get the new student. Best principal ever, Colonel Mike Clark, seemed to always assign the new kids to my class…electives! In walks the new tough with his baggy pants and underwear showing all pimped out with chains and rings… okay I don’t remember any rings…but you get the picture. He walks on in and we begin. Four weeks later, I formed a bond with this young man because I refuse to judge a person on past or present, looks, clothes, bio, time served. This Monday afternoon he walks into class late drops his notebook and when he bends down I see the glint of silver and ivory tucked into his waist. Shit, looks like a 45 ACP. Now stop and think – really stop reading and think – what would you do? (not what would Jesus do) what would you do?
Here is what I did –
I ignored the gun and greeted the student. I taught class just like it was all good. I asked my student to stay after for a minute. I walked up to my student and put my hand right on the small of his back and said what is this? “Shit, MF, what the…” I calmly said ” give me the gun and come to my house after school and I will return it to you” – No questions, no bullshit, just straight up. He gave me the gun and I put it in my desk drawer. I looked at him and said ” a drive by in Pinon is done with squirt guns because we are all poor” and he cracked a smile and laughed and said “I will be by after school”!
I never told the principal. I never told anyone till writing it today because that young man never ever gave me a problem in class. I am not going to name the student so all my wonderful students – you all know anyway! But with all the gun violence happening in Amerika today – I just wonder what you would have done?
This story is dedicated to Colonel Mike Clark who had my back in Pinon and Phoenix – you have my respect now and always!