Monday, December 19, 2005

GUNS IN THE CLASSROOM an authentic occasion

Apologies are in order as I have reproduced this photo withOUT the expressed written consent of the copyright holders.

The three boys sat in the car,a four door nondescript Chevy,circa around 1970.It had local plates but the bumper stickers spoke of far away places,lakes and parks mostly,as if the great outdoors were it's preferred location,not this dusty little town in the middle of nowhere,smack in the middle of the Mid West.

There were two in the front seat,the third in the back kept turning and looking around nervously peering through first this window,then that one.An observer would have immediately picked him as the "lookout"or as the saying goes,the Six Man.Keeping six was a time honoured term,it's roots in the Air Force during WWII,where the six o'clock position is to the rear of the plane,thus "keeping six"was a metaphor for watching ones back.

The boys,on closer examination appeared to be nearer to adulthood then to boyhood,as they wore facial hair in the form of long sideburns and the third sported a mustache that Stalin himself would have been proud of.They where all smoking cigarettes,puffing furiously as if to get every last bit of soothing nicotine into themselves as was possible in the time allowed.Time seemed to be on their minds,as twice watches where checked,and at one point one of the young men said to the other's"four minutes"and with that the almost finished cigarettes where tossed out the open windows and new ones lit a fresh,all from a single wooden match the lad in the rear seat provided.He did not however light his own from the match,and with a "third light"resonating from his mouth,he tossed the offending flame un-extinguished out of the window,and producing another,sparked his own Export into the bright burning existence it was designed to be."Third light"was never taken,for if you accepted the third light,you would of course die.That may sound like a ridiculous piece of folklore,but the roots of the saying came from a time and place that it was quite possible,that if you accepted the third light you may indeed die,for that would have given the enemy snipers long enough to zero in on your position.

The boys,as despite their precocious appearance,they were boys,and not the men they so desperately longed to be,started fidgeting with the things that were laid on the floor and seats of the car.A book bag appeared,a few high-school texts and notepads,or as they were called "scribblers",lunch-kits,ball gloves and even a football.With a "Two minutes"warning from the boy in the rear,three doors sprang open,and out emerged the lads.It was now possible to discern what they were wearing,and as each was dressed more or less like the other,their appearance reminded one of the military,as they were all dressed in camouflage suits,such as one would wear if fighting in a jungle setting.Even their bearing spoke of discipline,they seemed to move in a unison not normally seen in teenagers.They were,to a man,taller then what one would normally expect high school students to be,the shortest just under six foot,the tallest four inches more.

Each reached back into the vehicle and gathered up their belongings,and with a bit of work and organizing,they manage to place all that they needed to carry into their left hands,freeing their right hand completely.

As one they turned back towards the car,and as one they all extended their right hands into the automobile,and as one,they all pulled from the interior the objects they were reaching for,as one they all pulled out rifles.Not your old bolt action 30.30's that where so common in the area,but slick new Remington 30.06's,all with telescopic scopes.The boy who had been in the back seat pulled out not just a rifle,but a Remington 12 gauge pump action shotgun as well,and despite the awkwardness of the total load,the boys,again all as one,turned and walked towards the School.

As they approached the double front doors of the school they where seen by Mr Bathgate,the Vice Principle of the school.He was a large man,more so in bearing then in statue,his broad shoulders,narrow waist and rugged good looks where a favorite with the young ladies of the school,but where looked upon somewhat fearfully by the males.In a day when physical punishment was still a strong memory in the school system he was the quintessential VP,a perfect stereotype.One look told you that he was not a man not to fool with.His face bore the scars extreme athlete,his nose spoke of someone familiar with the squared circle. And he was all that stood between the auditorium of the school and the three boys with their rifles and shotgun.

The minute he saw the heavy laden boys his pace quickened,and with three long steps he was at the doors.Hurriedly he reached for the door handles,and just a split second before the boys reached the doors with their deadly cargo he pushed open the door and held it open for the boys."hurry up,get to class"he said as the bell announcing a new school day started to ring.

Stamping their feet and wiping them on the mats the three boys proceeded into the school.Several of their classmates also saw that there arms were full,and in the manner that was the custom at the time and place,offered to help by clapping"need a hand?"was the latest juvenile fad phrase.

The boy crossed the length of the auditorium with quick long,seemingly practiced strides until they were abreast the door mark simply H12 which told them they were at the homeroom for the grade twelve,or senior class as it's known in many places.The last final BRrrinnng of the bell sounded just as they came to the closed door.The shortest of the three boys also (was that planned?) had the least to carry,holding only his lunch kit in one hand,and the deadly sleek 30.06 in the other.It was he that reached for the door,and it was he,keeping his hands free,that shoved it open with his knee.

The three burst through the door almost as one,the boy with the double dose of death,he that had both rifle and shotgun,he brought up the rear.Directly in front of them sat the teacher,and there was no teacher more disliked then this one,the reasons are not important to this narrative.From his desk chair he glance uo towards the boys as the piled into the room,and with his usual arrogant tone he half shouted"Put those damn guns on the shelve and get to your desks! And take of those dirty filthy smelly coveralls!"

What you expected something else?Violence?Shootings?Not back then,that was a different time,a different place from where most of you are from.I come from a small midwestern town,the time was in the early seventies,the school had a student poulation of roughly ninety (90).NO,not a class of ninety,ninety total.From Grade one to twelve.No kindergargen in those days.

This is a true story,one that was repeated many times at my school,and I can vouch for it all,as I was that tallest boy with both rifle and shotgun.In the years I was at school it was often the practice to get in a little hunting before school,and we would go directly from our hunting to school without stopping at home to change and put away our weapons.We used to just leave our rifles in our vehicles but gave up that practice after a theft.Some traveling salesman no doubt,no local would steal another mans weapon.It was suggested by the TEACHERS that we bring our rifle and guns into the school where they would be safe.What we were not allowed to do was smoke within one hundred feet of the school,thus the nervous glancing around in the car.

It was a time when most boys had his first rifle at age twelve or younger.I was nine when my Father presented me with my first single shot Cooey .22 rifle.That is a day I will never forget,not just because of the rifle,but for the lesson in gun safety I was taught.

Father always told us that we were to treat every gun we ever saw as a loaded weapon,and with the safety off.He repeated that to me again that day,as he lead me down the lane to where he had set some tin cans set up with a hill in the background,to insure that no missed bullet would travel more then a foot to dig harmlessly into the ground.He showed me how to load the rifle,explained how to site the target,to let the gun go off,not by jerking the trigger,but by easy slow pressure.He explained how I should breath,and when he was all done I saw him slip a shell into the breach and close the bolt on it."Here,shoot" he said.

I can not begin to tell you how excited I was,and with all his good advise on how to aim and to breath,I sited at the target,and slooowly squeezed the trigger.BANG! went his fist against my ear.I found my self flat on the ground,my ears ringing,my head throbbing with pain.I have been partially deaf in that ear ever sense,totally deaf in it now thanks to several more beatings and boxing rounds.I may have lost some hearing,but I have never again assumed that a gun was loaded when it was not.You see,he had palmed that shell,not put it in the rifle.It was my responsibility to check before trying to fire.

If everyone was taught gun safety the way I was taught,there would not be school shootings.It all comes down to the parents,I do not care what anyone else says,if you respect something you do not abuse it.I was taught at an early age to respect guns and rifles,and knew the difference! "This is My Rifle, this is my gun..."

If we are going to allow guns in our society,and it is certainly to late to try and disarm the populous,then I feel that gun safety should be taught in the schools,and it should be taught by ex-drill sergeants like my father.Perhaps the days of corporal punishment in schools are thing of the past,but some strong discipline never harmed a child when it is done with the childs welfare always uppermost in mind.My father hit me on other occasions which I resented him for,but that occasion I have always viewed as an act of love.Call me twisted,but I loved my father that day,not only did he give me the gift of my dreams,but he showed me how much he cared.He hit be out of love,and I knew it.So concerned was he with my safety,he went against his own moral code to instill in me a lesson I would not forget,and it was a lesson that as saved my life on at least one occasion.

My last posting here was on the death penalty and I was called a liberal.Those people never read the whole piece,just commented off of the headlines.I proposed then that jurours should be made to carry out the executions they vote for,and now I am advocating bring guns to schools! and they call me a liberal? I expect to get a lot of flack for this one!I do however think that we should teach gun handling in the schools.Some will not even read this part,they will only comment on the headline below.I place it as a test,lets see who bites shall we?


but that's just my VIEW FROM OUTSIDE

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Blogger masonik4 said...

Very interesting post. I wanted to be the first to encourage you to keep writing; there is so much that has to be shared and it's guys like you that are helping to get that across. Keep up the good work.


21/12/05 9:08 PM  
Blogger Milton A Covering said...

Ok I agree with your message that we need to educate more people on safety and related issues. I have no comment on the guns. I have grown up in a large city where only two kinds of people had guns and that was the criminals and the person peddaling them. Ok ok not all law enforcement are criminals so I guess three kinds of people then. Hunting does not occur in a city with 3 million plus people in it. So rifles and shot guns are rare items to someone like me.

22/12/05 5:13 AM  
Anonymous suzanne said...

I just read guns in the classroom. You hit it right on target.

22/12/05 12:44 PM  
Blogger Father Valentine said...

My Pappy also taught gun safety at the end of a switch,which we should bring back into the schools!
May peace be upon you,and let it be known THOU ART GOD!grok?

27/12/05 10:58 AM  
Blogger Toniyah Tonijah said...

Abuse of arms among youths have killed more people in America and Canada this year alone than the Marines killed in Iraq this year.

30/12/05 8:27 AM  

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