My first and last handgun
In 1974, when I was 20 years old, I bought my first and last handgun. Not for any good reason did I buy it, and not for any good reason did I dispose of it, except maybe for the fact that I hadn’t any need for it.
I bought my pistol, technically a revolver, from a friend of mine named Harry. Harry was a long-haul truck driver who ran a route between the upper Midwest and the Gulf Coast. Harry spent time in the less-desirable parts of cities like Kansas City, Topeka, Fort Worth and Baton Rouge (no offense to the honest citizenry of these fine towns, but Harry spent lots of nights in freight yards and truck stops). He often slept in the cab of his Freightliner, and he since he carried lots of cash, he felt better having a gun in case of trouble.
One day he and I were shooting the breeze in a coffee shop in the town where we both lived. He was only in town for the weekend, having dropped off a load of irrigation pipe in Omaha, and he had ‘bobtailed’ back home (truck driver lingo for travelling without a trailer – a financially undesirable condition best avoided). He was back for his girlfriend’s birthday. Problem was, he’d had some sort of financial ‘emergency’ on the road and now he found himself between paydays and short on funds.
“Hey,” he said, “do you still want to buy my revolver?”
I didn’t recall ever wanting to buy it in the first place, but he had shown it to me once, and I remember remarking that it seemed like a fine piece and I didn’t blame him for carrying it in his line of work. But I don’t think I ever mentioned wanting to buy it.
Before continuing, I want to say that I have never had any particular fear of guns, nor have I ever had a particular love for them either. Where I grew up, a good many households had a gun stored away in the closet, or hanging over the doorway on the mud-porch, or over the mantle. For these people, a gun was like a tile-spade, or a pick-axe – simply a tool to be used when conditions warranted, such as when weasels threatened the chicken coop, or coyotes descended upon newborn farm animals, or a fat rattler slithered up under the cool leaves of a cucumber vine in the garden on a hot summer day.
Those kinds of conditions required an instrument of special dispatch.
Back to my story…
“I don’t know if I need a revolver,” I told him.
“Suit yourself,” he told me, “but you can have it for fifty bucks if you want it.”
I thought it over for a few seconds before asking to see the weapon.
We adjourned to the truck yard behind the coffee shop, where Harry produced the revolver from under the mattress in the sleeper cab of his Freightliner. I opened the cylinder to make certain it was unloaded – it was. I spun the cylinder like I knew what I was doing, before snapping it shut.
By today’s standards, the gun was a pea-shooter. It was a High Standard .22 caliber, 9 shot revolver, and it felt heavy in my hand – handguns are always heavier than you think they should be. Suddenly, I found myself wanting to buy it.
I checked my wallet, and found that it contained only thirty nine dollars – all I had left from last week’s pay at the packing plant.
“That’s okay,” said Harry, hurrying to close the deal. (You could still go on a pretty decent date for $39 then.) “You can pay me the rest next time I see you.”
So it was a deal. I walked away with a nine shot handgun, Harry walked away with $39 and an IOU for $11, and hopefully, the Birthday Girl was not disappointed.
…to be continued.