Rebecca Meets HarleyFriday, July 30, 2010
Three years ago on our trip to Mérida, Yucatán, Rebecca, Rosemary and I stopped over at Austin, Texas where we visited Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C. at St. Edward’s University. We had been picked up at the San Antonio Airport by my former classmate and friend Howard Houston. We stayed for a few days not far from where Houston lives which is near the Austin Hill Country by Buchanan Dam Lake. It was at the lake that Houston taught Rebecca how to fish. While Rebecca is not a boy nor is she my son but my granddaughter I thought this a fine right of passage to learn how to fish in Texas.
I was determined that this time around in last week’s trip to Austin and the Santa Fe Ranch near Linn, Texas that Rebecca would learn to shoot. This was not to be.
My candidate for the job was John Arnold, ex classmate, my former bodyguard when I was a geek at St. Edward’s High School, an former member of the Marine Corps , a veteran of Vietnam, former spy (he denies this) and investigator for the Securities and Exchange Commission.
It had been last year that Arnold and I had driven in his twin-cab pickup (the new horse of the Texas prairie and suburban tank) from Austin to Mike East’s Santa Fe Ranch in South Texas near Linn. In that trip we bonded as men (or at least that is what I felt). The temperatures were hovering near 100 Fahrenheit and in our 5 hour trip we stopped frequently for cokes and Doctor Peppers. Between us under the arm rest there was a 1911 Kimber II .45 semi automatic pistol with Crimson Trace laser sites. Arnold had named the pistol Harley at the instigation of his wife Carolyn who told him, “John you have always wanted a Harley Davidson. That is not to be so I suggest you call your new pistol Harley.” And so it was that here we were driving down to a ranch with this gun between us. Arnold had explained that the 1911 classification of his gun did not mean it was a vintage gun. The Kimber had features and qualities that Arnold admired. One of them was a smooth lever on the back of the grip (grip safety) which prevented the gun from firing even if the hammer were cocked and the safety lever off. One had to press with the inner hand on that grip safety and only then would the gun fire.
A few weeks before Rebecca and I traveled to Austin I had spoken with Arnold requesting the gun instruction. He told me that he was probably going to teach Rebecca to shoot with a .22 revolver.
Every time I discussed the possibility of the gun shooting lesson Rebecca was ambivalent. At some times she seemed eager and at others not so. When on Sunday, July 25 we were picked up by John Arnold and his wife Carolyn Rebecca had pretty well made up her mind not to shoot. When she saw John Arnold (he can be intimidating, particularly when he makes that extremely serious face of his (which can turn to a disarming smile whenever he wants to) she became afraid. Throughout our drive to Red’s Indoor Range Arnold kept telling Rebecca that he was not going to force her to do anything. At the Range with the help of a most efficient clerk Arnold asked for semi-automatics and revolvers. The clerk would hand the guns to Arnold who would then point out their features to Rebecca. During this Arnold did point at a .357 magnum behind glass and told Rebecca, “This is like Dirty Harry’s gun.”
The class was, for me, exciting, illuminating and in particular I liked the way Arnold hit home with, “There are never any accidents with guns. They are always the result of human negligence.” By then Rebecca was beginning to understand Arnold’s serious charade (the lesson was indeed serious) as he would every once in a while smile at her.
I took my photographs (I had been afraid to ask but then Carolyn suggested I do so) but there is one that I missed. At some point Arnold lifted his shirt tail and Rebecca noticed that all the time, even when Arnold had picked us up at St. Joseph’s Hall, he had been carrying a gun. Arnold showed Rebecca his permit to carry a concealed gun.
Since Rebecca was adamant about not shooting I watched Arnold fire his gun several times and in spite of the noise suppressors on my ears I could feel the air pressure on my ears when Arnold fired Harley. Arnold’s shot were close to the bull’s-eye and a couple was half on. I was given the chance to shoot but I declined the .45 and opted for Carolyn’s 9mm Smith & Wesson, which she called Sweet Pea. I shot five rounds (on the left hand side in the picture here, some close to the center. Arnold was impressed by my spread. I was surprised I could shoot since I had not done so since around 1973.
One way or another Rebecca will have to reconcile her views on guns with that of Texans and in particular with John Arnold’s who is a man she learned to like and no longer feared by the end of the day. I told her that both Arnold and Carolyn never shot animals unless they had the intention of eating them. Rebecca could not understand the Texan penchant for stuffing steer heads and mounting on walls.
Several people tried to explain but I am not sure that Rebecca understood.
I have been fascinated by guns all my life but I have always been aware of my quick temper and I feel that a nearby gun could possibly be a dangerous thing for me. Arnold told Rebecca, “When we go tonight for barbecue at the County Line with Brother Edwin notice if I order a beer or a coke. If I order a coke it means I’m carrying, if I order a beer it means I’m not.”
Rebecca, I am sure must have been relieved, when Arnold ordered his beer.