Where was the NRA when I needed them? I believe, my second amendment rights were smoked… way back when.
My Uncle Bernie, recently married to my mother’s younger sister, came to live with us during my cowboy heyday. He was looking for work in the auto industry after giving up his job driving a Coca-Cola truck. He and my Aunt Mary wanted to migrate north from Loogootee, Indiana. Why, I thought then, would anyone want to give up driving a Coca Cola truck? My uncle had the most beautiful wavy hair I had ever seen. I asked him one day “how does your hair do that?” He told me it was all in his comb and if I liked he would get me one next time he went back to Loogootee. I assumed for a long time he didn’t go back… so unfortunately my hair remained very straight, and remains so today.
One Saturday afternoon I was all Cowboy’d up doing my thing. I sat astraddle a cushion in the middle of the living room listening to a cowboy radio show of some sort. When, out of nowhere, my dearest Uncle Bernie with his bountiful waves of hair, said to my Dad “I’m not going to let my kids grow up with double holstered guns strapped to their waist pretending to be something they’re not.” He went on to elaborate …it can’t be healthy for kids to play with toy guns. They should be taught to respect firearms and not pretend to be shooting bad guys. Ronnie will, if you are not careful, grow up to be… this is where it got sticky for uncle, because he couldn’t come up with what he thought I was going to be, or who I was going to shoot as soon as I was able.
I wish I could have then invoked my second amendment rights, right then and there. But, I am sorry to relate: my Dad told me to take off my guns and put them away.
It was about this time, within moments actually, a pot of chili came flying out of the kitchen bouncing off the floor and onto the dining room wall. My life changed from that moment in two ways: first, I don’t ever recall putting my guns back on again, second… and for certain this time, I became really afraid of my Mother.
My Dad remained calm as he lay on the couch. Uncle Bernie sat dumbfounded as I took to de-cowboying myself. My Dad did drink a lot and my mother lived a life of frustration with him. He was a kind man and was always a good provider. I don’t recall him ever missing a day’s work. My mother on the other hand was quick tempered and would lash out unexpectedly. I don’t remember her ever whispering a kind word to me about my Dad in my lifetime. He had a big heart but, he needed a beer for breakfast.
These things are hard to talk about now, after all the years… but it is cathartic to recall when you remember drastic changes in your life. The switch flips and at the time you aren’t even aware it has happened. It seems so easy to put together now.
It was perhaps a year or two before my cowboy fantasy was extinguished, when I was around seven, I recall coming home from school for lunchtime. I knocked on the back door, it was locked and no one answered, so I went to the front door and no one answered there either. The shades were all pulled down, so I went back to the rear door and tried it a second time. Still no answer; I went back to school. When I returned home after school, coming in through the back, my mother grabbed and started shaking me asking why I hadn’t come home for lunch. Of course I tried to explain… then out came the paddle.
Uncle Bernie, as best I can recall, didn’t stay long at our house. He did however get a job and moved with my Aunt Mary to an upstairs apartment just down the street on 32nd. His first child Larry, I made sure, inherited a very big part of my cowboy get up… including the doubled holstered guns, and later some model airplanes I had built. Cousin Larry grew up to be a well-rounded human being, even though he suffered the results of our coercing him into throwing rocks at the bee hives, down on the farm. My Aunt Mary never forgave me and Cousin Dan for that… sorry Larry!
Years later, well after I had raised a family, I recall asking my Mother “why, as a family custom, we never kissed each other goodnight?” Her reply was, “you were never an affectionate child.” Where had I gone wrong?