The nine year old was holding a rifle. As he approached his father, he was careful to point the muzzle in a safe direction.
“Dad, are we really going to be able to shoot in the basement?” he asked.
It was my first gun. Dad was building a shooting range in the basement of our old Victorian house. The gun used tiny, 22 short ammunition. Dad had gotten the ones with the frangible bullets that would merely splatter if I missed the backstop and hit the foundation wall.
My Dad was a quiet, intellectual man. He was usually found in the big easy chair next to the living room fireplace reading something from a large stack of books near his chair. My new gun had energized him and here we were building the indoor range.
It was time to test the range. In an act, completely atypical of my bookish Dad, he loaded a single round and pointed the gun at the foundation wall and not the backstop!
“What are you doing?” I asked fearfully.
“Well, we have to see if these little buggers really splatter, don’t we?” he said with a rarely seen mischievous smile broadening his warm face.
He pulled the trigger and the little gun popped. My flinch was unnecessary as the tiny bullet hit the wall with a pfffft sound. It splattered.
Fifty years later, I was out for a morning run. I had left corporate life and founded my own company. The stress was fearsome. My running schedule had lapsed and my eating habits had become those of an overworked entrepreneur.
I struggled to get passed the “get in the groove” phase of the run and felt something odd in my chest.
“Damn, I’m really out of shape!” I thought.
Off to the doc for a stress test which quickly ended with his admonition that I needed an immediate angiogram. The angiogram was bad and the next day I had a lot of folks digging around in my chest bypassing a bunch of clogged coronary arteries.
Recovery was long and grueling and my depression deep. Reading almost constantly, I came across some magazines about the shooting sports. When our boys came along, their Mom and I had decided that we would raise them without the presence of guns. This and the busyness that envelops a young family had kept guns out of my life for many years.
Rehab slowly brought back physical capability. I decided to get back into shooting with an emphasis on competition.
Sports, including those twenty-five plus years of running which did not, for some reason, prevent the ultimate clogging up of the coronary arteries, have always been very important and rewarding to me. Physical competition, even at novice and intermediate levels, feels great. Now I was combining a necessary physical activity with my reawakened interest in firearms.
To some, a love of firearms is an odd and even inappropriate feeling. This was a discovery I made as I plowed through the amazingly arduous licensing process that New York City lawmakers believe keeps the city safe. As a boy I lived in a world where guns were common in the home. Their owners respected their capabilities. Dad was tireless in helping the nine-year-old version of me understand firearm safety. These memories came flooding back as I purchased my first new gun.
“If you don’t understand how to handle a particular gun safely, don’t even pick it up!” Dad would say.
As the dealer showed me different models, my hand paused before touching them, when all those years later, Dad’s admonition tugged at me.
All progressed, even as city, state, and federal “regulators” attempted to dissuade me. The competitive skills have improved, moving from novice to intermediate with hints of expert in the future. Practice, practice, practice…
I even went back to school and got certified as an instructor and now spend many enjoyable hours sharing my shooting sports pleasure with my students. It’s great to see the wonder of the nine-year-old Peter watching his Dad shoot that bullet at the wall in the eyes of my students.
Oh yeah, the heart is doing OK too. The exercise of competition helps but there are also the changes in diet. Guns, Not Butter, helped save my life.