By W. R. Jones
In 6th grade a man came to our school to give a talk. I don’t remember (surprise) what the speech was about, most likely safety. I do remember he stood in the center of the gym at the start of the presentation and did a back flip. We didn’t see such acrobatics in my small Iowa hometown. I don’t know how old he was. To us he was an adult. He told us about the time as a boy when he tried to stick his knife in a tree by throwing it. The knife bounced off the tree and stuck in his eye.
OK, lesson learned – not quite, a year or so later he threw a stick at a tree. It bounced back and put out the other eye. This was not your ordinary bad luck. This is the sort of thing they make into epic movies where you watch and are so saddened you must cry. In his case he wouldn’t be able to watch the movie, someone would have to explain it to him. This would piss off the big guy in the next row who would reach over and cuff him causing a loss of hearing I suppose.
I tried to do a back flip myself the night of the talk. I was standing on a concrete floor. This action contained one of those moments of clarity when you realize some things are harder than they look. I came down on my head. Fortune smiled on this young fool in that I did not hit the anti-lotto and end up paralyzed.
Dave, a high school friend, from U High in Normal, Illinois was the one who convinced me to move to California. He and I would go hunting and/or shooting most weekends. This was a time when westerns were popular on TV and in the movies and there was a fad of fast draw and shoot with a western style revolver, i.e. “six shooter”. Dave bought one of these revolvers and started practicing his fast draw. I was never much interested in hand guns, preferring a shotgun and wing shooting.
Dave had a friend, Don, an acquaintance from Dave’s work. Dave talked Don into buying a revolver. Don was not too bright. One night Dave called to tell me a phone call he had just received from Don. “Dave, I think I shot myself.” “What do you mean you THINK you shot yourself?” “Well, I was practicing my draw with the gun unloaded then loaded it. I was going to put it away and I tried drawing with it loaded. It went off and I think I shot myself in the leg.” “Well, Jesus Christ, you idiot, look.” “Ya, I did shoot myself.” “Hang up and call an ambulance.” OK, lesson learned – or maybe not.
Time has passed, the leg healed. I was shooting one weekend with Dave and Don and got a glimpse of Don’s lack of situational awareness. Don tried to fast draw standing and facing a barbwire fence. The revolver barrel rose, bounced off the wire and back down, the gun fired putting the bullet in the dirt next to Don’s foot. OK, lesson learned – nope.
The following weekend Dave, Don, and another man I didn’t know went shooting together in a national forest near here. Dave told me the story. They were having a fast draw contest. Standing some distance apart both facing the same direction and shooting at bottles in front of them. Dave said he could see it coming. Every time Don drew and fired the bullet hit the dirt a little bit closer. Finally he became that rare breed of urban cowboy that managed to shoot himself twice. He put another round into that same leg. Let’s just call it Don’s target leg.
They drove Don to the nearest ranger station for help. The rangers made them wait for a sheriffs deputy before allowing them to continue to a hospital. While they were waiting they thought it would be a good idea for Don to have a drink for the pain. He had a half pint washed down by a 6 pack. At the hospital the doctor came out to ask Dave how much his friend had to drink. Dave said he had a few beers. The doctor appeared again and asked. Dave said he might have had 4 or 5 beers. The doctor came a third time, “Look, Goddamit, how much has he had to drink. I have to put him under and it could kill him.” “Uh, I think he had most of a half pint and a 6 pack.”
Don later said he remembered the doctor looking at his leg and seeing the scar from the first shot. He said the doctor just shook his head.