Saturday, April 11, 2009

My old man and his guns

It's hard to believe Richard's been gone so long. Maybe you get over the death of a parent. Maybe you don't. I'll let you know when and if it does (or doesn't) happen. So far, it still hurts like it happened this morning. But like anyone, I try to balance it out with happy memories and Richard's faith, along with my own, that death is a new beginning. And of course, I think often of the things Richard loved most.

Including guns: Richard would shoot anything, and I mean that in two ways. He'd shoot any weapon he could pick up second hand and he'd level it at whatever looked like it would be fun to blow to smithereens. On weekends, Richard, Charlie, Dirk, my brother James and I would head out to some undeveloped land on the edge of the Florida Everglades, way out past Krome Avenue, to blow the crap out of whatever targets we could invent.

My father gave me one course in gun safety.

He stacked up 12 telephone directories, one in front of the other, and fired a black powder rifle at the one closest to us, from about 15 yards. The bullet passed through 11 phone books and stopped in the middle of the 12th. He said, "If a bullet can do that to a dozen phone books, imagine what it could do to your head." Without another word, he packed everything up and we left. I understood it was a lesson.

We shot everything from two-liter bottles of tonic water, to the carcasses of old American muscle cars left to the rust vultures under the South Florida sun. There were high-powered revolvers, sawed off shotguns, small caliber rifles, my grandfathers M1, and black powder weapons. At some point, my father got hold of some armor piercing bullets somewhere. We used them to punch holes in the engine blocks of those old cars.

My old man was a reloader. He cast his own bullets from blocks of lead and mounted them inside cartridges containing measured amounts of gunpowder.

One of his favorite side-arms was a Ruger Super Black Hawk. But he complained that it was no fun to shoot all afternoon because of its kick. So he put together a bunch of half-powder charges so he could shoot all day without getting his arms sore. I remember coming home in those days and the house would smell like molten lead. He had a little, electric cauldron to melt the metal. I never understood the whole process, but like many things in his life, it became an obsession for my old man.

Obsessions make life worth living.


The Nort said...

Just watched the documentary called "Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter Thompson." The writer had several things in common with Richard, and one of them was this anomalous love of guns. At least we can be grateful that Richard never turned them on himself -- or on anyone else for that matter.

John Sevigny said...

Good point. My father was incredibly careful about his handling and storage of guns.

John Sevigny said...

He was not beyond packing one during the "Season of Riots" however.

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