Kathy Riordan

Kathy Riordan
Florida, United States
April 27
One woman's view of life and the universe. Follow @katriord on Twitter.


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Poetry, if you like that sort of thing
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NOVEMBER 10, 2011 9:28AM

The Gun

Rate: 23 Flag

Jo Anne Worley of Laugh-In once said that she dreamt about the secrets of the universe, and quickly scribbled them onto a piece of paper at her bedside.

The next morning, she awoke and read the paper.  "Cottage cheese." 




My dad with his brother, fishing.  Wyoming, 1954.



I wonder if it was that gun.  I wonder what happened to it.

That gun saw a lot of action when I was a child.  We'd be out in the sagebrush near the oil leases, where rabbits would occasionally be target practice.  I didn't like the noise.  I didn't like the violence.  I didn't understand the point.

I knew he kept it under the seat of his pick-up truck.  You had to do that sort of thing in Wyoming, never sure what you'd run into, and where.  I assumed then it made more sense for an unexpected grizzly bear or a wolf than an errant security breach of unsecured oil fields.  Wyoming didn't really stop being rough and tumble, long after the Hole-in-the-Wall gang.  

I leaned into the long rifle range at 4-H camp in Alpine and squinted at the target down my lane.  It wasn't a comfortable posture for me.  It wasn't something I was comfortable holding.  I squeezed the trigger, and closed my eyes.

Hunting was a way of life.  Most men knew how to handle a gun, and many women.  Aside from 4-H camp, I never touched one.  Even years later when a friend's husband who collected guns pulled them out one by one from his cabinet where they were proudly displayed, I pulled back, not wanting my fingerprints on any of them, not trusting what they could do.

I had been hunting, accompanied my dad on hunting trips, deer and elk, hated the sound of the shot echoing in the frost, the loud release.  I knew the gun had taken down a grizz.  I always hoped whoever was handling the gun knew what they were doing.


Scan 264 

Close encounter with a grizz.  Wyoming, 1955. 


I wonder about the kids handed the guns.  My husband wasn't much more than nineteen when he was given a plane to fly into war in Europe.  Knowing how to use a gun was essential to his survival, but I didn't give it much thought during our marriage, always knowing that in our home somewhere lurked two of them, a German Luger that had been a souvenir of war, and an antique rifle that his lost son had used in Crack Squad at Shattuck.  I'd ask him repeatedly if they were loaded.

"Always assume a gun is loaded," he'd reply.

Something in the back of memory nagged me about children stumbling onto guns in homes, horrible tragic accidents ensuing.  From the outset of our marriage I resisted letting anyone have even pretend guns in our house, something a young nephew might have been too small to appreciate, something his parents might not have fully understood.  I hoped that when the time came those who needed to use guns would be well trained in using them.  I just didn't want them to be children.

That gun was for a time in my dad's closet, high on a shelf with silver dollars and handwritten notes.  When he died, his father and brother took the guns.  So nothing bad would happen with them.

My mother was daydreaming in a meeting last night, a strange reverie about my grandfather's house, my uncle and his sons, and a gun lying across the bed.  She set it aside. 


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Great post, Kathy. I never would buy a toy gun for my oldest son, but soon found out that it was futile. An elderly neighbor next to us found a plastic gun and gave it to my 3 year old son to play with. After we moved and he was a little older, he and his friends would be in the backyard using sticks as guns. I think it's genetic in boys....
The only time I ever handled a gun was when I shot for record in basic training in 1944 in the US Army Air Corps. I never got into combat and although I qualified as a marksman on the 30 caliber carbine and the 45 caliber automatic pistol and merely sprayed bullets from the non-recoil grease gun the whole business was terribly noisy and dangerous and uninteresting. I've never needed a gun nor wanted one and the idea of killing anything is totally repulsive to me although I can agree it might be necessary in extreme situations. Since, in a very long life in quite a few countries, I've never been in an extreme situation, I never found a gun interesting.
I too hate guns. Great post.-R-
Stunning. Powerful. Amazing piece of work . . . I've read it several times, and each time I am struck . . .
Interesting story. It almost sounds like a suicide or something, veiled. The power of a gun is in the hands of the person who pulls the trigger. Guns are weapons and as such should be treated with respect.The problem is always whose hands they are in. The experience, the mental state and the access, all important considerations. A well woven piece here. The pictures a great compliment.
you could have been in a rocking chair staring out into a sun-setting sky, speaking in this gentle, half dream way. i liked the way you cradled the loaded gun of your subject with all its associated violence in the gentle flow and touch of your language and spirit. r
Oh, Kathy. I feel ill. I'm so sorry about this.
Stunning even without knowing the back-story.
A piece of writing that plowed thru my brain and back again. Always assume a gun is loaded, indeed.
we've had polar bears. they dont shoo when you ask them, but a shot into the air scares them out of the yard nicely
Wonderful, Kathy. Meditative, yet always accompanied by your unease with guns.
Wisconsin just passed a conceal carry law. Somehow I feel less safe. Great story, Kathy.
I've only fired a gun once in my life, and I hate the idea of even having one around. But if I had the proximity to a grizzly bear as in that picture, I'd want to have one too.
Powerful , Kathy. i don't know the back story but I'm pretty sure I do. Personally I am not a gun fan, but coming from the peasant stock I do, guns were always a part of farm life, and the usual choice of suicide for the farm male who had too many poor years. While I don't own a gun (the family guns went elsewhere to people who would appreciate them) we wanted our son to take a firearms course which he did in Scouts. peace to you on this day.
Kathy, I enjoyed this story. The clarity of the memories around guns made the events very vivid. Still, the unknown lurked in the corner. Nicely done.
I've read this several times now...so haunting and intense. With 'suicide' in the tags, the ending does not bode well.
So sorry, suicide is such an extra burden to go with grief.

Completely different note?
Stunning new avatar.
Beautiful, ye are.
This is haunting and enigmatic. Guns are such powerful symbols. I know what you mean about being uncomfortable holding one.
A guy I worked with years ago was from New York City. When he heard that I was a competitive pistol shooter, he made a few snarky remarks about the evils of guns. Then, one day when I arrived for work, he looked at me rather wide-eyed and asked, "Did you bring your rod?" (New York-speak for gun, I guess)
It seems a couple of armed robbers had hidden in the building after a botched cafe robbery across the street. Well, no, I did not have my "rod" with me, and the dozen or so cops in the building quickly captured these dolts. But it's interesting how one's anti-gun stance can flip when you realize that you might need an armed man to protect you.
I remember my first experience with a gun. I was born and raised in the Midwest, where hunting is a standard way of life. My dad was well versed in guns. He spent two years in the Pacific in World War II. He belonged to a local gun club in town. My older brother and I would often go with him to the gun club to watch him target-shoot. He was very good.

Eventually, he taught my brother and me the “right way” to use a rifle.

When a teenager I took my first hunting trip into the woods with my dad’s ’22 rifle. It was a cold snowy morning. Just minutes into the woods I spotted a cottontail rabbit about 25 yards away. I lined up my sites and fired. The rabbit dropped immediately. When I approached the animal, it was withering in pain. I had just shot out its hind quarters. It was looking up at me with “big eyes” as if saying, “Why?”

My dad told me to finish him off so I did - A moment that will live with me forever.

I continued to hunt occasionally in Illinois and after I moved to California, but only for game that I intended to eat – not just for the fun of it.

Then I entered the Army during the war in Vietnam where I became an expert at firing many forms of weaponry. I came to realize that many “military” weapons shouldn’t be allowed in civilian use. The assault rifles and the high-magazine hand guns that are prevalent on the streets today have only one purpose. And that is to kill as many people as possible in a short period of time. They’re not used for hunting. They’re not used for competitive target shooting. They’re only good for killing people.

When will we ever learn?
Oh your memories of those days are so vivid and more. Thanks again and keep on keeping on.
I too was raised with a Dad, and many Uncles who hunted and was taught young to use a gun. Then, entering basic training in '91 I was used to use this gun as a weapon, and later in my profession I saw what these weapons could do to the human body. Wonderful post...
Very nicely crafted. I like your neat accounting of gun caretaking and the final quiet shot. Lost of sweetheart to a self-inflicted gunshot. Pain. Pain. Long, strong pain.