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.
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.