Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Control Me, Please


Living out here in the wilderness is a pretty interesting gig.  Everybody has an animal or two.  Our neighbor has a cow, 2 calves, a horse, a donkey, three goats, two dogs, three cats and a bunch of chickens.  It’s like living next to an animal sanctuary.  We get to visit them anytime we want but don’t have to feed them or worry about them.  It’s a win-win situation.

We had some chickens and ducks ourselves but the predators got them.  They mostly just disappeared one by one.  One night I heard the most awful noise and went to the window to see a raccoon with Bill, our handsome white leghorn, in his mouth.  The flashlight caught the raccoon’s eyes glowing in the dark; he stared at me briefly then climbed over the fence with Bill in his mouth and ran into the woods. That moment took all the fun out of keeping chickens. Well, that and the fact that they pooped everywhere and dug great gaping holes in the yard for their dust baths.

It’s a hard life out here if you are low on the food chain.

We’ve had our inevitable visit by feral hogs, which is kind of a tradition for country folk.  Thankfully they just visited, dug up a field like a plow and moved on down the road. 

But lately we’ve had nine feral donkeys hanging around the neighborhood and they are getting on my last nerve.

We planted St Augustine grass a couple of years ago and it’s starting to show real promise.  Just because we live out in farm country doesn’t mean we can’t have good grass. It’s kind of my last link to the civilized world.  I love the wilderness but having my little patch of St Augustine is like my personal guilty pleasure.  And it’s been a struggle.  Every year it seems like it’s something. Having goats, hogs and donkeys show up unexpectedly can be a spot of serendipity but inevitably takes a toll on the grass.



The feral donkeys were the last straw.  They have nibbled the grass down to the roots in some places.  Then their hooves stirred up the ground where there wasn’t grass….creating a sand pile.  And there are NINE of them. They have more than worn out their welcome.

A couple of years ago I got Beaven a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.  It’s the same kind as the kid in Christmas Story wanted.  So now when the donkeys visit to graze on my grass, we get out the BB gun and give one a taste of BB pellet in his butt and that usually encourages the whole herd to move on down the road. 

Don’t hate me.  The BB doesn’t even pierce the skin.  It’s probably only a stinging sensation.  Calm down.  Hey! It’s Horsehide!  What’s one of the strongest and thickest skins around?  What do they make baseballs out of, for goodness sakes?  Horsehide.  Tough hide.   Are you OK now? Can we please move on?

Here’s the cool thing:  It provides instant gratification.  Their rear ends make a pretty big target and I know when I’ve hit my mark because the donkey gives a start and runs off.  I’m turning into a pretty good shot, too.

But what this has done to my personality scares me.  I’m having way too much fun.  If Sarah’s here I’ll call out “Sarah, get me my gun” just like I’m Annie Oakley or something.  The act of bringing the gun to my shoulder (it fits me perfectly, by the way), sighting the donkey and pulling the trigger is so satisfying that it’s scary. And because I know it’s just BBs I have become numb to any idea of the damage a real gun could cause.

It’s this numbness that scares me. 

I went to see RED2 at the movies. (Wednesdays are your best bet for going to the movies around here because all the Baptists and Methodists are at prayer meetings.  I like to call Wednesdays “Presbyterian Night at the Movies.”)  The movie is a combination action and comedy movie about a bunch of old spies who come out of retirement to do a job left unfinished in their prime.  I think.  The plot is purely inconsequential.   The premise is that old people still have it—that they can (and do) use dangerous weapons accurately and dramatically. It’s fairly funny to watch when Dame Helen Mirren, known mostly for playing a gracious and dignified Queen Elizabeth, wearing a gorgeous evening gown, pulls out a machine gun and mows down a room full of bad guys.

But after the laughter died down I was left with a feeling that nibbled at my brain.

 It’s this kind of casual overkill that throws us all into the mindset that guns are toys.  We forget the loss of life and limb.  There wasn’t even any blood to speak of in the movie. 

I’m startled by how easily I fell into yelling “Get my gun” to Sarah and how great it felt to cock it and shoot it and cock it again.  I’m startled by the caviler way Helen Mirren shot people in the movie. There was one scene where she held a huge automatic pistol in each hand, shooting out of first one window then the other as the car drove down the street.  The movie never deals with all the innocents driving down the same streets minding their own business.

Guns are dangerous.  They kill people.  They paralyze people and send them to cheap nursing homes when they can’t care for themselves.  Shooting a gun is way too easy.  Life is too fragile and death is too final.

Here in Texas you can take a one-day class (with a nice barbeque lunch included in the price of the class) and get a permit to keep a gun hidden in your car or on your person.  We take pride in being a place where we can take care of ourselves because we have the power of the pistol in our pocket.  One of the stores in downtown Winnsboro sports a banner advertising they can sell you a customized conceal carry purse.   


In Texas we operate on the premise that everyone is carrying a gun with them and will use it in a heartbeat.  It cuts down on a lot of road rage.  Guys used to have gun racks in the back window of their pickups and nobody shot them the finger when they cut you off in traffic.  They always got the indisputable right of way. 

Recently there have been two separate stories of people with guns on them when a crime was committed.  And they pulled out their guns and simply shot the bad guys.  And I was among those who found myself cheering.   Killing the clearly murderous assailant was so efficient:  getting rid of a danger and avoiding expensive trials.  Very efficient.

Efficient but dangerous. 

The collateral damage is the most dangerous thing about a culture of gun waving. The day will come when somebody gets into an argument with his girlfriend’s ex-husband in the potato chip aisle at Walmart and pulls out a gun.  I just hope nobody I love is there when it happens.

This is a controversial subject and I expect not everyone reading this agrees with me. I am of the mind that God doesn’t particularly care if we all agree or if we are efficient.  I think God wants us to think about it, chew it over in our conversations and listen to each other. This is difficult to the point of agony.  I’ve made up my mind and so have you.  Do we really need to spend a lot of time talking about it?

Yes.

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