Thursday, 20 July 2017

Gunfire Meditation

I've lived in the middle of many nowheres: France, Scotland, Latin America, Canada. Guns are common to all of them. Mostly shotguns in Europe; rifles in Canada, automatic weapons in Central America. You hear them occasionally. But the American bush crackles like No Man's Land.

On the Acres I often heard target practice, to put it charitably, across the river. Mid-range shoulder arms for the most part, .308 and .30-30 cowboy rifles. Practical weapons, deliberate and steady; I could almost hear the measured kachik-kachak of their lever actions. Los pistoleros, on the other hand, son muy locos; they spat out their little slugs in spastic swarms, like matinee idols.

Americans harbour a great superstition about handguns, a medieval fetish linking them, somehow, to national survival. I've been around guns and their owners all my life. Pistol people make me nervous.

But it wasn't a pistolero that shot my neighbour in the head. Some years before, Jim told me, the fellow on the east parcel had been shot clean off his tractor while mowing. He'd survived, but no arrest was ever made. The gunfire in the hills took a different echo when I knew that.

One sunny evening, while I meditated beneath the Tyvek, an AR15 (another crowd my gun-collector father taught me to misdoubt) opened up on Stripped Hill. A precise, military .223, tapped out as fast as the shooter could trigger. Thirty tight, symmetrical reports; a full clip.

"Dweeb," I grumbled. "Real revolutionaries carry AKs."

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and a generous photographer.)
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