Friday, August 24, 2012

Some folks don't get out much.

I got an interesting e-mail from a reader this week.

It seems she has a gentleman friend who was waiting at her place to take her out for dinner and a show. She had recently bought my book, Above Reproach, and had it on her coffee table.

When she came out into the living room, her gentleman friend was flipping through the book. "Are you actually reading this ?" he asked her.

"Absolutely," she replied. "Why--is there something wrong with it?"

"Well," he said. "It's kinda rough. It has some violence in it and that makes me uncomfortable."

The reader goes on to explain to me that she was raised in rural cattle country in the west. Her gentleman friend was raised in a large city.

What I found interesting was that someone raised in a rural area was more comfortable in the reality that bad people exist and because bad people exist, it is we who are responsible for our own well-being. Conversely, her gentleman friend who was raised in a large city seems to have an ostrich-like attitude about the realities of crime and violence and the people who perpetrate violence upon others.

Maybe that helps explain the reality of most major American cities being "blue" on the political spectrum map, and the rural areas being "red."

I was the recipient of the best possible scenario while growing up. Both of my parents are about as country as it gets. Both raised in towns of less than 300 people, both grew up in agriculture (both farming and ranching), both grew up raising their own food and growing their own vegetables and both grew up handling firearms as a matter of sheer necessity.

Like most of their generation, my mom and dad married young (in their teens) and I was the "baby who wasn't supposed to be" according to the quack who told my mom she'd never be able to bear a child. Seven years after me, she defied that quack once more.

Also like many in their generation, they yearned for the "big time" which in their case was the sprawling metropolis of Wichita Falls, Texas--where I ended up being born and raised the first eight years of my life, after which we moved to Lubbock.

But my grandparents still lived in the country and that is where I would spend the majority of my summers. My grandmothers taught me how to put up canned goods and pluck and fry chickens, my grandfathers taught me how to bridle a horse and kill a rattlesnake. All of the grandparents knew how to fish (and how to kill the pesky moccasins that always challenged you for your bait fish and minnow buckets).

Crime was rare out in the rural areas. An occasional hobo would come strolling down the dirt road looking for a handout and my grandfather would talk to him for a bit, then depending on the hobo's attitude, he either got to come inside and have a hot meal or he was shown the road and told not to come back.

My grandfather on my mom's side was a WWII veteran who walked across Europe. He was a gentle man except when threatened. I remember when I was twelve, a hitchhiker came up on our land and tried to bully my granddad out of some food and money. When that didn't work, he pulled out a long butcher type knife. Bad mistake for a foulmouthed hippie to do. He saw the business end of my grandfather's M1 Garand on one side, and the business end of our 12-gauge double-barrel on the other side--being held by me. That shotgun was what we took dove and quail with as well as what we used to dispatch the occasional rabid skunk or coon and sometimes dog that we encountered.

After the longhaired foulmouthed hitchhiker had run pretty much out of even 30-06 range and we couldn't see him any longer, we safed our firearms and then talked about it. It was the first time I'd ever pointed a firearm at another human being with the absolute intention of shooting. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be the last time--not by a long shot.

My grandfather told me that day that guns were a tool, nothing more and nothing less. He had no love affair with them whatsoever, but at the same time, had a deep and abiding reverence for the Second Amendment. He was convinced that if the Jews and Poles and others in Europe had not given up their firearms, his time spent in the Army over there might've looked a little different.

I'm inclined to agree.

That day in a little country town shaped my view of crime and reality. The reality was that crime could--and would--happen anywhere at anytime and that you met violence with even greater violence so that the righteous would prevail. I didn't exactly dwell on that much that day, but it set the tone.

Back home during the school year in the big town of Lubbock, I would read about the occasional person getting mugged or robbed or even murdered, and I wondered why they didn't defend themselves. It was in the big town that I had my first exposure, ever, to "anti-gun" crowds--although they were largely found only on the college campus. Lubbock is a very conservative town and the Texas Panhandle is about as conservative as it gets in Texas.

Even in junior high, I drew the instant correlation between "unarmed" and "victim." That got me to thinking about that stinking hitchhiker hippie who brandished a knife at me and my grandpa that day. He thought he had the upper hand, but when the two long guns came out, he ran like a scalded dog with its ass on fire.

And yet, even though not a thing happened, my grandfather swore me to secrecy because he "didn't want my mother to worry." To this day, my mother has no idea of much of what went on during my extended stays with my grandparents. I believe that to be a privilege sacred to grandparents the world over.

When I joined the military, I began seeing really big cities while on leave or in transit--places like Denver and Los Angeles and New York and Chicago. When I got out of the service, finished college and found myself in law enforcement and then later in advertising, I saw more big cities--Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit. And I saw plenty of violence and a lot of victims.

Where I saw the most victims were cities like Washington DC and Chicago and New York that had strict gun control but not so strict criminal control. Back down south, where gun control is about as popular as fire ants, burglars feared homes where they even suspected the homeowner might be armed. Robbers avoided at all costs places where owners were known to keep a gun.

The third novel I am working on is entitled Blue Cities, Red Streets. It is about criminals, victims and those who refuse to be victims. In the book, there will be some criminals learning some very hard, and very permanent lessons about why the Second Amendment exists.

Perhaps I should forewarn the reader who e-mailed me about her friend and advise her to keep Blue Cities, Red Streets hidden from her gentleman friend when it is released.

Or perhaps I should encourage her gentleman friend to maybe get out a little more and see the world for what and how it really is.