Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Favorite Daughter called and brightened my morning more than usual.
“Dad,” says she. “I’m really glad you gave me the gun.”
She’s in her first year of nursing school at her university, working on her Bachelor of Science, Nursing.
She lives in an apartment in the small city where she goes to college, and has a roommate--another young lady studying to be a teacher.
Shortly after Jessica turned 21 last year, the legislature began tossing around a bill to allow concealed carry on campus, and she called, filling ol’ Dad’s heart to overflowing.
“I want to take your course. I want to carry on campus if that bill passes.”
She and several pals took the course, and within a month or so, got their permits. She called me excitedly when it came in.
The next time she came home for a visit, she was sitting at the kitchen counter talking to her mother, when I walked by and placed a Model 37 S&W Airweight on the counter.
“What’s that?” She asked.
“That’s for you,” I said. “I used to carry it on patrol as a backup in my boot.”
“I’ve never seen it before, and you didn’t use it in the class.”
“Nope. Too nice a little gun, and an aluminum frame. I wasn’t going to let every student run .38’s through it. Take it and put it in your car.”
“No,” I said, “on second thought, let’s go outside and try it out a few times.”
I live in the country, but it’s semi-rural. There’s a workover rig on a petered-out gas well just a few hundred yards through the woods--and various neighbors and sundry houses within earshot of a gunshot.
Every so often, I like to let one or two off at night, just to remind everyone within walking distance that someone over in this direction has a gun. Generally, it’s at a varmint trying to get to the livestock, but I figure it serves the dual purpose of taking out one pest, and keeping bigger ones away.
After all, we live a half-mile back in the woods. I’m not sure the sheriff’s office could find the house in the daytime, let alone at night.
Not knowing who’s working at night on that rig—and knowing they can see my house lights, I consider it a cautionary act to fire one off occasionally. This was the perfect occasion.
We walked out in the back and propped a paper plate against a rotten tree stump. We made sure the horses were congregated at the barn, and the area was safe. The floodlights of the house gave a glow to the area, and my flashlight illuminated the plate enough to see the sights on the Smith’s 2” barrel.
She fired three cylinders full—and hit the plate 13 out of 15 times. The other two times, she hit the stump, next to the plate. The whanging and banging at the well stopped for a time, as if someone was listening for more gunshots in the dark of night.
“Good enough,” I said. “It’s yours. Go put it in your car, and keep track of it.”
And she has. It goes in the apartment each evening, and in the car each morning.
Unfortunately, the legislature bowed to the ignorance of various coaches, deans, and other educators who ranted and raved that allowing concealed carry on campus would result in violence, bloodshed, and death, and the legislation failed—but not by a lot, and we have hope for next year.
So last night, it’s the end of the Martin Luther King holiday, and they had no classes. We had come in from a great weekend of deer hunting. She had exhibited her usual attacks of buck fever when anything walked out with anything resembling antlers, and was tired.
She and her roommate went to bed early. Terri, a friend, stayed over on the couch because the water was out in her apartment.
She was awakened around 0300 with banging and screaming just outside her apartment window.
“MotherF#####r—I’m Going to KILL You! Get Out of the F####ing Car!”
There was banging and more screaming. “Oh My God! I’m Going to Kill You! Get Outta the F###ing Car!”
She jumped from her bed, and peeked through the window.
Right in front of her apartment, only a few feet from her window, a guy was walking erratically, screaming at her roommate’s car, and beating on it.
“Come out of the car MotherF####r! I’ll kill you!”
There was no one in the car. Her roommate was asleep in the back bedroom.
Jessica grabbed her Smith and her cell phone and slipped into the den/living area. A small two-bedroom apartment, the den opens into the kitchen area, and the front door opens into both. The door is partially glass, with cheap blinds. Jessica’s kitten had shredded the blinds, and you could see through the glass in the bottom of the door.
Terri was huddled on the couch, shaking with terror.
“Jessica. Oh my God! He came up to the door and banged on it. Then he rang the doorbell—he said he was going to kill us. I’m scared to move--I saw his legs! He might see us if we turn on the lights.” Terri was paralyzed with fear, afraid to even leave the couch and move across the room to her cell phone.
Jess sat down on the couch next to Terri, and set the .38 on the coffee table. She opened her cell phone and shined the light on the gun.
“See that?” She said. “You don’t have anything to worry about.”
“Oh,” Terri said. “I’m so glad you’ve got that gun!”
With that, Jessica turned her phone over and dialed 9-1-1.
When the operator asked her emergency, she said “Give me the city police.”
As soon as the dispatcher for the city police answered, she started reciting:
“This is 999 Oak Street, Apartment 5. There’s someone in front of our apartment, beating on our cars, he beat on our door. He sounds drunk or crazy, and he says he’s going to kill someone. You need to get a unit over here now.”
The dispatcher assured her units were on the way, and performed the tasks dispatchers perform the world over. “What race is he? What does he look like? How is he dressed?”
“Ma’am,” she said, “I have no idea what he looks like—and I’m not going to go and look. Just get a car over here now—he’s still screaming out there.”
Four or five minutes later, the dispatcher told her the unit was turning in her parking lot. 30 seconds before that message, the guy had shut up—the screaming had stopped.
“Oh great,” she thought. “He’s gone. They won’t find him. We’ll have to tell them he really was there—we’ll be embarrassed—and scared he might come back.”
She said something like this to the dispatcher, and the woman said, “No Ma’am. They’ve got him. He’s proned out beside your car. Just wait for the officer to come get you.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, laughing nervously, “we’re not going out there.”
Hannah, her roommate, who could sleep through the wail of an air raid siren, wandered in sleepily.
“What are you doing up? What’s going on”
“Oh Hannah,” Jessica said. “You sleep through all the excitement.”
Finally, after what seemed like an interminable wait, there was a knock at the door, and an officer identified himself.
“Can you ladies come out here, and see if you know this guy?”
Not very excited about seeing the cause of all the commotion, they walked outside. The subject was cuffed, standing and weaving beside the car, obviously very much under the influence.
No one had ever seen him before. He was white, and trashy-looking.
He told the cops his buddies had abandoned him, and he thought they were inside. When they wouldn’t answer, he got mad, started yelling for them to come outside, beating on the car because he was mad. No one knows where he came from, or how he ended up in the apartment complex parking lot.
The cops told Hannah he had been beating on her car, and to check it for damage. Hannah was furious—but there was no visible damage.
Finally, the cops left with the subject, his destination the local drunk tank to sleep it off. The cops told the girls he would be charged with disturbing the peace, public intoxication, and whatever else they could think of.
The girls, now fully awake, and unable to sleep, talked for an hour. Hannah had to be brought up to speed.
Both of them wanted to know what Jessica would have done if he had tried to come through the door?
“I’d have hollered I have a gun. If he kept trying to get in, I’d have shot a hole in the roof. If he came through the door, I’d have shot him.”
Hannah, who hadn’t minded Jessica bringing the gun in the house, but wondered why she needed one, now saw the need.
“Jessica, I’m so glad you’re here to protect me!”
Terri said “Jessica—I was so terrified, I couldn’t move. Thank God you had the gun, and knew what to do!”
The next day everyone was telling her how proud they were of her, and how well she conducted herself under extreme stress. All her dad’s deer hunting buddies—her “uncles” at the deer camp who had watched her grow up on a four-wheeler and a deer stand--were bursting with pride over their protégé’ and how she handled herself.
Tonight, she called me—suffering from PTSD.
“Dad—I’m so scared.”
“Why, baby? Afraid he might come back to mess with you? He probably has no idea where he was. Don’t even worry about that, just be cautious.”
“I know. But Dad, I think about it now, and what if I shot him? What if he was actually a good guy, and just drunk, and a little crazy that time?”
“Lemme’ tell you something, daughter. How many drunks have you ever known to beat someone’s car, scream at the car as if someone was in it, and beat on someone’s door, threatening to kill them?”
“No one, but…”
“Roger that. And if they do that, the alcohol—or drugs—only brought out issues that were already there. If they ever try to bust in your door, don’t waste time on a warning shot—just shoot ‘em. Dump the whole load. They aren’t good people doing bad things on alcohol or drugs—they’re bad people with issues and the alcohol just releases that. Don’t ever hesitate, and don’t ever let someone hurt you. I’m proud of you.”
After further assurances that she had done everything perfectly--preparing to defend herself, calling the police, and staying put until the police told her it was safe to come out--she hung up to study, and get some rest. She had done everything by the book.
And I have no doubt any asswipe that thinks he’s going to kick in the door of a couple of terrified girls has got a really big surprise waiting if he picks Jessica’s door.
I’m proud beyond belief of her—and a whole lot more confident now than ever that she can take care of herself.
In the great scheme of things, it was nothing but a drunk and disturbance call—every cop handles too many in his career. They are nothing more than fodder for laughter and stories back at the station--and ribald comments about the apartment just overflowing with good-looking women.
But every cop also knows just how quickly one drunk can become a maniac and killer. It’s a wonderful thing to find out the sweet, beautiful daughter--whom you have raised to be proud, strong, and independent--really listened to all that stuff, and acted quickly and coolly under stress--and her friends relied on her to take charge, and get things done.
I could almost bust.