Suburban Soliloquy #79


The Americanisation of Ms Keogh

It was Ms Keogh's introduction to the United States of America. Her father, Professor Frank Keogh, a renowned theoretical mathematician, was bringing his family to America because he was offered a research grant through the National Science Foundation. The year was 1965, an era commonly known in Britain as the "brain drain", and Ms Keogh, his daughter, my eventual wife, was all of twelve years of age.

They arrived into Dulles Airport in the autumn of that year, were between planes, waiting for a flight to Lexington, Kentucky. My young Ms Keogh went wandering from her family to begin exploring this new land, toting a red TWA bag. Full of wonder and awe, she saw a uniformed officer, either an airport security guard or policeman, and to her utter astonishment, he seemed to be wearing a holster and gun! Back home, in Britain, the bobbies didn't carry guns. The gun hypnotized her. She had walked up to it, staring, gawking, when the officer yelled at her, "What are you looking at?" She stumbled backwards, quite startled. Bobbies never yelled at twelve-year-old girls. They were always courteous.

"Is that a real gun?" my prepubescent wife-to-be inquired.

"Yeah! And I'll blow yer head off if you don't get outta here." For a moment, Ms Keogh was aghast, frozen in fear. Bobbies were never hostile. Bobbies were kind, informative, and always eager to offer assistance. Ms Keogh turned and ran.

It is thirty-nine years later and Ms Keogh's baby boy is just such a guard, wearing a uniform and strapped with a sidearm, but most assuredly better mannered. I don't know the details of his job. He tells me, "I can't give you too much info; military is kind of weird on that." He works at the Boone National Guard Center as a Military Security Specialist, has been on Homeland Defense orders since October 2001. He is qualified with a sidearm annually and he is also a healthcare specialist with his National Guard unit. I'm very proud of him. I just wish his Commander in Chief were more humane and intelligent.

Ms Keogh and I, with our daughter and grandson, departed late on Friday, driving through the night to cover the 675 miles that separate us from our son. We intended to spend a short weekend visiting with him and his family. I had to be back at work the first thing Monday morning. On the occasion of this visit, he invited his mother to go target shooting with him. To my astonishment, she accepted.

The invitation extended to me. In all the time I knew my son growing up, he wanted to go shooting with me. It was always a good idea, but I never made the time for it. He was a willful and reckless boy, but not "bad". I had convinced myself it would be too much work to get him to handle such a dangerous item with enough respect. The shame is all mine. His desire was stronger than I realized and I should have made a little effort to appease it.

I had grown up with guns and rifles and swords and knives. My father was a collector, but my father's enthusiasm didn't pass down to me, and I failed to appreciate and support my son's enthusiasm. His mother hated weapons of any kind and didn't even want her son playing with toy guns. Meanwhile, I could always think of something else I'd rather do than arrange to go shooting with my boy. It is only now that I can see more clearly how important and special it would have been for him.

Before we went to the firing range, our son took out his two handguns to introduce gun safety to his mother. "Are you going to watch to make sure he does it right," she asked me out of earshot. Absolutely.

I watched and listened closely as he introduced her, and me, to his small Kahr K9 Elite. The pistol was only six inches long, a stainless steel semi-automatic that spits 9mm bullets. What made it particularly interesting, although it meant little to his mother, was that this gun was double-actioned, yet it had no hammer, not even a visible firing pin. Next he showed her a Ruger 22/45. This second handgun is supposed to replicate the feel of a 1911 Model 45, the traditional sidearm of the U. S. military, but instead of using .45-caliber bullets, it employed the less expensive and very much tinier .22 cartridge. His lesson on safety was outstanding, better than I could have ever done. And off we went to the Bluegrass Indoor Range.

We had entered the firing range and at the first shot, even though she had ear protection on, Ms Keogh jumped back startled from the unexpected loudness in those close quarters. For a moment she was shaking, but then she laughed.

It has been a long time since I've shot firearms and I was a little afraid of embarrassing myself, like not knowing how to take the safety off, or missing the target altogether. Has it been over thirty-five years since I went skeet shooting with my father? I was always a good shot. There was even talk of entering me into contests. On one occasion, shooting trap on a private range near Fort Dix, I beat out an Olympic champion and won the turkey. Still, I never felt serious about the sport. I didn't embarrass myself. Nor did Ms Keogh.

We shot at round targets hanging twenty-five feet away. She refused to allow us to use the targets with human silhouettes. Her very first shot from the Ruger was just outside the black, then she emptied the remainder of the magazine into the black circle. I know, because she saved her targets, and brought them over to me to aid my memory as I wrote this essay.

"You know, Bruce," she said to me, "he didn't invite me. I asked him to take me shooting."

Bruce Bentzman

This essay is number 79 in a series of regular reports from the life and times of Mr Bentzman. If you've any comments or suggestions, the writer would be pleased to hear from you.
Mr Bentzman's collection of poems, "Atheist Grace" is available from Amazon, as are "The Short Stories of B.H.Bentzman"