Bernie and I just returned from a trip to the west and southwest. We toured North Dakota first enjoying visiting Lewis and Clark historic sites and learning about our plains Indians and the slaughtering of the buffalo. We took a paddle-boat ride on the Missouri River and enjoyed the Medora Musical. Then we headed down to Deadwood SD to experience the shoot out on the streets for which the town is famous before going on to visit our son and family in Colorado.
Before the cowboys showed up for their confrontation we were entertained by Calamity Jane who told of her many experiences with Bill, ie. Buffalo Bill Cody. Later we would witness the arrest and trial of the guy who shot him. But Calamity’ job was to warm us up, to get us in the mindset of the wild, wild west. She did a great job telling stories with her folksy drawl and poking fun at people in the crowd.
While she spoke, I could see the cowboys begin to gather on the street. At one point, a man who later became the judge at the trial came forward to explain a little bit about what was about to happen. “These guns we use don’t have real bullets in them,” he said. “We fill them with puffed rice and puffed oats which you know are always shot from guns.”
The battle began with some kind of cowboy insult and the guy insulted chose a gun to settle his dispute with the offender. As things got tense, I found myself getting strangely afraid. I don’t mean spooked like when watching a scary movie. I mean fearful with my heart pounding and scary thoughts were going through my head. This would be a perfect opportunity for someone to cause real-life harm, I thought. They only needed to get hold of one of those guns and put real bullets into it. Or someone could shoot someone at the same time as this play acting was going on and people would think the killing was part of the show. I tried to shake the thoughts but I wasn’t totally relieved until it was over and the dead man was carried off on a stretcher. Off in the distance, I saw him rise again.
What is happening to me? It seems that lately thoughts of danger are lurking somewhere in the corners of my mind. I am afraid of guns. Hand guns. I was not afraid when I was a child. Getting lost, perhaps, but never of getting shot. Except in the movies, I never saw a gun until I was an adult and Bernie took up hunting. I still have not touched one.
I know there are people mentally ill or known criminals walking around with guns, people who could buy their guns without any background check. I know there are people walking around with guns who have never been trained to use them. I know there are guns in people’s houses already loaded waiting to be discovered by some curious child. I know that when people come out showing guns you can’t tell the difference between those who mean to harm and those who mean to help. This is the world I am living in right now. I don’t like it. I don’t like it one iota.
I feel like I am living in the wild, wild west.