Why I Own A Gun   3 comments

Actually, I own a few because here in Alaska there’s hunting going on. We live on caribou and moose and ptarmagan and you have to have different sized rifles to get the grub. The 22 we use for bird hunting is our only semi-auto. One pull for every bullet expelled. It’s a 10-round magazine and we carry an extra one for reloading because you bird hunt in the late winter (March) when it’s still nice not to expose your fingers to the air. We used to have an extended magazine — I think it held 30 shots — but it broke in the cold and we haven’t replaced it.

Sometimes when you’re out doing innocent activities like berry-picking or wood-cutting, the animals are hunting you. After a close encounter with a grizzly bear a couple of years ago we carry a shotgun and a 357 just in case.

Speaking of the 357, I am prepared to shoot anyone who comes into my home and doesn’t belong there. I’ll give them a chance to leave uninjured without my belongings, but if you don’t identify yourself as a family member when you’re banging around in the kitchen at night, you’re not very bright. My family knows what to do when they hear the question “Whose there?” Sing out! It might save your life.

In the winter of 1971-1972, Fairbanks Alaska was locked in a cultural storm. Two years before that, we’d had 12,000 residents, but then the TransAlaska Pipeline construction began and the permanent population doubled in just one year. The transient population was about triple the permanent population. The town was overflowing with roustabouts, rubber tramps, and rowdies. Our city fathers hadn’t thought ahead, so we had about three police officers to handle all of this. Every bar overflowed to capacity. You could buy cocaine on the street corner, dispensed by hookers in mini-skirts and fur coats. A 12-year-old girl could make $300 in the afternoon on her way home from school.

In January, the town was gripped by a cold snap of typical Interior mythic proportions. Fifty below zero and ice fog so thick you couldn’t see the car in the driveway. Typical of most small towns, people here didn’t lock their doors. My parents didn’t even have a key to the door. Mom and I were home alone; my dad being off to a remote location involving an ice highway. I was talking to a friend on the telephone in our kitchen, a few feet from our back door — a thin panel of weathered wood with a big single-pane glass window in the top half. Three men stepped up into our arctic entryway (it’s sort of like a foyer on the outside of your house that blocks your house’s heat from just rushing out into the 50 below outside). For reasons I have never been able to explain, I reached over and flipped the dead-bolt. The closest man — a big white guy with sandy colored hair — tried the door knob and found himself blocked. His buddy, a dark haired fellow with a beard, saw me and said through the glass that they were cold and could they come in to warm up. I said goodbye to Kathy and called for my mom, who was already coming because she’d heard male voices. She told them to go away. The dark-haired guy begged a little more, saying the third guy wasn’t adequately dressed for the weather. I never really saw more of him than a Alyeska parka — the ubiquitous uniform of every North Slope worker, which they all three wore. They were adequately dressed. Mom said there were nice warm bars two blocks down. The sandy-haired guy’s face went red and he said “Open the door, *&X&GH, or I’ll break it.”  Mom turned about face and ran into the living room.

By this time, I’d dialed our local equivalent of 911 (no, 911 did not exist in our community then). I explained to the dispatcher what was going on and she said all the cops in town were taking care of a bar fight downtown. (The timing of this incident and the one that followed has always seemed odd to me). Where was my dad? Could we get out another door? I explained that (standard operating procedure of most families in Interior Alaska in those days) we’d sealed the front door against the cold. Then she asked “Do you have a gun?”

In the back of my mind, I’d been cursing my mother for abandoning me. What the heck?  Weren’t mothers supposed to protect their offspring? I heard the door frame start to crack against the weight of these men and I knew I was going to have to defend myself. I just knew it! I grabbed a butcher knife from the drain rack and backed toward the living room holding it before me, hoping they’d get the message that this was going to cost them. Then my mom came up behind me and said “Move to the side.” I did, so relieved to hear her voice.

My mom was only 5’2″ and weighed 92 pounds with bricks in her pockets. But when I glanced at her she might as well have been a linebacker for I saw her 357 held in those slender hands, leveled accurately and calmly at the face of the sandy guy. In a loud voice she said “Go away or I’ll kill you.” I remember that word “kill”. It fell in the room like a magical spell. And, they all looked up and saw her. I think the third guy (the one I never really saw) muttered something and disappeared down the steps. The dark haired guy said “Hey, we’re just trying to get in somewhere warm. No need to be hostile.” I remember that word “hostile” and his East Coast accent as he said it. I always think “manipulative” when I think of how he said it. The sandy-haired guy said the c-word and then “I bet it’s not even loaded.” Mom cocked the gun and said, loudly, “It’s a double-action, but now we’re all sure it’ll fire.” His face went white and he and the dark haired guy crowded each other down the stairs.  Mom turned the gun to the dining room window where we could see three parka-clad figures disappear into the dense fog.

Mom pushed a chair under the doorknob while I talked to the dispatcher, who had been listening to the whole thing helplessly while using another phone trying to randomly call our neighbors to get us some help (Mr. Thompson showed up with a shotgun and his wife toting a 30-30 while I was still on the phone).

The story doesn’t end there. Not too long after that, minutes probably, three men banged on the door of a cabin a few blocks west of us. The father let them in. When their intentions became clear, the family dog — a big husky — tried to defend the family, but was shot and killed with a 22 handgun. The father was beaten soundly with that handgun. His 13-year-old daughter (a classmate) was raped by all three men. Then the cabin was set on fire and the men disappeared off into the ice fog. A neighbor rescued the father and daughter. The fire department showed up. In the newspaper the next day, the father said “I wished I’d had a gun. When the dog was distracting them, I could have protected us.” Nobody was ever caught for the crime. Some of the Pitka’s belongings showed up in local pawnshops, but there was little evidence to track these men down. They got away with it.

And, the cops never showed up until the next day to take our statements.

The only difference between my mom — a 92-pound waitress — and Mr. Pitka — a sturdy laborer — was that Mom had a gun and that made her the equal of the three men in the arctic entry way. Yeah, they had a gun too, but she had the drop on them and the gun knowledge and the willingness to protect her family.

That’s why I own a gun.

3 responses to “Why I Own A Gun

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  1. God Bless You. That is an incredible story.


  2. Pingback: Why I Own A Gun « sally1137

  3. Reblogged this on That Mr. G Guy's Blog.


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