Bill Crider is an author of Mystery fiction; many published by St. Martin’s Press in New York. He received an M.A. at the University of North Texas (in Denton). Later, he taught English at Howard Payne University for twelve years, before earning a Ph.D. at the University of Texas at Austin. He then moved to Alvin, Texas where he was the Chair of the Division of English and Fine Arts at Alvin Community College. He retired in August 2003 to become a full-time writer. He is the author of the Professor Sally Good and the Carl Burns mysteries, the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series, the Truman Smith PI series, and wrote three books in the Stone: M.I.A. Hunter series under the pseudonym "Jack Buchanan."
By Bill Crider
Sometimes I get nostalgic and want to set down some of the things I remember. And I remember guns. For example, the first thing I remember Santa bringing me was a toy M-1 rifle. I don't remember how old I was, but it was before we moved to town, so I must have been three or four. It's one of my earliest memories of my mother. She came into my room very early, before daylight, I think, and carried me into the little living room where we had the Christmas tree. She had long hair then and was wearing a long white cotton gown. It was like being carried by an angel, and there under the tree was the M-1. I thought that rifle was great, and I played with it for years afterward. So did my brother, later on, and some of the neighborhood kids. We played with it so much, in fact, that the barrel eventually fell off. We might have played with it even after that. It was all a long, long time ago.
We loved to play with toy guns. We all had them, my sister included, as you can see in the photo. I'm on the left, with my brother between me and my sister. The kid from across the street is on the right. His name was John Roy Truelove, and he had guns, too. We could play for hours, shooting each other with cap pistols. What the photo doesn't show is my very favorite gun, which was a cast aluminum Luger. It had no moving parts, but I thought it was swell. I must have gotten it about the time I got the M-1. Long gone, however, with all the rest of the arsenal. It looked just like this one.
Later on, when we moved from the first house in town to the one I associate most with my life in Mexia, Texas, my brother and I shared a room. There was no closet in the room, and our clothes and shoes were all in a little armoire. Together we probably had four pairs of jeans and six or eight shirts. Well, we had some underwear and socks, too. That was it.
Besides the armoire, two twin beds, and a desk, the room had an open gun cabinet that held a couple of .22 rifles, maybe three. Two shotguns, an automatic and a double-barrel. Later on a couple of deer rifles. Ammo was right there in the cabinet behind a couple of little doors in the bottom. Shotgun shells and .22 cartridges: shorts, longs, and long rifles.
We never thought a thing about any of that. That's just the way things were. Our parents told us never to play with the guns, so we didn't. We were allowed to handle them, but we were cautioned never to point them at anyone. "There's no such thing as an unloaded gun," we were told.
Then there were the BB guns. I had one. My brother had one. We didn’t shoot our eyes out. We shot at targets, and, I admit it, at a bird or two. The birds were completely safe, however, as the BB guns didn’t have much range and we were both myopic and (at the time) not wearing glasses.
Comic books and movies with guns? Oh, yeah. Hardly a Saturday afternoon passed that I wasn't at the double-feature cowboy show at the Palace Theater. Some kids even brought their cap pistols to the show. And a lot of the stars had comic books that I read: Monte Hale, Roy Rogers, Rocky Lane. Add to that the Lone Ranger and Kid Colt. Probably others. Lots of gunplay in all of them, though I remember that the Lone Ranger never killed anybody. Maybe the others didn't, either.
When I was a teenager, I stopped going to the matinees, but nobody thought anything of it if I said I'd like to take the .22 on Saturday and hunt armadillos or that I'd like to take the shotgun and go dove hunting. If we didn't have enough shells, I could go down to Western Auto, walk in, and buy a box. I could drive by and pick up a couple of friends with their shotguns, and off we'd go.
That's really all there was to it. I never developed a lasting affection for guns, and I haven't owned one since I was a kid. One of the .22s was mine, and I gave it to my brother when our parents died. He's the family gun collector, and he always liked hunting more than I did. I never cared for it, myself, and my dove hunting expeditions were few. Never went deer hunting at all, though my brother and father did for a lot of years.
Don’t Forget: Tonight, January 9 from 6:30 to 8:30pm at Friendswood Public Library: Filmmaker Michelle Mower will instruct a free workshop on Writing Independent Screenplays for Film.