Understanding the risk to living family members and myself I feel compelled to tell this story. The mass hysteria about gun control is complete insanity. It’s self-sabotage to suggest it. Gun control will not work, it will not stop the killing.
At a young age, I’m not sure how old, I was given, and trained how to use, a .22 rifle and single shot .410 shotgun. I had twenty-four hour access to these two guns plus forty more in my father’s gun room. My Dad was a former paratrooper and competition shooter. I had the training and access prior to and during the events I’m going to share. That basic training will become very important later as events unfold.
It’s sometime in the 1970s. My bedroom door is closed. I hear but do not understand my Mom speaking in another room or the hallway. A moment later I hear sounds like something is falling on the floor. My younger sister starts crying and screaming out. At first I froze and just listened.
After maybe a minute of listening to my sister cry and scream I moved to my door. I could hear my Mom yelling at her and other unrecognizable sounds. I couldn’t take it. The cries were pulling at my heart. I opened the door, peeked around the corner and to my surprise, my Dad was sitting in his usual chair reading a magazine as if nothing was going on.
That really confused me. As young as I was and with no understanding of what was going on I wanted to see what was happening with my sister. Because Dad had his magazine up reading it I calmed down then went to my sisters door. I stepped into the room. There was my sister laid across the bed, face down, my Mom repeatedly striking her with a belt she had taken from my Dad.
After asking Mom what was happening to my sister I was threatened with the belt for asking and sent to my room. The sounds came from the room for maybe another ten minutes. It’s hard to know for sure how long, my sense of time and the circumstances make time accuracy difficult. I laid in my bed listening to the belt strikes and cries. All I could think was: What was I going to do? What was going to happen next?
That was my first recollection of any abuse or whipping. As time progressed the belt whippings were not limited to my sister. Soon after the experience with my sister it was my turn for the whippings. I discovered why we were suddenly, out of nowhere, getting the whippings. Our mom had been “saved” by religion and her children who were never in trouble before suddenly were “full-of-the-devil” and needed to be “punished”. “Spare the rod, spoil the child” she said.
There was one problem with that line of reasoning: my sister and I were never into any trouble because we knew we were adopted and could be sent away or have everything taken away without notice if we misbehaved. We knew how important it was to stay out of trouble.
Time progressed, the full-of-the-devil accusations and whipping became more frequent. My grades in school were failing. I would not bring homework home because of the trouble it would start when one of us would ask for help. Mom stopped using the belt and changed over to a willow bush branch from the bush growing at the entrance to the driveway.
I found out after I had come home from school. Mom was waiting, willow branch in hand. She was striking me as I ran to my room. I was instructed to lay over the bed like my sister and was whipped until the branch broke. She went to get another and continued the whipping until she ran out of energy. At the time I didn’t realize she would loose some of her fury from the trip up and down the flight of stairs.
This kind of behavior went on for some time, false accusations then whipping. In the middle of the chaos an awakening happened. There was a program on television about child abuse. I was the only one home. I knew something was wrong about what was happening to my sister and me. That television show gave me the validation.
After that discovery I started asking questions about abuse in school. I began asking other students, not teachers. Many of them had never been stuck by their parents; more validation something was wrong. Up until the first incident mentioned I do not recall any kind of physical harm. Over the years I’m surprised that my questioning at the time did not get an adults attention. Maybe I was hoping it would.
After establishing something was wrong I spoke to my Dad about what was going on and how Mom was hurting us for no reason. He didn’t believe me. Mom would make up lies about us. I thought for sure after telling Dad about child abuse and the show he would make Mom stop hurting us. At least once a week Mom would find a reason to whip one of us.
People talk about television having influence on children. Here is my third, fourth and fifth example of how positive it can be depending on the person. During summer when school was out I was home alone for long periods of time. I would watch war movies and shows like Mission Impossible and This Old House. After watching many of the shows I came up with a plan that would never have worked. It seemed like a good one at the time. An escape movie involving a train and Mission Impossible inspired me to consider a run-away plan for my sister and I. We lived very close to the railroad tracks.
If we were going to run away we had to have a way to get out without alarming anyone. I learned from a demonstration on This Old House how to service old style double hung windows. I replaced the sash cord and oiled the rollers on the windows in my sister’s and my bedrooms. They were smooth and silent. I had Dad buy the new cord under the pretense of fire safety. My real intention was silence.
The plan was to scout the railroad tracks and find a way out. That is as far as the plan went. Find a route out and go, somewhere, anywhere, no specific place in mind. Not a very good plan. It gets worse. The train tracks head east and north. My first trip was a day trip following the tracks going east.
That trip led me to a long train trestle with a 80-100 foot drop at the center. I had seen a TV show in which someone had been caught out on a trestle when a train came and had no place to go. Remembering that scene and seeing the large gaps between the railroad ties and the distance to the bottom had me questioning my plan.
I walked out onto the trestle for a few feet to see what it would take to get me and my sister across. Realizing how difficult it was for me to make sure I didn’t step through the gaps had me concerned how my younger sister would do it. I turned back toward home. The trestle was no more than a mile or so from my house.
On the way back I noticed a smokey smell like a campfire. I could see it. It was in a curve in the tracks close to a road crossing. It couldn’t be seen from the roadway. As I got closer I could see someone off of the RR tracks in what was an old civil war earthworks formation. I startled the guy.
“Scared the shit out of me!” he said. Wanted to know what I was doing around there. “Kids don’t belong”. I told him of my plan. He offered me some of the crackers and Vienna sausage he had been heating over the fire. The place was used as a hobo campsite. He informed how my plan would not work.
The direction I was going, East, quickly turned South and ended at a rock quarry. To the North was a railroad yard where he said we would be found. We would also have to cross a similar trestle going that direction as well. The next week I followed the tracks north and discovered he was telling me the truth. That trestle looked less easy to pass than the other one. I gave up on the idea of following the train track or a train-hopping escape.
I felt trapped and became desperate. Once during one of mom’s accusation-whipping sprees I said I would call the police and tell them what was going on. Mom said to me that would be stupid, that they would take me away for being bad, that parents are supposed to spank children and the police would not do anything to them. I would get sent away and raped by older boys wherever I would be sent.
Once again back to despair followed by a potential solution from a TV show. I watched a show called The Blue Knight. It was about a police officer who, as I remember, rarely if ever used his pistol but was handy with a nightstick. The way he used it impressed me. I remember one scene where he throws it at a guy running away and trips him.
I’m not sure when I made the decision but I know why I made it. I believe at some point I slipped into that fight or flight survival way of thinking. I had been involved in the boy scouts with combat veterans as our mentors. I had an early interest in military medics and field medicine and had spent time around countless veterans.
I became single minded. Stop the abuse, it is wrong. My mother had reached a place where she would have my sister and I go down to the willow bush and bring up a branch she would whip us with. I asked my dad one more time to do something. Nothing changed.
My next step was to contact the police myself. I dialed 911 and held up the phone thinking they would hear my mother in the next room. I then got scared and hung up. They heard what they thought was talking in the background. They sent two police officers to my home address. The police came inside the house to find out what the reason was for the 911 hang-up call. The officers came to my room and asked if I had made the call.
I admitted to making the call and said I was playing. At the same time they were speaking with me I was trying to signal them with my eyes to look closer in the next room. They either missed the signal or ignored it because I was a child. I didn’t say anything because my mom was directly behind the police. She couldn’t see my eyes but she could have heard me. The fear was overwhelming. Everyone believed me and never mentioned it again.
Back to The Blue Knight. When those officers were standing at my bedroom door the nightstick struck me as the answer. I had been contemplating how to make the beatings stop. If my dad wasn’t going to do something then I had to. This is where my firearms training at such a young age actually prevented a life from being taken. “Never point a firearm at anything you are not about to shoot: human, animal, or inanimate object.”
I had an unimaginable decision to contemplate: Call the police directly and report the abuse, which would separate my sister and I, possibly putting us into more danger, or attempt to stop it myself. The options were few. Speaking out made things worse.
There I was contemplating how to stop Mom from hitting us ever again. I thought about a knife. I would get a knife and threaten her then she would stop. That idea was quickly given up on due to the danger. I did not want to hurt anyone. Firearms? Why not firearms?
The gun room was full of them. I could have very easily taken any gun I chose, loaded it and killed her. Why I did not is simple, training. I had been taught the difference between self defense, murder and hunting. Because I did not believe my sister was going to be killed it would not have been justified to shoot or point a loaded firearm at my mother. I also did not want to kill my Mother, and I knew guns killed from going hunting.
A friend and I had hiked to an old general store that sold all kinds of outdoor-hunting type things and tire knockers that look exactly like a nightstick. Only one problem, they cost money I didn’t have and I wasn’t going to steal one. I’ve always been handy so I went home and looked around the garage and shed for something to use. I found an old straw style broom with a thick hickory handle. I know it was hickory because it said so on the label.
After cutting off the broom handle to size I rolled up tape to wrap around the hand part to act as a stop, thenI wrapped the whole thing with tape to give it grip. I drilled a hole for the lanyard. It looked like the real thing when it was finished. Then I hid it in the woods. I was afraid someone would find it at home.
Things had built up inside me, the club was made, I wanted to act. One problem, I didn’t know how to use the club. I practiced when no one was around. Not much skill, just me striking a couch to see how it felt. Finally the nightstick was staged in a nook on the downstairs handrail. I could open the basement door and reach straight to the nightstick. I thought for sure someone would find it.
I had made up my mind if Mom started again I was going to stop it. I did not want to hurt my Mom but felt I had no other choice. Something had to be done to stop her abuse. A few days went by without incident then she started up again.
I was in my bedroom when I could hear Mom escalating into an accusation-whipping frenzy. By this time I had thoughts that there was something mentally wrong with my Mom. Then I could only see her as crazy, now I think she is bi-polar or something like it. She would never go to the doctor so we will never know.
Back in my bedroom I heard the crying start as Mom started in on my sister. I listened for maybe a minute. I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I went into the hallway. There was the same scene, Dad reading a magazine in his chair. I could see him from the end of the hallway while the sounds of hitting and crying came from my sisters room.
That was it! Those sounds and that image push me into action. I quickly moved past my Dad, went to the basement door, retrieved the homemade nightstick, held it by my side so my Dad couldn’t see it and went into my room and closed the door.
My Dad not making any effort to stop the whipping and those sounds coming from my sister were too much for me to take. I was in my room pacing around with the club in my hands not knowing what to do. Something inside me changed. All of the fear turned into rage. I put the lanyard around my wrist and started striking the bed with the club.
I remember hitting the bed a few times then I was standing at my sisters bedroom door. Things had gotten worse. The door was open, my sister was on her back in bed. Her feet were up in the air kicking at my mother as my Mom was striking her with a clenched fist. The scene stopped me in my tracks.
The fist and my sister trying to defend herself was something I had not seen before. After I’m not sure how long I entered the room and move towards Mom with the club in hand in the air ready to strike her. My plan was to beat her forearms and hands until she stopped hitting my sister. I didn’t want to kill or harm my Mom I just wanted her to stop the abusive beating/whippings and false accusations.
I looked at my sister on her back fighting back with her feet, her face red, drenched with tears, tufts of her hair on the bed, I turned to my mother and said in a voice I’ve never been able to duplicate to this day “Stop! Stop or I will kill you! Stop hurting my sister and me or you will die!” My mother turned in shock and cowered against the wall. I acted like I was going to hit her with the club, warning her several times not to touch us ever again. Then I moved to the door so Mom couldn’t get out.
I kept repeating to her to stop or I would beat her if she didn’t. I really didn’t have a plan beyond where I was in that moment. I didn’t mean to say I’d kill her but it came out of me like that. It was real fight or flight. I struck the door thinking it would make a loud sound and scare my Mom, instead I scared myself with it. I hit the door and made a huge hole in it, so big the door had to be replaced. I’m glad I didn’t hit any person. I must have been amped up on adrenaline. It was a crazy moment.
After I struck the door I moved toward my Mom to warn her one last time. When I did she called for my Dad. I’d forgotten he was there and went after him. I confronted him for not acting and threatened to hit him with the club. I chased him for several minutes.
He was twenty feet or so away and I couldn’t catch him. I was still not sure what I was going to do to him, if anything. We stopped. My parents were standing together. I informed them that if it ever happened again I would tell their friends, the police and burn the house down. Because I couldn’t get closer I threw the nightstick like I’d seen the TVcop do. It flew between my parents and struck the wall.
Not the best plan for sure but it was all I could come up with at the time. I thought that if I threatened her it would stop and that would be that. It worked. My mother never struck us again. She did increase the verbal abuse and that never ended. She clearly has some kind of mental disease because her condition is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
After I threw the club at my parents I calmly walked past them to my bedroom and closed the door. I woke up the next day expecting some kind of trouble or something. The incident was never spoke of and nothing was ever said to me about it. The club, the door, the abuse, nothing.
I don’t blame religion. I think many use it to justify their desire to control and manipulate other people. Others find some kind of fulfillment from it. I don’t want anyone using my story to justify a position on religion if they read this. Religion was used as an adjunct, mental illness is the true issue.
To me it seemed like the adults were not responding the way I thought they should be. What I have never been able to understand is how my dad never did anything about it after me saying to him clearly multiple times something was wrong. I did not want to hurt my mom. By this time in the 1970s mental health issues, alcohol and drug addiction were on the news so I was becoming aware of those possibilities. I wanted her to get help.
After listening to all of the current irrational anti-civil rights firearms hysteria that is in the media these days, I had to offer this as proof how they sound exactly like my mother using religion to control and manipulate other people. Intentionally put them at a disadvantage and place them in danger by disarming them in an attempt to gain power or control. A creepy thought crossed my mind as I write this: that reasoning sounds like the murders, rapist and thieves I’ve met over the years.
A firearm was ruled out quickly as not the solution to this problem. Had I believed my sister or myself were going to be killed by the abuse I think I would have called the police and to hell with the rape risk my mother spoke about so often. The gun would have been an unwanted permanent solution and destroyed all of our lives. Mom needed help, not euthanasia.
I believe the exposure I had listening to the experiences of combat soldiers making a decision to kill another human had a profound effect on my decision process. It led me to find the most non-lethal method I could think of to stop the abuse. Never once did I consider killing a bunch of strangers at a mall or school, never. How that idea gets into someones mind I’ll never know.
Calling for gun control when the fact is self-control, mental illness and education are the issues not access to weapons. If it’s not knifes, its bombs or firearms. It’s whatever a person can get their hands on. With knowledge, anything can be a weapon. A hickory broomstick turned into a nightstick. All it took was a handsaw, auger, paracord and electrical tape. Presto, nightstick.
To be clear, I do not want sympathy for the abuse or praise for my actions. If someone wants to criticize it, say whatever you want. This is posted to demonstrate about how important teaching all children in a free society how to safely handle firearms and what they are capable of, killing.
Had I not had been taught about those firearms, I may have interpreted what I saw on TV as permission to use a gun the same way I felt justified a nightstick would be the answer. To me that speaks of the power of television, how a child interprets it and the influence of the adults around them.
The positive influence by adults that were not abusing me has to be one of the most influential things that kept me from getting into trouble or doing something horrible. There were some very good role models I was trying to emulate.
I wrote this in an attempt to capture the build up to the event, my state of mind as things progressed, the why and how of the choices I made, and, why, with access to multiple firearms I made a choice to not kill an abuser. -13