Guns are not dangerous

I relate this tale from my youth, in Africa.

I shall keep the names anonymous by using the first letter only. There was me and T and M. T and M and were cousins. I was not related to them. We would either spend the weekend on T’s farm on the plains or my Aunt’s farm in the mountains.

We were Audy Murphy, Alan Ladd and John Wayne all wrapped in one. The three of us were all fourteen years of age and invincible. Cowboys and Indians on the farm every weekend, and we had guns..real ones! We had been trained by our parents from an early age to handle guns and to be very careful with them. Weekends on the farm meant days out in the veld, scouring the conical hills for rock rabbits(hyrax) and shooting some so that the native farm workers could have some extra meat and the skins could be salted.

My mate T’s dad, had a Steyer-Pugh Haflinger 4×4, and we would cavort across the plains and in and out of gullies looking for anything legal to shoot. Invariably we would come up with nothing, as the little creatures got wise of our movements and figured out that it was better to hide when the noisy humans came into view.

M was a raucous character. He was a joker, always laughing and thinking up diabolical scenarios. I suppose it was his way of compensating for his diabetes, which he had had from birth. Daily injections was part of his life. T, M’s first cousin, was a dreamer like me, and we would be dreaming up all kinds of things and silly ideas. Sometime we would go to T’s dad, who was an engineer by profession, and come up with ways and means for a variety of applications. T’s dad was an affable bloke with a kindly nature and he had the gift to be able to train animals to do things out of their normal scope. He had a small plains turkey, which he had hatched from an egg, and he taught this young bird to lay on it’s back to have its tummy scratched. But I digress.

On this day we three decided, whilst out on a hunt, that we should stage a shoot-out like in the days of the wild-west. So we discussed the parameters of our actions and decided that we would take turns to be the ‘hunted’. So, fully armed with our .22 rifles and plenty of ammo, we spent a couple of hours shooting at one another. Of course we did not show our faces or body bits from behind the rocks but rather shot at the crest of the rock where each one was hiding. Bullets whistled overhead. Someone put their hat above the rock with a stick and it copped a bullet hole. When we got sick of that we walked home. Upon arriving back at the homestead we each went to our rooms and I cleaned my rifle and put it away and I presumed that the others had individually done so as well.

The following morning we were up and about after breakfast and looking for a day in another part of the veld. I had taken my rifle from its case and was walking down the passageway to the front of the house. I caught up with T just before he entered M’s bedroom. He too was carrying his rifle. As he walked in through the door of the bedroom, M was busy sighting his rifle at an obscure object in the room.

T said “Stick ’em up. Cowboy!!”

M yelled “No way!!” and dropped down on to the bed with his rifle at ready, aimed and pulled the trigger.

Bang!!!!

T crumpled to the floor, his rifle clattered as it was being discarded into the corner of the room.

“Oh Shit!! You have shot me!!!”

Somehow it hadn’t dawned on me yet that a bullet had been fired.

I said ” C’mon T, stop playing the fool!”

But then his blood started pumping out on to the floor. T lay there in a dazed state.

I rushed back to the kitchen called T’s mum, who, luckily enough, was a nurse, and she had things under control in no time. From there things seemed to blurr. T’s Uncle rushed from another farm about 10 kilometres away and then rushed T, and M, who was beside himself and hyperventilating, the 45 kilometres into town to the local hospital in his Packard Straight Eight. In the mean time a private aircraft had been organised and T was flown to the city and by the late afternoon he had been operated on by a specialist, in the big city hospital. The bullet had entered his upper right leg, gone straight through the middle section of his body, missing all vital organs, and had lodged itself against the left femur. He recovered and lived to tell the tale. The bullet had missed me by about 12 inches.

It transpired, as I recall, that M had a self loading .22 and when we walked back into the homestead the afternoon before, he had leaned the rifle against the wall and then went on to other pursuits and did not attend to his weapon.

We all had to relate our tale to the police. M’s dad had to pay for the costs involved, T’s dad banned our hunting parties forever, and I got told off severely by my dad for not checking on the others. No action was taken against anyone as it was deemed an accident. There were no counsellors around in those days but we all recovered in due course. I lost touch with T about 25 years ago. M passed away at a very young age after becoming a professional golfer. Me? I am still around.

Guns are not dangerous. People are!!!!!

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