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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When Mommy's away, the Daddy will play - unless he's locked out of his house in shorts and T-shirt with a former U.S. Marshal

Leading a former U.S. marshal packing heat with a laser
sight can't possibly be a good idea. Or can it?

My wife took our two children to her family's ranch in southern Wyoming yesterday. We only have one car right now while the other one takes its job of gathering snow and occupying a parking spot on our neighborhood's road seriously. So when she dropped me off at work, none of us had really thought about the fact that she'd be taking with her the keys to the house on the car key chain.

Oops. In the meantime, I picked up a story for our local newspaper last night about a gun club celebrating the 1911 Colt .45's 100th birthday. It was carpet-moving and painting day at work, so I had dressed accordingly - shorts, T-shirt and sandals, despite the mounds of snow that are still falling this spring in Jackson Hole. So when I got home with a borrowed car to change and go cover my story, I realized I was hosed when the door was locked. No hidden keys at our house, though I get locked out enough that we should have one.

Anyway, I manned up, went and bought some high-tech reporting supplies - pen and paper - and went to the gun club dressed for summer. The birthday-party goers were naturally curious about my attire, given the copious amounts of spring snow we have received. After relating the story to a few people while questioning them on why they showed up at a gun's birthday party, one man stepped up to my shattered plate.

"You want help with that?" he said, pulling out what looked like a folded-up knife from his pocket. I looked at his outstretched hand, confused by why a knife could solve my problems - apparently weapons can solve a lot of problems in the gun club.

He caught my confusion and pulled out what I thought would be a blade. "This is a professional lock-picking set," he said, withdrawing various implements from the tool's belly.

"You serious?" I asked. He assured me he would love to help, and just to flag him down when I was done with the party coverage.

"I carry these things around in case I can help someone," he said. He told me later he used to earn steak dinners from his neighbors when he helped them get in to their houses. I offered him the same treatment, which he kindly refused. Blown away by the man's generosity for a complete stranger, I went out of my way to get to know him during the event. The guy was a pharmacist recruited by the army and trained in various programs - including lockpicking.

"They teach us how to be burglars in the army," he told me. As if the army needs to use subtlety. Whatever the case, he got the training on taxpayers' dime and still uses his abilities to help out the average taxpayer, i.e. me. After his time and training with the army, he went into the U.S. Marshals, where he stayed for 20 years before retiring.

The party consisted of an IDPA shooting course with lovingly held 1911 Colts of various makes with ammo donated from local outdoors outfitters. One guy even let me borrow his gun for the event so I could shoot too. Something fun about trying to hit three targets as fast as you can from behind a wire barricade with a large-caliber handgun. Following the shooting course, we all went in and sang "Happy birthday dear nine-teen-e-lev-en!" and ate cake and ice cream. I had a blast with those gun enthusiasts, no pun intended.

So after the birthday party, I led the U.S. Marshal to my house 10 miles away, which he didn't begrudge me at all. He just wanted to help. There was a brief moment where I wondered what I was doing leading a former U.S. Marshal driving a black Tahoe to my house who was packing heat with a laser sight and a set of lock picks in his pocket. The moment passed and I led him up on my doorstep where he got down on one knee in fresh snow on my porch and went about trying to break into my house while I held a flashlight for him.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, my lock held firm under his probings, which made him declare "Either I'm losing my touch or you have a great lock." He then told me there was a time when he could brag there wasn't a safe or lock in the world that could keep him out. Comforting that our army personnel have that kind of training.

I graciously thanked him, and as we parted ways he told me about his gun collection: machine guns with suppressors (silencers are probably what you know them as), shotguns and sniper rifles. He even told me he'd let me shoot his machine gun at the range.

"You know, everyone thinks these guns are illegal," he said. "You just have to have valid permission to use them."

And that is how I led a machine gun-owning, lock-picking, laser-sighting former U.S. Marshal to my house - on purpose. The guy's a patriot in my book. I have always been pro gun, but after meeting a roomful of gun owners and hanging out with them for a couple hours, I have new respect for people who love guns.

What do you say? Would you have led a guy with a set of lock picks in his pocket to your house after meeting him at a gun's birthday party?

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Mark! Drue is right--you are a fantastic writer. :)