My family has never been what you might call “lucky.” If something can go wrong, it usually does, but I wonder if that just makes us average. Optimists, with their eternally upbeat and positive outlooks, will say that every day above ground is a good one. They’re so full of shit. Ask the guy who spent twenty-six months in a bamboo tiger cage in Vietnam if every day above ground is a good one. I’m pretty sure he would disagree.
Some folks argue that considering the near misses of catastrophe in life, luck surfaces in little ways every day. I’m not so sure about that, either. Not that I’m a pessimist. I firmly believe the harder I work, the more luck I have. Unfortunately, that eats away at the defining characteristic of luck. I guess I’m more of a “probably-ist.”
A probably-ist spends his day not courting disaster. His catch phrase is, “That’s probably not a good idea.” That doesn’t mean something cannot be accomplished or should not be attempted. The probably-ist simply uses knowledge, experience, and common sense to evaluate the likelihood of success for a given task.
The Portage who jumped into the lion enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo a few years ago was definitely not a probably-ist.
He was a dumb fuck and deserved to die. He earned death. It’s not like this ersatz lion tamer jumped in after a child that fell into the enclosure. He did it on a lark for the thrill. A probably-ist can like thrills and can be spontaneous, but likelihood of a given situation going sideways is always on his mind.
The point is that a little circumspect caution goes a long way in life. It lessens the likelihood of an early or horrific death. Sometimes, both. Despite wearing ear and eye protection religiously when operating power tools, sooner or later, some little piece of flying debris makes its way into my eye. That doesn’t change the fact that it’s probably a good idea to wear protective equipment.
That’s not to say gruesome injuries and spectacular deaths do not visit the probably-ist. Equipment malfunctions. Lapses in attention happen. Unforeseen and statistically unlikely events occur.
- I had a grandfather who died of a brain embolism attributed to a broken ankle from when a horse stepped on it a year prior.
- My step-grandfather (his replacement) died at seventy-seven years old when a well drilling tower broke loose from its moorings and fell on him.
- A great-uncle bled to death from a chainsaw accident while logging.
- My mother-in-law cut a thumb off with a circular saw, and a previous father-in-law cut a pinky off in metal press.
- A cousin died after being struck by a train. I suspect suicide, but he did work for the railroad, so it’s in the books as an industrial accident.
- At eleven years old, I sutured two of my father’s fingers back together after a firewood splitting incident while camping deep in the woods and several hours away from professional medical attention.
- In one particularly humorous incident, a distant cousin drowned in a privy (It probably wasn’t a good idea to go stumbling around drunk in the dark, so this one shouldn’t count).
Looking back on this list, the thought occurs to me that the victim in each of these scenarios was middle-aged or better when these occurred. Perhaps I should employ someone to follow me around and keep me from dying. Maybe that what sidekicks really are; professional spotters.
Just remember that when one of the Cunha boys says, “We had a little mishap,” that means someone nearly died.
Lacking a tradition of falling ass first into good things (except for that time in 1996 when I found a twenty dollar bill in a parking lot), I was surprised when my wife excitedly texted me this photo.
My two youngest were farting around in the river at the back of our property when they came across this rusty pistol. Knowing their father as well as they do, they decided to bring it home. If they expected to keep the pistol, they certainly didn’t mention it. I suspect they had visions of it finding a new home in their room. However, since I pay for the place, I get first dibs on keeping anything found there.
Whether it’s gold doubloons, a rusted shut pistol, Indian remains, or a unicorn, the rules are the same. Finders keepers; losers weepers…And Dad gets the really, really fun toys.
My wife continued to send me photos, and from what I could make out through the corrosion was a stamping “Western …” That clue and an understanding of firearm nomenclature was all I had to go on. So, I turned to my good friend Google. I don’t even remember anymore how we got along without the internet. I’ve blocked it out of my mind, it seems.
A little research revealed my kids aren’t exactly Mel Fisher. The pistol, clearly a single-action from the photos, is a Western Six in .22 caliber. These were no-frills pistols made from the 1960’s until the every early 1980’s. There is absolutely nothing fancy or collectible about them even in pristine condition. It’s what you call a “truck gun” in Texas; kept in the glove box of the car for those time you need to shoot something. They are small caliber, relatively quiet to shoot, effective without making a mess all over the place, and inexpensive enough that you don’t care if they get beat up or rusty. Depending on where you’re from and how you use it, some call it a “farm gun” or “trail gun.”
Whatever you call it, the idea is the same; simple, cheap, and effective. Those are my three favorite qualities in a tool.
I rushed home to inspect my prize. It was in worse condition that I imagined. Every nook and cranny was packed solid with river sediment and tiny stones. The entire length of the barrel, the cylinder chambers, and the whole cylinder gap were packed solid with the mire. Not surprisingly, the ejector rod spring and large chunks of its housing were eaten away. Nothing moved. The whole shebang was frozen up into a solid mass.
Those who know me can attest to my love of both firearms and a challenge. I resolved to bring this abomination back to life. Of course, I use that term very loosely. I would consider it a success to load a cartridge in each chamber and make it go bang six times in a row without losing my eyesight or needing medical attention.
To that end, I have embarked on a quest to find the nastiest, most powerful, rust removing, grease cutting, supremely caustic solvent that has ever existed. The sort of stuff that requires a prescription, an OSHA MSDS Safety Sheet, a permit from at least two Federal Government agencies, and a note from my mother.
The Home Depot and Lowes have failed me. Tractor Supply Company wasn’t much better. The best the O’Riley Auto Parts could offer me is a gallon of brake cleaning solvent. In desperation, I soaked the poor pistol in a Pyrex casserole dish full of urine. Let me tell you. It took some convincing to get my wife and kids to help with that one, but I managed it.
As the project stands right now, I have a rusted solid pistol that probably retailed, at most, for sixty dollars. I’ve already sunk close to that amount into trying to resurrect it. Plus an assortment of scrubbing pads, dental picks, and caustic liquids I normally have sitting around the garage. To purchase a brand new pistol of similar quality (when it was new) with the same form and function would be all of $120. I’m already halfway there, but that isn’t the point.
That’s not the point at all.
When I succeed in breathing life back into this little bitch (and believe me when I say that I will succeed, if it’s the last thing I do as I am hauled away from another “little mishap”), the pistol will be worth exactly…nothing.
Am I going to have to break down and buy a power washer to blow all this crap out? I mean, I’ll take any reason to buy a new tool, but then I’ll have to power wash every single thing outside to fully justify the purchase.
So, before I go off to purchase one more tool of questionable necessity, can you kind folks leave comments with your suggestions on how the get all this river gunk out the clockwork of my pistol? The second option is to mount it to a plaque with the inscription “The only pistol dug out of a river bank in the southern United States that was NOT owned by Jesse James.”
But that will only serve as a reminder of defeat. And I don’t like to lose.