It was Ms Keogh's introduction to the United States
of America. Her father, Professor Frank Keogh, a
renowned theoretical mathematician, was bringing his
family to America because he was offered a research
grant through the National Science Foundation. The
year was 1965, an era commonly known in Britain as
the "brain drain", and Ms Keogh, his
daughter, my eventual wife, was all of twelve years
They arrived into Dulles Airport in the autumn of
that year, were between planes, waiting for a flight
to Lexington, Kentucky. My young Ms Keogh went
wandering from her family to begin exploring this new
land, toting a red TWA bag. Full of wonder and awe,
she saw a uniformed officer, either an airport
security guard or policeman, and to her utter
astonishment, he seemed to be wearing a holster and
gun! Back home, in Britain, the bobbies didn't carry
guns. The gun hypnotized her. She had walked up to
it, staring, gawking, when the officer yelled at her,
"What are you looking at?" She stumbled
backwards, quite startled. Bobbies never yelled at
twelve-year-old girls. They were always courteous.
"Is that a real gun?" my prepubescent
"Yeah! And I'll blow yer head off if you don't
get outta here." For a moment, Ms Keogh was
aghast, frozen in fear. Bobbies were never hostile.
Bobbies were kind, informative, and always eager to
offer assistance. Ms Keogh turned and ran.
It is thirty-nine years later and Ms Keogh's baby boy
is just such a guard, wearing a uniform and strapped
with a sidearm, but most assuredly better mannered. I
don't know the details of his job. He tells me,
"I can't give you too much info; military is
kind of weird on that." He works at the Boone
National Guard Center as a Military Security
Specialist, has been on Homeland Defense orders since
October 2001. He is qualified with a sidearm annually
and he is also a healthcare specialist with his
National Guard unit. I'm very proud of him. I just
wish his Commander in Chief were more humane and
Ms Keogh and I, with our daughter and grandson,
departed late on Friday, driving through the night to
cover the 675 miles that separate us from our son. We
intended to spend a short weekend visiting with him
and his family. I had to be back at work the first
thing Monday morning. On the occasion of this visit,
he invited his mother to go target shooting with him.
To my astonishment, she accepted.
The invitation extended to me. In all the time I knew
my son growing up, he wanted to go shooting with me.
It was always a good idea, but I never made the time
for it. He was a willful and reckless boy, but not
"bad". I had convinced myself it would be
too much work to get him to handle such a dangerous
item with enough respect. The shame is all mine. His
desire was stronger than I realized and I should have
made a little effort to appease it.
I had grown up with guns and rifles and swords and
knives. My father was a collector, but my father's
enthusiasm didn't pass down to me, and I failed to
appreciate and support my son's enthusiasm. His
mother hated weapons of any kind and didn't even want
her son playing with toy guns. Meanwhile, I could
always think of something else I'd rather do than
arrange to go shooting with my boy. It is only now
that I can see more clearly how important and special
it would have been for him.
Before we went to the firing range, our son took out
his two handguns to introduce gun safety to his
mother. "Are you going to watch to make sure he
does it right," she asked me out of earshot.
I watched and listened closely as he introduced her,
and me, to his small Kahr K9 Elite. The pistol was
only six inches long, a stainless steel
semi-automatic that spits 9mm bullets. What made it
particularly interesting, although it meant little to
his mother, was that this gun was double-actioned,
yet it had no hammer, not even a visible firing pin.
Next he showed her a Ruger 22/45. This second handgun
is supposed to replicate the feel of a 1911 Model 45,
the traditional sidearm of the U. S. military, but
instead of using .45-caliber bullets, it employed the
less expensive and very much tinier .22 cartridge.
His lesson on safety was outstanding, better than I
could have ever done. And off we went to the
Bluegrass Indoor Range.
We had entered the firing range and at the first
shot, even though she had ear protection on, Ms Keogh
jumped back startled from the unexpected loudness in
those close quarters. For a moment she was shaking,
but then she laughed.
It has been a long time since I've shot firearms and
I was a little afraid of embarrassing myself, like
not knowing how to take the safety off, or missing
the target altogether. Has it been over thirty-five
years since I went skeet shooting with my father? I
was always a good shot. There was even talk of
entering me into contests. On one occasion, shooting
trap on a private range near Fort Dix, I beat out an
Olympic champion and won the turkey. Still, I never
felt serious about the sport. I didn't embarrass
myself. Nor did Ms Keogh.
We shot at round targets hanging twenty-five feet
away. She refused to allow us to use the targets with
human silhouettes. Her very first shot from the Ruger
was just outside the black, then she emptied the
remainder of the magazine into the black circle. I
know, because she saved her targets, and brought them
over to me to aid my memory as I wrote this essay.
"You know, Bruce," she said to me, "he
didn't invite me. I asked him to take me