One day back in 1987, I walked into High School carrying a 12 gauge shotgun. There was no fanfare. No shrieking, no lock down, and no one called 911. I didn’t get arrested or go crazy. No one really cared. The biggest problem we had was trying to fit it into my locker. If I remember correctly, we made it work by placing my locker partner’s trombone on top of the lockers just for that day. Just for the record and kudos … his name was Chris Shutts, currently serving in Afghanistan. Thanks Chris.
At this point you might wonder. How could this be? What would posses me to enter the hallowed halls of public school heavily armed? Why did no one react to protect the other stone-washed teens? Here’s why. Guns were part of our lives.
Almost every guy I knew had a shotgun in his trunk or behind the seat of his truck. Why? Too many hours watching the original Red Dawn? No, it was in case we found something we wanted to shoot on the way to school of course. I’m not kidding. What if you were on your way to school and you spotted a beautiful ring-necked pheasant skulking through the ditch? Slam on the brakes; grab your trusty scattergun and bam, prairie chicken for dinner. One time on the way to school, I bagged a plump raccoon sitting on a snow drift. I think he might have waved at me, but that’s another story. Raccoon’s brought $30 back in the day.
I swaggered into school with my weapon for one reason alone. It was because I was deathly afraid to speak in public. No I’m not kidding. At Grinnell High School we were cruelly forced to give speeches up in front of our classmates. Sounds awful doesn’t it? Well it was. This particular oration was to be the infamous “How to” speech, which means you had to teach your audience “How to” do something. Oh what to do? After agonizing over this for many hours I landed on my answer. How to give a “How to” speech and not puke on my classmates involved the one thing I was comfortable with, my shotgun.
I turned in an outline and Mr. Snyder approved it. “How to load a shotgun,” by Steve Sherman. The awful day had come. I didn’t just bring the gun to school, I brought the ammo too, probably eight shot, but I can’t remember exactly. The time came for the actual speech. I was nervous. Beyond nervous, irrational fear gripped my mind. I thought of skipping out, but I didn’t.
Sweat beaded on my forehead as I weaved down the halls with my books in one hand, my shotgun the other. I waited my turn as other people gave speeches on how to do laundry or how to bake really awesome cookies. I almost ruined my notes as I continued to frantically read over them. Suddenly, it was my turn. Back then, I didn’t pray much, but I should have right then. It would have gone something like this: Please God, I beg you don’t let me look like an idiot. You know there are girls in this class, please help me!
I stared back at my classmates as my throat had turned into the…