Saturday 15 December 2012

Childhood: My dread of guns

My gun history
I have had my day with the gun, handled one a few times and had a few pointed at me with menace. When I handled a gun, I was a child, hardly 9 and fascinated by the experience.
The time the guns were pointed at me, armed robbers had entered my home and we were under threat of getting shot before the armed robber in charge - they had ranks - dissuaded his troop because we had cooperated in their enterprise to willingly give up our things, albeit under duress.
We have lived to tell the tale, 24 years on.
Rayfield, a field of dreams
However, back to the childhood experience, we lived in Rayfield, a suburb of Jos and an almost relic of its colonial past where the Amalgamated Tin Mines of Nigeria had its headquarters.
Our house was an imposing white bungalow with 4 bedrooms and acreage of land where cattle grazed tended by nomadic tribes, with 13 mango trees producing different varieties, a fig tree, a guava tree, a cashew tree, a thorny lemon tree and much else, it is was almost too idyllic for reality.
The other family
Down the back dirt road beyond the tennis courts where my dad played and the golf course, a sport my dad never took up though he had the kit was another family where I went to play sometimes.
The kids were much older though when one of them arrived in my class we all laughed at his rather poor grasp of English; it just never occurred to us that anyone could speak English that badly.
The eldest was imposing, tall, handsome and smart, when we played family games, I always chose him as my father, the feelings are almost too silly to recount but that was how it was.
Guns for play
I never asked what might have happened to their mother but their father was a lawyer and he had a gun, it was a rifle, probably just over a yard long and it was loaded with pellet shot.
There was a big tree in front of their house and just at about the 6 feet height, the tree trunk branched out into a perfect Y and that is where we placed a tin can for target practice.
He sat on the steps in front of the house about 20 yards from the tree and held the gun for us because it was a bit heavy to keep steady; we then found the range and pulled the trigger. Having taken a few instructions from him, we were quite good at hitting the tin.
The memory that lingered
The last time I remember handling the gun is like a picture in my mind that has never faded and I do have some pictures like that from my distant childhood that prominently gets replayed like I am going through an old family album.
Everything was set as we usually did and there were more people at the house because there was a party and this was probably part of the entertainment, the fascination with guns.
It was my turn to shoot and confidently, I sought the target and pulled the trigger hitting the tin again but something was wrong with that arrangement especially with the adult supervision we supposedly had and the many children around the house.
My vivid mind with the sometimes dangerous ability to process more than is necessary rolled back the time to just before I pulled the trigger; there was a girl standing just below the tin; a poor aim, a distraction or some scatter shot and it would have been an entirely different story.
No toy at all
My world stopped and the burden of a fate unimaginable consumed my 9-year old mind, I never touched a real gun ever since even when I had opportunity and legal access to handle one.
The girl I remember quite well, she contacted me a few years ago after she read one of my other childhood recollections, I am glad she did and I doubt she realised how our lives could have been changed too radically to contemplate.
In my experience, I learnt enough about guns to know they are not toys no matter how much we like to toy with them.

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