Thursday, May 15, 2008

Annie Get Your Gun: The Grim Side of Running a Home

In every country I have traveled to, the first question I am asked is, "Where are you from?" When I answer, "Texas," the next question is often, "Does every Texan have a gun?" The truth is, this Texan does.

Years ago in another life, before Tall Husband, I was the wife of a U.S. Army officer and was often alone with two small children. This story began one night when we were living in Columbus, Georgia near Fort Benning. I was awakened by the smell of cigarette smoke in the house. I was terrified as I quietly checked on my sleeping children. I realized the smoke must be coming from the basement. The next morning, police found cigarette butts in the basement. They informed me that there were no signs of forced entry and that the intruder had ripped out the exterior light at the basement door. The police could never catch the smoker. Changing locks, replacing lights, later getting a dog, nothing deterred this guy.

After sleepless nights of laying awake smelling cigarettes, I relented to friends' insistence that I have a gun. It was agreed that my best friend's husband, Major G would select a gun and train me. He was responsible for training army personnel to handle weapons and headed a team of men who traveled the world giving exhibitions. I had seen Major G, at an exhibition, fire a pistol at an ax that had a playing card affixed on either side. The bullet split in two and hit the center of each card.

Not only did Major G train me to fire the gun, he taught me to speed load so that I did not have a loaded gun in the house with my children. The gun and bullets were kept in different locations. (The children were never told about the gun.) We rearranged my bedroom so that I had a vantage point where I was not immediately visible to an intruder walking into the bedroom. From that vantage point, I was to squat with the weapon pointed downward, identify the person as a stranger, then aim for the middle of the chest and shoot to kill. No holding at gunpoint, no conversation, no warnings. Other preparations: leave the hall light on so that the intruder's eyes would have to adjust to the darkness of the next room he entered. Never yell out, "who's there?" You give your location away by doing so. Never go through the house looking for an intruder, let him come to you. Watch shadows, be very quiet, smell the air and listen.

One night, after hearing my dog's aborted bark from the basement, I sat for three hours in my vantage spot, smelling cigarette smoke wafting up from the basement and wondering why Coco wasn't making a sound. At daybreak, I ventured into the basement and found my dog unresponsive. After examining Coco, my veterinarian said the dog had been shot with a tranquilizer.

The following night a neighbor called to tell me someone was parked on the corner, watching my house and smoking. After I telephoned the police, I went to a dark window with army binoculars. He was alone, looked to be thirty something and continued to smoke his cigarette. When the search light of the police car illuminated the interior of his car I could see he was not a person known to me. He showed the two police officers something, as they approached. They cut their lights and continued to speak with him. He remained in the car and then for some unexplained reason their conversation turned casual. While I could not hear their words, I could hear the casual tone and their laughter. Then the smoker drove away. After the police officers rang my doorbell, they assured me that I was safe and that the disturbance was caused by two teenagers who were "necking." One officer went so far as to say that he knew the boy's dad and would have a talk with him.

I looked the officer in the eye and said, "Tell him I have gun and I am trained to use it."

The smoker never returned after that night. I heard some years later that Major G was recruited by Interpol. The children are grown. I still watch shadows, listen and smell the air.


  1. Wow, ok that has me a tad freaked out. I'm an Army wife, living on Fort Benning with a small child. We did have some weirdo wandering through post and I kept a baseball bat nearby (I have a wicked swing) because we don't have a gun. Luckily we have a small house with no where to hide inside. I'm glad you were safe and glad that we were safe while my hubby was deployed.

    PS. We're from Houston too!