Having a police badge had given me the privilege to call up people I didn’t know. All I had had to do was tell them, either when I reached them by voice or by leaving a message tucked away on their telephone answering system which may or may not have notified them instantaneously of my calling them, that I had had a wish to speak. Whether I had placed a telephone call to the proprietor of a saloon or an atavistic candy store filled with bonbons, or to a suspected chimney burglar, it made no difference at all to me. Over the years I rose in rank, retired, and spent afternoons working as a landscape laborer, raking the lawns of neighbors as a hired hand. My pension was never spent, never exhausted, and when the catarrh hit me I was as much surprised as anyone. The denouement was quick. In just weeks I was chewing on food as though it were ashes and gravel. Several rifles with painted white stocks fired their bullets high at an angle to commemorate me. At the outskirts of the funeral service was a man I had once warned decades prior and a woman together, standing arm and arm, who had telephoned the station and been connected to me in a panic once, with thin but empty smiles on their faces now.
No doubt the gun he held had killed Abe Lincoln. And no doubt he had expected to be seen a hero by the world, at least some part of it. And no doubt later on he was under a barn burned. But when I pull up in my 4 X 4 just south of Tucson, it hardly means that I am the legacy of that, when I fill up my truck and walk in to pay Angel with my silver handle shining publicly in my holster. You might think I’m some dumb-ass redneck with a mission to kill, some overcompensating dysfunctional rooster who’s got to wear a hard piece instead below his belt. Or you might think I’m symbolically representing some overreaching constitutional right about not having to house a pack of British soldiers in my own house, against my will. You could go on and think I’m some bigot, or a racist, or an anti-American communist. The dialectic of political and politicized nonsense goes two ways, friends. You can watch almost every day the militarized arms of government gun down poor folk in nearly every major city. And you can howl and yowl all you wish against the NRA. Talk like that is just two more dogs barking across the same river. I’ve open carried all my life. It’s like a moniker. A hat. A pair of boots. A gun. At times maybe even a toothpick in my teeth. These things, these are all part of my custom and my costume, my civilian uniform, if you will. The po po have theirs, and I have mine. Someday, if the boys in blue put down their steel and Lexan visors and wear tall furry black bearskin caps, someday if they dress like bobbies and pace about Detroit, Miami, and New York just dangling a wooden truncheon, then I’ll perhaps change my own set of street clothes, too. For me, until then, ever since I’ve been a man it’s just been the way I have chosen to dress mostly, how to represent my own person as my own sort of character the way I want to see him walking down the sidewalk, headed down main street, or with a twenty dollar bill in hand walking from the pumps into the filling station to give what I owe for gas. I don’t mean and never meant to harm anybody. Heck, if I had wanted to, I could have dressed the part with a flouncy tutu and a baton and gone about as a hirsute majorette, trumped myself up as a brass-buttoned drum major with a whistle on a lanyard, or with a snappy polka-dotted bow tie tightened at the collar have connoted a differently slanted political way of thinking, the way one can be almost anything themselves here in everyday life, here in our wide, wide land of liberty, and is free to do without being harassed or jailed or arrested as aberrant. Me, from that, I’m really no different.