Written by Marc Kelley
As I have gotten older, life’s pleasures have become simpler, but far more cherished. Forty years ago when we moved into our home in Billings, we were the young people in a neighborhood filled with retired residents and very few children. Rarely a day would pass in which I would not exchange casual hello’s, or a simple wave with Mr. Woods, the old man who lived next door. Over the years I learned Mr. Woods was a retired Fireman, who brewed his own beer, enjoyed tobacco in all of its forms, and loved to dress up at Halloween to scare the kids, only then to fill their pillowcases with candy.
Over the years the quiet neighborhood has experienced a great deal of change. As the older folks passed away and their homes were sold or rented, the streets became busier, a little less safe, and the days of knowing everyone on the block slowly faded away. The neighborly waves and smiles were replaced by anonymous faces which neither spoke, nor acknowledged the community in which they were living. Then COVID hit, and once again the neighborhood changed. People who were not working and had become fed up with staring at the four walls of their homes, began sitting outside on their porches, smelling the fresh air, and enjoying the warm sun on their faces. People who had never spoken to one another, slowly began conversing with neighbors, feeling safe from the distance which the street provided.
Once again, we began to speak to one another, check on each other, and exchange the small talk once believed to be lost to a forgotten time, and replaced by the insidious text message. Of course the kids were not in school during COVID and they were unable to see their friends, so they too began seeking the company of others living within a few doors of home. Older kids began including the younger kids, throwing a football, riding their skateboards, and of course regaling their new found friends with their latest video game exploits. I was now the old man sitting on my porch, drinking coffee, and observing the next generation as they struggled to gain their own identity. And just as kids do, they slowly found the courage to say hello, tell me their names, and ask in return for mine. They became comfortable talking to me and I enjoyed knowing where each child lived and the things they enjoyed doing.
|As the COVID panic slowly passed and life began its new normal, the kids continued to play with their new found friends in the neighborhood. It was not long before people once again felt comfortable gathering and socializing. Human beings are social by nature and the effects of the lockdowns had taken a real toll on far too many of our friends and family. Believing in the concept of offering solutions to a problem rather than dwelling on all of the reasons not to act, we began to talk about what we could do to help the situation. As the weather warmed and more and more people ventured out, we agreed, what everyone needed was a chance and a reason to come together, and find the company of others, which had been absent for far too long. |
Recognizing this as the first opportunity to hold an event for the people who had supported Marc Arms throughout the pandemic, we set about our planning. An opportunity to say thank you and acknowledge as scary as COVID was, we would not let that fear rule our actions. We held the First Annual Marc Arms Swap Meet & BBQ and I made a special point of telling the kids in the neighborhood to ask their parents if they could stop by and get a hotdog and a soda. When the day of the event arrived and people began showing up, so did the kids, many with their parents in tow.
|Perhaps it was learning that I was a retired nurse, or after conversing with many of the people who had come to the event, the neighborhood perception of who I was and what I do for a living began to change. Virtually overnight the neighborhood perception changed from my being the grumpy old man who owns too many guns, and flies an American Flag in my front yard, to a fellow human being, who loves our country and the freedoms we enjoy. As the neighbors stopped by to say thank you, I told them stories about the people who first lived in the structures they now call home, who they were, how they lived, and how they loved the neighborhood.|
|As I told stories I noticed a young man of about ten talking with his Mom, then looking over at me, then turning to talk with her again. Finally I heard her tell him, “well go ask him, it’s alright, he’ll talk to you.” The boy walked straight up to me and said “do you know what a FAL rifle is? I like to play Call of Duty and I always use the FAL when I play”. Clearly the boy had an interest in learning more about the rifle and believing knowledge should be passed from one generation to the next, I responded. “Yes sir, I do know a little bit about that rifle, would you like me to tell you about it?” As the young boy and his Mother sat in the shop I explained the FAL is a military rifle designed to fight the Russians during the Cold War. |
I went on to tell the boy about how the rifle worked and about its rich history fighting for freedom around the world. I explained the rifle was known as, “The Right Arm of The Free World” and how it has been used In over 90 countries around the globe by people defending their freedom from those who wanted to take it from them. I explained to the boy how guns are neither good nor bad, but rather they are simply tool’s which must be respected and never be considered to be a toy.
|When I had finished telling the boy about his beloved FAL, his Mother spoke up. “Thank you for taking time to teach my son about the rifle, he loves “Call of Duty,” and I never realized he could learn history from playing that game. You have not only taught my son more about guns than I ever could, you taught me to see them in a different light. You are right… guns are neither good nor bad and what is important is the person using it”.|
|Guns speak a universal language and depending upon your point of view, it is easy to fall into the trap of repeating the talking points so readily polished by the liberal media who in reality, know nothing more about firearms, than they do of history. As our world becomes ever increasingly violent, the cries of “we have a gun problem in our country” become more and more frequent. This statement, in and of itself is based on the flawed premise, the person behind the gun is not the problem, but rather the problem is the gun itself. Unless we are willing to invest our time and teach our children about gun safety and the history guns have played in our country, nothing will change, and we will continue to mourn the loss of innocent lives. If we take the time to teach our kids about guns and instill in them the respect firearms demand, we can slowly begin to change the damage brought about by the cesspool of Social Media and the psychological destruction of our most precious resource. |
These things I believe with all of my heart… but, who am I to say… I’m just an old man… sitting on his porch… drinking coffee… and watching the world go by.