As I’m travelling across this great country of ours I have had the pleasure to have spent the past few days in the West (east of California west). Following the Zimmerman trial on the radio and not trying to spit up my coffee as I hear anti-gun correspondents claiming that Zimmerman should have used a pen like a ninja in order to protect his life, I started thinking about John Bernard Books.
For those of you who may not know, JB Books was the main protagonist in the 1976 movie, The Shootist, starring John Wayne. In it, Books tells a young Gillom Rogers, played by a young Ron Howard, a few truths that more people should live by.
First, there was the code that JB Books lived by:
I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.
There are so many instances when the golden rule being applied could have prevent violence from bar fights to wars.
Secondly, there was the reality Books told Gillom about a gunfight and how shooting at a piece of paper may not prepare you to face the real thing.
“Gillom Rogers: [Books is giving Gillom a shooting lesson] Mr. Books, How is it you’ve killed so many men? My spread wasn’t much bigger than yours.
John Bernard Books: First of all,friend, there’s no one up there shooting back at you. Second, I found most men aren’t willing, they bat an eye, or draw a breath before they shoot. I won’t.”
This hearkens back to the advice I was giving long ago. If you pull your gun be prepared to use it and committed to accepting what doing so means. Pulling a gun should only happen when it is required, but WHEN it is required time for soul searching or philosophical debate with yourself must be at an end lest you end up getting yourself killed.
Finally, Gillom thinks he knows enough to challege the wisdom of the grizzly old gun fighter by throwing some nonsense he heard around town at Books:
Gillom Rogers: Bat Masterson told Cobb…
John Bernard Books: [Interrupts] Bat Masterson?
Gillom Rogers: Yeah, he said that a man has to have guts, deliberation and a proficiency with fire arms.
John Bernard Books: Did he mention that third eye you better have?
Gillom Rogers: Third eye?
John Bernard Books: For that dumbass amateur. There’s always some six-fingered bustard that couldn’t hit a cow in the tit with a tin cup. That’s the one who usually does you in. But Masterson always was full of… sheep-dip.
I laugh when I think of all the times I hear gun grabbers and hoplophobes cry out about the gun rights legislation leading to “The Wild West” where there are showdowns at high noon and everyone will become characters out of a spaghetti western or dime store novel.
The Old West wasn’t like the movies or the novels and using them as a point of reference is like using old episodes of Hogan’s Heroes to describe what German prison camps were like in World War II.
Furthermore, JB Books assessment of Masterson touches on a good point. Masterson is speaking in an academic voice that one would expect in a textbook. Much like an “expert” can tell you how you can use a pen to defend yourself. JB is speaking of how the real world works, how the best laid plans are worthless the minute the bullets start flying and you have to do the best you can.
When faced with a life or death moment, it’s all any of us can do.