Dave McBride: Guns were never part of my welfare – messenger-inquirer


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I can count the times on two fingers when I ventured into the world of fishing. And I can use two fingers less than that when I took a gun in hand and went hunting.

That’s where I stood with weapons when I joined the U.S. Navy in 1951. While the hand variety of guns were not that important on the agenda of an average sailor, there were those times when we were exposed to a little target shooting.

Needless to say, I didn’t fare that well.

The proof and embarrassment of that lack of gunnery experience came on two occasions while I was stationed at the U.S. Naval Air Station near Jacksonville, Florida.

At one point during that two-year tour of duty, I was temporarily assigned to the Mayport Naval Base, a former U.S. Coast Guard facility during World War II. It was the job of several of us to help convert that base to acceptable occupancy by the Navy.

Some months later and back at my regular job at the Naval Air Station, I was again assigned to another need at Mayport.

All we were told was that a plane was going to land at Mayport’s one airstrip and part of its cargo would be transferred to a waiting ship and that armed guards would be needed to circle the landing area during the operation.

Unfortunately, I was one of those appointed guards and a .45 caliber pistol would become part of my attire.

Walking along my assigned area around the airstrip, I suddenly heard the sound of an approaching plane. And that’s when I looked down and saw that I was about to step on a deadly-looking snake.

Without using a lot of common sense I pulled that gun from its holster and quickly fired two rounds. Within seconds two Jeeps loaded with heavily-armed military personnel hurried to where I was standing and demanded my reason for shooting my gun.

“It was a snake,” I said. “It was a snake.”

“A snake?” they yelled in unison.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m just afraid of two kinds of snakes.”

“What two?” one of the military guys sarcastically asked.

“Big ones and little ones,” I answered.

Later I was standing overnight guard at a large storage facility some distance from the base. Several large buildings were involved and it was my job to see that they remained unbothered.

It was a scary sort of a night in that area all by myself and a nearby storm was accompanied by some thunder and lightning.

Cautiously walking in front of one of the buildings with a large gaited door, a large cat suddenly jumped out in front of me and I again grabbed a .45 caliber pistol I was carrying and fired two shots.

Naturally, I missed the blasted cat but I didn’t miss what I was later told was an empty table used to store motor oil. The joker that said it was a jet engine container only wanted to compound my worry over the two bullet holes.

Regardless, I was stripped of my gun-toting duties in the U.S. Navy and restricted to my regular job in the supply department.

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