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Friday, April 30, 2004
“The sport of hunting is an ancient and honorable activity. Nowadays few people get their food by hunting. It is a wholesome recreation… physically stimulating and full of thrills and excitement. The fun in hunting comes as much from enjoyment of nature and the satisfaction of handling guns skillfully as it does from getting a full bag.” - NRA Hunting Safety Handbook © 1957


It was just trying to be honorable. I only wanted a little physical stimulation and maybe some thrills and a bit of excitement. So my friend, Jimmy, and I went out to the desert to do us a little shooting.

We drove out to the middle of nowhere which, as it turned out, was actually still just inside the city limits of Avondale, AZ. Like anybody can tell the difference out there. I mean, come on… It’s Avondale, for chrissake!

So we’re in a river bottom, picking off some cans and bottles and I’m doing real well. I’m hitting at least 80% of what I aim for. Gunplay is kind of like riding a bicycle - once you learn how, you never forget. And I did my fair share of shooting as a youngster. So, like I said, I’m doing real well… until the SWAT team comes over the hill.

Not much crime in Avondale, evidently, as half the force showed up to catch themselves a couple of gun-toting city slickers. They had their assault rifles aimed and pistols drawn just in case, you know, we turned out to be unsavory criminal-types just itching for a fight.

“Spread your arms and get on the ground, or we’ll blow your fucking heads off!”

Now I don’t know about you, but if I had to come up with a list of the “Top Ten Things You Never Want to Hear on a Sunday Afternoon”, that phrase would rank pretty high up on the list.

We were arrested, it was the same old story… You’re out participating in some wholesome recreation and the next thing you know you’re facing a class-six felony for “discharging a weapon within city limits.”

This was pretty much the point at which Jimmy started using the word “sir” a lot. With the exception of old army movies, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used quite that frequently

We soon found ourselves in the heart of Avondale proper, in separate holding cells at Police HQ.

At some point, Jimmy later told me he heard two cops talking outside his room and one said to the other, “Neither of these guys have criminal records. What are we suppose to do with them?”

Apparently, even with years of training and all that high-tech equipment at their disposal, there are still some crimes that leave the police completely baffled.

We were quickly processed and they cut us loose. On the way out, as I headed down the hall, I asked two cops standing there if there was a public restroom because, as I said to them, “the last thing I need now is to get arrested for urinating in public.” The younger of the two laughed and pointed to a door down the hall. The older, more grizzled, cop was not so amused but then, with so many years on the force, he’s probably heard that line like a million times.

As we exited Police HQ, one of the officers offered to give us a ride back to the car. The police are nothing if not courteous in Avondale, if you’re able to overlook that whole “we’ll blow your fucking heads off” thing.

A few weeks later, we went to our preliminary hearing. The felony had been knocked down to a misdemeanor before we even walked in the door and both of us were now facing six months in jail or up to $2500 in fines. I told the prosecutor I couldn’t afford a lawyer, so would a public defender be provided? He responded that Avondale only provides one once you go to jail, which told me the city wouldn’t be paying to house and feed us any time soon either, it just wanted money. Meanwhile, Jimmy sat there doing the best damn “deer caught in the highlights” impression I have ever seen.

A court date was set. A month later, we talked to the prosecutor and made a deal. About one fourth of the maximum fine with no jail time. And Jimmy had to forfeit the weapon.

To finalize things, we went before a judge. While we were waiting in the court room, a couple of other cases were heard.

The first involved a kid with the Squeakiest Shoes Ever. Before he even walked through the court room doors, we heard him coming. In fact, everybody heard him coming. I don’t know what crime he committed but, with those shoes, it’s not too hard to guess how he got caught. That poor shmuck.

The other case involved a woman arrested for shoplifting. She had stolen a candy bar from the grocery store. The woman had put a few pounds on over the years so if I had any advice for her, it would be this: Next time, lady, try stealing a salad. She was fined $365 for shoplifting. One can only hope the candy in question was a $100,000 Bar.

After talking to the judge, I worked out a payment plan with the court clerk. It’s kind of like making car payments each month, except if you miss a payment it isn’t your car they repossess it’s your life. Other than that, it’s exactly like a car payment.

On the drive home, Jimmy and I passed a billboard for “Shooter’s World”, advertising a big gun sale the following weekend. I suggested to Jimmy that he might want to check it out since he didn’t have a gun anymore. We laughed at my moment of levity and our shared misfortune and marveled at how we had bonded since spending time in the pokey together.

And now we spend our time engaging in less thrilling and exciting wholesome recreational activities.

posted by Pete 6:43 AM