The Memsaab Speaks


It’s second-cuppa coffee time here at home, so if my time zone calculations are accurate, that man is probably crouched by a tiny spark spitting fire, looking like a bear dressed in dirty bed linens, surrounded by similarly attired tribesmen averaging four shades darker, 10″ shorter and 80 pounds lighter. I know in my heart who “the life of the party” is, flailing his arms and filling in his gaps in the local language with wild gestures, donkey-laughs, grunts, hoots and whistles. He’s cracking them up, whether they understand him or not. I’ve seen it; I know. And that’s especially true if shots have been fired. I know my man.

When it became obvious he couldn’t file his column from West WhereZitStan or whatever, His Editorship suggested I write it, by answering some emails from you folks, asking questions about me. I’ve turned down his requests for photos so often, I couldn’t refuse this, so — here goes:

First, my name — Helena — is pronounced Hell-eh-nuh, not Heh-LEE-na. As my five brothers point out, “The emphasis is on Hell.” And I wasn’t named for any Greek goddess, but rather for a wind-scoured high plains town near which my parents raised rangy half-wild beef cattle, hard red winter wheat and rangy, half-wild red-headed kids.

As for the “memsaab” title, some say I “brought it home from Africa,” like some kind of souvenir. That’s wrong. It feels more like Africa laid it on me, like a tribal mark; like a symbol of possession. If that’s true, well — it worked. Africa forever owns a piece of me.

Some people go to Africa and look at it. Others go, and Africa looks at them; washes over them; breathes light and dust, smoke and shrieks and sun-baked silence into them; then whispers, “Welcome home, child. This is the tree where man was born. Go run now, and take care — there is beauty and danger everywhere.”

For me, Africa is central Wyoming with wildebeest; eastern Idaho with elephants; Nevada’s Great Basin with nomads and gazelle. Home.

Guns, Tools & Attitudes

You’ve asked about my attitudes on guns and self-defense, and it’s like this: I grew up knowing guns are tools, and just like a band saw, block-and-tackle, or a quarter-million dollar combine, you must recognize and respect their place in life, their potential for damage — and be skilled with them. If my kids or my mate are ever hurt, it won’t be because of my failure to act, period. Besides, I just love a good gun, simple as that.

I shoot a lot of guns, but I train hard with only two; identical 1911’s. Like Connor says, “The best spare part is a spare piece,” and I figure, the fewer kinks and loops between brain, sights and index finger, the better. On self-defense? It’s a God-given right that man has no business legislating against. Clear?

I never knew adults played “let’s pretend” until I went off to college in the city. You can’t pretend the wheat doesn’t have head blight, a cow doesn’t have blackleg, or that predators — two-legged or four — don’t prey. You can maneuver away from some trouble, but threats have to be dealt with head-on. The Rockies, reinforced by Africa, taught me food doesn’t come from supermarkets, nor justice from courts and safety doesn’t pour from police stations. These are “follow-ons to fundamentals.” You, your values, your skills, courage and tools — those are the fundamentals.

Honor, Humor & History

Several of you have asked — kiddingly, I presume — how I could love that man Connor. Simple: He’s a man of honor, a child of humor and a student of history. He lives by six simple rules, which he’ll die before violating. I know them by heart; he lives them by deeds. They have nothing to do with lawbooks and everything to do with responsibility and integrity. Sometimes they’re inconvenient, sometimes harshly demanding. It doesn’t matter — he follows them. Maybe he’ll share them with you someday.

The child of humor can — and will — find something to laugh about in any situation, and he won’t stop until you’re laughing too — especially if things are deep, dark and serious. You’ve read his stuff, right? Here’s a CAT-scan slice of how his demented mind works: He seriously wanted to give our kids the middle names “Danger” and “Trouble.” That way, all their lives, when faced with tough, even grave times, they could stiffen their spines, twist a crooked smile, and say, “Danger? Danger’s my middle name!” or, “Trouble? My middle name is Trouble, mister!”

His mom and I overruled him, and sometimes we’re sorry about that. The kids say it anyway, so he really won, didn’t he?

He studies history constantly — ancient, modern, and as-it’s-happening, and he examines it on a global, societal and very personal level. He points out that for the first 80-percent of world history, life on earth was dominated by weird, icky, sometimes toxic pond scum — then adds, “That’s still the case today in a lotta places, only the pond scum wears Armani suits.” I know of two times his life was saved by remembering Napoleon’s quote, “Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.” In the here-and-now, he often stops me when my steam valve is about to blow, and gently, firmly reminds me, “Baby, we’re writing our history today — How do you want it to read?” Every true redhead needs a John Connor around, I think.

So — let’s say your mate is a selfdescribed shaved ape; an admitted “brutish Neanderthal” — but you know exactly where he stands in his head and heart, 24/7, and that’s right beside you; what his rules are; the duties he will always carry out, and the lines he will never, ever cross, regardless of cost or sacrifice; who honestly believes his ancestors are looking down on everything he does — and judging him as a man — and then, he can make you laugh?

What more could you ask? I’ll tell you. A hammering at the door, followed by a turn of the deadbolt, and a deep voice bellowing something like, “Baby! Don’t pay the ransom! I escaped from the killer Gypsies!” He cracks himself up, too. That’s my man.

Memsaab OUT