Unlikely Allies?


Warm day, blue skies, and that meant a crowded range. The small bays were all taken and we had to use the long line; any-centerfire, targets from 15 to 100 yards; mixed clots of sunshine shooters. As more shooters arrived, we couldn’t help noticing they avoided the half-dozen “illustrated kids” one position away from us.

You’ve seen ’em: 20’s to maybe early 30’s, lavishly tattooed, some multicolor punked-up hair, a smattering of facial hardware, dressed kinda like Ukrainian circus performers dragged through an Army-Navy surplus store. Neo-Retro-Metro-Post-Apocalyptic Industrial? Okay; I exaggerate a little, but you know what I mean, right? And along with the leathers and tats, also wearing a little attitude, like “We see you lookin’ at us like freaks. What’s your problem?” I ignored ’em. Obey range rules, don’t muzzle-sweep me and we’re all good. But Uncle John was watchin’ ’em.

Four guys, two girls, taking turns with a worn-shiny AK, a couple of Euro-pistols and an old Smith Model 10; pawn-shop poppers, and having problems with one pistol. When the buzzer sounded to clear and bench guns for target changes Uncle John said, “Stay. Wait ’til I wave you over. VZ, take off your jacket.” They tensed and looked up suspiciously as he approached. He stopped, raised one hand palm-out, and deadpanned “Klaatu barada nikto — I come in peace.” That unbalanced ’em for a moment — and me too. Then their lead dog popped a big smile.

“Yeah, from the movie, right? The Day the Earth Stood Still?” The instant he smiled, Uncle John stuck out his mitt for a handshake, and the kid reflexively took it. Good psych move. You could hear the ice crackin’ and the whole group warmed right up. In five seconds he had ’em, explaining “You don’t have a pistol problem, you got a magazine problem,” holding them side-by-side. “See the lips? Run this one, toss and replace this one; it’s junk.” In 30 seconds, they had a new uncle. He waved us over.

Another psych move: We’re not very warm-and-fuzzy lookin’, and at seven feet-plus, VZ flat scares the kapok outta people. But he does have a colorful collection of tattooed dragons; classic Asian dragons on the right arm, European dragons on the left. Ten seconds and he’s explaining, “Zo, ven I point mine nose Norrss, left arm iz Vest, right arm iz East, for za dragons, you know?” And they’re eatin’ it up, especially the chick with the purple stripe in her hair, goin’ all googley-eyed. Another instant uncle.

The Illustrated Kids

We had a great time! They were smart and eager to learn, but their only “training” had come from — choke, gag — TV, movies and the internet. We went over safety, basic marksmanship, cleaning and maintenance, ammo tips, lots of fun shooting and just getting to know them. Now, not everyone who looks like them is like them, but if you see illustrated kids at a range, chances are good they resemble this bunch.

Uncle John calls ’em Millennial Orphans, springing from fractured homes and forming their own “families.” Some came from big money, and walked away. Virtually all have some college, and many graduated. They were force-fed the educational establishment’s progressive propaganda-pap until they puked — too smart to become good little automatons. For many, the big awakening came about 2009.

“Our teachers and professors had hammered us with America is evil, defy authority, capitalism kills and crap like that,” Lead Dog said. “Then all of a sudden it was don’t question authority; obey the government; embrace the collective. Don’t think, just obey. That’s when we started teaching ourselves.”

They discovered new heroes, the real revolutionaries — our founding fathers — and fell deeply in love with some neglected, derided old documents: the Declaration of Independence; the Constitution; the Bill of Rights. And they saw how far we’ve drifted from them.

“They told us capitalism was wrong because lots of power could be held by a relatively small group,” Purple-Stripe explained. “But it’s clear they want to replace it with a system where another even smaller group has absolute power, with the brute force of the state to enforce it. Not happening; I’ll die first. That’s why it’s important for them to disarm us. And that’s why we have these guns. The founding fathers warned us.” She shook her curls. “Strange, isn’t it, I had to leave college to get an education?”

They prize self-reliance; they’re vehemently opposed to Nanny-State social programs, mass government surveillance and cyber-snooping. They generally support the police, but not a police state. They work, often at menial, low-paying jobs, but they’ve discovered the inherent dignity of a job well done, and they support each other loyally. They’re suspicious and distrustful of older generations, whom they see as having given up their revolutionary heritage without firing a shot. They’re not planning to fire that first shot, but like Captain John Parker at Lexington, they feel, “If they want a war, let it begin here.”

I found myself thinking of Nathan Hale, Maggie Corbin and Henry Knox, only in their 20’s in 1776, and wondering if they had dressed or acted a little “different” in the eyes of their elders.

Stick out your hand. Try that “I come in peace” thing. We need to know, help and influence each other.

Later, I asked Uncle John how he knew so much about these kinda kids. “Pretty typical of the millennial orphans I’ve met,” he said. “Huh? You’ve met a lot of ’em?” He smiled.

“You don’t get out much, do you?” Not enough, I guess.

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