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America Armed, No Bullets

by Brian Turner

Without bullets, a gun is just a paperweight.

—Larry Keane, Nat’l Shooting Sports Foundation

  • Outside Springfield, Sparks, Coarsegold and Valdez,
  • Winchester, Coffeyville, Badwater the same—deer
  • flinch at the shoulder, their ears ticking
  • to the click of the trigger in its housing, the firing pin
  • sounding itself in the hollow chamber where no bullet lies.
  • They stare a moment longer, then resume the chewing of grass.
  • The ammunition factories are working overtime,
  • but for now, there are no bullets. Just the sound of ducks
  • called over water, the spaniel with a curious look over his shoulder,
  • doves on the barbed wire fences, pheasants in the yard.
  • The old men have never seen anything like it.
  • They drink coffee on the front porch and stare for hours
  • as traffic passes on the main road to town—hybrid cars
  • painted in Electric Green Mica and Aqua Ice Opalescent.
  • Sometimes the old men sight their rifles and traverse the roadway
  • as they would swing the barrel over Sibley Hole when the mallards
  • lift up all at once, the greens and the browns in a flurry of color,
  • the hounds barking and chasing along the shoulder of the road
  • to the familiar sound of the hammer falling forward, the men cursing
  • as the rifles click, click, click, into the hammered silence that follows.

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