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Life and death ... in a small town

Notes from the North Woods

I realized the Commies were really out to get us in the spring of 1960, when airplanes rattled the windows of our house on Rugar Street in Plattsburgh. Our house was directly in the flight path. Throughout the dark night, bombers left Plattsburgh Air Force Base in response to the shooting down of a U-2 spy plane piloted by Col. Gary Powers. Those damned commies!

Despite experiencing such disturbing incidents at such an early age, I remained relatively oblivious to the realities and dangers of the adult world, probably because it was also very easy to get lost in the western culture. And by western culture, I mean television shows such as Wagon Train, Roy Rogers, Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel, Johnny Yuma, Maverick, Gunsmoke and dozens more. With westerns, it was easy to figure out who the good guys were because they always wore the white hats! Back then, my favorite toy was a pearl handled, six shooter, and all little boys played with guns, some of them even had caps that would spark, bang and send smoke in the air.

Looking back through the eyes of age, I never really considered the fact that guns actually killed people. The reality that guns were dangerous weapons simply wasn’t on my radar screen, despite the fact that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed when I was in second grade.

The realities, and the accompanying terrors of the power of a gun came to me unexpectedly in 1966, when a crazy man by the name of Charles Whitman climbed to the top of an observatory tower on the campus of the University of Texas.

He killed 14 people and wounded 12. Like most people in the country, I was stunned and scared. At the time, my father worked at Plattsburgh State, and it sure seemed to me that there were a lot of towers on that campus.

Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at brookside18@adelphia.net.

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