This is an early Colt SP1 AR15, similar to my first one bought
after year’s toil as a janitor in a print shop.


God designed us to work. Anything outside that paradigm is innately deleterious to the human psyche. I got a job about 10 minutes after I got my driver’s license and I’ve worked pretty much every day since.

Back in my day, you got your license at your fifteenth birthday. I wouldn’t trust today’s 15-year-old boys unsupervised with underarm deodorant, much less an automobile, but it was a different time. I actually took my first solo jaunt behind the wheel at 13-years-old, but that’s a story for a different time.

My very first job was arguably the coolest I have ever had. I was a janitor in a print shop and got to wear any raggedy clothes that might cover my gangly carcass. I learned to operate an offset press, run a Heidelberg windmill and clean the heck out of a toilet. I also came to appreciate that smoking can be very bad for you.

My partner in crime was a delightful soul named Maurice. Maurice was unimaginably cool, but he was also a heavy smoker. We maintained big drums of some kind of cleaning fluid used to clean the presses. It was kerosene, or nitroglycerine, or pure liquified plutonium or something. I, myself, was a bit afraid of the stuff. We dispensed it from those squirt bottles that restaurants use for ketchup.

This was the Mississippi Delta in summertime, so it was Africa-hot. The air was so thick you could tear off a chunk and gnaw on it. There was no air conditioning, so we kept the doors standing open. There was a fan, as I recall, but stirring around superheated air doesn’t help much, thermodynamically speaking.

Maurice hovered over a printing press fretting with something or other, the ubiquitous cigarette dangling from his lips. I was on the other side of the shop but glanced up just in time to appreciate the setting. As luck would have it, he was standing with his back to the open door.

Maurice squirted some of that vile elixir across the top of the press just as he took a quick inhale on his smoldering coffin nail. Gasoline is actually 15-times more energetic per unit gram that Trinitrotoluene (TNT). Though I don’t know exactly what this stuff was, it was something like that.

The explosion produced a palpable overpressure within the building. The force lifted Maurice up and propelled him backwards out through the open door. When I got to his side he was on his back and a bit singed, but otherwise unhurt, the cigarette still dangled from his lips. We even got the fire put out on the printing press without any lasting deleterious effects.



My experience working at that print shop taught me both the value of hard work and the dangers of smoking.

A Man On A Mission


I toiled away under such conditions as those for a full year, scraping and saving to buy my first black rifle. I bought that SP1 AR15 in 1982; my dad had to do the 4473 for me. It cost me $486, or the equivalent of $1,329 today — wow!

I stripped that rifle down to pins and springs and learned every nuance of its design. I bought ammo every time I could afford it — a box or two at a time — and shot it into the side of the old levee out near the Mississippi River. I didn’t own a set of ear plugs, so it’s a wonder I can hear at all today.

I once shot a squirrel with that thing but immediately wished I hadn’t. I am a strict adherent to the axiom that one should not kill anything one isn’t planning to eat, and afterwards this particular tree rat was no longer comestible. However, I did get to the point where I could run the weapon both quickly and well, skills that held me in good stead later when I was issued something similar.




I brought that rifle to school on occasion, most commonly to show off either to fellow students or faculty. As Satan had not yet invented school shootings, I even had my picture taken for the yearbook with it. Innocence once lost can never again be regained.

In a fit of insensate stupidity, I traded that rifle for a SIG SAUER P226 at a gun show. I have since replaced it with another made in 1966, the year of my birth, but it’s just not the same. That black rifle represented the fruits of an entire year’s toil replete with copious heat, sweat and filth. In retrospect, I think it was a steal.

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