Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Guy and His Gun

In January of 1986, I worked three jobs. Why? I was 19 and I was on a quest to make money and to keep myself as busy as possible. I always liked to be on the go and with three jobs - I certainly was!

One of the disadvantages of living on Third Street was that all parking occurred on the street. My used 1979 Red Honda Accord could amazingly fit into small spots and believe me, I took advantage of that as much as possible. If I happened to come home late, I usually had to park at least a block away. My grandparents (who I lived with), were never thrilled if my car was not within view. I think they just liked to keep an eye on me and my stuff :).

615 3rd St, Fort Wayne, IN 46808 - Google Maps_1253145512412

On one particular Winter night, the parking situation really sucked. Instead of getting to park on Third Street, I had to go down to Orchard and then, park at the very end of it - almost at the corner of Orchard and High Street.

615 3rd St, Fort Wayne, IN 46808 - Google Maps_1253145470998

The black splat is where I ended up parking.

As I was walking up the sidewalk, nearing the corner of Orchard and Third Street, the light of a street lamp bounced off of one car and made it stand out more than the others parked on the street.

I looked to the right and I saw a guy - about my age - sitting in the driver's seat, with a gun in his hand. He looked distressed. We made eye contact. I diverted my eyes - but in a way that showed no fear. Why? I couldn't tell you. I probably should have been afraid. But everything inside of me kept me composed and calm and I continued walking at an even pace towards our house.

I walked inside - it was after 10 p.m., but my grandpa was still awake. He had just retired a few weeks beforehand and he claimed that he couldn't get used to not being awake for second shift. Secretly, I think he worried about me being out "in the dark" and so staying up, watching television kept him entertained until I got home.

So anyway, I walked in and I told my grandpa that we needed to call 911. I explained to him what I had just seen and amazingly, I was still very calm about it. For many years, Grandpa worked as a Security Supervisor at St. Joe Hospital so before we picked up the phone to place the call, he asked me specific questions.

Where exactly was the car parked?
Was it running? Or off?
What did it look like?
What did he look like?
Did he see you?
Did he make any attempt to get out of his car?
What did his gun look like?
What position was the gun in?

Most of my answers weren't specific enough (like I knew it was a mid-size American car but I didn't know what model/make/year), and forget the gun stuff. I just knew that it was a small pistol - it didn't have a wooden handle (you know - like handguns did in the Westerns on television).

My grandpa was very patient and in the span of 2-3 minutes, he got a lot of information out of me. He placed the 911 phone call himself (giving the details I had provided) and within 15 minutes, a uniformed FWP guy was at our door.

My grandpa and him got on well. The policeman took my statement and he asked the same type of questions that my grandpa had (and then some).

At the end of this process, he told us that the guy was upset over a domestic situation and that he had planned on killing himself. I was kind of shocked - I guess I never really stopped to think what was wrong with him or why he had a gun (or what he was going to do with it).

The policeman explained that he and his partner had approached the car (and its driver) to ascertain the situation and that is what took him so long to get over to see us. The individual had a gun permit but they did not feel comfortable with letting him go. It didn't sound like he was arrested - more that someone (or someones) were spending some time, talking to him. He was definitely out of the immediate area and the police gave him strict instructions not to come back near this area.

I guess I should have been comforted by that last part but really, I don't ever remember being scared or frightened. Something in his eyes - that split second we made eye contact - told me that this wasn't a guy who was going to hurt me.

But you know, I got a lecture from both the policeman and my grandfather about walking alone, so late at night, blah blah blah.

As he was leaving, the policeman shook my grandfather's hand and then looked at me and said, "You probably saved his life tonight". I didn't know what to say to that. So I said nothing. He didn't appear as if he was looking for a response.

After he left, and my grandpa locked up for the night, we sat in the living room and watched some late night television (Channel 55!). Neither of us said much and about an hour later, we went to bed.

The next morning, my grandma was all frantic. She pulled out every possibility (I could have been raped, murdered, kidnapped) and I just shook my head at her. Usually, when she got this way, me and grandpa just let her rant. Eventually, she went a little over the top and my grandpa stepped in to cut her off.

"Irene. Our granddaughter did the right thing. I don't like that she was out walking in the dark but in the end, it all turned out alright for everyone, including the young man who might have been found this morning by someone else walking past his car."

That quieted her - real quick :).

Every once in awhile, whenever I had to park on Orchard, I always wondered what happened to the guy. All of these years later, I still can't look at that corner without thinking about that night. Although we only shared a couple of seconds of co-existence, I hoped that he had been able to move past the type of pain that led him to that night in his car with his gun.


Joe said...

What a wonder story! Thanks for sharing. It's kind of amazing what just a few seconds or a glance or two in our lives can do.

ida said...

God put you in that place to show that man that he didnt have to comment suicide. more then likely he didnt and he went and lived a basicaly normal life. we are put in places to help people. even if we cant see it ourselves. trust me, i think i have been used by God in many different ways. as an example of doing good and and example of what not to do. i feel i have encourage people and dont really know how many. but, i know sometimes that my stories of my life have changed people to do better. and in itself is a blessing.

de_tokeville said...

Dear Kristina--

Good story here, but I just wanted to say OMFG about the entirety of this 'blog and several of your earlier posts that I happened upon. Not only am I another child of the Fort but a child of the 'hood. The people, places and cultural reference points are taking me on a nostalgia trip like nothing I've ever seen!

Miss Crouse was a newly minted teacher when I entered her kindergarten class in the fall of 1967. I was actually in Mrs. Cashman's class at the beginning of that semester, but it was such an oversized baby-boom class that they brought in Miss Crouse and divided the class in two. (The half who went with Miss Crouse kind of got screwed because Mrs. Cashman's kindergarten classroom was a big, delightful play area full of toys and play equipment that opened up directly to the playground while Miss Crouse was given a standard-issue classroom with none of the cute amenities.)

And Miss McDougall, whom you've written about here, gets my vote as the best teacher at Indian Village, if not in my entire secondary education experience. She ignited my passion for local history with her vast fund of knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject. She was a rarity even then, back when teaching to the test hadn't become so all-important that it precluded gifted teachers from bringing their own creativity and originality to the curriculum.

As for your neighborhood map, my Gawd! I recognize numerous of the names there--Manter, Peltz, Beckstedt, Brouse to name a few. Deloris Brouse was a classmate and it was very devastating to me when she died in a cave-in on the bike trails behind where you lived. I remember the day well because I was playing on the bike trails behind Kekionga around noon on a Saturday when it happened. I heard sirens and noticed a large number of emergency vehicles making their way down Tielker Road. When I went over to see what was happening they wouldn't let me near, but I soon found out what had happened and it distressed me greatly for some time afterward.

Before this time there was a girl named Holly Stephens in the brick house on the bend in the road catty-corner across from Mr. Bug (the exterminator with the Ghostbusters hearse as his business vehicle, remember?). She died very young of a serious illness, and I remember finding it very discomfiting. They didn't have grief counseling back then and when she passed it was the first time in my young life that I'd ever been confronted with death. The idea that it was happening to someone my own age was a lot to handle. Another rather frightening memory that came soon after was that of the murder of one of my mother's classmates, a lady who lived on Wendover, who if I recall drove home from somewhere with her attacker hiding in the back seat of her car.

On a brighter note, I do remember your neighborhood and some of the people vividly. On Tyrone there were the Christs, Olsons and Knuths. On Cedar Crest Circle there was a family named Geer (or Geier, maybe?) with daughters Cathy and Carol (and some younger ones, I think). Kristy Manter was a classmate, as was Monica Peltz. Terri Knuth, Joe Olson, Mike Christ. There was a Shelly Schock, whom I didn't know personally but whose school textbooks I seemed to inherit a lot of--always loved the name--and I believe she lived on Kyle.

Anyhoo, I plan on spending some more time with this site. It's full of amazing surprises. And regarding your quest for pictures of old landmarks, I'll check out my family's trove of photos and see if what we've got. I know we've got some Fort Wayne Children's Zoo pix from the days when it really wasn't much more than a petting zoo with domestic livestock.

You've done a wonderful job with this, Kristina. Love it!

de_tokeville said...

I exceeded the character count in my last post, and had to cut it, but I have this to add:

There was a photo of Ericka Couch that I came across on your site and she looks very familiar, although it appears you and she would have been about five years younger than me, so maybe I'm wrong. Or maybe there was another Couch girl who is the subject of the story I'm about to share, one of my weirder recollections. Here goes.

I was quite a nerdy kid and the older ones loved to have laughs at my expense. Once I had a baby sitter who told me that the word "fucker" was another word for "mother" and that I should go home and impress my mother with my enlarged vocabulary. So I went home and went up to my mom and said "Hey, fucker!" She backhanded me across the room. "Where the fuck did you learn that word?" she demanded, and as soon as I told her where I'd learned it there was a big mother confab in the neighborhood and the babysitter was claiming to have heard it somewhere else and didn't know what it meant. She purported that she simply told me what she'd been told by someone else.

Well, when I was in the third grade, there were some kids going around asking those who they knew to be naive, "Do you have a c*nt?" Of course, not knowing what a c*nt was and not wanting to sound uncool, the boys would answer "yes" and get laughed at. So I figured it out, sort of. Must be a dirty word. I decided to try it out on a younger kid.

So while climbing on the jungle gym on the west side of the school by the tracks, I ask a young Hispanic girl--Ericka or perhaps one of the Couch girls?--"Do you have a c*nt?"

She ran screaming to a teacher's aide and next thing I know I'm surrounded by teachers giving me the third degree. I played my baby sitter's plausible deniability game and told them that everybody was asking the question and that my purpose in asking was simply to find out what a c*nt was. I didn't get paddled by Dr. Schroeder that day so I guess they bought it.