Choosing your targets

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, February 21, 2015

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I’ve never owned, or even been allowed to play with, a laser pointer.

It makes me crazy when people use them in presentations, pointing to stuff on PowerPoint slides. I spend so much time just trying to find the little red dot, I forget what they’re talking about.

Bob Buckel

Bob Buckel

If I had one, I would probably lose an eye. Maybe two. (As in, “Wonder what this would do to my eye? OW! Whoa, did that really make me blind? OW! Yep!”)

I’m sure I would be tempted to point it at all kinds of stuff it’s not supposed to be pointed at. There are so many possibilities that seem fun at first, but if you pause and think a moment – it’s a really bad idea.

Pointing a laser at an airplane is not just a bad idea, it’s a federal crime punishable by five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Last summer, Matt Dodgen and Chris Cantrell of Amarillo – both in their early 30s – decided to point a laser at a helicopter. But not just any helicopter. A helicopter owned and operated by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

If you’re going to go into the felony business, they are the last people you want as customers.

“I’ve thought about it a million times,” Dodgen told the judge, according to a story on amarillo.com. “I wish… I had used better judgment.”

Dodgen and Cantrell got probation for their crime. They got off easy, and they know it. So did I.

I learned a similar lesson much younger – not with a laser, but with a snowball.

It was a big, slushy one. I was about 10, hiding behind a row of shrubs beside a vacant house just around the corner from mine. The sun had melted the white stuff to the consistency of a 10-minute-old snowcone on a July day.

The fact that the house was vacant made me feel fiendishly clever. No one could possibly trace the car-bombing to me! Ha!

I had just packed a nice big one when a white, four-door sedan came up the street. Timing my launch, I lofted it streetward and BOOM! It exploded right on the windshield.

YES! I exclaimed inwardly.

The car drove about another 20 yards, then stopped. It backed up, pulled to the curb, and a very large man in a sheepskin coat and a cowboy hat got out.

UH-OH! I thought.

He looked around, then walked up to the door of the vacant house. I cackled silently as he rang the non-working bell, then knocked. No one was coming. HA!

Then he went back to his car, got in, and drove … around the corner, stopping directly in front of my house.

NO! I yelled (again, inwardly) as I hopped a fence and scooted behind bushes to my hiding place on our porch. I watched as he rang our doorbell and my mom quickly answered.

“Mrs. Buckel, is your son home?” he asked, in a deep, baritone voice.

Before she could even answer, I stepped out of hiding, knowing I was doomed. The great big man looked at me and pulled back the sheepskin jacket to reveal a gun.

Dangit! I thought. He’s going to kill me, right here in front of my mother, for hitting him with a snowball.

Turned out, he was a sheriff’s deputy – driving an unmarked car, I hasten to add. He didn’t shoot me, but he did lecture me about the dangers of tossing things at moving cars.

When my dad came home, I remember thinking getting shot would have been quicker and made a much better story.

Years later, after the deputy retired and went into woodworking, he redid my mother’s cabinets. They laughed and laughed about my brush with the law.

As an incurable thrower-of-things, I’m sure I needed that experience to save me from much greater grief down the road. In God’s kindness, he sent quite a few of those warning shots across my young bow.

I guess the guys in Amarillo didn’t get one of those.

Bob Buckel is editorial director of the Wise County Messenger.

One Response to “Choosing your targets”

  1. says:

    Mighty good thoughts, friend.


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