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@body:This is the Christmas season. I recall an unforgettable dinner during another Yule season, shortly after Christina the Lawyer and I got married. That would make it almost 20 years ago.

Seated at the head of the table was our host for the evening, a retired Navy admiral. He was a decorated hero of the Second World War, born in Bisbee, Annapolis-trained, who had spent most of his adult life in Texas.

Whenever the admiral got into his car to make one of those long, Texas automobile trips, he stuffed an automatic pistol in his glove compartment. On the seat alongside him, he placed the longest and heaviest screwdriver in his collection for use as a quick-draw defense weapon.

The admiral passed the dinner retelling stories about how many Japs he had killed in the war in which he had been a highly decorated fighter pilot.

His favorite war story was the recounting of the day in the South Pacific when he had strafed American sailors to prevent them from surrendering to the enemy. They were on a small naval vessel that had been heavily damaged by enemy fire. Some began swimming to shore, where they would be captured rather than risk drowning at sea.

The admiral, flying overhead in a fighter plane, spoke proudly of sending down a withering rain of machine-gun fire which had an obvious message. If they swam for shore to give up, he would gladly shoot them rather than allow them to become prisoners of the Japanese.

The admiral was a raging bull of a gun enthusiast. At the conclusion of the meal, he went into another room and came back out with a small, black-leather carrying bag.

He placed the bag on the table and from it he pulled out a pistol and pushed it across the table so that it rested next to my dessert plate.

"Here's something you can use to take care of yourself," he said. "You never know when you might need it."
I declined the gift. The admiral glared at me. I'm sure my refusal only confirmed his suspicions about either my willingness or ability to act like a man.

During this period, I also chanced to encounter the admiral's younger brother. He, too, was a man of a most fierce nature. He had spent his adult life in the Central Intelligence Agency.

For years he was stationed in the Middle East. One day, he was taken prisoner by men he didn't know. They tied him up and then beat him severely. Then they threw him down a deep well in the desert, leaving him to die.

But this was one tough Texan. He refused to die. Somehow freeing himself and then managing to crawl up out of the well, he was found and taken to a hospital.

In critical condition, he was flown back to the United States, where he was hospitalized for months and took more than a year to recover.

When he finally did regain his strength, he took more than a year's salary in cash and headed back overseas to avenge himself upon the men who tried to kill him.

His method was simple. He spread the word around in the right circles that he was prepared to pay $25,000 in cash to whomever could lead him to the men responsible. He had been in the CIA long enough to understand what motivated men to betray others.

Within days, one of his attacker's cousins came forth to collect the money and provide full details about the two men who attempted to kill him.

In the best Eastwood tradition, he went straight to the men, armed to the teeth. He caught them by surprise. Tying them up, he drove them to the same well into which they had tossed him. He shot them both in the head and dropped them down the well.

I bring this up only because I think the admiral and his brother are the only types of men who are truly comfortable carrying guns.

You might wonder what happened to them. They both eventually went back home to the small town in Texas where their mother still lived on the family farm.

She was approaching 90. Overbearing men of the world, they made it plain to her that it was their plan to take over the running of the farm and build a small place for her to live on the property.

She was just as strong-willed as her two boys. She didn't like the idea. They both died mysterious deaths from poisoning.

The town was so small, the county attorney never bothered over the matter.

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