Larry Webster: Why must children die dodging bullets or the cold?

Contributing columnistJanuary 20, 2013 

Not all of us were warm, not all of us.

We are winter lean, our faces are sharp with cold

And there is a smell of wood smoke in our clothes;

Not all of us were warm, though we hugged the fire

Through the long chilled nights.

— James Still, "Spring," The Wolfpen Poems

When precious, innocent babies get bullet riddled, the reaction of our country has been to buy bullets in their honor. When four innocent Pike County babies burned up while huddled together with their mommy and daddy in a little front room trying to stay warm, we should be equally as sensible and hoard up electric heaters.

Trying to figure out why somebody would go into a classroom and kill everybody is no easier than trying to figure out why six people who lived on the edge of a forest overlying abundant natural gas and enough coal to fire a warm morning have to die a fiery death huddled in one room to get electric heat.

I suspect home schooling had a lot to do with Newtown. We always knew that home schooling would lead to some pretty strange people, and as a parent it is hard to decide whether your kid will turn out weirder from home schooling, or just going on to public school to be bullied.

The current plan for school safety offered by the gun lobby is to arm R.O.T.C. and let them set up a perimeter around schools, while at the same time stepping up intelligence-gathering activities in communities and offering suicide promotion, so that really weird people would go ahead and kill themselves with something from the family arsenal before they hurt somebody else.

But we do need to keep our guns. The reason you need guns is because somebody else has them. You need those big clips because you may have to self defend against 30 bad people.

The prevention of huddling with its dangers is equally problematic. In the mountains, we used to stay warm, or some of us did, by taking an axe or saw and a wedge and making firewood. How very quaint. Later we took a long stick and raked coal off the top of the train as it went by and in those days the coal burned pretty good, and that was before the train stopped.

Our means of heat now is an SSI check which we use to buy electricity, made from our coal and sold back to us to power small heaters made in China. We do not huddle under quilts, because we forgot how to make them.

Fifty years ago was Harry Caudill's and George Wallace's time. Harry got mad at his people for losing the will to cut firewood and plow on a mountain and live in such a way that you can still stay warm if the juice goes off. It all started going downhill after we decided to subsidize disability, and Harry saw that early.

Fifty years have passed since Wallace used the word "mongrel" in his segregation speech. He went on to get about 87 percent of the so-called mongrel vote after he was paralyzed by a gun nut and repented his earlier southern politics, back in the day in which that wonderful Christmas candy was not called chocolate cream drops.

Larry Webster is a Pikeville attorney. Reach him at

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