Monday, July 5, 2010

Forearmed Safety Buffaloes

L.G.C. Smith

I used to assiduously research the weapons my characters used. I'd pick out each one's gun/bow/knife/what-have-you of choice and create a backstory as to why that particular weapon suited them to a T. Not that I was foolish enough to include much, if any, of that information in my novels. But I knew. I have the expensive books on firearms to prove it.

Before the drill.

Now I worry more about how well I'm getting the emotional arsenal down. Figuring out the weaponry specifics is one of those things I leave for stuck times when I need a book-related procrastination activity. And I have a cupcake tree full of gluten-free banana muffins.

Trouble is, I'm not naturally into weapons. If I'm reading someone else's book, I don't mind if there are tons of deets on them. It can be a nice addition to the setting. If the author is skilled, she'll make those details add to character, emotional build-up and conflict. But if the conflict is already solid and the emotional and sexual weapons well-employed, the word 'gun' can be as effective as 'blah-blah-beretta-bladdy-special. '

That's a weapon? In the right hands...maybe.

No, my favorite kinds of weapons aren't sharp and they don't explode. They invoke the old scouting motto "Be Prepared."

I come from a family of Safety Buffaloes. The term originated in National Lampoon in the mid-1970s. I heard it when my husband called me one the first time I refused to start the car until he fastened his seat belt. Ah. Courting rituals. I thought it was pretty clever, what with my family coming from South Dakota and my mom's Uncle Harry having a buffalo herd and all. Then I realized not only was he mocking my highly prized cautious nature, but he'd stolen the term from P.J.O'Rourke. Bah.

Step away from the lantern.

Whatever. Guess what us Safety Buffaloes did for the Fourth of July this year? We had an earthquake drill! We got out as much of our survival/camping gear as we could find without getting into the attics (too hot), set it all up in the backyard, and made sure someone amongst us knew how to use the various items. My dad made sure we had the appropriate fuel for the lanterns and the stove, and that we gave adequate thought to where to locate the latrine. We checked that the flashlights all had fresh batteries, and my sister, JPW, showed off a new hand-cranked flashlight/radio combo thing. Neato.

We staged our pretend quake at 3 PM, and taught the Leezlet how to get under heavy tables or into the sturdiest part of my sister's house. We know exactly where this is because four years ago during the extensive remodel, we paid close attention. Once the shaking stopped, we taught the Leezlet to assess the surroundings for immediate dangers like broken glass or heavy, precarious items that might fall on someone. She, in true Safety Buffalo fashion, was totally into this. "What about broken pipes?" she asked. "Or big splinters?" My sisters and I beamed proudly.

Break time. Earthquake drills are hard work.

Next we made sure the gas was off, filled the bathtub with water while there was still pressure, and checked everyone for injuries. JPW called her husband in San Francisco to ask if the Golden Gate Bridge was okay. It wasn't. We all called my brother in Texas to check in. The Leezlet got to perform first aid on the wounded. She put a big Barbie band-aid on Uncle Bob's forehead, which he wore all afternoon and evening, not realizing it was pink and sparkly. He went to Walgreens with it. Heehee. Grandpa had a cut on his calf, Auntie JPW had a sprained wrist, and the Leezlet's daddy had a doozy of a conk on the head. Otherwise, all of us, cats and dogs included, came through in good enough shape to roast sausages for dinner, followed by s'mores. Then the braver souls slept in the tent. (Not me.)

Some of the campers.

As weapons go, being prepared may not be the sexiest cannon in the castle, but it's practical. In both real life and fiction, practical can be desirable. Folks who are good with conventional weapons can be much more interesting and formidable if they're also good at assessing their surroundings and responding with ingenuity and flexibility. In real life, some may mock Safety Buffaloes as being a bit dull, but we have fun developing our own quietly pragmatic weapons skills. A new generation of Buffs learned to make s'mores last night, after all, which means she now has a proper understanding of the lethal properties of molten marshmallows. That might come in handy some day.

Junior Safety Buffalo chillin' after practice for the Big One.


Lisa Hughey said...

now i know where to go when the big one hits :) my stuff is all scattered in my garage in various tubs and buckets....

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh my gracious the Leezlet got a thousand times cuter since last pix and that's nearly impossible to do - LOVE the Safety Buffaloes! By coincidence, my kids and I have been singing the Veggie Tales Water Buffaloes song all day long....and my sister built a very safe brick...hearth? - I guess you'd call it for us to set off our fireworks from last night. Um, I think we are the Reckless Buffaloes....but that doesn't mean I don't admire you guys!!

L.G.C. Smith said...

We'd be shooting off fireworks if Elsa (Dog 1) wasn't so terrified of them. We'd just do it very carefully. Safety Buffaloes can be pyromaniacs, too.

Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Is this like when the cat meows and then takes off 30 minutes before an earthquake rattles through the house?

An adorable family tradition :)

Rachael Herron said...

Oh, my gosh, I'm late but I LOVE THIS. I want to come over and be a Safety Buffalo!

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