The First Time My Uncle Rick Pulled a Gun on Somebody
Welcome to the first installment of our friend Shea's column about his Uncle Rick, the things he's done, and the things he was listening to while doing them.
Uncle Rick is a 49-year-old man from Detroit, Michigan currently living with his sister and her husband on a one acre piece of land approximately 20 minutes outside of San Antonio, Texas. It’s a slow, sparse part of the state. That’s good because there are not a lot of people in the area. And that’s good because that means there’s a less likely chance that he will kill somebody.
I suppose there are two Uncle Ricks that exist. There’s the Good Uncle Rick, whom I grew up underneath, the biggest and toughest of a family of six brothers and one sister. Good Uncle Rick’s first instinct always seemed to be to protect, which he was very good at because he was carved out of granite. Nothing made you feel safer than being with him. Having him behind you was like having your own personal terminator.
But there’s also the Bad Uncle Rick, whom I only ever saw glimpses of before I moved cities. Bad Uncle Rick’s first instinct always seemed to be to destroy. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve watched the reverb of his past life vibrate his current one, the more interested I’ve become in learning about Bad Uncle Rick. Crimes and criminals are involved, felonious and malevolent. Jails and prisons and police officers and police chases are involved. Drugs and drug using and drug dealing are involved. So on and so on and so on.
This column will be about that. There will be music embedded into it for you to listen to while you read, a specific soundtrack for each particular story offered by Uncle Rick. This is the first one, as told in his own words.
The first time I pulled a gun on someone I was 13-years-old.
My father was a factory man in Detroit. Everybody’s parents there—Brightmoor is where we lived, this lower middle class neighborhood that was devolving quickly—everybody’s parents there that worked at a factory. My mom did too. She used to operate the big heavy machines. It was a trip to see. Have you ever seen 8 Mile? It was like that, what she was doing. We actually lived just a few miles from that area. But so factory work, that’s how my dad earned some of his money. I say “some” because he earned the rest of it by selling guns illegally to people in the neighborhood.
He was into all kinds of shit. He was a hard man; small, but didn’t take any shit from anyone. He couldn’t. It was a tough era. He sold guns and weed and whatever else, really. The guns, they were hidden all over the house; a snub nose there, a .38 here, so on and so on. You could lift any cushion in the house and find a gun. And he had so many that he couldn’t keep track. You could take a gun and keep it a week and he wouldn’t notice. And when he did, when he’d be walking around shouting about missing a particular gun, you’d just walk into a different room, pull it out of your belt or pants and then be like, “I found it, dad. You left it in here.” He never knew. It was easy. Me and my brothers did that all the time.
They used to always tell me, “If you take one, take a revolver.” You always took a revolver because those don’t spit the shells out, so if you shoot it at someone you don’t have to worry about the cops picking up the casings. Like, those were the types of things I was learning. I was double promoted twice in school; I went from 5th to 7th grade and then from 7th to 9th grade. School was easy for me. But by that point, because of the way the neighborhood was going, all of the fights and gangs and our own home life, I wasn’t interested in school anymore. It didn’t feel important. What felt important was knowing what kind of gun I could shoot at someone without having to worry about police easily finding trace evidence.
But the first time I actually pulled it out… man… I’ll always remember. A couple of buddies and me were walking to school. I used to carry a gun to school all the time. Can you imagine that? I’m sitting in class listening to a lady rattle on about subjects and predicates and I’ve got a revolver jabbing me in my waist. What’s crazy is it wasn’t even a thing. Like, it was no big deal. This was the east side of Detroit in the seventies. Brightmoor was a mean town. And socially charged. At the time, it was still very segregated. And there were more Black people than anyone else. There was a small Hispanic population—it was like us and that's it. My family was the Hispanic population.
So it was Black people first, they had the numbers, and if you weren’t Black then the way they saw it you were White. The way they looked at it was if you were Black then you were BK, which stood for Black Killers, this gang. And if you weren’t Black then you were KKK. Everyone wasn’t, of course. We definitely weren't. But that’s just how it was.
So we were walking to school—there were four of us. And we came up on this Black guy that was beating up this Mexican boy. He was a high school kid so he was bigger than all of us, but there were four of us so we ran up on him. We were on bikes and so we went up real quick and were shouting for him to leave the kid alone. One of my buddies pulled the chain off his bike to use it as a weapon. That was a thing everyone did; you just keep a chain on your bike to lock it up when you put it somewhere but more so to use as a weapon in a fight. The cops could get in your ass if you were carrying a knife or brass knuckles or something like that, but they couldn't say anything about a guy on a bike with a bike chain. But so my buddy takes off his chain and when the Black guy saw it he pulled out this big ass hunting knife. I kind of, like, I kind of froze.
I was a fighter growing up. I came up and there were seven of us total—me and five brothers and one sister, and all of them were wild. They already had a reputation around the neighborhood, because of my dad’s side dealings but also because of their own. If I ever got into anything over my head, I could just say their names and most people would back off. They were all athletes—track runners and stuff, so people knew them from that, but they were also crazy and people knew them from that too. My second oldest brother was actually a Golden Gloves boxer. He could really get down. So I was always just trying to outdo him. Tenacity begets tenacity; that whole thing.
Still, when I saw that knife, I froze for a second. It probably wasn’t even all that big, but it might as well been a fucking sword. So I pulled the gun out. Again, I’m 13-years-old. I’m maybe 5’2”, barely 110 pounds. If I’d have shot it, the recoil would’ve broken both my arms, haha. So I take it out and I just feel this feeling come over me, this sensation. I don’t really know how to describe it. I took it out and I yelled at him to back the fuck up and he looks at me and sees the gun and his face drops all the way off his head. My friends are behind me screaming “Shooot him! Shoot him!” I didn’t know what to do. I just felt like something was happening to me. I felt like a badass knowing I was the one making him feel the way he was feeling. His face did what mine did when he took out that knife. It was a total flip. The guy took off running. I never saw him again.
I thought about it afterward, about how if I’d have not had that gun maybe he’d have killed me. It’s crazy. But the whole situation felt good to me. I didn’t shoot him, but I didn’t have to. I knew right then when I was holding that gun that if I needed to, if I needed to put a bullet in a person’s chest, I could do it. I don’t want to glorify that. I understand that it’s wrong. But that’s just such a powerful feeling for a 13-year-old to have. I carried that with me for a long time. Things got worse from there.
Stay tuned to Noisey for more stories from Shea's Uncle Rick. Shea is on Twitter, and he will pass your love to Rick if you would like him to - @SheaSerrano
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