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"Freaks" Teaches Pro Life Message

Dateline: 1/29/00


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When I was a little girl, I loved going with my father to Mr. B's sporting goods store. I loved watching everything Mr. B did -- ring up purchases, get merchandise off the shelves, open paper bags. I especially loved watching Mr. B work on guns. Mr. B was an expert gunsmith, with a very adept hand. That's hand, in the singular.

If I just wanted to watch somebody take apart a rifle, I could watch my father do that, the same as any child who grew up in an area where schools closed for opening day of deer season. But Mr. B had lost an arm and a leg in a railyard accident years earlier. Mr. B could do anything my father could do -- and more. After all, my father brought his guns to Mr. B for repairs that he couldn't do himself.

Perhaps it was the early exposure to Mr. B that gave me my attitude toward people with disabilities. There was nothing pitiful about this big, burly gunsmith. He was just somebody who had to do a little extra problem-solving while going about his daily affairs. There was nothing repulsive about him. He was a friendly, handsome man. The missing arm and leg just made him different in an interesting sort of way. I found Mr. B fascinating the same way other kids found my mother, with her thick German accent, fascinating. It would never have occurred to me to think of Mr. B as "handicapped" any more than it would have occurred to me to think of my mother as "alien." Different, yes. But no two people are alike anyway. So what if when my mother says, "Pittsburgh," it comes out, "Pittszbusch?" She can speak two languages, so cut her some slack if the words in one come out sounding like the words of the other. So what if Mr. B has only one arm? Can you dissassemble a Winchester with one hand? It all balances out.

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