Biff America: Brass knuckles and the right answer (column) |

Biff America: Brass knuckles and the right answer (column)

At my advanced age, I’m too old for fist-fighting.

That’s as true today as it was 10 years ago when I brought brass knuckles to the firing of Sneaky Pete.

Pete Malone was cursed with a volatile personality which made some folks uncomfortable. To be clear he wasn’t psycho, just edgy. I never saw him violent except toward inanimate objects. We worked together occasionally for several years without incidents and with good results.

At the time I was working part time for a small shop out of Denver which was staffed by many young folks and managed mostly by women. I was scheduled to work that next morning with Pete and received a phone call the night before from one of my bosses.

I was told that Pete was going to be fired the next morning. She asked if I could come in early to be around, in case he went mental. I was quite certain that though Pete might yell, scream and curse, he would not be violent. But when I envisioned what might happen if I was wrong, I could not see myself slam-dancing with him at my age.

Slick Kearny went to a vocational school located in the same town as my high school. Slick used to fabricate brass knuckles in metal shop and sell them. I was one of his customers.

I’ve had some of Slick’s knuckle dusters for over 40 years and they work as a wonderful paperweight on my desk. Just before I left to witness Sneaky Pete’s discharge I slipped them in my briefcase.

To Pete’s credit he took his dismissal like a man. That is, if a man would yell, scream and curse.

That was the last I saw of Sneaky Pete Malone. But I did use him as an excuse to an angry cop a week later.

I like guns. Not that I carry one around since they can leave an unsightly bulge which is often confused with love handles.

But despite that, for decades I have jumped through hoops to allow me to legally have a gun on my person. Mostly I keep it locked up, only to be taken out when we travel in our camper. (Many years ago we had a scary encounter in the middle of nowhere that could have gone either way.)

About a week after Pete joined the ranks of the unemployed, I went to a police station to pick up paperwork for a renewal of my license. Knowing I had to pass through a metal detector I was careful to leave at home any steel that would set off the alarms. I put my bag through and made small talk with the cop when he said, “Sir, do you know brass knuckles are illegal?” I was mortified and felt like such an idiot. I had forgotten to remove them from my briefcase several days before.

Of course I was embarrassed but luckily the officer had some time on his hands so he listened while I recounted buying them, decades ago, from Slick Kearny and using them as a paperweight until I put them in my bag in case I had to defend my bosses against Sneaky Pete. In the process of scolding me, the officer did ask, “Do you have any friends with normal names?”

The constable held on to my briefcase but let me go about my business. As I retrieved my belongings I apologized once again and promised I would return the knuckles to their rightful place as a paperweight.

It wasn’t until I got home that it dawned on me that it is legal for me to carry a gun but not brass knuckles. At the time and especially now this seems absurd. Perhaps, if there was a “National Brass Knuckles Association” that would change.

Like most Americans — left, right and in the middle — I was brought to tears (again) by the recent school shooting.

I saw a meme that read “How could this happen? — is asked by the only nation where it happens with such frequency.”

What is sad is that both sides are so entrenched and intractable that rather than look for the many possible solutions, they circle their political wagons and refuse to compromise.

I don’t believe for an instant that any one solution is THE solution. But it should be as hard to buy an assault weapon as it is to get a driver’s license. There should be available and free mental health care for every American. Politicians and media that vilify and/or promote hate should be replaced and shunned. And as important as all that is, we need to acknowledge that not one side, party or person has the market cornered on solutions or integrity.

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”

It wasn’t until I finished typing that quote by John F. Kennedy did I recognize the irony.

Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or

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