A relic of my red heritage
A relic of my red heritage

A relic of my red heritage


I just had my DNA analyzed by a private company that will inevitably sell it to multiple governments, and in how many ways are we all screwed? The results indicate that I am not descended from a single bean that sprouted in the Scottish countryside. Surprise surprise. In fact, the results were more than a little fascinating, especially the amount of genetic material going all the way back to the Iberian Peninsula.

I didn’t see that 25% of my full Scottish DNA or 3% North Indian. My sister whose name is September – I have often referred to her as my half-Mexican brother, given that her skin tone is three shades darker than mine – she also has the Nordic DNA of India at a slightly higher percentage. I should have seen something coming.

I showed the girls these results and for the next three days, Marlo would wake up in the morning with a huge grin on her face. The first thing he said was, “I’m Indian!”

Wow Who have I pissed off now?

I was fully prepared to open the results and say, “You are a direct descendant of the movie Train spotting.” Or tell me I have only one ancestor and his name is Sean Connery. The not so surprising part about all this is that 65,000-45,000 years ago we shared a common ancestor with Jesse James and Queen Elizabeth. All my mother’s half-sisters can claim direct descent from Daniel Boone, for example directly, directly descent, ca damn red neck descent, through their father. So now? Now mom can turn to everyone and say, “Hold my beer.”

As I was saying. Ahem.

In middle school I played the clarinet and was the captain of the rifle band in the marching band. Surprising, right? Me? A band geek? Not. To this day I can remember the cadence of the drums as we marched, the cadence between songs, and I can tap everything on the counter with my thumbs, much to the delight of my two daughters, who would really like me to stop. googling “how to make the movie” and trying out what I learned in front of their friends. They love it when I bring up that cadence from the middle school marching band and leave everything they do to say, “We love it when you share creepy, repetitive memories with us that don’t add any meaning to our lives.”

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Oh, some of my shoot dance research:

EDITED TO ADD: I can never attempt to recreate this dance move due to recent injuries.

I wore a crazy full suit with a green skirt and vest, a cowboy hat and huge white cowboy boots. And I had a wooden rifle that I turned around and it was covered in gold and green duct tape. I thought that was gone two decades ago when my mother sold the house I was raised in while studying abroad in England. My mom sold her house here in Utah last month and is moving to the other side of the valley and my kids are devastated. How could grandma be such a monster? Why would they sell their house—the house they’ve known to live in since they were born—as if their experiences there could be thrown like trash out the window of a pickup truck?

I will tell you how: Because she sold the house I was born and raised in while I was out of the country. I didn’t even get to say goodbye to the damn thing. Now dry your tears and give me a hotdog.

While my mom and stepdad were packing up the house, they found my rifle. My duct tape wooden rifle. From high school. And one night a few weeks ago, when they showed up to have dinner with my kids, my stepdad walked into my house carrying her under his arm.

Now, I’m going to write the rest of this while walking some very fine and delicate lines that intersect and could easily take me out of all your graces. Because my immediate family is a family of gun owners – I’m not kidding here about coming for your guns because you guys are really freaking out about that very specific scenario in life. And our children—meaning my children and your children and your children—are growing up afraid to go to school because someone might show up with a gun and shoot them.

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So be aware of two things: one, what happened next happened in less than 30 seconds; two, my persona on this site has nothing on how badass i am in real life.

And how crazy are they? Words are my currency. NEWS, INDICATIONS, MAY. Every EW you can think of. This goes all the way to BLUES CLUES. I am a writer. Language is legal tender in my bank account.

I am the MUSE of words.

And words form thoughts. And thoughts are life. Human life.

Leta was sitting on the kitchen counter when she turned to see this wooden silhouette of a rifle under my stepfather’s arm and immediately started yelling, “What are you doing with a gun? mother! He has a gun!”

I came out of my office to see what the commotion was about, and when I saw my rifle—my green and gold duct-taped marching band rifle—I gasped and sang gleefully, “Did you find it? I can’t believe you kept it all these years! My rifle!”

Leta’s screams instantly turned into screams, and she jumped from her chair, her arms flailing maniacally in the air. “That’s it your weapon? You do you have a gun?! mother, what happens?!

Mom put two and two together for me as I lost myself in a memory of the 1989 Bartlett Christmas Parade, the feel of the wet, icy air on my face and hands, and how hard it was to catch the rifle after L -I did three flips in the air, so afraid she’d slip or I’d throw her there in front of the other five girls in team formation.

“Leta…” her mother tried to calm her down.

“Why did mom give a gun?” cried Leta.

“It’s made of wood…”

“Why is there a gun in my house?!”

At this point, my stepfather had handed me the wooden rifle and the moment that gold tape hit my hands, my muscle memory started to kick in. And right there in the middle of my living room I started spinning it. Easily. Just around and around in my right hand. Spin, spin, spin, spin, spin.

“Leta,” I said as the rifle spun in a circle. “This is not a real weapon.”

Mother approached Leta, put her hands on her shoulders and explained: “Your mother was in the marching band.” She and I exchanged glances very quickly to acknowledge that we were not going to be able to calm her down or reason with her. And remember those fine, delicate lines we were talking about? Yes. You do.

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I stopped twirling the rifle just then and tucked it under my arm, pointed it at the window, and very softly, in a mouse-like tone, muttered, “Pew. Strange. Pew pew.”

As delicately as I could.

As I’d hoped, my sweet, soothing voice diffused the situation, and her flailing arms found their way to her hips, where she perched them with blatant judgment. “You all are horrible people!” she said with a deep sigh that ended in a laugh. “Whatever that thing is, it’s weird. I don’t even want to know.”

And you know what? It is. Is strange. Fuck you guys. I remember the entire routine from the 1989 Christmas parade where I won first place and beat out all the other middle school marching bands. And to try and show Leta what a rifle squad looks like and the tricks we all had to learn, I looked up some old YouTube videos and oh my god. This is some bloody bullshit. Is strange. Let’s gather these impressionable young women, stick them in front of the whole band and have them act out military drills as if they were actually going to war. With what is not technical a gun, but it looks like a gun. And YAY, THE TRACKS.


The words for a MUSE have RHYME since the beginning of TIME. And she was SOLD, SADDLED, and SLAMMED.


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I’m Heather B. Armstrong and this is my website. You can read more about me here or here or here or here. Pick a link you like and be sure to come back regularly for more from the archives. Wink, you bastards.