Everett Ruess & The Gun Dream

Everett-Ruess

“I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities…It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty.”  Everett Ruess

Last night I dreamed of Everett Ruess.  I have no idea why this happened, except that I have long harbored an enchantment with his legend, and like to imagine that I have enjoyed some measure of kinship with the driving force behind his repeated travels into the offing.  Reading his letters, one is compelled to share intimately in his dream, that particular and consuming fascination with the boundless beauty he found and explored.  It wasn’t enough for Ruess to nibble around the edges, he went all the way in, and in the event, never came out.

It’s dangerous to talk about dreams.  They are a personal delight, or torment, a Dali-esque funhouse better kept to oneself.  The thing is:  most people don’t care about your dream, because they can never crawl inside of it with you.  They may feign interest, even laugh or be startled alongside of you–but the truth is they have their own, and yours are probably boring.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

In police work, and other martial pursuits, there is a phenomenon known as “the gun dream.”  In this dream one is confronted with a situation requiring the use of a firearm.  For instance, an enraged man attacking the dreamer with a knife.  The dreamer pulls his weapon in order to end the threat but the gun won’t fire.  I’ve learned, since first experiencing this horror, that there are multiple variations on this theme, but in my case, the gun was inevitably frozen, and no matter how hard I pulled on the trigger, it refused to operate.  The dream is recurrent and though the precise circumstances change, the problem with the gun is absolute.  The result of the dream could be a dissertation on a theme of night sweats, or what my wife started calling “Sleep-Fu”, which is when I would suddenly erupt in a full blown fight with the mattress or pillows in our bed.  That happened more times than I would like to remember.

But that isn’t all.  Shortly after my bouts with the gun dream began, which was very early in my career, I was sharing this phenomenon with a veteran officer, and a friend, in an alcove where we would sometimes meet between calls for service for a cup of coffee.  He listened to me closely, then turned to me knowingly and asked, “Have you had ‘the suspect dream’ yet?”

And hence I learned of the companion piece to the gun dream.  In the suspect dream, which I began to enjoy sometime later, as a detective, the dreamer is mortified to learn that he is the primary suspect in a heinous crime, though he hasn’t done it.  This dream comes with a mother lode of indescribable doom, and pure desperation.  There is no escaping from it.

clocks

Dali, The Persistence of Memory

I did a lot of work to unravel the mystery of these dreams, and once went to a Bulletproof Mind seminar to see Colonel David Grossman, who has studied the psychological costs of learning to kill, or to confront violence, and now trains others to better deal with repeated dunkings in the booth of conflict.  On the second or third day he came around to the gun dream, and asked for a show of hands.  Every hand in the room went up, which I think surprised everyone except Grossman.

Grossman’s cure for the gun dream was to get in the range and keep shooting.

I don’t know why my dream of Everett Ruess would necessarily remind me of all this, except that I don’t have them anymore.  The sick part is, there is a small voice in my head that keeps wondering if not having the dreams is an indication of indolence and weakness. I know that isn’t right, even as the little voice sits back in the corner of my mind, chipping away like an arrogant crook in the back of a squad car.

I’m certain Everett never had the gun dream.  He had others.  He tells it best:

“Say that I starved; that I was lost and weary,

That I was burned and blinded by the desert sun,

Footstore, thirsty, sick with strange diseases,

Lonely wet and cold, but that I kept my dream.”

 

 

  1. Dave Alvin — one of my pantheon of musical heroes — wrote a beautiful ballad about Everett Reuss.

    Like

    Reply

    1. They never found my body or understood my mind…that cuts right to it, methinks. Brilliant, thanks for that.

      Like

      Reply

  2. Never had the “gun dream,” but several times have had dreams where I was in a tussle and striking the assailant with no effect. Actually, not hitting him at all — couldn’t make contact; like my arms and legs were too short. Same sort of thing, martial arts version — failure to operate. The Freudians would have a field day with that.

    Like

    Reply

    1. It makes perfect sense. Essentially the same dream–the fear of failure, the failure to operate.

      Like

      Reply

  3. Great story. The “gun dream” is common in several fields. I had it when I was doing LE, then I had the bear dream–charging bear and gun won’t fire. When I was an infantry officer, I had the “can’t find the ammo dream, and as a BN in an A-6, there is the SAM dream, where the pilot can’t get the plane to turn to avoid the SAM. As a student, I had the “forgot that I was taking a class dream,” and as a Professor, teaching a class that I knew nothing about dream (nuclear physics). It is an interesting phenomena that probably deserves a bit more study.

    Like

    Reply

    1. It is fascinating to me see some common themes developing here in the comments. I think these are way more prevalent than we appreciate. It’s a kind of private life we are all living in one way or another, and hardly ever talk about.

      Like

      Reply

  4. Sounds a lot more intense than the dreams I had as a student… of discovering the day before finals that there is a class I have never attended… and then later as a teacher that there is a class I have never shown up to teach. I think all of these dreams boil down to fear of failure… of not adequately doing one’s job.

    Like

    Reply

    1. I know the class dream too…For some reason I occasionally still have it. Isn’t that funny? And I think you are dead on…I think it is a fear of failure dream. In dreamland, it turns out, we actually are in this together 🙂

      Like

      Reply

  5. I checked Everett Reuss: Vagabond For Beauty out of the Sisters Library — and lost it. I went in and told the librarian and pulled out the wallet to pay for it and she said, well, let’s wait and maybe it’ll turn up. I said, No… I’m pretty sure it’s just disappeared. Then I busted out laughing and the librarian looked at me like maybe she needed to call the paddy wagon. Which just made me laugh harder. Somewhere, the ghost of Everett Reuss was laughing, too, I hope.

    Like

    Reply

    1. Oh there is an essay in that…I hope you have done something with it. Love it.

      Like

      Reply

  6. Thanks Craig – great subject and I am glad the dreams are cycling out for you. Probably due to the fact you are filling your heart with the good (God) stuff and sharing your own experiences as a military and domestic warrior, with others. Supervisor on scene of a recent intentional OD / suicide. Twenty-something year old, handsome young man that based upon the facts was not involved in the “criminal lifestyle” absent the illicit Mexican injectable he used to end his life. He was depressed. Sad and tragic, but one of the less gruesome suicide investigations for sure. Doing the supervisor thing on-scene, when he became my own son laying there on the bed. Hair color and all, it was my boy for about three-seconds. Stepped out to the motel and asked God to bail me out (he did, he always does). As I sat in my patrol car, eyes closed wondering what the moment was about, I realized the whole purpose of my presence at that particular event, was to pray for his parents and the news they were about to receive re their child. I did just that. I personally believe some of these moments and dreams have a Devine purpose.

    Like

    Reply

    1. Every call for service carries a price tag. Every last one of them. Be safe out there, it isn’t getting any easier.

      Like

      Reply

      1. Good one. I imagine that every profession bring with it its own dreams, or nightmares rather. I won’t share mine. They are too gruesome. But, since much of medicine resolves around learning, and looking things up, I still have those showing up for a test unprepared for the exam, dreams.

        Like

      2. True dat. Doctor dreams much be a real hoot. Forceps and such. Gross.

        Like

  7. […] The Legend of Everett Ruess made its presence felt a couple of days ago, over at The Bunkhouse Chron… Everett Ruess was a wilderness-loving tearaway back in the early 1930s. He explored the High Sierra and the desert Southwest on his own hook, drawing and making woodcut prints of wilderness scenes, learning Navajo (a rare feat) and writing poetic letters and journals — a story told beautifully in Dave Alvin’s ballad below. […]

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Jack Donovan

Masculinity and Tribalism

Adventures Fantastic

Reviews, Views, & Occasional News

Bunkhouse Chronicle

Field notes from the Figure 8 Ranch

MountainGuerrilla

Nous Defions!

Frontier Partisans

Field notes from the Figure 8 Ranch

WARFIGHTER

"Strength Through Honor"

%d bloggers like this: