Their prayers were heard, and "the very foundation of the United States has been shaken, as we've seen in the last election," retired Georgia magistrate judge Richard Jordan declared on May 19 at the National Rifle Association's sportsmen's prayer breakfast at the downtown Marriott. "God has shown mercy on America one more time."
The gunmen's victorious mood lasted only as long as the orange juice, although it wasn't Bush's bulldozing of hunting grounds for energy, timber and livestock that sobered them up. No, keynote preacher Don Gobel, past president and CEO of gunmaker Browning, explained that the American gun industry is under attack because abortion is legal, because "atheistic evolution is leading us down the wrong path" and because gay rights are "totally against the Bible and word of God." He offered no Scripture to support gun rights, though, and only barely mentioned that Browning is Belgian-owned. (Actually, it's a jobs program of the Wallonia Region, but that's no case of excessive government control; it's merely an opportunity for an American board member to rack up three million frequent-flyer miles to Europe.)
Most of the NRA's celebrities passed on the prayer breakfast. Former felon Oliver North and Moses impersonator Charlton Heston were no-shows. Autograph hounds had to settle for snarling Georgia congressman Bob Barr, 1987 Miss America Kellye Cash Sheppard ("If that won't light your fire, your wood is wet," Jordan hooted after a Sheppard song inspiring in its tonality but incomprehensible in its lyrics), Johnson County gunpowder magnate Bob Hodgdon ("Oliver North -- what a wonderful Christian man!" he exclaimed) and the star-studded McLean Family Singers from Independence.
Soon the holy herd of rugged individualists thundered out of the Count Basie Ballroom. On the sidewalk, they passed a fellow traveler whose picket sign said, "Let your gun be your constant companion." A few steps beyond, they entered Bartle Hall, the NRA's convention venue, where doors were plastered with a warning: "No personal weapons allowed in the building."
"If I were you, I'd be sleeping with that putter," said Jim Watson after the pride of Lawrence sank a fourteen-footer on No. 9. Coach smiled demurely, but his spouse made clear that there just wasn't room in their bed.
Speaking of strange bedfellows, the fivesome that included the KU basketball coach was led by senior pro golfer Jim Colbert, a K-State favorite son. On the tenth tee, as hackers in the group ahead searched for one another's balls, Colbert bantered with the youngest, tannest and loveliest female member of his twenty-person gallery. She's going to K-State too! So is Colbert's grandson, also a golfer. The lad is particular about his stuff, Colbert explained for all to hear, and he'd like to not have a roommate during his freshman year in the dorm.
"I think it will work out for him because [Bob] Krause has got us spending millions up there," Colbert said. Krause is K-State's vice president for institutional development, the man who oversaw construction of the $9 million Colbert Hills Golf Course in Manhattan, designed and financed by Colbert.
At the same time, a different type of construction was under way at Tiffany Greens: an affordable house built by Habitat for Humanity Northland with help from volunteers recruited at Farmland Industries. Residents of the tony neighborhood don't have to worry, though. Kathy Hughes' half-built house will be moved now that the TV cameras have departed. Hey, at least the 68 union employees laid off last week from Farmland's Lawrence plant could get some practice for the "sweat equity" they'll need to invest in their own Habitat houses.