A Boy and His Toys

Surrounded by machine guns, grenades and troop carriers, Earl Tucker makes his peace with the world.

Mid-afternoon in the midweek, Earl and Buzz and Jo Lane were preparing for another olive-green painting. The FV 701 Ferret was a small, British-made armored car used mostly in African countries for crowd control. ("Vote my way or else," Earl explained.) But this one belonged to the businessman in Sugar Land who owned the V-100. He had about a dozen such vehicles. He kept them in a garage, said Earl, and never drove them.

"How do you see out of this thing?" Jo Lane shouted, as she taped up the inside.

"Hell, baby, you don't have to," said Earl. "It's an armored car. You can go through things!"

His V-100 Commando was parked nearby, much bigger and stronger and very clean, which meant ready. Earl said he derived no comfort from knowing it would be there in case a foreign army attacked. More likely, said Earl, he would have to use it against his own government, which meant against the soldiers it had come from, the soldiers he had always wanted to join. This was far-fetched, he admitted. The worst his country has ever done was at Waco and Ruby Ridge, said Earl, and for him to load up and ride out with the militia, the government's crime would have to be something ten times worse. Like if the FBI and the ATF had 2,000 people holed up, he said, and were killing them one by one, even women and children.

"But I personally feel some of those guys have a warped idea of what's going on," Earl said of the militia movement, and he didn't want to be connected with them, and dreaded the connection so much that he was laboring to build the Military Museum of Texas. With a museum, Earl could receive whole, disabled tanks from the Army for only the cost of transport. But even more important, Earl would have an answer when he pulled up to the gas pump in an armored car and people asked why anyone would drive such a thing. He would say, "It's going to a museum." People would accept that, and Earl, for all his rebel talk, wanted to be accepted.

He wanted to be safe. He wanted to be happy. Military vehicles were fun, he said, and if you got down to it, that's what this was all about: Earl Tucker was self-actualizing. "What the hell's that?" he wanted to know. But he had work to do and no time for a long answer.

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