It was two years ago when Marlene called me at work one day to ask if, on my way home, I would pick up her sewing machine that she had dropped off to get repaired. The vacuum cleaner and sewing machine store is located in an, old, nondescript, two-story wood frame house along a busy street on the outskirts of the city. The place is hemmed in by a Wendy’s on one side and a carpet store on the other. A busy shopping center is across the way.
I went in the front door of the old house and spoke with "Big Al," the owner. I happen to know Al from a home show we were both in at a local mall many years ago. I was in the kitchen remodeling business then and he was selling sewing machines and vacuum cleaners. I’ve since moved on to other work, but Al is still in the same business. I think he does well at it.
Anyway, as I was paying for the sewing machine repair, the phone rang. Al answered and I overheard him talking about some guns he was selling. It happened that he had sold the rifle the guy on the phone was calling about. When Al hung up I said, "You selling some guns, are you?"
Al explained to me that he had been a gun nut since he was a kid and he had collected guns for many years. But now he was selling all of them. He told me he had placed an ad in the newspaper and sold thousands of dollars worth of rifles over the past two weeks. All he had left was a 20-gauge Sears shotgun and an Ithaca .22 with a scope. Then he said, "Hey, you don’t happen to have a pistol permit, do you?"
I replied in the affirmative. He raised his eyebrows and said, "Follow me. You’re going to like this."
I followed the big guy up a set of creaky old wood stairs. At the top we turned into what had once been a bedroom and was now obviously Al’s office. He walked over to a built-in bureau along one wall and opened the wide, shallow, top drawer. It was crammed with hand guns. There were probably 20 guns of various makes and models in there. "I’m selling them all," he declared.
I scanned the drawer looking for a Glock but there wasn’t one. My eyes settled on a Ruger P89 and I picked it up. It was in nice shape. Al praised the virtues of the gun and I asked him, "How much?"
"Two hundred dollars," he replied.
I bought it. I also bought the rifle and the shotgun for $175.
Imagine my wife's surprise when I got home. She asked me to pick up her old sewing machine, and I came home with $350 worth of guns. Sometimes life is exceptionally good like that.
In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, there is a story about my sons titled, Woodchuck Hunters. There I write:
I think it is important that boys learn gun safety and shooting skills when they are young. This could even be considered among the most important of agrarian skills.
Besides that, shooting guns is just plain fun, especially for a dad and his sons (daughters too, but I don’t have any of those). I taught my boys how to shoot starting when they were around six years old. That sort of thing makes some people these days uneasy. But I firmly believe that if every father taught his children how to safely and responsibly use, and enjoy the use of, guns, the world would be a better place.
Now, I will admit that the combination of guns and boys around this homestead makes Marlene a little uneasy. That is understandable. It makes me a little uneasy sometimes too. But guns are a reality of life. They are a part of growing up and living in the country. Learning to properly use a gun and shoot it straight is an American tradition. It is a rural rite of passage.
All of which brings me back to Big Al’s P89. I brought the gun home, put it away and didn’t shoot it for a year. Then, last summer, I bought a box of 9mm ammo and we menfolk did some shootin’ in the back yard.
That's a nice thing about livin' in the country with country folks around. We shoot our guns off in the back yard and nobody much cares. They do the same thing.
James was 11 years old last summer. The pictures that follow are of him shooting my P89 for the first time. As you can see from his facial expressions and the action of the gun, the P89 is a powerful weapon.
If you like hunting, trapping, guns, and stuff like that, I invite you to read some more of my essays...
How Not to Shoot The Bull
The Charging Woodchuck
Going to The Trapper's Convention
Boys Will Be....Warriors (Part 1)
Boys Will Be...Warriors (Part 2)
Rabbit Hunting Boy
Life Lessons From an Old Maine Woodsman
Needed: More Americans With Guns
How to Butcher a Chicken
The Fun, Fast Way to Skin a Deer
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